Ron Artest changes his ways
By KEN HOFFMAN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
March 25, 2009, 6:30PM
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In 2007, animal control officers were called to basketball star Ron Artest’s home in Sacramento, Calif.
Artest, now a Houston Rocket, played for the Sacramento Kings back then.
Neighbors said that Artest often went on long road trips with the Kings and left his dog Socks without food or water.
When officers got to Artest’s house, they found the female Great Dane underweight and sick. They seized his dog and accused Artest of animal neglect. The dog was placed with a local veterinarian. It took a month for the dog to regain its proper weight and strength.
Charges were never filed. Artest claimed that he hired people to come to his house and care for the dog, and it wasn’t his fault that they never showed up. He did agree to let another family adopt the Great Dane, though.
This was not the only time that animal control officers seized animals from Artest’s home. It happened three times before. Each time, the dogs were removed, nourished back to health and placed with new owners.
Monday night, Artest will host a fundraiser for the Houston Humane Society at Capone’s Restaurant and Bar, 4307 Westheimer, just inside the Loop. Capone’s is a throwback speakeasy with brick-oven pizzas and tapas on the menu. Starting at 7 p.m., Artest will throw on an apron and begin tossing pizzas in the air. There will be a meet ’ n’ greet, a silent auction and plenty of autographs. It’s free to get in. You donate just by ordering food and something to drink.
Artest also recently filmed a public service announcement for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In the spot, Artest urges people to spay and neuter their pets. And definitely don’t get involved with dog fighting. That’s Artest, wearing a PETA T-shirt, shooting hoops and playing with a pit bull from a neighborhood shelter. You can check out the spot by clicking on www.ronartest.com
How did Artest go from animal abuser to animal advocate? PETA showed him the way.
“I was an irresponsible pet owner, and I got in some trouble,” Artest said after a practice last week at Toyota Center. “PETA came and showed me how to be a better pet owner. A lot of times, it’s a simple thing. One of my problems was that the fence around my home wasn’t safe enough. I had a lot of dogs, and they kept getting out. The thing is, just because you’re irresponsible, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your pets. I loved my dogs. You just need to be more mature and accountable for how you treat your animals. I had to be educated.”
Artest said he’s had pets all his life. It’s just recently, though, that he’s learned how to take care of them.
“I grew up in New York City, in an apartment in Queens. We had cats mostly. My thing was cats. We had 10 or 11 cats at one time. The house would be really, really stinky. I remember one time, my mother got us a dog. I didn’t know how to train it, and before we knew it, my dog was super mean. We had to take it to the shelter and have it put to sleep.”
Artest played college basketball for St. John’s in New York and joined the NBA in 1999. He admits that he wasn’t emotionally mature. He began picking up dogs and bringing them home.
“I had maybe 10 dogs then. I got my first pit bull later on when I was playing in Indiana. I didn’t know anything about pits, but I had one. I got it at the animal shelter. You have to learn how to raise them the right way. I didn’t know how to do it. In my PETA spot, you see me letting a pit bull lick my face. I would never let my own pit bull near my hands even,” he said.
As time wore on, Artest’s behavior on the court became more aggressive, with incidents leading to suspensions, and his neglect of animals at home became a bigger problem.
Some animals were seized by officials. Other animals, he simply brought to the shelter or gave to friends.
Then they came and took Socks. Enter PETA.
Artest, wife Kimsha and their three children have no pets in the house now. He doesn’t have the time to properly care for them. Artest said that once “I get settled in Houston,” he will adopt a couple of dogs.
His wife has laid down the law … no cats.
That “get settled” line may mean he intends to stay with the Rockets after he becomes a free agent in June.
“I would like to stay here. I love it here, and the organization is pleased with me. That’s a good sign. This is my first choice,” he said.
Another good sign is his solid, incident-free play that has the Rockets square in the playoff hunt. He’s practically been a choir boy this year. He said working with PETA and the Houston Humane Society has helped.
“I really like the Houston Humane Society. I’ve been down there doing a lot of things with them. I’ve told my people that whenever they need me for something, they’ve got to make it happen. I’ve always loved animals. Now I’ve learned how to be responsible. If you’ve watched me play basketball, people might not say I was a nice guy. I’m a totally different person off the court now. Over the years, I’ve become more mature, and I’ve learned to control my energy and temper. Maturity has also taught me the right way to treat animals, too. I’ve grown up.”