1. Archive

Breeding law will not control pet population

A breeding ordinance is not the way to control the pet population.

Diana Ward's June 3 column was way off base. A blanket law that unjustly penalizes responsible pet and show breeders is unconstitutional. Yes, there is a problem with the overpopulation of cats and dogs in shelters around the country. The fines should be imposed on the ones who are irresponsible. There are laws that state dogs and cats are to be on leashes or confined in some way. But these laws are ignored. When you call animal control to come and pick up a stray cat, they tell you to catch it first or they won't come out because the animal will be gone by the time they get there. Usually stray or roaming cats and dogs do so within a few blocks of where they are sighted. It is easy to see why cats and dogs are reproducing out of control.

I agree that some of the dogs in shelters are purebreds. But with all the different breed dog clubs across the country that have rescue committees, there should be little if no reason why these dogs can't have responsible homes found for them. The greater majority of breeders are responsible enough to find good homes. Yes, there are some that will sell a dog or cat to anyone who pays for the animal, without checking to see if it will receive a good, responsible home. With our dog, we had to fill out a questionnaire and sign a contract. Now, that is responsible breeding. Why should that person have to be burdened by extra fees imposed because someone else is not a responsible breeder? If this type of blanket law were in effect when I was searching for a breeder of the rare breed dog that I wanted, I would probably still be looking. As it was, I had to go to Tennessee to pick up my wonderful Belgian Malinois.

If anyone should be charged substantially higher fees, it should be the ones who allow their animals to roam the streets. The problem needs to be addressed where it exists: with irresponsible breeders and puppy mills. If you have ever watched one of the documentaries on puppy mills, you would abhor such practices and group together to outlaw such things.

Yes, we can do better.

Garry Rosseter, St. Petersburg

School discipline defended

Re: Many suspensions do more harm than good.

Diane Steinle in her May 17 column regarding the suspension policy of Pinellas County schools omitted several important facts. Before a child is sent to the office, teachers have exhausted their discipline plans, which include verbal warnings, seat reassignment, parent notification, guidance counselor sessions, team meetings with all concerned staff and implementation of teacher-created alternatives (such as having the child work in group situations for behavior modification).

Only when all of the above fails to achieve improvement in behavior is the child referred to the administrator. The administrator also tries various initiatives, such as telephone communication with parents; conferences with guidance counselors, parents and teachers; administrative detentions; in-school suspensions; and Saturday School (although all schools are not fortunate enough to have this option).

The disruptive child often chooses to disturb the in-school suspension room and is then returned to the administrator. Saturday School is assigned next. But some children refuse to attend, and some parents refuse to bring their children or be responsible for their attendance. At this point, having exhausted all the alternatives, the child will be suspended to show there are consequences for disruptive behavior.

Steinle points out that defiance and disrespect are the No. 1 causes for suspension in middle and high school. She asks if a suspension is the best way to deal with a child who "sasses" a teacher. Frequently this "sassing" involves a series of obscenities, including threats of violence.

Steinle cites experts who have found the suspension experience to be without positives, but there is one very positive effect. The suspended child is removed from the classroom where his presence too frequently has stopped the educational process, preventing conscientious children from learning and the dedicated teacher from teaching.

One suggestion made by Steinle was to assign in-school labor as an alternative form of punishment. These children often refuse to do anything in class. Why should she or anyone else think that they will work outside of class? Steinle also is concerned that care is taken not to humiliate these children by giving them embarrassing tasks or by identifying them to other children. The others know who the troublemakers are. Should we not be more concerned about the humiliation suffered by the teacher who constantly is confronted by defiant, disrespectful children?

Stating that Pinellas County has a smorgasbord of discipline options from which to choose is an exaggeration. Alternative schools, one possibility, are often filled with children who have been expelled from regular schools. This problem is yet another that Steinle failed to mention. Perhaps she should first research the causes and solutions of the steadily increasing expulsion rate and then devote a column to this even more frightening aspect of the discipline problem.

Her closing statement, "sounds like the educators, not just the students, could use a bit of behavior modification," is highly insulting. Has she forgotten that in this county an assistant principal was killed by a student, another was critically wounded and a teacher was shot? There have been many teachers assaulted and injured by disruptive students. Educators do not deserve or need a journalist telling us what we should and should not do. Instead, we would like to invite Steinle to try teaching today's troubled youth while still providing an education to the serious students.

Charles A. Rice, assistant principal,

Madeira Beach Middle School, Largo

Attract store chain downtown

Re: Maas store may be museum, June 4.

The recent announcement that the old Maas Brothers store might become a museum has brought out utter disgust in me.

The downtown area needs retail space. The proposed museum is a necessary mental stimuli, but jobs are more important.

To invigorate the downtown economy all people who are interested should encourage chain stores, such as Target, Wal-Mart or Kmart, to locate and bring needed jobs to a potentially promising retail district.

James Davis, St. Petersburg

Mayor should not need help

Re: Mayor may hire someone to help.

It's true! The inmates are in charge of the asylum.

The city of St. Petersburg should be part of Walt Disney World. The voters elect a so-called strong mayor and raise his salary because of his supposed additional workload. And, because he doesn't know how to do the job he was elected to do, he wants to hire a professional administrator to do it for him. Talk about delegating authority!

If St. Petersburg residents let him get away with this, they deserve it if he builds them another Dome.

Joseph M. Perry, Gulfport

Well, what do you know? Mayor David Fischer has finally admitted what 49.5 percent of St. Petersburg voters knew all along: He is incapable of managing the city of St. Petersburg.

Paul O'Connor, St. Petersburg