Discussion: When It’s Freezing Out, Bring Your Pets In

My news feed runneth over this week with stories of freezing temperatures and the effect on pets. There are lots of articles talking about state laws and giving recommendations on what to do with pets during extremely cold weather. While obvious exceptions must be made for some animals including feral cats (who can be provided with homemade outdoor shelters) and sled dogs (who are purpose bred for outdoor living as part of their work), the general message should be: Bring your pets indoors. All of us involved in animal advocacy should be repeating this message as a means of education and increasing awareness.

When an ACO in Longview, TX was interviewed about a frozen dog found chained to a fence, he provided this disappointing quote:

“Bring your dogs in when the temperature drops down to these conditions so that you don’t end up with a dead animal. Because if we come out and your animal has died because of the environment that it’s in, if it’s died because it’s frozen, it’s cold, we will file charges,” said Longview animal control officer Chris Kemper.

The message should be “Bring your dogs in,” with no hint from authorities that as long as your pet hasn’t frozen to death, you won’t be charged.

There appears to be some confusion about what state law requires in Texas so I looked it up. A violation of the following is a misdemeanor:

Texas Penal Code: Sec. 42.092. CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS. includes the following:

(7) “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

(8) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

[...]

(3) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;

In the Longview case, authorities indicated the dog’s owner had failed to provide food, water and shelter while the pet suffered and died. Authorities could have – and should have – intervened before the dog froze to death. Being left on a chain with no food, water or shelter in freezing temperatures appears to qualify under the law as torture and cruelty since most pets could not possibly be maintained in good health under these conditions.  But the ACO’s statement implies that action will only be taken if the pet dies as a result of the torture.

Do better with your messaging, Longview. And definitely do better with your intervention on behalf of suffering pets.

What, if anything, does the law say about providing shelter to animals during the cold in your state?  Are you working to get your state’s cruelty laws amended to better protect animals?  Do you do any advocacy work, such as social media outreach, about bringing pets inside during extreme weather?  What information do you include in your message?

Responsibility on the Back of a Milk Carton at CA Pound

Remember when Kern Co pound director Jen Woodard noted in a report that one of the problems in the community is ignorance of “basic pet responsibility” which she attributed to the notion that “much of the community is uninterested in hearing this message”?  Now hear this:  Last week at the Kern Co pound, one dog killed another when they were left together unattended in a cage.  Pairing animals is apparently a common practice at Kern Co:

Woodard says with up to 100 animals coming in each day to the shelter, separate kennels for all is impossible. But, officers evaluate every dog individually before it’s paired with others of comparable size. In this case, Woodard says neither dog had acted aggressively before.

Here is my concern:  With up to 100 animals coming in daily, are officers being given sufficient time to evaluate dogs and are the dogs being given sufficient time to settle in at the pound before being evaluated?  Of equal importance, are the officers trained as behaviorists?  Or are the people doing the evaluating just winging it in between killing puppies with adopters waiting and hiding from the media?

I am all for pairing up pets to save lives if necessary but as with all things, there are ways to do it responsibly and ways that are going to result in dogs being mauled to death in the night.  If Kern Co is pairing up animals responsibly to save lives, it’s not evident to me in this article.  Especially when I read this bit near the end:

Woodard says since no one was there to witness what happened, they’ve scheduled a necropsy on the dog that died.

Way to dodge.  The dog that died reportedly had bloody neck wounds consistent with a dog mauling.  But yeah, maybe he had high cholesterol or aliens experimented on him or something.  Doing the necropsy might have some value, except they already killed the other dog in the cage.  Apparently Kern Co doesn’t require witnesses for that.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Are All Large Scale Neglect Cases the Same?

It seems that we hear about so many cases where every pet was taken from an owner due to “terrible conditions”, “neglect” and similar descriptive terms.  Instead of having a blanket response to alleged puppy mills or hoarding situations, I am in favor of evaluating each case individually.  To my mind, this is the only approach that makes any sense especially given the lack of legal definitions of such terms as “puppy mill” and “animal hoarder”.

For example, if the authorities come upon a pet situation at Ms. Smith’s farm that looks troubling, I think some initial information gathering should take place in order to make some preliminary assessments.

  • Is Ms. Smith willing to sit down and talk with us regarding the animals in her care?
  • If so, what does she have to say?
  • If not, do we have probable cause to obtain a search warrant from a judge to investigate further?

From there, a wide variety of scenarios may develop.

If authorities find that say, 10 of her 100 pets are suffering from neglect but the other 90 are ok, it’s possible that Ms. Smith can not afford to provide the vet care needed by the 10 in bad shape.  Or perhaps those 10 have grooming needs Ms. Smith is physically unable to provide and doesn’t realize she can take them to Millie down the road for basic grooming every 6 weeks.  It’s also possible that Ms. Smith is unable to differentiate between the 10 neglected pets and the other 90 – that she believes all of them are ok.  In that case, perhaps education is needed or the question of mental illness may come into play.

I could sit here all day typing up various plausible scenarios but hopefully you get my drift.  Each case needs to be evaluated on its own merits – not to explain away or excuse the neglect – but to understand how the situation can best be remedied in a meaningful and long lasting manner while causing the least amount of trauma overall.

If the conditions at the property rise to the level of criminal charges, hopefully those will be brought.  If there is need to remove every living animal from an owner’s property immediately for their own safety, then charges should almost certainly be brought.  If not, are the laws so weak and vague that even an emergency situation doesn’t qualify as prosecutable?  In that case, the laws need to be addressed.

I am inclined to believe that at least some of the so-called hoarding and puppy mill cases we read about – where dozens or hundreds of animals are removed at once – are situations that could have been handled differently and with far less trauma to the dogs.  Some owners may be able to keep a certain number of altered pets responsibly.  Even those diagnosed as mentally ill may be perfectly capable of providing adequate care for a small number of altered pets, especially when there is a family member or friend willing to monitor the situation long term.

Pets can be therapeutic for some patients and allowing a few pets to remain in the home – as opposed to taking away every last one – can be beneficial in several ways.  It makes things easier on the pets who get to stay in their home and may help the owner to understand that the authorities are truly trying to assist rather than vilify.  This could aid in compliance both in the present situation as well as in future.  And it may alleviate a newly petless person’s impulse to run out and get a bunch more pets.

It may not always be necessary to remove every animal immediately, depending on the case.  Obviously in some cases, that is exactly what needs to happen.  But in others, it’s possible pets can be sheltered in place until appropriate arrangements can be made.  Or perhaps removing only some of the animals from the property will allow the owner to make significant and satisfactory improvements.

Anything that can be done to ease the burden placed on local rescues when these large seizures take place will benefit the animals and allow these small groups to use their limited resources judiciously.  As things stand, sometimes “rescued” puppies contract diseases and die in the care of their rescuers and “rescued” dogs are sent to the gas chamber.

Many advocates fought so hard, and continue to fight, for the right of dogs seized in dogfighting busts to be evaluated as individuals.  In many cases now, the idea of evaluating the dogs as individuals has replaced the old blanket response of kill-them-all.  This has resulted in the saving of many lives, which is a primary goal of most animal advocates.  Isn’t it time to re-think our current one-size-fits-all response to puppy mill/hoarding situations?

Dog Death by Hot Car – 100% Preventable

How to avoid becoming one of this summer’s “Dog dies in hot car” statistics:

  1. If the weather can be described as warm, hot, or not cold – do not leave your dog unattended in the car.
  2. When in doubt about whether it would be ok to leave your dog in the car, do not leave dog in car.

My thinking is that the overwhelming majority of owners who kill their dogs by leaving them in a hot car thought the dog would be ok.  (There are a small number of people who actually forget the dog is in the car altogether or something along those lines.)  People think things like:

  • He’s a dog, he’s used to the heat
  • He’ll be fine, I left the window cracked
  • I’m only going to be gone for like 2 minutes, max

Problems arise when:

  • He was a dog, he was used to the heat, and he died
  • He wasn’t fine, even though I left the window cracked
  • I was gone for a little longer than 2 minutes, and he died

Here’s the thing:  No matter what your reasoning – which may on its face be sound – you are leaving your dog.  As such, you do not know what will be happening to him in your absence.  The clouds may shift and place him in direct sunlight or he may become stressed due to a factor other than the temperature – you just don’t know.

Anytime you are preparing to leave your dog unattended in the car:  Plan as if you will be abducted by aliens, medically probed for 7 hours, and returned to a spot near your car with a vague “Whaaaa?” feeling.  Will your dog be ok while you’re gone?

What Have You Done to Keep Your Pet?

We are often hit with finger-wagging reminders that pets are not disposable accessories, some people should not have pets, etc.  And while I don’t deny that argument, I think we need to hear more stories from the other side of the coin – that is, the lengths owners have gone to in order to keep a pet.

We have a dog called Linus who is extremely fearful and acts out aggressively as a result.  I wish I could blame his lousy breeder or his shoddy upbringing but alas, he was born in this house, from two of my dogs, and trained by me.  While I don’t claim to be SuperPuppyRaiser, I have a pretty good track record and didn’t do anything wildly unusual with Linus.  He is the way he is, for whatever reasons.

Because of his propensity to fight with my other dogs, we have had to arrange the inside and outside of our home in such a way that he is prevented from getting into trouble.  That means baby gates, closed doors, double rows of fencing, etc.  Billy cut into our front porch and built a dog door and stairs there so that we could have a way to let dogs in and out the yard in addition to the back deck.  One entrance to the yard just would not do.

Dogs have to be continually rotated throughout the day with due care to avoid the possibility of Linus making eye contact with someone he’d be likely to fight with.  This means dogs being shut in rooms temporarily while others are let in and that sort of thing.  In bad weather, we have no choice but to maintain the same routine, even though it results in muddy paw prints all over the carpeting.  Mowing the lawn with all these gates and fence layers is a task of woe.  (Thanks Billy.)

One of the other things that Linus does is vocalize an extremely shrill, sharp bark that affects me unlike any other dog’s bark.  It’s the kind of bark that makes me spew coffee, even though he does it many times a day, every single day.  You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now but no.  He does it when I’m trying to nap and I bolt upright in a daze.  He does it when I’m trying to cook and I drop knives.  Some days are worse than others and by dinnertime, I’m just a bundle of nerves.  Which I’m sure is not at all helpful to a dog with anxiety.

I’ve always been open to the possibility of placing Linus because obviously, he could have a nice life elsewhere, where he didn’t live with a house full of other dogs.  But I can’t just place him with the “average” pet owner.  Despite being a very good dog in many respects (no, really), he doesn’t get along with most other dogs, he jumps fences, he’s extremely fearful – you get the picture.  It would have to be the right match for me to place him and that person has not come along yet.  (If you are reading this Mr. Right Owner, call me!)

So for the time being, and for as long as necessary, we live our life accommodating Linus’ special needs.  We have other dogs of course – some elderly, some with cancer – and they have their own needs.  We do our best to attend to everyone but always, by necessity, in the context of meeting Linus’ needs.

I know to some people, especially those who don’t own pets, the situation sounds ridiculous.  But what would I do?  I can’t return him to the breeder (she doesn’t return my calls!) and I’m certainly not about to hand him off to any old person who isn’t likely to be able to handle him.  So this is what we do.  What looks bizarre to an outsider seems normal to us.

I know I’m not alone in going to what some might consider great lengths to keep a pet.  What have you done to keep a pet?

“He just totally went off the wall”

New Hampshire:  If you want to buy a dog off Craigslist without even knowing the name of the seller or if the dog’s had a Rabies vaccine or has bitten 157 schoolkids, knock yourself out.  Hey, I’m not judging.  But if you do buy a dog without knowing a thing about him, you are accepting the responsibility that comes along with that.  That is, every new situation – riding in the car, walking around the neighborhood, visiting the dog park, etc – requires you to use judgment and caution since the dog is a big question mark.  You are the known entity in this equation – the dog is the unknown – and in taking him on, you are promising to keep him and those around him safe from foreseeable mishaps.

Perhaps the number one foreseeable mishap to my mind would be properly introducing the dog to your kids and at some point, introducing him to other people’s kids.  This will require your supervision and judgment and will happen over time, as the dog learns what is expected of him and adjusts to his new life.  Specifically, you’d want to avoid situations such as this like the plague:

Shawna Innie, 12, was going inside her apartment to get a drink on Saturday when the pit bull that her family had just obtained lunged at her and grabbed her arm.

Moments later, neighbor Cameron Hallstrom, 7, entered the home, and the dog bit him on the face and ear.

“He just started attacking them,” said dog owner Nancy Innie. “It’s unbelievable.”

Nancy Innie said the family got the dog, Chico, on Friday. They picked the dog up in Nashua from an owner they know only by a first name. She said they were given no documentation about the animal regarding his shots or any other history.

“We didn’t even have him 24 hours yet, and he just totally went off the wall,” she said.

Personal responsibility fail.

May I paraphrase?:  We didn’t even have him 24 hours and I expected him to read my mind and to know exactly how and from whom I wanted him to defend our home and his personal space.  Further, I expected any worries or fears he may have which might cause him to react with his teeth to evaporate instantly just because.  Now that I set him up for failure and my efforts have been realized the only logical conclusion is that “[o]bviously, he had a couple loose screws”.  Cause it wouldn’t be my fault.  Obviously.

Both of the bite victims are on antibiotics, and Cameron needed 10 stitches to repair his wounds. For now, the dog is being held in quarantine at the Manchester Animal Shelter.

Since the rabies vaccine history is unknown, the dog has to be quarantined.  And of course the new owners didn’t have time to get him a shot because they had only gotten him less than 24 hours before the screws hit the wall.  I think it was highly rude of that dog to become unhinged so quickly like that.  Hopefully the family’s next dog will be that mind reading/fear evaporating kind.  They have those on Craigslist, don’t they?

Signed, Shocked in GA

Here’s the problem:  People want to take their dogs off leash in public parks because I guess it’s too tedious to have to actually hold the leash.  Especially when they haven’t trained the dog to walk without pulling the owner’s arm out of its socket.  So that’s two things – holding the leash and training *shudder*.

Then there are people who want to use the public parks without strange dogs running up to/jumping on/chasing them.  This group includes people walking their own dogs on leash as well as people who come to the park without dogs (Whaaaa?).

The people who can’t be bothered to train the dog to walk normally on a leash are often the same ones who claim the dog to be under “voice control”.  Pretty much everyone on the planet knows this is a crock.

A city in Georgia is debating what to do about this issue.  One idea:

At tonight’s city council workshop, resident Richard Linteris showed off a special wireless collar that can be triggered to shock a dog who misbehaves or strays too far.

Don’t worry folks.  This man is a professional:

“I guarantee you, you crank these up and you can get a dog to stop whatever he’s doing, the bad behavior, 100 percent of the time,” Linteris said.

Oh dear.

I have an alternate proposal:  How about we shock people who don’t train their dogs and let them run wild in public parks?  I’m normally anti-shock collar but if it will stop these owners’ bad behavior 100% of the time, I could maybe make an exception.

Good News: More Large Mixed Breed Pups Now Available!

I come across postings regularly on various internet sites listing puppies in need of homes. On occasion, I pick one out to share. In this one, I have changed the breeds to breeds of similar size to protect the innocent (dogs):

Hi!! I have three puppies that are ready for new homes. There is one boy and two girls. Their mama is a Newfoundland mix and the daddy is a Chow/Lab mix. These are very beautiful babies, and they are the sweetest things in the world. I would keep them but I have to feed their mama and her mama, which is the Newfoundland and they eat alot.

Using my brilliant powers of deduction, I take it that we have a dog breeder here. With the limited information contained in the post, I can only trace the lineage 3 generations but it looks like the Newfoundland was bred to a a dog who was something other than a Newfoundland and at least one female puppy from the resulting litter was kept by the breeder. That Newf mix puppy was bred to a Chow/Lab mix and the breeder is unable to keep the pups because the dam and grandam eat too much.

I don’t know if these breedings were intentional or if the breeder considers them accidents but if they were not intentional, one wonders why more effective protocols were not introduced to prevent accidental breedings somewhere along the way. If they were intentional, one wonders what the purpose of the breedings is. (Yes, you must have a purpose in dog breeding!) Most of the common reasons for planned breedings that come to my mind seem to obviously not fit here: Profit, supply dogs for a competition or utilitarian function, supply a waiting list of owners with puppies, create a new breed, allow the kids to experience the birth of a litter one time, etc. I honestly can’t think of a purpose for these breedings. Maybe there is one and it just isn’t striking me at the moment. I think it’s reasonable to assume that if the breeder fails to find homes for the pups, she won’t be keeping them (that eating thing is a strong indicator). My hope is that these pups will find homes and will not end up at a shelter where they have a good chance of being killed.

The post does not indicate if this breeder is screening homes in order to protect the pups. Nor if she will offer support to the new owner for the life of the dog and be willing to take the puppy back or help with rehoming if that circumstance arises at some point in the dog’s life. I hope that she simply forgot to state these things because, accidental or intentional, she is the breeder and that’s a breeder’s obligation. Oh and as for the feeding thing and the fact that big dogs eat a lot of food – yeah, that’s a breeder’s obligation too.

***

Search for low/no cost spay-neuter services in your area at the ASPCA website.

The Internets is Pissing Me Off Again

From MSN Money, an article titled “Why You Can’t Afford a Dog”:

In short, if you can’t find at least an extra $800 to $1,000 in your budget every year, don’t get a pet.

I have six pets which means apparently I have an “extra” $6000 a year in my budget for basic pet expenses. Newsflash: I work my pets into the budget – they are not “extra”. With the occasional “extra” money I have, I go to a movie or get a sandwich. Although it’s hard to believe that a card carrying poor person such as myself would ever be able to go to a movie given that I’ve got to spend six grand a year on my dogs.

More advice:

If you get laid off, start looking for foster care for your pets until times are better — and if the job market is particularly bleak (think “unemployed in Michigan”), you may have to give them away outright.

Sure because pets are “extra” and if you get laid off, they should be the first things kicked to the curb. Yes, I see your reasoning. Please take me to the next logical step:

When people say “I’d never give up my pet,” they’re usually speaking from a position of privilege. Sure, they may feel broke right now, but they’re still in a place where they can say what they would “never” do. If you were ever truly destitute, you’d know better than to make that kind of claim.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you lived in your sedan with four cats or out in a culvert with a husky-shepherd mix. Maybe all of you survived. But most of us aren’t cut out to take that kind of risk — and frankly, we shouldn’t. It’s too dangerous. A human life is worth more than the chance to nurture a corgi or a ferret for a few more years.

Besides, Fido deserves better than car camping and eating old Wonder bread from the food bank. Or suppose you got sick and had to leave your shelter in the woods. Would you want your kitten to slowly starve while trying to stay ahead of predators?

Dude. When did this train get rerouted to CrazyTown? We started out as too poor to own a dog, then we got laid off, suddenly we’re being stalked by bear at our thicket tent in the forest and I need to decide what kind of death is best for my Hello Kitty.

Here’s the thing: Pet ownership is for everyone, not just the wealthy or the middle class. Pets love poor people who take care of them responsibly just as much as they love rich people. That’s one of the great things about pets. And about being a pet owner.

I’m absolutely in favor of making smart, informed decisions regarding pet ownership and finances. But to my mind, these decisions should be based in reality. (I’m sort of a stickler for that kinda thing.) In real life, poor people have pets. They may need to sacrifice more than an owner with a higher income, but that’s what people do when it comes to family.

What is a "Puppy Mill"? – Part 2

The following post was written in 2008 by Saluki breeder Betsy Cummings. I thought it would be perfect food for thought in my series on the subject of defining puppy mills. I’m most interested in your reactions, thoughts, and opinions on her points.

***

I got in late last nite from Springfield, MO. What is there to interest me? Well, the 18th Spring Educational Seminar and Meeting of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association. Yeah, the puppy mill folks. They prefer Professional Breeders. And after what I saw this weekend, I’m quite willing to cut them some slack.

On Friday were 4 seminars, although one was cancelled because the State Veterinarian had been bitten by a dog and the rabies vaxx was questionable, so the poor guy has to take the shots and wasn’t feeling well. So another guy came and spoke on something else. On Saturday was Pat Hasting’s Puppy Puzzle Seminar – which was FREE. To anybody. How many have paid $150 or more to a kennel club to see this seminar?

I’m now going to propose a viewpoint that I know full well isn’t going to be popular, nor is it going to win me friends. Many of you will scoff and criticize. It’s ingrained in “us” to do so. Say the words Puppy Mill, or Commercial Breeder and most of us have a knee jerk reaction of total horror. We picture “bubba’s” on Walmart parking lots and highway corners selling puppies to anybody who comes along. Not that that doesn’t happen. However, those folks tend to be wannabe’s and illegal puppy mills. There were only a few people there I’d call “Bubba’s” this weekend. MOST of the people were people just like you and me. You couldn’t have told by dress or manner what these folks did for a living. Most even spoke “educated beyond the 1st grade” english. And it was obvious from the gal with the poodle died pink to the gal who came in with a sheltie she’d rescued off an 8 lane highway and wanted her put somewhere safe, that these folks live and breathe DOGS. In that respect, they aren’t that much different from you and me.

Friday’s program included one that has me shaking my head and asking where “we” (“we” being the show dog fancy) are. The MPBA has no less than 3 professional lobbyists. One in Washington DC, and 2 in our state capital. Even more, the State Representative from Salem, MO is one of “them.” These 4 folks stood before a room of about 300 people and gave us a list of the legislation they’ve had a part in killing altogether, or getting changed to something reasonable. My question is…where the hell are WE??? If the MPBA can have THREE full time professional lobbyists…what’s OUR problem??? My next question is…Why the HELL aren’t we working with these people???? They know how to do it. They aren’t starting from scratch. They’ve been working in the trenches for quite awhile. And all supported by the puppy millers! These folks are fighting for OUR rights as much as for their own, but the end results are the same – I can still own dogs in the state of Missouri, and they don’t have to be spayed or neutered either.

Saturday’s program was Pat Hasting’s seminar. It was not quite as well attended as some of the Friday seminars since it was a ‘voluntary’ program. (I’ll explain that in a minute.) However, the room was probably over half full – call it 200 people give or take. She played the angle toward “If you’re breeding better dogs structurally, you make more money.” It was a good call. She went over 7 lab puppies – some were from show bred lines, and some from a commercial kennel. She wouldn’t say which were which. And based on the strengths and faults she found I certainly couldn’t tell. One had an ewe neck which she demonstrated by flipping that puppy’s head over onto its spine – no distress to the puppy! One had no muscling on the inside of it’s legs so when she stacked it and pushed just a teensy bit from the side the puppy fell over. 3 had slipped hocks. One had a herring gut. The gasps when each of these faults were demonstrated were…quite loud. And she flat out asked why they weren’t breeding away from these faults – they’d make more money providing a quality, well bred dog than ones with health and structural issues. There were some good questions from the audience, and some questions that are so basic as to be laughable…except nobody laughed. These folks are putting forth good effort, and I for one am willing to give them some credit for that. (And btw – Pat commented that each puppy was in it’s own crate and that when she does show litters they usually come in ONE crate. And those crates were scrupulously clean, with food and water. *G*)

Having said this, I’ll also state I’m not willing to sell to them, or breed with them. But there are show folks I can say the same about, so that’s nothing different. These folks are however, policing themselves. They don’t tolerate sub-standard kennels and they turn them in immediately. That’s better than “we” can say when we tolerate folks we KNOW have starving animals, or worse. And just who is it on most of the news when a rescue makes the news? More often than not it’s a “rescuer” or show breeder turned in by a neighbor…NOT by US.

Anyway, these folks are working to improve their industry. For 18 years they have continually raised the bar for their members. They provide seminars on everything from puppy nutrition to health in their kennels to structure – FREE. Not just for their members, but to ANYBODY. It was a very strange feeling to be in a building full of people I have always thought of as the “enemy.” So much so I was very reluctant to admit I’m a show breeder. But when I did once or twice, these folks never blinked. And just who was there? The AKC. Bil-Jac. Eukanuba. Royal Canin. Hunte Corp – who btw, had fully 1/5th of the room for their booth.

And let me detour on Hunte Corp a minute. They were handing out information on their standards for buying puppies. IE, the breeders must meet some minimum requirements before Hunte will purchase their dogs. On top of those minimum requirements they pay a bonus for such things as health tested parents, Ch parents, and something else that escapes me at the moment. So they too are not only raising the bar, but leading the way in doing so.

APRI was there. With videos of their events. I always thought they were just a paper registry. Well, they’re not. And lemme tell ya, the shutzhund and agility events looked pretty tuff. And not only that, but APRI alone gave $10,000 to the legislative fund – IE, the fund that pays for the lobbyists. Our little fledgling groups, PetPAC, etc would KILL for that kind of money right now.

And in all of this, I have to wonder…where are we? What are WE doing? If we choose to attend such a thing, it’s voluntary. These folks are requiring it of their members. You want to be considered a top breeder…then you MUST have continuing education. Not when I feel like it, but MUST, every year, have so many credits of education. Not even our JUDGES have to do that beyond what they do to earn more breeds. We watched folks spend THOUSANDS on equipment, food, meds, and by god TREATS. Just who gives treats to their dogs? Those who LOVE them. That’s who.

I had a conversation with a guy this weekend about his kennel. He proudly told me he is a “Blue Ribbon Kennel” – meaning he’s met the standards for the MPBA to earn that. He gets his education credits, etc, and I assume, has met some standards of health and cleanliness in his kennels. He said he’s *never* had an outbreak of anything in his kennel. Not even kennel cough. His “bio standards” are set so high that even his family must follow them in the house not just in the kennel. So I asked him what happens when the dogs leave his kennel. Their immune systems have never been challenged and suddenly they’re out in the big bad world being hit with everything all at once. He went, Oh. I never thought of that. Hm. He said “What do you do?” And I had to admit I’m a show breeder, so I breed once every few years and I do take extra precautions while the bitch is pregnant and when the pups are less than 9 weeks old, but that after that I have those puppies out and about every week or two so that not only do I immunize but I give their immune systems exposure to things outside of home so that when we do go on the road to shows and such they aren’t suddenly overwhelmed and have a chance to fight. I’m not sure I changed his mind exactly, but I did give him something to think about.

I admit, I went for the chance to see Pat Hasting’s seminar for free. Beyond that I was prepared to keep my mouth shut. Instead, I found myself going…wow. Just how many of us would goto this level of effort to keep our dogs? These people put their money where their mouth is. And I am quite willing to allow them the title Professional Breeder and to stop having a knee jerk reaction and give them some credit for things even “we” don’t do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t “Bubba’s” in this world, or that I include those folks in the term Professional Breeder. A professional of any kind be it lawyer, doctor, handler, veterinarian, engineer, architect, etc has professional standards to meet. These folks do too. And since *I* don’t care to provide puppies for every home that wants a dog I’m willing to allow the professionals to do so. It keeps MY dogs safe in the hands of those I feel will have respect for the dog, treat it the way I want my dogs treated, and HOPEFULLY they never end up in a shelter or dumped on the side of the road or as bait for a dog fight.

And I refuse to slam or denigrate these folks further. They are providing a service not ONE of us wants to do. And they have been working for at least the last 18 years to improve what they do – both in what they produce and the conditions under which they produce it. That JQP tends to treat dogs as a throw away commodity isn’t entirely their fault. It’s not ours either. It’s a societal thing and ALL of us must work to change that. Somewhere between dogs in shelters and puppymills lies the answer. I don’t know what it is. But JQP wants dogs – that much is obvious. And right now, even our basic rights to HAVE dogs is under attack. I for one am willing to work with the folks who have the experience and the know how to fight these things. And I’m willing to give credit where credit is due – here in Missouri at least, we have come under LESS attack than other areas and I recognize that a good part of that is because of the professional breeders and their lobbyists efforts.

Betsy

Betsy & Kevin Cummings
Tribute Salukis

Copyright © 2008 Betsy Cummings

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