In 2017, Peggy Race adopted one of her dogs, Deputy, a cocker spaniel mix who was surrendered from a puppy mill in Kansas.
She remembers his thick mats of fur and his shy disposition.
“His coat hung like a dirty mop,” the Whitewater woman wrote of her dog. “Emotionally, he appeared shut down and fearful of the human touch.”
Race said that image is evidence of the “minimal standards of care inherent to the commercial dog-breeding industry.”
It’s why she urged a Whitewater City Council member to propose an ordinance prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores. She wants to reduce the demand for mills that raise animals in inhumane conditions.
The council on June 2 voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance after adding rabbits to the list.
“This ordinance, putting Whitewater squarely on the side of protecting the consumer, legitimate businesses, and helpless animals, is clearly the right thing to do,” Race wrote in a letter she shared with the council.
Race and council member Brienne Brown agree there are no pet stores this ordinance applies to in Whitewater. It does not target animal rescue shelters or breeders who sell directly to the public.
Their hopes are that it not only acts as a preventive signal to pet stores, but also leads other municipalities to follow in Whitewater’s path.
“I think it sends a message to other communities that we are a community that promotes animal welfare,” Race said in an interview.
Other states have moved to take similar action, but Whitewater appears to be the first city in Wisconsin to adopt such an ordinance.
“Thank you. You all are the first in Wisconsin,” Megan Nicholson, Wisconsin director for the Humane Society of the United States, told the city council after the vote. “That’s amazing. Really appreciate it. The animals appreciate it. Your community does as well.”
The ordinance imposes a $500 fine per animal sold.
Race, who also has a border collie named Faith, is part of the organization Bailing Out Benji. She said the national group started in Iowa and educates the public about puppy mills and their connection to pet stores.
Brown, the council member Race worked with, said she asked Race to find out if others in the city supported the plan before she brought it to the council.
Race later shared a letter of support signed by officials from M.E. & My Pets, Albert’s Dog Lounge, Community Cat and the Jefferson County Humane Society.
“A humane pet store ordinance will help generate awareness about the cruel puppy mill-to-pet store supply chain and encourage puppy buyers to obtain dogs and cats from reputable sources,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say it is “well documented and undisputed” that puppies in pet stores often come from mills, which feature small cages, continuous breeding and “little to no veterinary care” for puppies, which often don’t get human companionship, exercise and socialization.
Brown said she also was swayed by the “predatory” loan practices used by pet stores to sell the animals, as well as the health conditions that sometimes follow these pets and burden their new owners.
Race spoke out against the “deceptive” practices that trick buyers into thinking their puppies came from a safe, supportive environment.
“All anyone sees is that cute little puppy in the pet store window, but they don’t see beyond that and see what goes on behind the scenes,” she said.
As many of us fumed over pandemic restrictions that kept us from getting haircuts and drinking at bars, Brooke Keena and Burton Reynolds Jr. had more important things to worry about.
Such as scraping together money to pay for their motel room.
Fighting an eviction judgment.
Surviving breast cancer.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused Keena to lose hours at her cleaning job at Townplace Suites extended-stay hotel.
Reynolds, who builds houses, was already stuck in a slow time of year for work.
So making $300-a-week payments to a local motel was difficult.
Once the state’s moratorium on evictions ended, the motel kicked out Keena and Reynolds, leaving them homeless.
The Janesville couple reached out to the House of Mercy and became one of the first households to receive help from the shelter’s new motel voucher program.
The program funds motel vouchers for people who are experiencing homeless, said Tammie King-Johnson, manager of the shelter.
Before the pandemic, the House of Mercy wanted to pursue ways to help more households on its growing waiting list, she said. The need for resources became even more dire during the pandemic as the shelter had to reduce its 25-bed capacity by about half.
“What I like to say is the pandemic is something that fell on top of the epidemic already happening for homeless folks across the country,” King-Johnson said.
The voucher program, which was started with private donations, initially helped the shelter relocate people at high risk for severe cases of COVID-19, King-Johnson said.
Eventually, it also helped those who lost work during the pandemic and those already living in motels.
Since April 3, the House of Mercy has used vouchers to house 16 households, King-Johnson said. Those families are eligible for the shelter’s virtual case management and other resources to help them secure housing and meet other needs.
The House of Mercy hopes to receive public funding to keep the program going in the future, King-Johnson said.
Lack of housing for people who have criminal records or who have been evicted keeps those people from getting back on their feet, King-Johnson said.
Keena and Reynolds have been sober for four years after struggling with heroin addiction.
Reynolds waited for Keena during her eight-month stint in jail on drug charges, which she served shortly after they started dating. He calls her his angel.
After she was released, the couple got clean and started living in a home under a friend’s lease.
The couple gave their friend money to pay rent but eventually learned the rent was not being paid. They were evicted.
“We might look bad on paper ...,” Reynolds said. “But people just need to see us, look us in our eyes. Nobody will give us a chance.”
Since being evicted, the couple struggled to find someone who would rent to them.
Meanwhile, they both had health problems and had to resist turning to drugs again.
Keena had a tumor removed from her left breast last year and is awaiting a double mastectomy to remove another tumor that could become cancerous. She said the pandemic has delayed the mastectomy.
Reynolds experienced health problems in December that landed him in a hospital for several weeks.
“There are not many addicts who want to get better,” Keena said. “... When I was incarcerated, I had to fix everything. Nobody wants to give anyone a chance.”
After living for two weeks on the voucher program, the couple were able to move into the House of Mercy on June 13.
Reynolds sees getting kicked out of the motel as a blessing because it led the couple to the House of Mercy.
Keena and Reynolds own their mistakes and take pride in working for what they have. They said they never stayed in a homeless shelter before because they wanted to avoid handouts.
While sitting in a community space at the House of Mercy, the couple shared their story with passion, saying several times they hope to inspire others to better their lives.
A moratorium on evictions from late March to late May kept people across the state housed during the early months of the pandemic. Now that the moratorium has been lifted, King-Johnson expects homeless numbers to rise.
The state eviction rate has increased 42% compared to the first weeks of June 2019, Housing Director Kelly Bedessem said during a Janesville Community Development Authority meeting Wednesday.
Bedessem said she does not yet know how that is playing out locally.
The 500 households on city rent assistance should be OK because the city continued to make payments during the pandemic, she said.
She predicted that housing will remain a priority as city officials determine how to use federal funds to help people recover from the pandemic.
Keena has a passion for helping others and hopes to open a nonprofit to assist those who are reentering society after being incarcerated.
In the 19 days since they were first helped by the House of Mercy, Keena has already paid her luck forward.
While staying at a motel, Keena met a woman who was caring for a sick husband and on the brink of homelessness. The woman gave Keena $5 for gas despite having little for herself.
Once she got to the House of Mercy, Keena connected that woman to the shelter, too.
The woman and her husband would have been living in a car if Keena had not stepped in, King-Johnson said.
“We are going to be amazing, man,” Reynolds said.
David Lewis Behm
Marjorie Elaine Durner
Agustin Flores Diaz
Richard M. Garren
Robert G. Gressman
Marvin A. Huff
David J. Persons
Renee S. Ryan
David O. Schoenfeld
Daniel “Dano” Thiel
Kathryn Rose Thorn
Geneva Joyce “Shrimp” Trappe
Harvey Gene Wendtland
Infectious disease experts expressed alarm Sunday over the pace of new coronavirus infections in several states in the South and Southwest, with one likening the spread in parts of the country to a “forest fire.”
At the same time, President Donald Trump’s surrogates insisted he was joking Saturday when he told rally-goers he had ordered a testing slowdown because the results painted an overly dire picture of the pandemic.
With the United States now reporting a quarter of the world’s coronavirus cases, and daily new-infection counts exceeding 30,000 nationwide on at least two recent days, eight states last week hit single-day new-case highs, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
In California, much of the increase in the total number of cases does appear to be a result of more testing, health officials say. But that does not fully explain the overall caseload increase in several other states, public health experts said, directly contradicting a major talking point of the president and some of his aides.
In some of the most affected states, such as Florida and Arizona, not only are larger proportions of tests coming back positive, but more of the afflicted are becoming sicker, Thomas Inglesby of Johns Hopkins’ School of Public Health said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“What we are seeing is increased positivity in testing, and in many cases increased hospitalization,” Inglesby said. “That’s not just because we’re doing more testing in a state; that’s because there is more serious disease in a state.”
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis conceded that point at a news conference Saturday in Tallahassee, the state capital, saying that even with test rates flat or increasing, “the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that.”
Although death rates in the U.S. from COVID-19 have continued to decline after the peak hit in New York in April, the number of people hospitalized has climbed sharply in several states, and health officials fear that deaths could start rising again soon.
“This is going to be hard to get under control,” said Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration earlier in Trump’s tenure. “These are big states that have a lot of cases; they’ve been building.”
In addition to California, other states that recently have reported highs in single-day new infections include Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, according to Johns Hopkins’ coronavirus tracker. Several of those states were among the earliest to allow businesses to fully reopen.
Interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb said that while “we’re not going to want to shut down business again,” there were “not a lot of tools we can reach for” as the spread of the virus continues.
Trump has largely ignored the growing signs of trouble, focusing almost exclusively on pushing states to reopen. At his rally Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, held amid a spike of coronavirus cases in that state, he called testing for the virus “a double-edged sword,” adding: “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people; you’re gonna find more cases.”
Trump has often suggested that more testing fuels an inflated sense of the seriousness of the crisis. But addressing the relatively thin rally crowd—the Tulsa Fire Department on Sunday put attendance at 6,200 in a 19,200-capacity arena—he went further, saying: “So I said to my people, ‘Slow down the testing, please.’”
The president’s aides quickly declared he was making a humorous aside, a line they stuck with in television interviews Sunday.
Trade adviser Peter Navarro, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” called Trump’s testing remark “tongue-in-cheek” and “a light moment.”
Pressed as to why Trump would make a jocular reference to a pandemic that has cost at least 120,000 American lives, he responded testily: “Asked and answered.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on ABC’s “This Week” that while many of Trump’s remarks on a variety of subjects stem from “a humor standpoint,” the rally comment also reflected “frustration” over media coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
“All they want to focus on is an increasing test count—we know that’s going to occur when you’re testing more,” he said.
Critics of the president, who in recent weeks have primarily focused on his seeming indifference to the nationwide upheaval over racial injustice, found the remark unfunny. Black people and Latinos are disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus, and in his rally speech, Trump referred to COVID-19 using an anti-Asian slur.
“This is no time to joke,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, asked on CNN about the president’s slow-the-testing comment. “Even if it were a joke, which it was not, it was an inappropriate joke. Do you think the people, the 120,000 families out there who are missing their loved ones, thought it was funny?”
The campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive opponent in November, seized on the president’s remark as more proof he does not take the virus threat seriously. Senior adviser Symone Sanders, interviewed on Fox, called the comment “an appalling attempt to lessen the numbers only to make him look good.”
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Trump has largely focused on economic recovery, and public health experts stressed they were not urging a return to the lockdowns that began in mid-March and continued for weeks, sending unemployment soaring.
But too many parts of the United States are acting as if the pandemic is over, said Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Osterholm said he saw less likelihood now of a lull between the initial outbreak and a possible second wave later this year.
“I’m actually of the mind right now—I think this is more like a forest fire,” he said. “I don’t think that this is going to slow down.”
Without referring specifically to the Trump administration, he said the lack of a coordinated overall policy was worsening the crisis.
“We’re at 70% of the number of cases today that we were at the very height of the pandemic cases in early April, and yet I don’t see any kind of a ‘This is where we need to go, this is what we need to do to get there’ kind of effort,” Osterholm said. “And that’s one of our challenges.”
Most experts are counseling greater adherence to health guidelines including use of face coverings, physical distancing and caution when in public indoor spaces. At Trump’s rally, most participants were without masks, and many clustered close together. Participants had to sign a waiver saying they would not seek legal redress if they contracted the virus.
Wolf, asked on NBC whether the rally set a bad example and endangered attendees, said “activities like this are allowed” and pointed out that masks and hand sanitizer were available and temperature checks conducted.
“I think it’s important. It’s also a personal choice that people are making,” he said.
Some Trump critics suggested that the rally’s relatively low turnout might have reflected unease about the risk of catching the virus. On Fox News, senior campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp, told interviewer Chris Wallace that worries about hostile protesters kept some people away, at the same time denying turnout had been disappointing.
“The fact is, people didn’t show up,” Wallace said.
“Oh, absolutely they did,” Schlapp retorted.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week ordered Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including while shopping or taking public transit. Inglesby, in his Fox interview, said simple measures could still make a big difference.
“We should be encouraging people to wear face coverings, to stay at a distance, to avoid large gatherings, to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands,” he said. “Those are the things that we have seen work, and will work.”