Posts tagged ‘animal welfare’

Promoting Internet Puppy Sales

It’s something I suspect that you probably never thought you’d see here. Nonetheless because I believe I’ve found the perfect low maintenance, high status, impulse purchase – I’m officially promoting it here:

The WowWee Alive Perfect Puppy is, well – perfect. Perfect for families who don’t have time to train or exercise a dog. Perfect for the neurotically fecal averse. Perfect for people who can’t be bothered to take the time to make sure they’re buying their adorable little bundle of joy yuppie status symbol from a reputable internet scam artist.

As I’ve posted here before:

It’s awfully easy to lie on the Internet. Because it allows us to carefully control how we communicate with others, the Internet allows dishonest people to present themselves as reputable – and it helps them expose their product to millions of potential buyers. Unscrupulous breeders have discovered they can use Internet puppy sales to present a picture of their operation that’s radically different from the one that actually exists. And through a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, it’s perfectly legal.

Yup. You read that correctly. Internet pet retailers, even those who breed at very large scales, are not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While large scale breeders who to sell to pet stores are regulated by the minimal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, a breeder could hypothetically keep thousands of breeding dogs and be exempt from its requirements if they only engage in direct sales through the Internet. This is a growing problem, and it’s happening right in our backyard.

So when you’re desperately in need of something cute and fuzzy that requires little or nothing in time and emotional commitment, do the world a favor and spend those impulse dollars in a way that doesn’t support suffering and misery.

The WowWee Alive Perfect Puppy – now available in Labradoodle!

July 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm 3 comments

Smorgasbord

I TIVO’d the documentary “Mine” last night and hope to find time to watch it tonight.

In a bit of late night insomnia last week I caught parts of “Into the Lion’s Den,” a documentary on TV zoologist and big cat trainer Dave Salmoni’s work habituating a pride of wild lions to his presence. While Salmoni calls what he does “positive reinforcement training” he’s actually using the kind of very subtle approach / retreat – pressure / release (or negative reinforcement) skills that wild animal trainers have used since at least the time of Heini Hediger. (Hediger’s books are classics on how animals use and understand personal space and highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in how to use approach / retreat to work with animals.)

In Salmoni’s experience, every sound and movement a cat makes tells him how it’s going to behave. If he responds appropriately, the cat will respond appropriately, too. He will be successful when the lions consistently allow him to remain on foot in their close proximity, regarding him as neither a threat nor a potential meal. Salmoni knows the risks are enormous, but he is more concerned with the future of wild animals in our world.

I’m not sure how habituating wild lions to the presence of humans is going to save them – since habituated wild animals are the most likely to cause problems. A bit of googling shows that Salmoni is a controversial guy. He uses his looks and connections to make hyped up for TV documentaries instead of doing serious research. “Into the Lion’s Den” struck me as the wild animal trainer’s version of a parlor trick – but if you catch it, watch it to see how incredibly subtle the use of negative reinforcement can be.

Via MPR: [cheers!] Missing Mexican gray wolf found and returned to wildlife center:

The wolf was spotted by a police officer in New Brighton, and officials from the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake were able to tranquilize and net the animal at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, said Joy Fusco, administrator of the Wildlife Science Center.

Via HumaneWatch:

Feld Entertainment has filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against HSUS.

The central claim of the lawsuit (see page 13 of the PDF) is:

[D]efendants have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate multiple schemes to permanently ban Asian elephants in circuses, to defraud FEI ofmoney and property and/or to unjustly enrich themselves, with the ultimate objective of banning Asian elephants in all forms of entertainment and captivity. To carry out these schemes, defendants conspired to conduct and conducted the Enterprise through a pattern of, among other things, bribery and illegal gratuity payments (in violation of both state and federal law), obstruction of justice, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. (emphasis addad by HumaneWatch)

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I expect this case to drag on for a long time…

And – for a bit of light entertainment check out this Life Magazine photo essay on the Dogs of WWII:

February 22, 2010 at 11:38 am 22 comments

Distorted Perspective

…you sure are

This excellent video was created by Retriever Rescue of Colorado.

February 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm 12 comments

The Raw Material of Misery

For years we’ve heard stories that seemed to be urban myths waring us that trace amounts of sodium pentobarbital in pet foods came from the rendered remains of shelter animals. Turns out – it’s probably not a myth…

Newspapers are reporting that euthanized shelter animals from every public shelter in Southern California are being sold to a disposal firm that boils, grinds and processes them into raw materials to be re-used in lubricants, polish, soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, gelatin and fertilizers. And it’s been going on for years.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports:

County animal control officials said they weren’t surprised.

“I’ve heard of those potential uses for the animals’ remains,” said Brian Cronin, division chief for the San Bernardino County’s Animal Care and Control Division. “The reality is that those responsible pet owners who would elect to dispose of their animals through other means can choose to do so.”

Owners of euthanized animals can opt to have them cremated or buried at their own expense, Cronin said.

“Unfortunately, for government agencies … this is the most cost-effective option that’s available, and it’s my understanding that’s why every other agency uses this service,” he said. “In our priorities, we prefer to invest in those animals that are alive and in the shelter and in the community.”

I suppose that selling dead animals to a rendering plant is more cost-effecting than, say, burying them in a landfill. But dear doG in heaven – HAVE WE LOST ALL OUR CAPACITY FOR COMPASSION?

These animals end their lives in a strange and terrifying place, separated from the homes and families they’ve known, confined for endless hours, subjected to overwhelming noise and smell – and we can’t even give them the barest modicum of dignity by treating them as something more than a soulless raw material?

The disgusting details:

Bill Gorman, president of D&D Disposal, said the firm doesn’t conduct media interviews and declined to discuss what his company does with animal remains.

But the April 2004 report by Los Angeles County Animal Shelters detailed how euthanized animals are recycled in a process known as “rendering.”

“The remains are placed in large vats and heated to a high temperature in excess of 265 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point they become sterile and free of pathogens,” the report states. “Then a series of mechanical (processes) occur that separate the fat, liquid and proteins into separate collection systems.”

Since I installed a flock of chickens in my backyard, I’ve refused to buy feed from the only store in town that carries it – because the brand they carry includes rendered animal fat and protein in its ingredients. Instead, I drive to a rural grain elevator 40 miles away to buy another (fairly generic) brand that doesn’t. I’m glad now that I did – and I’ll also make double-extra-sure that the food and treats I buy for the dogs don’t contain rendered materials either.

Avoiding specific rendered materials in products like soaps, lubricants and especially (yikes!) pharmaceuticals could be more problematic. I’ll have to do some research to see what I can find on this.

February 11, 2010 at 12:11 am 26 comments

Murder Hollow Update

As per this post just up at NeverYetMelted, it appears that despite what some have said, my reluctance to accept the PSPCA’s side of the story had merit.

‘Nuff said.

February 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm 10 comments

How Much is That Puppy on the Internet?

So you’ve decided to get a puppy. You did a bit of research, and you’ve fallen in love with the rare and wonderful Peruvian mountain dog (PMD).

Being a savvy and caring consumer, you know you shouldn’t get your PMD from a pet store. You’ve searched local papers and asked all your friends and neighbors but apparently there are no local PMD breeders.

So you hit the Internet. Googling up Peruvian mountain dogs you stumble onto a web site that looks perfect. The site is owner by a breeder who says she’s got puppies from champion bloodlines with impeccable temperament and health. They’re raised in a loving home environment. Her site features pictures of puppies cavorting through fields of clover and snuggling with perfect, smiling babies. And… she’s got PMD puppies ready to go to loving homes right now.

It’s almost too good to be true.

And maybe it is. In a disturbing number of cases, everything you’ve just seen was a lie. The perfect puppies only exist in stock photos (or pictures stolen from another breeders’ website). And their sick, un-socialized parents have never seen the inside of a house, much less a show ring.

It’s awfully easy to lie on the Internet. Because it allows us to carefully control how we communicate with others, the Internet allows dishonest people to present themselves as reputable – and it helps them expose their product to millions of potential buyers. Unscrupulous breeders have discovered they can use Internet puppy sales to present a picture of their operation that’s radically different from the one that actually exists. And through a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, it’s perfectly legal.

Yup. You read that correctly. Internet pet retailers, even those who breed at very large scales, are not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While large scale breeders who to sell to pet stores are regulated by the minimal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, a breeder could hypothetically keep thousands of breeding dogs and be exempt from its requirements if they only engage in direct sales through the Internet. This is a growing problem, and it’s happening right in our backyard.

Kathy Bauck is the owner and operator of Pick of the Litter (aka Puppies on Wheels) in New York Mills, Minnesota.  Bauck’s operation was one of the largest USDA licensed commercial dog breeding and brokering operations in the country until she was convicted of animal cruelty. After her conviction last year, the USDA canceled her license to deal in dogs.

Prior to her conviction, Kathy Bauck pled guilty to practicing veterinary medicine without a license.  Bauck, who is not a veterinarian, owned and operated a mobile veterinary service advertised online as “Puppies on Wheels.”  She was sentenced to jail time and ordered to cease performing all surgeries.

In spite of a documented history of animal cruelty and flagrant disrespect for the law, the court allowed Bauck to keep more than a thousand dogs.  And while officials at USDA have stated that they’ll keep tabs on her operation to make sure her dogs are adequately cared for, they can’t stop her from selling puppies online.

The Animal Welfare Act was passed in 1966 – before the Internet existed. At that time, legislators assumed that exempting breeders who only engaged in direct sales from the Act would allow them to focus on the large scale operations that bred dogs for profit. The idea made sense at the time, but the growing popularity of the Internet has created a loophole that now allows large scale breeding operations to avoid licensing and inspections.

Unfortunately the problem will probably get worse before it gets better. Internet retailers don’t just avoid the need to adhere to minimum care standards, they also get to increase profits by cutting out he middleman (pet shops) and selling their product directly to consumers. And it’s not a uniquely American problem.

Now before I get inundated by hate mail from the millions of breeders who sell puppies on the internet – I want to point out that not all breeders who sell on the Internet are money-grubbing, animal-abusing, mass-producers of misery. The Internet has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives, that most breeders have websites. So consumers need to educate themselves on how to tell the difference between a conscientious breeder and a retailer.

Here are some things to look out for:

A website where the focus is on things like shipping puppies, accepting credit cards and taking down payments is a site that’s probably owned by someone who’s more interested in improving their bottom line than their bloodline. Avoid this retailer.

A breeder whose emphasis is on rare or exotic sizes or colors of a breed – or worse yet – multiple breeds, is focusing primarily on producing size and color. This is not the way to create healthy, well-socialized puppies. Avoid this retailer.

Google the breeder’s phone number. If they’re selling several different breeds (or worse yet, hybrids*) of dogs and/or have lots of ads on the Internet, this is a big red flag. Good breeders typically don’t need a lot of help selling their puppies. In fact, they often have waiting lists. And since it’s extremely difficult to produce well-bred, well-socialized puppies of more than one breed, nearly all good breeders put their valuable time and effort into a single breed.

Avoid breeders who use registries that cater to high-volume breeders and producers of trendy hybrid dogs** – but remember that a pedigree isn’t a guarantee. AKC papers and “champion bloodlines” are no guarantee of quality.

Avoid a breeder that promises you that he has never produced a puppy with any kind of health problem because he’s either a liar or not following up on the health of the puppies he produces. Dogs, like people, are not born perfect. Some degree of inherited health problems is inevitable in any population of animals. A good breeder is aware of the limitations of his dogs and breeds with them in mind.

If you want a happy, healthy puppy you should look for:

A breeder that invites you to visit her home. If the breeder insists on shipping you a puppy sight-unseen or on meeting you at a different location – she’s got something to hide. Good breeders are proud of their dogs and their dirty houses.

A breeder who involved with, or at least a member of, their breed club. The breed club, whether an AKC parent club or breed-specific registry, is a valuable network to share health information and find new breeding stock. A good breeder takes advantage of those benefits.

A breeder that does appropriate health screening tests and publishes the results of those tests – even when they fail. Breed clubs publish lists of recommended health screening tests on their websites. If the club or registry that your breeder is a member of doesn’t recommend any of these tests – go elsewhere. If the breeder isn’t doing recommended testing – don’t accept his excuses. Go elsewhere.

A breeder who produces working dogs, and can prove it. It’s easy to say you breed dogs who become service dogs, search and rescue dogs, stock dogs, agility dogs or obedience champions. The person whose puppies really go on to achieve these things will be happy to put you in touch with the people who bought them. Don’t fall for vague assurances or photos of working dogs. Remember – it’s easy to lie on the Internet.

Internet sales are a growing problem and I’m not sure how it should be solved. Most of the proposed dog breeding legislation I’ve seen was poorly written. These laws typically use the number of dogs a person keeps or sells as a trigger to require a set of strict specifications for husbandry. One problem with this is that dog breeds vary so much that standards that are appropriate for one breed can be wildly inappropriate for another (think malamutes and xoloitzcuintli).

Another problem is that, even when the trigger is a number that represents just a couple of litters a year, standards are typically written for puppies raised in a kennel environment. Nearly all the good breeders I know raise puppies in their houses. Houses that, understandably, don’t meet commercial kennel requirements. So, unless you’re willing to live in a concrete and steel building with floor drains – raising a litter in your kitchen could become a thing of the past.

Some of these problems arise because most of this legislation is promoted by animal rights groups. Groups that not only don’t understand dog breeding but who also – in some cases – want to end all dog breeding. It makes no sense to let people who want to end a business to legislate it, but – given the problems that exist in commercial breeding and internet pet sales – if breeders, registries, and kennel clubs don’t step up to the plate soon to offer better alternatives we may as well resign ourselves to putting up with what they propose.
——————————————————————————

* I don’t believe that all breeders of hybrid, or purposefully mixed breed, dogs are evil. There are good reasons to cross-breed or out-cross dogs; but unfortunately the people who are doing this well and conscientiously appear to represent less than 1% of the people actually doing it. If the breeder promises you that the hybrid you’re buying inherits only the best and most wonderful qualities of both the parent breeds – run, don’t walk – away. If the breeder isn’t doing health screening tests on his purebred stock, he’s capitalizing on a trend, not breeding healthy puppies. If he produces more than one kind of hybrid – he’s running a commercial operation. Don’t support it.

** These include, but are not limited to, America’s Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI), Continental Kennel Club (CKC), American Canine Association (ACA), America’s Pet Registry (APR), Animal Registry Unlimited (ARU), Dog Registry of America (DRA), Canine Registration and Certification Services (CRCS), Federation of International Canines (FIC), The International Progressive Dog Breeders’ Alliance (IPDBA), National Kennel Club (NKC), North American Purebred Dog Registry (NAPDR), United All Breed Regsitry (UABR), Universal Kennel Club International (UKCI), World Kennel Club International (WKC) and World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC).

January 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm 11 comments

Linky Goodness

Pet Connection has important information on “a series of veterinary drug recalls that have been going on quietly, without public notice or so much as a letter to America’s veterinarians.” Apparently dangerous problems with two different drugs manufactured by Teva (ketamine and butorphanol – marketed under several different brand names) were discovered months before a public recall was issued. Go read the post. If theres’ any chance that your pet is going to be tranquilized or anesthetized, you need this information.

YesBiscuit posts an excellent summary of places to donate to help earthquake victims in Haiti.

Lassie, Get Help presents a most excellent summary on The Trouble with Temperament Tests.

There are updates on the Murder Hollow Basset case from Terrierman and NeverYetMelted, again presenting wildly different viewpoints. I don’t see corroboration in any new stories that, as Terrierman alleges, the judge expressed opinions of any type regarding the conditions at Ms. Willard’s kennel. He’s simply requiring her to obey the law – as he should. Even though many would like us to see laws like most of those written regarding animal care as black and white issues – they aren’t. The most astute commentary on the case I’ve seen is still YesBiscuit’s posts on confessions of a dog abuser and the number’s game. Go – read them, and be sure to read the comments from ‘abusers’.

FWIW I’m still convinced that, as usual, the truth lies in that boundless gray area where all life outside the world of propaganda and hyperbole exists.

January 14, 2010 at 1:46 am 8 comments

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