It’s August

If you live in SC, FL or any other place that has extreme Summer heat and humidity, you’ll need to provide shade and water for your dog. Shade means an open air area in which shade is maintained throughout the day. The sun travels during the day so a shady part of the yard in the morning will not be shady in the afternoon. Water means fresh, cool water provided multiple times throughout the day. Cool water left in a bowl in the morning heats up. It also gets lapped up by thirsty dogs. It must be replenished throughout the day.

Without access to open air shade and cool water, your dog will die:

Police say Wombley, a year-old yellow Labrador retriever, was found dead Thursday evening on a second-floor balcony at a Tampa hotel.

The dog’s owner had recently moved to Florida from South Carolina.

Police say the dog was left on the balcony late Thursday morning. Investigators found a dried-up water bowl, saliva and scratch marks were found near its body.

A car does not qualify as “open air shade”. If you leave your dog in the car in the extreme Summer heat, your dog will die:

“A person can’t crack the windows enough to cool down the dog without letting it out of the car. This is the worst case scenario and it only takes a few minutes before it becomes a matter of life and death.”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

* Heavy panting
* Dog begins huffing and puffing or gasping for air
* Dog begins to weave when it walks because of dizziness
* Dog lays down or collapses and can’t get up
* Dog becomes unconscious

I personally know someone I would describe as a responsible dog owner who left 3 dogs in her vehicle with windows rolled down (dogs in wire crates) on an overcast Spring day in Seattle. She checked on them periodically and ultimately found 2 of the dogs dead from the heat with the third dog in distress. Not at all the typical circumstances that come to mind when we think of dogs dying in cars but it was a lesson for me and I’ll never forget it.

When in doubt, err on the side of safety and leave your dog at home with access to open air shade and cool water.

You’re Either With Us or You’re Against Us

Life is full of grey. So is dog ownership. But for the sake of argument, I’ll try to boil it down to simple, black and white terms:

If you have a dog as a pet and you take good care of him – providing food, water, shelter, exercise, discipline, affection, and veterinary care – I’m with you.

If you have a dog that you view primarily in terms of profit and loss, or a fight win record, or as a thing to kick around when you feel so inclined – I’m against you.

I personally believe there are lobbying groups out there who would like to see an end to dog ownership and are working to influence legislators to take incremental steps in that direction. Maybe that makes me crazy or wacky or silly and you don’t want to sit next to me on the bus anymore. Too bad. Because remember: If you love your pet dog, I’m with you. I’m on you like white on rice and I’m not letting go. We won’t agree on everything but we agree on the most important thing – we want the right to keep dogs as pets. I’m going to continue working to protect that right. And if I’m wrong about the animal rights lobbyists seeking an end to pet ownership – well, no harm done. Just another crazy lady on the blogosphere who loves her dogs.

What is a "Puppy Mill"?

Although I’m not prepared to put as much thought into this post as would be required to answer such a question, I am ready to put down a few thoughts on the subject. I’m sure at some point I will add on to these and hopefully eventually come up with an answer, albeit a subjective one, to my own question. Perhaps this can be viewed as an installment series or some similarly lofty sounding endeavor.

To me, dogs are pets. What constitutes living a good quality life as a pet is interpreted differently by individual owners. For me, it means living in the house as part of the family, and receiving daily personal care, exercise, discipline, affection, and good food. I can however, understand how another owner, for example someone who keeps a dog to protect his sheep from predation, might specifically want his dog to live primarily outdoors. So long as adequate shelter is provided in conjunction with meeting the personal needs of the dog I mentioned previously, I can agree that this is good quality life for a pet, even though it’s different from my personal choice. Similarly, I can imagine other variations outside my individual choices where the dog is ultimately treated as a member of the family and as such, I would agree that the dog has a good quality of life.

There are some practices though that fall so far outside my comfort level, I view them not just as different but as cruelty. In a broad sense, that would include any dog who is not treated as a member of the family. Specifically, a dog who spends most of his day to day life unattended in a cage or kennel, on a chain or roaming the streets. Keeping the area of confinement clean, while a good practice, does not make up for the dog’s social deprivation. Nor does putting out a bowl of food for a dog allowed to roam the neighborhood – again, good practice to feed a dog regularly but that doesn’t make the dog a family pet to my mind.

This is not strictly a numbers issue for me. I can envision a family with plentiful resources being able to provide a good quality of life for a large number of pets just as I know that an owner of a single dog can be neglectful. Put another way, where numbers come in is anytime there is neglect. If a family is neglecting some or all of their dogs, there is a problem. If a breeder is neglecting some or all of his stock or pups, it doesn’t matter to me if that breeder produces 2 litters a year or 2 litters every 10 years – there is a problem.

What I think would be helpful:

Educate the public about responsible breeding and buying including the importance of having a personal relationship with the breeder and the benefits of getting a shelter dog.

Encourage more responsible breeding. The demand for responsibly bred dogs far exceeds the supply. This is the main reason people I know have turned to pet stores – they couldn’t find the pet they wanted in a shelter and/or were turned down by rescue and/or didn’t want to be placed on a lengthy waiting list with a responsible breeder with no guarantee of getting a pup ever. My vision is to increase the supply of responsibly bred pups while promoting the benefits of adopting shelter dogs. If we could convince the public that these are the two best ways to obtain pets, we could reduce (eventually eliminate?) the demand for pet store pups. It’s not like it’s a hard sell: going to a shelter saves a dog’s life in many cases and buying from a responsible breeder means having a personal relationship with someone who cares about what happens to their pups enough to screen buyers and provide support for the life of the dog.

I know lots of people hate these ideas. Some people are stuck on the “don’t breed or buy while shelter pets die” mantra. The reality is that, while we can and absolutely must do everything possible to promote shelter adoptions, some owners will not adopt from a shelter. Rather than ignore that fact or condemn those folks, I’d rather provide them with an alternative: buy a responsibly bred pup. Right now, there are not enough of those and so people turn to other sources. I’d like to increase the supply of responsibly bred pups.

Other people hate the idea of promoting breeding for pets. Breeders who compete with their dogs often consider the only justifiable purpose of breeding to be the production of more competition dogs with “pets” being a leftover effect. The reality is that most owners do not want competition dogs – they want couch snugglers, jogging partners, ball chasers, etc. Ignoring that fact or condemning those folks to wait indefinitely on your waiting list in case you have a “leftover” at some point in future drives people to other sources.

I often use a personal experience as an example. I once wanted a Papillon. In fact I’d still like to have a Papillon someday (in case you are reading Santa). I checked every shelter in my area for a Pap or even a Pap-ish mix – no luck. I applied to Pap rescue but the number of applicants far exceeded the number of available dogs and honestly, the process seemed humiliating to me. I am all for screening buyers but there has to be some reasonable limit on that. My experience turned into a competition – literally. I bowed out. I inquired to several responsible breeders but it was explained to me that Pap breeders are breeding to supply themselves with a new pup. Sometimes they make an agreement with the stud dog owner to give a pup in lieu of stud fee. As such, one or two pups from each litter were already spoken for. Since Paps have small litters and many breeders have just one or two litters per year, the best I could hope for was to be placed on a waiting list and perhaps in some future year, I might get a call about an available pup. I didn’t want a Pap in some future year, I wanted one at the time it was appropriate in my life. Should I be condemned for wanting a Pap within a reasonable time frame? Should I be condemned for not taking a shelter dog instead? I know some people would answer “yes”. For the record, I did end up adopting a shelter dog instead. But I know more than one person who has turned to alternate sources when faced with the situation I was in – they bought from pet stores or irresponsible breeders. Like me, they wanted to rescue a dog or buy from a responsible breeder but the supply fell short of the demand. I do not condemn them. Rather, I want to see the supply of responsibly bred pups increased in conjunction with education about the benefits of rescue.

OK obviously my random thoughts did not wind up answering my title question. Good thing I said that “installment” thing at the beginning. I’ll try to answer my question eventually and I hope if you have some answers, questions, or random thoughts, you’ll join in the discussion. I always enjoy hearing different views.

Things I’ve Learned from Cesar Millan

Seems like many online dog folks are Cesar Millan haters. Not me! I like to have lots of tools in the toolbox and enjoy learning from as many people as possible. I have one of his books and try to catch his TV show, The Dog Whisperer when I can.

Note: These are not verbatim quotes from Cesar Millan – just a few random things I have taken away from his show. It’s certainly possible I have misunderstood or misremembered something over time. Enough of the disclaimers already.

1. Exercise, discipline, affection – in that order. It’s his mantra and so basic yet so true. I keep it in mind every day and those three simple words have guided my approach to solving a lot of challenges.

2. Dog parks are not the place to go to release your over-anxious, under-exercised dog’s energy. Instead, they should be used to allow an exercised dog who is in a calm state to socialize with other dogs. Since the majority of owners use dog parks as the former, I tend to stay away. Less potential for problems that way.

3. Allow dogs to meet you at their own comfortable pace. My friend Heather blogged about this in a great post yesterday.

4. Set the tone for whatever activity you are doing with your dog – walking, training, etc. Be calm and assertive and your dog will feel confident in following your lead. Again a simple idea but so helpful to keep in mind when interacting with your dog.

Shelter Worker’s Dog Bites Two People in One Week

From WI:

A worker from the Door County Humane Society may need to sacrifice her pit bull after the dog bit a second person last week in Southern Door.

According to the Door County Sheriff’s Department, Katie Miller of De Pere was running on Door County C on May 26 when a 3-year-old American pit bull owned by Amy Vlies, Brussels, came off the property and bit Miller in her left knee and right upper thigh.

Vlies was able to retrieve the dog, but it was the second bite reported within a week. The dog had shots last year but needed to be quarantined due to the previous incident. It was taken to the Door County Humane Society, where Vlies is employed.

I wonder if the shelter does a better job educating adopters about appropriate confinement for pets than it does educating its staff.

Who’s really making the “sacrifice” here?

Lack of Responsible Dog Ownership Contributes to Bite

A 10 year old boy was bitten by a loose Pitbull in Sumter, SC.

Two 3-year-old pit bulls a male and a female apparently got out of a fenced-in pen and came through a backyard path from a North Milton Street home.
The female was seized by the Sumter Police Department’s Animal Control Unit and is being quarantined for 30 days.

I hate to read about kids getting bitten. It can be a physically and psychologically traumatic incident that plagues the kid for years. Whenever possible, I like to look at the details of the attack to see what can be learned. In this case, I didn’t learn anything new, but rather got sucked into a WTF vortex:

“The dog was in the sewage behind the house, and then we (he and Wise) were standing in the yard talking about why the dog was in the sewage, and the dogs came running after us but mainly me,” Tobias [the victim] recounted[.]

Dog in sewage. m’kaaaaaaay.

The white pit bull later identified as the male, called “Big,” by his owner, Anthony Hayes tried to get at his neck, Tobias said, and that’s when he was knocked over and the female pit bull, “Beauty,” bit his leg and didn’t let go.

The dog’s name is “Big”. Is that really a NAME or does the guy have a Brittany named “Medium”, a Pomeranian called “Small” and a Great Dane known fondly as “Extra Large”? Something is not right here.

Hayes, 30, said the dog is pregnant, which might be a reason it attacked. Both dogs were kept in the house until recently, when they got to be too large to stay inside. Hayes said either one or both of the dogs dug a hole to escape their fenced-in enclosure, which is partially covered with blue tarps to keep out bad weather.
“Once she has the puppies, I’m probably going to get rid of her. I don’t need the drama or anything else happening,” Hayes said.

Item: Puppies reach their adult size long before they are 3 years old – years before. So what is this nonsense about they just recently got too large to live indoors anymore? Did the house shrink?

Item: Dogs dig. Is this new information to any dog owners out there? If you leave dogs in a pen for any length of time, they’re going to dig. Especially if they are bored.

Item: Unspayed females get pregnant if they are made to live in pens with unneutered males. But since the cow is out the barn now, what exactly is the plan for raising and finding good homes for the dam and pups? Is there a plan? Was there ever? Whelping the litter in an outside pen with a male dog isn’t the plan, right?

Oh Calgon, take me away!

We need education and community outreach to promote responsible dog ownership, especially in poor, rural areas. Time and again we hear about kids getting bitten or being killed in preventable situations that never should have developed. I know some people choose to ignore personal responsibility and ‘you can lead a horse to water’ and all that. But if we at least got the horse to the water, it might spare a tragedy.

Pitbull Death Advocates Rely on Phony Legal Threats

KC Dog Blog reports on a failed bid to modify Springfield MO’s Pitbull ban to allow rescues to pull Pitbulls from local shelters and adopt them out in other, more reasonable, cities:

The council apparently agreed with City Attorney Dan Wichmer, who said the city would be at risk of a lawsuit if someone ever got bitten by a dog the let go.

This flawed logic, as KC Dog Blog points out, takes the responsibility for biting dogs off the owners and drops it into the lap of the city. And when I started thinkin’ ’bout flawed logic, I got the HSUS testimony in the Wilkes Co, NC case in my head. In trying to convince the judge that death was the only option for the 146 unevaluated dogs and puppies in that case, an HSUS representative said:

You know, we could be a couple years down the road and one of these dogs could do something, and I think it ultimately could come back on the county of Wilkes.

So riddle me this, Pitbull death advocates: In how many bite cases in the US has this scenario come to pass? That is, someone gets bitten by a dog and pursues legal action – not against the dog’s owner – but against the shelter where the dog originated. The bite victim’s attorney would need to inquire to the dog’s owner to find out where the dog was obtained. In the (theoretical) cases of the Springfield and Wilkes Co dogs, the answer to that would be a rescue group. The bite victim’s attorney would then have to inquire to the rescue group to find out how they had gotten the dog. I’m not a lawyer but this doesn’t pass my common sense sniff test. What say you lawyers – would you advise a client to pursue legal action – not against the biting dog’s owner – but against the shelter who released the dog (presumably with a signed standard release form absolving the shelter of liability) to a rescue group?

Statistically speaking, in what percentage of dog bite litigation cases has this happened? I don’t know the answer but my guess would be that it’s very low, possibly statistically ZERO. If my guess is correct, how is it that legislators and judges feel threatened by this straw man – enough to kill unevaluated dogs who would likely never bite anyone anyway? (Most dogs don’t bite and dog bites are declining due to a number of factors.)

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation. And responsibility for individual dogs lies solely with the owner – not with the friend of a friend’s neighbor’s Uncle who had the dog at some previous point in time. Dog owning is a right and a responsibility to be undertaken and protected with care.

More on Eight Belles and… The Big Picture

The tragic death of Eight Belles at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is being reported by some as an unfortunate reality that is part of horse racing. Wrong. While any athlete can suffer a life ending injury during competition, that’s a risk they choose to take for themselves – if they’re human. And you can bet that risk is probably low. If they’re horses, well the humans decide what risks are acceptable. In fact, the humans decide everything from conception onward in the lives of racehorses – which horses get (in)bred, what they get fed, what drugs they receive, what age they begin training, etc. So if a thoroughbred is brought into this world at the hand of humans, and every decision regarding that horse’s well being is made by humans – guess who is responsible when that animal dies from an injury on the racetrack? We are. Let’s not comfort ourselves by saying it’s so sad but that’s just part of the sport. It shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t allow it to be.

These horses are pushed too hard, too fast all to satisfy our American need for immediate gratification. This isn’t a phenomenon isolated to thoroughbred racing. We have many Sporting dogs who are “Futurity Nominated” as puppies and showcased in “Sweepstakes” events on a national level. As a breeder, I’ve always appreciated these events as they tell me what dogs to AVOID in the future. Sporting dogs should mature slowly – they should not look like small adults as adolescents. They should look – well, ugly. They need time for their physical and mental selves to develop naturally and bloom fully. Any young animal which looks breathtaking as a youngster is the wrong kind of dog for me. He will go coarse in his adulthood and may produce more like himself. At a dog show, the place to look for breeding stock is the Veterans classes. How do these dogs move at age 8 or 10? That’s the dog for me. A dog who has proven he isn’t going to drop dead from cancer at age 4, who isn’t going to be lame or blind by age 7 and who is still full of the joy of life in his Autumn years – give me that dog any day. The rest of you are welcome to the (often times inbred) 2 year olds who look pretty and have a piece of paper from a registry body that says they’re healthy at 24 months of age. Good luck with that.

Yes, I realize it costs – financially and emotionally – to invest in a prospect without knowing if there will ever be any return. But if you think it doesn’t cost to try and cheat Mother Nature and hurry animals along in competition – you are fooling yourself. And you are part of the problem.

As a society, we like to fall back on certain blame shifting beliefs regarding the killing of animals which help us to sleep at night:

Killing pets in shelters is necessary because there aren’t enough homes for all of them.

Killing Eight Belles on the track was the humane thing to do.

I’m sure PETA enjoys no end of delight every time we utter these ridiculous words. WE are responsible for bringing pets into this world and for the reasons they end up at shelters. WE need to accept responsibility for them and work towards No Kill communities. WE are responsible for pushing immature thoroughbreds to such extremes that they literally kill themselves for our entertainment. WE need to accept responsibility for the humane care and training of these horses. Killing them once they’ve broken themselves under our direction is not the humane thing to do. Standing up and saying NO MORE to the old ways is.

More reading: Pet Connection