Tuesday, September 17, 2013

We are in the process of moving our blog over the another page.  Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

They Shoot Service Dogs, Don't They?

As a moderator on a popular dog breeding page I receive a wide variety of interesting messages from people.  Some are insightful- those are usually shared on the I Love Responsible Dog Breeders page.  Some not so much.

To that end, I have decided to highlight ten of the most insane things extremists believe to be true as posted on various dog breeding pages.

Unfortunately all of these screen captures are of real comments that I have come across on Facebook:

 1. They shoot service dogs, don't they?

In the midst of a debate about the importance of breeding, this bright little bulb stepped out of the box to shed light on the fact that natural selection is obviously no longer working.

This is my service dog.  I have no plans to shoot him.
I can't even believe that I need to explain this but no, there is not an epidemic of disabled handlers killing their service dogs when the dogs are too old for their job.  In fact, most disabled handlers keep their dogs as pets.  Some are returned to the program that trained them where they are adopted out to enjoy a loving bullet-free retirement.

2. Dog breeders don't love dogs.

I personally decided to work with dogs all day because I don't like them.
 All I can deduce about this one is that it makes these people feel incredibly special to claim that they love their dogs more than I could ever love mine.

I don't particularly understand this aspect of human nature because, last I checked, compassion isn't a competition.  Given that most of the dog breeders I know are heavily involved in dog rescue I haven't quite figured out how these people delude themselves into thinking one is only a dog lover if they do not breed dogs.

3. 5000 supporters can't be wrong.

Yes they can.
  Odds are if you have to justify what you're doing by pointing out that everyone else is also doing it, it isn't okay.

 4. Sex is bad.  Dog sex is worse.

 Around the time that school lets out every day our page is inundated with  messages like the one above.

One consistent theme I notice in this particular brand of brilliance is a sheer hatred of reproduction.  This, of course, is really very silly since none of them would be here if their parents held the same view.

As I discussed in the previous post, The P Word, dog breeders rarely make a profit and when they do it usually doesn't pay the bills.  But if I were this determined to hate somebody I would also reject all logic and suggest that somebody have kids so they can run a prostitution ring instead of raising healthy and well-adjusted puppies.  

5. It is always the dog breeders' fault.

There is always a lot of back patting after somebody blindsides us with this insanity.  Other than selling t-shirts, anti-dog breeding pages seem to promote this message the most.  

Since dog breeders claim to always take back their dogs if one of those dogs ends up in a shelter it is obviously all their fault!

Or, since discretely setting up webcams in puppy buyer's homes is strongly discouraged, dog breeders have to rely on communicating with their puppy buyers to ensure that the dogs they sold stay in one home.  Breeders typically do this by including a clause in their contract that restricts resale of the puppy and guarantees the breeder will take back the dog if it ends up needing a place to go.  This, I might add, is the exact same thing rescues do.  Why anyone thinks this is only reliable when a rescue does it is beyond me.

6.  Dogs are better off dead.

So they love dogs more than breeders- but they also believe dogs should be extinct?  If you aren't already aware of PETA's stance on animal ownership please stop reading this blog and go Google it.  People for the Ethical Treatment of (Dead) Animals believes that all animals should be set free to roam the fields from whence they came.

I blame Disney for this one.  Usually being a wild animal doesn't involve harmonizing giraffes, elephants, and hornbills but precious few people seem to accept this.

You see, while animal abuse and neglect is horrible and while it does happen, the vast majority of animal owners treat their animals better than most people treat their children. 

And if you think a dog would rather be doing this:

Than this:

Photo by Saphira Oppedal

Then please get one of these instead:

7.  There is no need for selective breeding.

As an avid supporter of working Border Collies I found this particular comment most exasperating.  Unfortunately this little lie is not limited to extremists.

The reason hunting dogs hunt and herding dogs herd is because of the innate behavior we call "instinct".  Instinct is the same thing that makes your dog spin in a circle six times before he lays down.  This helped his ancestors for so many years that nature decided it would probably be a good idea to make all dogs do it.  Obviously we apply the same concept to hunting.  Dog has to eat.  Dog hunts and kills animal.  Dog eats animal.

"But nature didn't make dogs herd!"

No, thousands of years of selective breeding did that.  Nobody is completely positive but herding is thought to be a modified version of hunting.  The earliest dogs figured out that if they drove a prey toward people, the people would do the dirty work and kill the prey.  The dogs were then rewarded for their behavior when the people threw them leftovers.

Or, you know, something like that.
 So no, Fifi isn't going to just "figure out" how to manage a flock of 1500 sheep.  We need breeders for that!

8. We should stop dog breeding so shelters can empty.  In the meantime we will freeze doggy eggs and doggy sperm until we are ready to start breeding.  Then we can cook them up in a pan, add a little paprika, and commence responsible pet ownership.

 This message was too long to post in its entirety but you can understand the gist of it from this excerpt.

For a moment, let's pretend that this isn't the most bat shit crazy idea: 

This person is actually suggesting that we freeze gamete cells from every single breed for a few years until we are all ready to start breeding again.  

Never mind that there are over 300 dog breeds in the world and we would need that many viable eggs plus more (because if everyone is complaining about inbreeding now, just wait until we have only one specimen of each dog breed available for breeding).  

Never mind the fact that some of the dogs reproduced using this method will likely be sterile.  There goes hundreds of years of hard work.

Never mind the BILLIONS of dollars this would cost (and since we don't have all those hefty dog breeder profits to finance such an endeavor this is just silly!).

There are too many other problems with this idea to write about.  Leave them in the comments if you have oodles of free time like me.

 9. Surgically removing reproductive organs is just dandy but DON'T TOUCH THE TAIL!

Approximately 80% of dogs in the United States have been neutered.  This means the dog was forcibly anesthetized and underwent an invasive surgical procedure to be prevented from reproducing.

This concept is socially acceptable whilst tail docking is considered controversial.  Tail docking involves removing a portion of a puppy's tail when it is a neonate.  Docking is done for cosmetic and safety reasons.  Some kennel clubs require docked tails in their breed standard, which is important if one wishes to compete in conformation.  Many working breeders dock their dog's tails to prevent the animal from being injured while on the job.

Regardless of your opinion on tail docking, please also consider the dangers of neutering before you color only one of these procedures as "inhumane".  

For more information on the risks of altering please check out the NAIA's list of Pros and Cons for neutering your dog: http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/LongTermHealthEffectsOfSpayNeuterInDogs.pdf

10.  Compassion need only be extended to animals.

This terrifying revelation is one I hope stays with you long after you finish reading my post.  The same people who have accused dog breeders of lacking compassion posted these comments.  How utterly flabbergasting.

Wagging tails to you all!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The "P" Word

After filling out mundane online job applications for five hours today I finally came across a job listing that looked interesting to me.

The job advertised a full-time job working with puppies.  Tasks included feeding, checking for heath issues, cleaning up after the puppies, training basic commands, providing socialization, interviewing potential owners, and choosing appropriate homes for each puppy in the litter.  As I scrolled down the list of recommended experience, required licenses and courses, and various other side tasks that may be involved such as website maintenance, drafting applications and contracts, and transporting the puppies to the vet clinic for vaccinations I started thinking that this job sounded like a lot of work.

And then I saw it.  Minimum starting salary: $0

Wait- free?  I thought I'm doing a job search here.  I checked the task list again, read over the job requirements, and did a double take on the salary.  $0 per hour, per year, per decade.  Who in the right mind would accept this kind of responsibility for no pay?

Though there are plenty of things I would love to discuss about the screen capture above I am particularly interested in the dreaded "P word".  Profit.

Responsible dog breeders don't make a profit.

The fact that the proposed measure of being a successful dog breeder is losing money baffles me.

I understand the train of thought applied to this message because I used to think the exact same way (see the "Evolving Activist" post from a few days ago).  If a breeder is making a profit they will surely cut corners and the dogs in their care will suffer.  Bitches will be bred every season in order to maximize puppy production.  Cages will be smaller, kennels will be understaffed, food will be cheaper, and the puppy approval process will become easier to pass.

I was convinced that this is the case until it occurred to me that good people don't become bad people because they start making money doing what they love.  As a professional pet sitter I didn't start overbooking appointments and spending less time with my client's dogs just because I was getting more inquiries than I could handle.

Responsible dog breeders should make a profit.

I can't imagine working as hard as dog breeders do and, in the end, being told that I don't deserve to be paid because of the nature of my job.  I know the overhead of dog breeding is the primary reason why it is difficult to make a profit.  But if you balk at the price of a $1,500 puppy, take into consideration the cost of training, showing, and promoting the bitch and sire of the litter.  Think about the grooming, whelping, veterinary, and training supplies.  Vet fees, kennel licensing and health tests are potentially the most expensive part of raising a litter of puppiesA c-section can cost the price of two puppies.  The overhead costs for breeding are steep.  And that isn't taking the time and effort spent by the breeder into consideration.  Most of us believe we are worth at least minimum wage.  Dog breeding is a 24 hour job for eight to twelve weeks.

A few months ago, a friend sent me her total costs for one litter of puppies:

Though it is possible to make a profit from breeding if the litter of puppies produced is large enough, the net income is typically substantially lower than what one would make working a minimum wage job.  Which begs the question, where do people get the idea that dog breeders are breeding solely for the money?

I suppose there are some breeders who have no trouble turning a profit because they produce a higher number of puppies per year.  It is my opinion that there is no maximum number of litters per year that is right for one breeder.  I have a friend who has four litters a year because they just really enjoy raising puppies and their dogs are so in demand that they have no problem finding loving homes.

This, of course, opens up a whole other controversy about whether dogs from breeders are filling a potential home for a shelter dog.  More on that in another post.

If this picture doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy you  have no soul.
Consider this the next time you try to tell somebody that only irresponsible dog breeders make a profit:

There is no reason why any of us should have to work for free to do what we love. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Finger Pointing Propaganda: The Case of Niobrara Great Danes

In 2010 I walked into a gas station and, on a whim, purchased a lottery ticket.  It took me five days before I realized that the ticket I had in my possession was a winner.  I received a lump sum of $2 million dollars- far more money than I had ever imagined possessing.

Unfortunately like most people who win the lottery, I did not handle having a large sum of money suddenly thrust upon me well.  I spent about half of it on living expenses after I dropped out of college and the other half on three separate extravagant vacations.  Only a small portion of my winnings remain but I still feel incredibly lucky to have had that experience.

I mean, who wouldn't want to spend $165,000 on six days in Bora Bora?
The lesson here being that it is incredibly easy to lie on the internet and make it sound convincing.  The most I have ever won from a lottery ticket was $3 and I have never been to Bora Bora.  The photo above was taken at Kitch-Iti-Kipi in Michigan.

Today I logged onto the ILRDB page and found a message waiting for me from a "concerned guest" who gave me links to a breeder that is presently being targeted by various Animal Rights groups.

My response was cheeky, quick, and to the point.  I'm hoping they got the message.  But rereading what I wrote, I regret not first clicking the link before responding (having already seen these photos I didn't bother looking again).

Let's explore the case of Niobrara Great Danes for a few minutes.

Niobrara Great Danes Website: http://www.niobraragreatdanes.com/Home.html

The website shows photos of three males and nine females.  This isn't an unrealistic number of dogs for a single breeder to own- plenty have all that and more.  It should be noted that these are all exceptionally large dogs.

Digging around the website I find an extensive puppy questionnaire and contract, miles of educational links, and eight links to other breeders.  This website was definitely a lot of work to put together and provides us with a great deal of information.

Now to the photos being spread around the internet:

I want to direct your attention to the conversation occurring on the left side of this screen capture.  Specifically this part:
"I'm confident that the conditions no longer look like this at this time of year. However, what's unmistakable is that they did look like this in March 2013." 
Niobrara Great Danes is located in Harrison, Nebraska.  These photos were taken in March.  You see where I'm going with this?  Mud in March?  If you live north of Mexico you're probably pretty familiar with the concept. 

And why, if the conditions these dogs are living in were so horrible, was attention not called to this sooner?  For those who aren't counting, the person posting these photos is admitting that they were taken five months ago. 

Let me prove my point about the March issue:

Drawing your attention once again to a very telling observation:
"looks like they have a PR guy, this looks nothing like the real condition!"
 And the response from the original poster of the photos:
"It looks like this in the summer. Notice the landmarks. It's the same spot."
 So we have obviously explained the mud.

Just in case you need another photo to draw your own conclusion:

Once again this photo is dated March 2013.

Both of these dogs actually look pretty clean to me for having allegedly spent months living in a muddy pen.  We can't actually tell if they were just put in there before the photo was taken or if they have never actually been removed from the pen.  However, given that both dogs look like they are in good physical condition I would hazard a guess at the former.

Now to the accusations about lacking vet care:

 I'm not entirely sure what an "untreated lump" is supposed to mean but I can confidently say that if "untreated lumps" were justification for a legal battle I think about 30% of dog owners in the United States would be liable.  I generally freak out when I find a pimple on my dog but some people have a better grasp on medical cause.  This "untreated lump" means absolutely nothing.  There is no proof that the owner hasn't had the lump looked at.  And if my vet recommended I anesthetize my dog to remove a benign growth I would find a new vet pronto. 

Given that this is also a giant breed and it is generally recommended that giant breeds are kept thinner because of the stress on their joints I see absolutely nothing wrong with this dog's weight.

This photo didn't draw much attention.  The mother is clearly eating or drinking and has four separate bowls (two at puppy level).  She is a good weight.  Puppies are suckling and though the newspaper underneath them is soiled it doesn't look like it has been sitting there for ages.  The papers have obviously been cleared out frequently and replaced.

For those who are interested in viewing all of the photos provided click here.

I don't personally know Trish Hanson and I haven't met any of her dogs but I am not willing to condemn a person who is being targeted by what is very clearly a witch hunt.

To that end I would like to make a suggestion to those who find these conditions unacceptable.  Given that our shelters already have plenty of dogs in need of a safe place to go, might it be more conducive to offer to help this person better maintain their property?  It saddens me that the first conclusion anyone jumps to in a case of possible animal neglect is "seize the animals and throw the person in jail!".

Maybe these photos were taken after a particularly warm day in March when several feet of snow melted in a matter of hours.  Perhaps this would explain the photos where there appears to be a few days worth of poop.  I welcome somebody to come check out my yard in March- you will find both mud and poop.  I don't scoop in the winter because I hate digging around for frozen brown logs in the snow.

Draw your own conclusions about this breeder and, if you feel you must, comment on the conditions these dogs are being kept in.  I personally extend a hand of friendship to Trish Hanson.  Please let any of us at ILRDB know if you need support.  We are nationwide and open minded.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Evolving Activist

I don't remember where I learned to hate dog breeders.

The vast majority of my dog knowledge was gained by the countless hours I spent racking up points answering dog related questions online, reading training blogs and articles, and working full-time as a grooming assistant at a pet store.  Like the majority of canine enthusiasts I am self-taught.

There was a point when I was told that the only good breeders are the breeders who spend thousands of dollars on tests to detect genetic disorders, who work and show their dogs, who raise puppies in the home surrounded by a stimulating environment.  The best breeders slept next to their litters every single night until they were old enough to avoid being sat on by mom, socialized and trained all of their puppies before they went to new homes, evaluated and carefully matched each puppy to their new home, and required a fifty point questionnaire before allowing a family to take a puppy.

All of those things considered, I still hated dog breeders.

When friends told me they purchased a dog from a pet store, online, or anywhere in the mid-west I would sneer at them.  Probably from a "puppy mill".  I openly rejected animal rights propaganda from groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States and yet I unintentionally spread that propaganda like I was being paid for it.

Hopefully this isn't me.

The greatest tragedy of human nature is that we are so susceptible to having our minds made for us. 

I do remember the day I stopped hating dog breeders.  I met a friend who both bred and rescued.  I had never considered that a possibility before that point.  Why add more dogs to the world when you're so busy saving the ones who don't have a home in the first place?  I have since answered this question for others a thousand times over.

The reality of dog breeding is that it is a necessity.  You've seen those bumper stickers that read "No Farms, No Food"- without breeders we would not have dogs.   

Which brings me to my next point, what makes a person a good dog breeder?

Consider, for the briefest of moments, the proposition that there is no one size fits all description of a good dog breeder.  Most of the breeds we love and fight so hard to preserve were developed before genetic tests were created.  Many existed before formal dog shows, created solely to do whatever job man had bred them to do.  The most famous names in our dog's pedigrees were likely raised in a barn with only an hour or two of supervision a day.

By all means be the best breeder you can be.  Select your dog breeder carefully, especially since you will likely be communicating with them for the next fifteen years.  But also accept that there are breeders and rescuers and people in general that you are going to disagree with and there is nothing wrong with that. 

I am an evolving activist.  Four years ago my time was consumed with the doom and gloom of staring at shelter dog photos, doing what I could to make a difference in what appeared to be a widely ignored cause.  I never expected that difference to be a united effort between dog breeders and dog rescuers.
Aesop Fables: The Four Oxen and the Lion

  A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to
dwell.  Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came
near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way
he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.  At
last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each
went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field.  Then
the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all
United we stand, divided we fall.