Newsflash – Your Dog Doesn’t Need to Live on a Farm

December 1, 2008 at 3:11 am 9 comments

This just in, ironically right on the heels of our post on Biscuit

A recent news item featured the story of a young dog who is going to be euthanized because the family that owns him can’t afford to post the bond required to keep him under a local “dangerous dog” law. The article painted a sad picture of the distraught mother and her grief-stricken children. They are, it seems, much to be pitied.

Or are they?

They admit that they purchased the dog “on a whim” knowing nothing about beagles and doing absolutely no research on the breed.

They say that they gave the young dog everything he needed — well, except for training. And, um… maybe enough attention and supervision.  Oh – and they did admit (albeit somewhat begrudgingly) that the dog could be “a bit aggressive” at times.


And those turned out to be fatal mistakes (at least for the dog). Being a typical beagle their pet would catch a scent and promptly run off. His owners admit they got tired of chasing him and that he escaped from them more times than they could count… including the day this fall when he ran off and bit a 7-year old child several times in the face.

The owners were repentant, apologies were made, the bite was reported and the pup was quarantined at home… where he was allowed to escape once again. Authorities were less forgiving this time and the family was told to meet the bonding and other requirements of the local dangerous dog law. They say that they can’t afford to do this — so the dog will have to be euthanized.

The dog’s owners say that they considered giving him up to someone who has lots of room for the dog to roam, but are concerned about the potential liability. After all, if the dog bit someone else they might be sued. So the death order stands.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what part of this story any sense. Family gets active, high-maintenance dog on a whim. Family doesn’t give the dog proper training or supervision. Family admits dog is aggressive – yet continues to leave him in a situation where he gets loose to run the neighborhood so often they can’t even keep track of the incidents. Dog – as one would expect – eventually bites someone and then is allowed, while in quarantine to escape once again. The family, apparently still in denial, continues to hold on to a false idea that it isn’t their fault that a child has been bitten and an innocent young dog has to die. After all, if he just had enough room to roam, it wouldn’t be a problem — would it?

As we’ve posted here before; there are far more high-energy dogs than farms for them to live on.  It’s rare to find a farmer who doesn’t have all the dogs he wants or needs. Still – the myth that there’s a farm waiting to take in every wild, untrained, out-of-control dog whose owner is tired of it survives.

Do irresponsible people really believe that their dog’s wild misbehavior won’t be a problem around children and free range chickens? That an underpaid, overworked farm family has nothing better to do than feed, train and put up with an aggressive, untrained cast-off suburban pet?

When I was young, parents often told children that a dog had been “sent off to live on a farm” after it was killed.  This story was used whether the dog was accidentally killed, sent to the shelter or euthanized.

We didn’t believe the story. And something tells me that even when irresponsible pet owners indulge in fits of self-absorbed denial try to console themselves with the idea that their dog’s behavior problems arise from living in an “unnatural” urban environment there is a place deep inside them where they realize that they  were the environmental factor that led to the dog’s problem behavior. That it’s their fault. That they failed to give an innocent creature the supervision and guidance it needed to survive in the world. And I hope that maybe, even if they can’t admit it to themselves, they learn enough from their failures to have more respect for the next life that’s put into their keeping.


Entry filed under: cynicism, dog training, dogs, rescue. Tags: .

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jill  |  December 1, 2008 at 3:24 am

    As a trainer in the rural midwest, I hear it all the time: ‘dawgs needs room to ruhn”, and the most difficult psychological obstacle to overcome with (far too many) owners is the notion that the happiest dogs are country dogs.

    I don’t know about happy, but I do know about short. Short lives, that is.

    Great post.

  • 2. jan  |  December 1, 2008 at 4:18 am

    And please that the next “life” not be a living creature. I’m still laughing at that cartoon.

  • 3. LabRat  |  December 1, 2008 at 6:36 am

    And speaking for the rural areas that these dogs occasionally actually DO wind up on, or are grown on, should this mindset actually move to its idealized countryside- they wind up free-range slaughterers of livestock. A very orthodox liberal friend of ours who HAS livestock turned up asking advice on buying a gun partly due to this very phenomenon.

  • 4. sandysays1  |  December 1, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Very good post! The human needs to buy a stuffed toy if he isn’t committed to loving and caring for my bros and siss. I’m a “large breed,” live inside with my human, and he keeps within 40′ at all times. I love it ’cause my buddies ate fun to be with.
    Come visit me at

  • 5. simplycara  |  December 1, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Oh criminey, we hear that all of the time .. “he needs a farm to run on” … seriously. How about the collie that has “too much hair” and the Dane that “got too big” or the terrier that “dug up the yard”? Where is that bus to the farm with unlimited space and time to train some one else’s dog?
    grrrrrrrrr … SNAP !
    Thank you for the great post !!

  • 6. YesBiscuit!  |  December 1, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Speaking as a Beagle owner in a rural area, I don’t care if I had a kajillion acres – NO BITING DOGS here please/thank you. How did farmers ever earn the reputation for being in constant need of dogs whose original owners failed them? Two of my high energy dogs were placed with people who live in NYC apartments and both are thriving. Turns out, acres of rolling fields do not substitute for a good human pack leader and appropriate care. Huh.

  • 7. melissaknits  |  December 1, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you. When we read the article on this over the weekend the first thing that resonated was that the family were portrayed by the author, or portrayed themselves as victims of the dog and the law. The dog will now pay for the owners failure to educate themselves and train their dog.
    As an owner of a “dominant” breed (Akita) with a great deal of experience with dogs of many breeds, I am continually saddened and disgusted by owners’ lack of care for their dogs. I manage to socialize and train my dogs without the aid of a class. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It just takes time, self-education, effort, and commitment. LIFETIME commitment.
    I own chickens, and have a neighbor who owns an Aussie. She moved here “so the dog could run…”, in spite of her history of killing chickens in another part of town. Well, run she did – right here to my birds, which she then “herded” to death. The owners response when confronted by the dog’s actions was to cry and say that she just “…couldn’t tie her up, it would break her heart” and “didn’t know what to do.” My response was to invest in a firearm, and let the neighbor know I had done so. My livestock should not have to pay for a dog owners’ neglect. The owner’s response to this was a sobbed out “Fine, go ahead, shoot my dog.” It is apparently easier to let me shoot the thing than keep her under control??

  • 8. Caveat  |  December 1, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Um, there’s a cool invention called a ‘fence’. It prevents your dog from roaming the neighbourhood when let out for bathroom breaks. Even better is a ‘leash’, which allows you to – wait for it – take your dog out for long walks every day, where he gets exercise and socialization – and so do you.

    I like Beagles but really don’t want scent hounds because they are not my type. The nose-on-legs thing is one reason.

    Excellent post as usual, J. Dogs don’t need room to run. They need attention and supervised exercise. Dogs running loose, especially these days, are bound to get into trouble whether they live in the city, suburbs or country.

  • 9. Audie's Gramma  |  December 2, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    The kids are certainly to be pitied. The adults in their lives have failed them, and have already taught them Katz-style self-indulgence:

    “When I first found out he could be euthanized I was sad and mad,” said Christoph. “I want to keep him. He’s a nice dog, but sometimes he can be a bit aggressive.”

    Though Reeses’ life will be short, the Tisdales believe he’s served a purpose.

    “He made up for when my dad was gone, keeping us busy not thinking about my dad (being in the military),” said Sienna, petting Reeses’ neck.

    Ah. He’s served his purpose, and is now inconvenient, and we can all feel good about what we’ve learned from him. Reeses doesn’t get to learn anything (training is a chore) and doesn’t feel either good or bad, because he’s dead.

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