Knocked Up and Knocked Down
BURLINGTON -- Ainaka Luna, a 38-year-old Lincoln resident, claims she was asked to leave the Church Street bar Red Square on a recent Saturday night after a bouncer told her that the establishment has a strict policy about "not allowing pregnant women on the dance floor after 10 p.m."
Luna, who is six months pregnant, says she and several of her friends arrived at the bar shortly after 9 p.m. for a performance by Mamadou, a Senegalese rhythm guitarist. She claims she was asked to leave at about 10:30; a bouncer told her that the policy was in place to protect pregnant women from being jostled by dancers or injured in a fight.
"He told us that we didn't understand the risks of being pregnant," says Luna. "I found it very offensive, discriminatory and stupid."
Luna, a native of Colombia who's been in Vermont for about a year, says she worked for many years as a professional dancer in her home country and in Australia, and even gave performances when she was seven months pregnant. "I have a right to be there, and I don't want other pregnant women to be restricted just because we have a belly," she notes, adding she plans to report the incident to the Vermont Human Rights Commission.
But Red Square owner Martti Matheson says that the whole incident has been blown out of proportion. He insists that Red Square has "absolutely" never had a policy barring pregnant women in the bar -- before 10 p.m. or after. "If we see someone who's obviously pregnant, we might tell them that we think it might not be healthy" to be on the dance floor, Matheson says. "But we'd definitely never tell someone to leave. That would just be stupid."
A Burlington Police Department spokesman confirmed last week that officers recently used a Taser to subdue a vicious dog that was attacking another dog on Church Street. According to BPD Public Information Officer Mike Schirling, the incident occurred on June 18 at about 6:30 p.m. outside Leunig's on Church Street. Reportedly, a 70-pound husky broke loose from its owner and began attacking another dog. Schirling said that officers subdued the animal with a recently deployed Taser, an electronic stun gun that is considered a "less than lethal" weapon. Burlington police have been carrying Tasers for about six weeks and have only used them three or four times, Schirling added.
The dog's owner, Rita Chambers, was issued citations for public intoxication and for having an unlicensed, unvaccinated dog. The pooch was impounded but reportedly wasn't injured.
Tasers are an increasingly popular "simunition" weapon among police departments across the country. The gun-like device fires two metal prongs attached to wires that deliver a brief, 50,000-volt pulse of electricity. The shock temporarily overrides the central nervous system and causes the subject to instantly collapse. Taser International, which manufactures the stun gun, claims that the weapon is effective on animals and humans, according to Schirling.
The manufacturer's website tells a slightly different story. "The ADVANCED TASER is not specifically recommended for use against animals as its main function," the site reads. "The main reason is that the ADVANCED TASER was created for 'human nervous systems,' not animals."
That said, the site also notes, "We have received several reports of police officers using the ADVANCED TASER on pit bulls during warrant entries and also where pit bulls have attacked other dogs . . . We, in fact, now recommend that officers 'try' the ADVANCED TASER against the dogs and let us know of their success. It is still an unknown area for us, as we don't teach animal control tactics."
Schirling said it was unfortunate that the dog had to be Tasered, but that it prevented injury to the other dog and was a quicker, safer and more effective method of subduing the animal than pepper spray, which can burn a subject for hours and cause respiratory problems for officers and innocent bystanders.