Posts tagged ‘breeding’

Outcrossing and essentialism

Paul Bloom believes that we find pleasure in the essence of things. He proposes that human beings draw meaning from the origins of things, that we are essentialists who assign value to the things around us as much from their provenance as by how they look, sound, taste, smell or function.

Bloom’s ideas on art, essentialism and our sense of pleasure may explain the obsession many fanciers have with the idea of eugenically pure blooded dogs. The idea that the smallest fraction of racially impure blood in a dog’s pedigree is far worse than breeding an entire race genetically damaged (but pure blooded!) dogs has always struck me as wildly irrational.

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam via Wikimedia Commons

But after listening to Bloom’s ideas on essentialism I realized that most dog fanciers see the original development of a breed as a unique and specific creative act — like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In their eyes any genetic addition to the original bloodline is tantamount to forgery. If Bloom is right, I may have different feelings about outcrossing because I see the creation of dog breeds simply as the result of a specific tendency and style in breeding. As an art movement rather than a specific work of art. This is an important difference because if we understand a breed as an art movement instead of a specific work of art, outcrossing is an acceptable way to refine individual art forms within the greater movement.

The essentialist hypothesis may also help explain why people are so intensely opinionated about breeding dogs because, according to Bloom, when we experience a thing in what we feel to be its essence, we find a deep sense of pleasure in it. And – when we believe that we have been fooled into experiencing a thing as being genuine when it is not, we feel a deep sense of revulsion. So while I see an LUA Dalmatian as a logical bit of experimentation within an art movement, those who see dog breeds as art forms are likely to view it as an abomination.

August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm 13 comments

A Few Smart Things

Smart discussions on breeding and closed registries at Querencia and Atomic Nerds.

A scary case where a dog survived because he was apparently smarter than his owner.

Smart but poorly trained dog travels miles back toward her home after a not-so-smart owner let her run off leash.  Smart, alert late-night shoppers and Craigslist bring her the rest of the way back.

Smart Dog Chuckie chillin’ with his peeps

Part of my garden (smart or not? you decide)

In a small intensively planted area I’ve got field violets, roses, clematis, wisteria, Asiatic lilies, cone flower, ox-eye, yarrow, garlic, rose finn potatoes, arugula, three varieties of carrots, Persian cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, two varieties of heirloom summer squash, deer tongue lettuce, peas, poblano peppers, anaheim peppers, morning glory, rhubarb, milkweed, nasturtium and purslane. Also lots of weeds and a yard (not lawn, note the preponderance of clover) badly in need of mowing.

July 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm 4 comments

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

Good Things

Still busy and somewhat lacking in inspiration so here’s a bit of linky goodness:

Lab Rat’s excellent diatribe on closed registries

Heather Houlahan on how to become a dog trainer

CarpeK9 on killing dogs

Lou Reed and his wife Laurie Anderson compose and play high frequency music for dogs

… and, just in case you needed it -

Further proof that squirrels are evil

May 18, 2010 at 10:54 pm 4 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

They Came for the Bassets

These days the media seems to be filled with stories of dogs seized from puppy mills, dog fighting operations, animal hoarders and abusive homes.  Millions of average pet owners across America read these stories with a mixture of outrage against the animal abusers and pity for the abused animals. Relieved that the unfortunate animals were saved from a terrible fate, they move on to the next story, never considering that there might be more to the story than meets the eye…

I doubt that any of us thinks that we’re an animal abuser.  While ideas on owning and raising dogs are at least as wide-ranging (and deeply emotionally driven) as those on rearing children, most of us feel that our ideas fall well within the mainstream and that we have little to fear from animal rights legislation. But if we remain content to sit back – silent and uninformed – will we find that our dogs are next in line to be seized?

JewishBasset

The idea is not as far-fetched as you may think.  Today, Never Yet Melted (go and read it all!) reports that:

The sort of people who go in for basseting are typically well-educated, upper middle-class animal lovers of a preparatory school sort of background. In other words, absolutely the last sort of people imaginable as dog abusers or law breakers.

But neither gentility nor middle-aged respectability was sufficient to protect the Murder Hollow’s master Wendy Willard from a full scale raid by Philadelphia police, nor did it prevent 13 hounds from being taken from their kennels and turned over to a private animal rights organization hostile to hunting.

At night, and without warning the SPCA of Pennsylvania showed up at raided Wendy Willard’s kennel and seized the dogs under the aegis of a newly passed law that allows no more than twelve animals to be kept on any property in Philadelphia County (note if they had just given her a chance it appears that Willard may have been able to get a waiverthat would allow her to keep her dogs).  Not only were the animals turned over to (i.e. given away to) a private entity – some of the hounds seized were reportedly the property of another person and were only being kept at Murder Hollow temporarily.  Apparently the jack-booted AR fanatics of the PSPCA didn’t give Willard a chance to explain that.

The dog seized have now been spread out among several local shelters and rescue groups (in other kinds of cases – do the police make a habit of giving seized property away?). Neither the dogs’ owners or other area basset pack owners have been able to get any information on the dogs’ location or welfare.

It may be a natural reaction to feel smugly self-rightous when we hear stories about dogs seized from those kinds of  people (i.e. the ones whose practices we don’t happen to agree with) but it’s time to wake up and smell the dog poop.  If a yuppie suburban basset fancier with no criminal record whatsoever isn’t safe from having her beloved dogs seized without notice – none of us is. 

The goal of many of these raids – especially those featured prominently in the media – have nothing to do with animal welfare.  I’m willing to bet dollars to dog toys that the hounds of Murder Hollow were healthier and happier than most over-fed, under-exercised suburban pets.  The goal is the kind of publicity that fills the coffers of ‘humane’ groups who lobby for anti-pet legislation and don’t operate shelters.  And the long term the goal is animal rights – and the end of all pet breeding and ownership.

It’s time. Time to take lobbying power away from the animal rights extremists who want to chip away at pet ownership until it’s gone.  Time to tell our legislators and representative that animal seizures must be conducted in ways that preserve our rights – not as publicity events.  That protecting the animals seized includes considering the possibility that they might be returned to the home they were taken from – and that, as with other seized property, this consideration needs to be given precedence.  (I don’t understand why these kinds of seizures aren’t prohibited under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment – perhaps someone out there can educate me?)

UPDATE: Here’s Walt Hutchens post re this from Pet-Law. (Walt says all his posts can be cross-posted.)

Ms. Willard was raided by the PSPCA and police due to a first time noise complaint, and told that unless she released 11 of her 23 hounds to them they would seize them all, under a new 12-dog-limit city ordinance.

As my friend Shirly posted over at YesBiscuit:

I have no way of knowing the full facts of the case or whether the post making the rounds is accurate. But to my mind, even if we totally discount it as fiction, the scenario is at least plausible which is what concerns me most.

Exactly. I’m a huge fan of respecting the law.  But even if Ms. Willard was not in compliance with zoning regs, didn’t have a kennel license – or even if she had a filty, nasty, disgusting kennel – she did not deserve to have her dogs, in effect, stolen from her.  The right thing to do, if this was indeed a first time complaint – was to cite her and give her a reasonable time period to come into compliance with the law.
 
This is happening more and more and it scares the crap out of me.  There but for the grace of God…

UPDATE AUGUST 10, 2009:

See new blog posts at Terrierman’s Daily Dose; Stephen Bodio’s Querencia; Never Yet Melted, Philly.com and YesBiscuit and the news story published by The Philadelphia Daily News – and make up your own mind.

August 6, 2009 at 1:26 am 31 comments

Because Sometimes…

A dog’s just gotta do what he’s gotta do

ADogsGottaDo

From British Pathe. Click for video.

Note that this farm collie, filmed in 1946, looks (and works) more like an English Shepherd than a modern show collie.

July 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm 2 comments

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