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:

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.


  1. You don't scoop poop in the winter? Tell me you aren't serious? I live in Montana and still scoop poop in the winter. Snow does thaw multiple times in the winter. As soon as I see a thawed pile, I'm on it. As for your implying that these dogs are clean, you cannot tell. Dogs can certainly live outside their whole lives and not look dirty. Mud does not just sit on skin or fur indefinitely. Especially not short haired breeds. That being said, I do not personally know this breeder nor do I know the conditions of their dogs. I just wanted to point out those flaws in this argument. I would think that the person who was there and felt the need to take pictures is to be trusted more than people trying to speculate something away. I take it all with a grain of salt. Definitely would not be the worst dane owner/breeder I've ever seen. lol

    1. Yes, I do not scoop poop in the winter. I live in Connecticut- there are plenty of winters where we don't see the ground for three months.

      Mud may not sit on fur but it does stain fur- especially if that mud is laden with feces and urine as the accusers are suggesting. I groomed many a urine stained dog during my time working at a grooming salon. It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the staining without waiting for the dog's coat to grow out and for that to occur the dogs must be removed from the urine filled area that caused the stain in the first place.

  2. Kudos.. someone with some common sense !!

  3. I think it is great that it shows that she cares where the puppies are going..however...does she keep dogs outside and always caged? I think this is the problem many have, they are outside in pens in the cold and it does appear to be pens where they are kept a LOT since they seem to be setup that way- short haired dogs outside in the winter? I know Danes are big dogs, but big or one should take that on unless they can provide for them properly, especially if they have a lot of care and even an application- to ensure the pups will be ok. No dog should have to be caged or in a pen outside most of their life, nor have to endure the heat and cold constantly. Hopefully it gets sorted out for the animals sake, because all animals deserve the best- and they deserve, safety, comfort and love. We all have to look out for them just as we would a child, because animals cannot speak for themselves.

    1. SC there are plenty of dogs that are happy to live outside in all weather (think livestock guardian dog). Indoor living is actually a relatively new concept for the dog world and it isn't uncommon to see breeders and pet owners who keep their dogs in outdoor kennels in pens. As long as the dogs are safe, secure, and comfortable is it really that big of a deal?

      I spoke directly to the owner of Niobrara Great Danes. She claims that her dogs live inside and that these pens are only used for exercise or as holding pens.

      Comparing animals to children isn't realistic because they have vastly different needs. Would you crate a child when you go out for the day? Can you leave a child home alone for eight hours while you are at work? Do you feed your child the same processed kibble every day? Or raw meat? Different species, different needs. There are many different opinions on what responsible pet ownership entails- the best thing you can do for animals (and yourself) is acknowledge that not everyone is going to agree on animal care.