Paws On Parole Looking To Continue Perfect Adoption Rate

By on October 25th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm
Cassidy, an 18-month-old Lab/American Bulldog mix who was part of Academy 14 and his inmate trainer.

James Martin / WUFT News

Cassidy, an 18-month-old Lab/American Bulldog mix who was part of Academy 14 and his inmate trainer.

After eight weeks in the Gainesville Correctional Institution Work Camp, Harry Potter will be free. Sirius Black and Dobby are almost out on parole too.

Don’t worry about what magical crimes were committed though, these characters are a group of furry, four-legged friends who specialize in second chances.

Six shelter dogs make up the 36th academy of Paws on Parole, a partnership program between Alachua County Animal Services and the Florida Department of Corrections Work Camp. Inmates at the work camp volunteer to house-train the dogs for eight weeks in order for them to pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizens (CGC) program.

Dogs are available for adoption after graduating from the program. With a 100 percent adoption and retention rate, Paws on Parole “Hairy Pawter” themed academy hopes the magic continues.

“We’ve been doing it a little over four years and it’s a very good program,” said Sgt. Eric Wooten, a sergeant at the Department of Corrections in Gainesville. “It teaches the inmates as well as helps the animals.”

With between six and eight dogs per academy, the program has helped more than 200 shelter dogs find their “forever families” after eight weeks of inmate training.

Every dog that has gone through the Paws on Parole program, so far, has found a permanent home, with families even coming from out of state in search of a potential pet, according to Pope Hunter, Earth Pets Natural Pet Market employee.

Vinny the Chin, a 2 year old neutered Boston Terrier/Chihuahua mix was part of Academy 34, themed after "The Dogfather."

James Martin / WUFT News

Vinny the Chin, a 2 year old neutered Boston Terrier/Chihuahua mix was part of Academy 34, themed after "The Dogfather."

“It’s been tremendous to see six to eight dogs that would’ve normally been stuck in the shelter system find a new home,” Hunter said. “There’s a lot of thought and work that goes into it and the fact that it has such a high placement and retention rate in the homes shows that.”

According to Wooten, a group of marketing students from the University of Florida select the theme of each academy and name each dog based on its personality. Past themes have included “Rolling Bone,” “Pups of the Caribbean” and “The Wizard of Pawz.”

While there are a number of inmate dog training programs in Florida, Wooten said Paws on Parole is the only program that themes each group of dogs and names each one based off their individual personalities.

“The names and themes can stick with people,” Hunter said. “When the theme was Dog Dynasty, people were interested to meet Si or Miss Kay. I don’t watch the show personally, but a lot of people do and it can help them get to know the dogs just a bit more personally.”

The work camp inmates involved in the program are all carefully selected and convicted of minor offenses only.

Inmates teach obedience training while also learning about daily dog care such as feeding, grooming and routine health care. In order to become CGC certified, the dogs must pass ten tests ranging from responding to a call to accepting a friendly stranger.

“It’s a strenuous job because it’s a seven-days-a-week job,” Wooten said. “The dogs are with the inmates 24 hours a day.”

Throughout the eight-week program, there are various outing and adoption events held in Gainesville where potential owners can meet the different dogs and adoption counselors try to find the perfect match.

If a perfect fit is found for one of the dogs, new owners must submit an adoption application and pay a $30 fee that covers spay or neutering, a microchip, all immunizations, flea and heartworm prevention, and a bag of food.

At the end of the eight weeks, a graduation ceremony is held for the inmates and pooches to strut their stuff for their new families. Then the inmates say goodbye one last time before ceremoniously handing off the pet to go home.

“They miss ‘em,” Wooten said. “I’ve actually seen them cry when they leave, but that’s been rare.”

The 36th academy will have its first outing on Saturday, Oct. 25, at Earth Pets Natural Pet Market; a second outing on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Newberry Animal Hospital; and a graduation on Friday, Nov. 21, at the work camp.

Anyone interested in potentially picking up a pet can check www.pawsonparole.com for more information on the dogs up for adoption, how to volunteer and more.

“Anything you’re looking for, you can find in rescue,” said Chelsea Bower, the director of Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue. “You’re saving a life and giving a dog a second life in an awesome home.”

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Hog Infestation Halts Historic Airport Runway

By on October 25th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hungry hogs have harvested the ground out from under pilots at Williston Municipal Airport’s historic grass runway.

The grass runway, spanning 2,600 feet, has been closed to the public for about a year, but not to the hogs. Since World War II, the runway has been open on and off. Despite local efforts, wild hog damage and maintenance issues are preventing the runway from getting approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

A wild hog mills around outside the runway enclosure of Williston Municipal Airport. The hogs often explore around a water source by the neighboring rock quarry, Barry said.

Eric Bandin / WUFT News

A wild hog mills around outside the runway enclosure of Williston Municipal Airport. The hogs often explore around a water source by the neighboring rock quarry, Barry said.

The closure is expected to affect the bi-annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s pig roast on Nov. 15.

“Gee wiz, we got the longest public use, grass runway north of the Okeechobee — I can’t understand why we don’t use it,” said Stan Barry, a 40-year veteran pilot and president of the Williston EAA chapter.

Without the FAA’s blessing, if an accident were to happen on the grass runway, the city would be held liable. Damage from the feral hog infestation added another hurdle to seeking federal approval, Williston City Manager Scott Littman said.

Within the next 30 days, Williston city management will begin a runway assessment to determine recovery potential.

Grass runway 18/36 is awaiting repairs to the damages left by wild hogs earlier this year. Burrows and kicked-up ground was left on the runway after the hogs.

Eric Bandin / WUFT News

Grass runway 18/36 is awaiting repairs to the damages left by wild hogs earlier this year. Burrows and kicked-up ground were left on the runway after the hogs.

Many local pilots have expressed interest in seeing the runway fixed. Some have even offered to help maintain it themselves, said Ryan Foote, owner of the Sky Chiefs Aviation school operating out of Williston Municipal Airport.

Grass runways are particularly favorable as landing spots for antique and experimental aircraft, many of which are “tail-draggers,” or old-model planes with two wheels in the front and one in the back. Over the past five years, many pilots and owners of these specialty aircraft have brought their planes to the EAA’s pig roast, at which dozens of different aircraft models are on display.

The pig roast, funded by donations, last April brought in a fewer number of pilots due to the runway closure. Barry said pilots called in admitting they would rather stay home than run their tires out on a concrete runway.

There are also year-round uses for the runway other than the pig roast. As one of the few remaining grass turf runways in North Florida, it has served as a valuable training tool for emergency landings, Foote said.

“Sure from the standpoint of upkeep it’s a money issue,” Foote said. “But it’s more about getting the city to accept the responsibility of keeping a good thing open.”

Recovering the runway comes down to equipment, time and manpower. Recently, a hired hunter and a fence upgrade around the perimeter have kept the hogs from causing further damage, said Wayne Middleton, supervisor of the Williston Municipal Airport.

“Holding them at bay is all you can hope for because you can’t (get) rid of them completely,” said Bill Giuliano, professor and wildlife extension specialist at the University of Florida. “They’ll always be attracted to areas that provide food for them.”

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Teacher Conference Aims to Bring Global Perspective Into Classrooms

By on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Priscilla Zelaya remembers the high school teacher who made her world a little bigger.

“Peter Corrado,” she said. “We still keep in touch.”

Zelaya said Corrado was the first teacher she ever had who exposed her class to global issues like poverty and conflict. Corrado opened his students’ eyes, she said, but kept his mouth shut.

“He never told us what to think or how to feel,” Zelaya said. “He allowed us to make our own judgments about it all.”

Today,  Zelaya leads a non-profit organization, organizes volunteer trips back and forth to Haiti and teaches Gainesville students about global issues, all while pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Florida.

Zelaya is also organizing the first annual Gainesville Connected conference; a gathering specifically for teachers looking to provide their students with an international perspective. The goal of the conference is to help teachers learn how to encourage their students to think globally and to provide them with the resources to do so.

“We want to develop global citizens and start it soon,” she said. “By doing this, we can help teachers to help their students break down stereotypes and expand their horizons.”

Zelaya has been working with Bertrhude Albert for several years after founding their non-profit organization, Projects for Haiti in 2011.  Together they have teamed up with Haitians to help empower Haitian communities to improve education and sustain their efforts amid the devastation left by the 2010 earthquake. The Gainesville Connected conference is their latest project.

Zelaya said she and Albert started promoting global education locally with an initiative called 10K Connected, which gets them inside local classrooms to educate students about concepts such as global poverty. Since last October, they have reached more than 3,000 students in northern Florida. After seeing positive results from 10K Connected, Zelaya and Albert designed the conference to expand their efforts and give teachers the resources to promote global education themselves.

Gainesville Connected will take place Nov. 1 at the Alachua County Library Headquarters. There, registered teachers will hear from educators who have ties all over the world.

“It seemed like an ongoing thing that students are not too connected to what’s outside of Alachua County or their personal bubbles,” Albert said. “I believe strongly, and with all my heart, that having social consciousness and being socially aware isn’t something that a person should start figuring out in college.”

Scott Miller, a conference coordinator for Gainesville Connected, can attest to that. He said he didn’t start learning about many current global issues until he began school at the University of Florida three years ago. While working with 10K Connected, Miller said he meets high school seniors who are unaware of many of the issues facing global communities.

“It’s a real shock to them when they learn the facts about poverty in the rest of the world and what some people live through every day,” Miller said.

He believes encouraging students to learn about global issues is crucial. Education has always been a part of his life, so he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help create the conference.

“My mom has actually been a teacher for over 30 years,” he said. “The moment I told her what I was getting involved with, she signed up.”

Albert adds that by engaging in activities that make students socially empathetic, students and teachers can begin to see professional and personal development in their own lives. She recalls giving a presentation on poverty to a group of young students, one of whom had behavioral issues. After the presentation, she said, things started to change.

“The teacher called to tell us that the boy had made a bit of a turnaround,” Albert said. “He came in the very next day to donate a bar of soap and became really interested in helping people. The empathy he developed reshaped the way he interacts with others.”

Miller said he is excited to be a part of something he believes will produce real results for local teachers and students. He thinks that exposing students to global issues will help some of them find projects they are passionate about and can eventually pursue.

“I feel like I’m a part of something that has some real world impact,” he said, “and I’ve never felt that before.”

Albert says the conference will be structured much like a Ted Talk. Each speaker will have 15 minutes to share the ways their global efforts are impacting local students. Afterward, the teachers will learn how to take what they’ve been shown and apply it practically in their own classrooms.

Zelaya said they currently have 100 teachers signed up. Some, she said, will be driving as far as Daytona, Orlando and West Palm Beach to attend the conference in Gainesville. After receiving positive feedback from registered teachers, Zelaya said her team is already planning next year’s conference.

Zelaya and Albert have extended the deadline to Oct. 31 to allow for about 50 more teachers to sign up.

Zelaya adds that what she and Albert are working to do in classrooms ties into Common Core objectives for teachers. Common Core’s standards, Zelaya said, include critical thinking skills and public speaking, which are two essential components in what she is working to bring to the classroom. 

Much like Mr. Corrado did for her, Zelaya wants to help other teachers open their students’ eyes to the rest of the world. Even if people think some of the information goes over a child’s head, she thinks this sort of development is necessary.

“In every classroom I’ve been to, elementary through high school, the kids want to know what they can do to help,” Zelaya said. “Development like this tugs at the heart and truly sticks with the student.”

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Oct. 24, 2014: Afternoon News in 90

By and on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Melissa Walpole produced this update.

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Air Potato Beetle Becomes Big Help To Florida Farmers

By on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm

The invasive air potato vine has met its match with the introduction of the air potato leaf beetle. This beetle could control the aggressive plant.

J. Stacy Strickland / Hernando & Sumter Counties Extension Services

The invasive air potato vine has met its match with the introduction of the air potato leaf beetle. This beetle could control the aggressive plant.

A foreign friend is here to help agriculturalists, and it’s here to stay.

For farmers in Florida and beyond, the invasive air potato vine — named for its potato-shaped bulbils — has been a persistent annoyance to Floridians for nearly a century, but with the discovery of a dime-sized beetle from across the ocean, this may soon change.

The air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni, was found in 2002 feasting on the air potato vines and bulbils of the Katmandu Valley in Nepal.

After years of research, the United States Department of Agriculture determined the beetle is “extremely host specific” to the air potato leaf, Dioscorea bulbifera, and can be used to take control over the aggressive plant, which can grow eight inches a day.

About 300,000 beetles have been released in 42 counties across Florida in the past three summers throughout 1,000 parks, preserves, forests and conservation lands in the hopes of undoing the damage of the horticultural horror.

Because the air potato didn’t have any natural enemies in Florida after it was introduced in 1905, it was able to overtake native organisms and strangle competing vegetation.

“[The beetle] is the best solution,” Eric Rohrig, a biological scientist for the Methods Development and Biological Control in the Division of Plant Industry, wrote in an email. “Besides biocontrol, only two options exist.”

Those options — chemical and mechanical methods — can be difficult and costly.

Chemical treatments can be expensive because repeat sprays over several years are required to have any impact. Side effects include chemical damage to surrounding plants and leakage of the toxic pesticide into the aquifer.

Manually pulling the vine is time-consuming and expensive, Rohrig said. To completely rid the area of air potatoes, removal of the underground tubers is necessary and very difficult. This method still does not guarantee extermination.

Other than being physically invasive, the plant also invades Floridians’ checkbooks.

“In the case of the air potato, the average Floridian was paying for the control in public spaces and natural areas via property taxes, even if they did not have the weed on their property,” J. Stacy Strickland, the multi-extension director for Hernando and Sumter counties, wrote in an email.

The release of the air potato leaf beetle is getting results, but careful precautions were taken before its release.

“We go in search of natural enemies in the native range of the introduced invasive (species), and that is called classical biocontrol,” Strickland said.

USDA’s Agriculture Research Service Invasive Plant Research Laboratory imported the beetles and did tests in a government certified quarantine facility for approximately nine years until they were granted permission to release the beetles.

“Once the beetles were approved for release, USDA-ARS partnered with us to begin a statewide, mass rearing and release program,” Rohrig said. “This year, UF began to participate in beetle releases as well. All three of our agencies participate in various research on the beetles, the vines and the impact of releases.”

The University of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services’ Division of Plant Industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine sector and its Agricultural Research Service all provide funds for the beetle’s releases. The figures associated with these funds are generally not disclosed to the public.

These funds are used to pay salaries and buy supplies to support and transport the beetles for release. All of the connected agencies will continue releasing them as long as funding for the project continues and control of the vine is possible.

“Biocontrol is free, once it’s out there — continual, permanent and requires no labor other than the initial releases,” Rohrig said.

Although biocontrol is a slow process and can take several years or more to see the full effect, it still shows the most promise.

“Benefits (of the beetle) include reduced use of herbicide, which is good for the environment, and saves money spent by land managers and homeowners to control the vine and reduction in vine biomass, which reduces the negative impact the vines have on the environment by smothering native vegetation,” Rohrig said.

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In The News: Ebola In New York, Secret Service K-9 Unit Stops Intruder, South Florida Proposes Secession

By on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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Oct. 24, 2014: Morning News In 90

By on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

Renee Beninate produced this update.

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Primate Sanctuaries Feel Stresses of Insufficient Funding

By on October 24th, 2014 | Last updated: October 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

The Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, a Gainesville non-profit organization that cares for almost 200 monkeys, is finding it difficult to take in any more.

Jethro (left) and Clementine (right) are both three-year-old marmoset monkeys that live at the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. The two were once house pets.

Norman Galang / WUFT News

Jethro (left) and Clementine (right) are both 3-year-old marmosets that live at the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. The two were once house pets.

“We’re at capacity right now,” said Kari Bagnall, founder and executive director of the sanctuary. There isn’t enough funds for additional monkeys, she added.

The organization, which houses monkeys that were abused, confiscated and treated as test subjects or pets is scheduled to receive 11 more on October 28. Bagnall said another 35 will arrive at the sanctuary in November, which will put the facility in dire need of money to house more.

The organization’s waiting list gets longer and most donors are not willing to wait for the staff to raise more funds, which could lead to more primates being euthanized.

The increase in requests is bittersweet, Bagnall said. More researchers are choosing not to put down their animals after experiments, and private owners are realizing they are not house pets.

Although she believes the decision to donate the monkeys is best, that burden then falls on the sanctuary. Bagnall said each one costs about $1,800 a year and it costs about $60,000 a month to run the facility.

Micah Murphy, a veterinary technician at the sanctuary, said even though the idea of having more monkeys is exciting, the organization will be under much more stress.

Anna Claire (left) and Katie Scarlett (right) are two Capuchin monkeys that were once pets but now live in the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. Scarlett is blind, and Claire is diabetic.

Norman Galang / WUFT News

Anna Claire (left) and Katie Scarlett (right) are two Capuchin monkeys that were once pets but now live in the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. Scarlett is blind, and Claire is diabetic.

The facility is known for housing primates with special needs, Murphy said. A lot of them are either diabetic, suffer from anxiety or possess other traits that cause the organization to spend money.

“The bills definitely add up,” Murphy said. “It’s stressful in the sanctuary because we are a non-profit, and we do need a lot of outside help.”

Few donors offer financial help for the primates they send to the facility, Bagnall said.

Lisa Stoner, co-founder of Forest Animal Rescue, also houses primates in Silver Springs and said she deals with the same issue. She believes more donors should assist the sanctuaries that take in their animals.

“[Universities] profited tremendously from some of the research that the monkeys have provided,” Stoner said. “The least they can do is provide for the monkeys for the rest of their lives.”

Bagnall said the University of Georgia recently donated seven tufted Capuchin monkeys to the sanctuary, as well as $25,000 to assist ongoing care.

Dorothy Fragaszy, chair of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Program at UGA, said she oversaw the seven primates during their behavioral experiments, and she wanted to retire them with dignity.

“Jungle Friends is the best place,” she said.

Due to the stress of taking them in, she strongly discourages people from adopting monkeys as pets, Bagnall said. They are still wild animals and need to be handled with more care than the average person can commit.

Connie Sullivan, a caretaker of two Capuchin monkeys, agrees. She keeps them in her Jacksonville home and said they are very difficult to deal with. She sometimes regrets even adopting them.

Sullivan often speaks to Bagnall, who encourages her to keep them because they are in a great home. Although she still has them, Sullivan discourages private monkey ownership.

“They’re such beautiful animals,” Sullivan said. “We need to let them be just that.”

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Oct. 23, 2014: Afternoon News in 90

By and on October 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: October 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Jacob Schrull produced this update.

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In The News: Lower Electric Rates In Florida, Rick Scott Will Spend Personal Funds To Win, Shootings Continue Jacksonville Crime Wave

By on October 23rd, 2014 | Last updated: October 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm
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