Posts tagged ‘animal welfare’

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?


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…


See new blog posts at Terrierman’s Daily Dose; Stephen Bodio’s Querencia; Never Yet Melted, 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

Brilliant use of Indirect Pressure

This week Newsweek reported on activist Bill Smith’s campaign to end the suffering of dogs kept in squalid conditions by high volume breeders in Pennsylvania.  Smith noticed that some of the farms that produce large numbers of dogs also produce organic dairy products.  And he recognized that affluent consumers would be horrified to discover that their organic milk and yogurt were produced at the same places that kept dogs in terrible conditions.

Smith found that one mill—B&R Puppies, which had been cited by authorities as recently as a year ago for housing dogs in squalid cages and failing to vaccinate them—was also supplying milk to Horizon Organics. Horizon is a major presence in markets like Whole Foods, where animal welfare is paramount.

This is where Newsweek reporter Suzanne Smalley got involved.  Smalley contacted Horizon and Whole Foods and told them that she would be publishing a piece revealing that their organic milk came from a farmer who had been cited for mistreating dogs.

Smith demanded that Whole Foods send several hundred vendors a letter warning of repercussions for inhumane dog breeding. In mid-May, the grocery chain issued a stern request that ven-dors “not supply any products to our stores that have been sourced from farmers…who breed or raise dogs inhumanely.” Smith says the Whole Foods letter was a “huge step” forward because “consumers have always had the power to close these facilities.”

Horizon sent an inspector to B&R the next day and found dogs living in filth. The company suspended the farmer, John Stoltzfus, who has since dismantled his dog-breeding operation, according to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture records. That allowed him to resume supplying Horizon, which he began doing earlier this month.

I applaud the efforts of Smith, Smalley and the folks at Whole Foods.  This sounds like a win-win-win-win-win situation but… I’d like to know what happened to Stolzfus’ dogs.  Were they shot or drowned like barn rats euthanized?  Sold to another high volume breeder rehomed?  Or just dumped by the roadside set free?  The New Jersey Companion Animal Protection Society’s website notes that late last week farm owner John Stoltzfus told NEWSWEEK he’d already found new homes for the dogs, but no details are provided.

Stoltzfus’ dogs deserve a chance at a better life and I really hope they find their way to loving homes.

July 16, 2009 at 2:04 am 5 comments

Two Wrongs Lead to Confusion on Rights


This week the LaCrosse Tribune reported a story of dog ownership – and respect for life – that went terribly wrong.  Unfortunately the guilty parties will likely come out of it with everything but their dignity intact while the victim – an innocent dog – paid the ultimate price.

The attorney who is representing the La Crescent, Minnesota couple who admit they poisoned a neighbor’s dog is arguing that their right to do so is protected under the 14th Amendment.

If the law allows farmers to kill dogs that threaten their livestock, does that right apply to city dwellers when a dog poops on their lawn and barks at their kids?

That’s the argument posed by the attorney for a La Crescent couple charged with poisoning their next-door neighbors’ pet.

Tim Guth has asked a judge to dismiss animal cruelty charges against Scott and Tammy Bailey on the grounds their prosecution violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Because Minnesota law allows people to kill dogs to protect livestock, Guth contends the Baileys should not be held liable for killing a dog that defecated in their yard, growled at them and ate their food.

I can, to some degree, understand the Bailey’s frustration.  When we lived in rural Wisconsin my neighbors’  free range dogs peed in my garage, crapped in my garden, attacked my puppy, whined incessantly at my door when my girl was in heat and snapped and lunged at me – all while I was in the “safety” of my own yard.  Calling and showing up on at my neighbors’ (as in more than one neighbor) doorsteps to complain got me little more than confused blank looks and sincere assurances that “He’s never been a problem before.”

Speaking of blank looks:

The Blanks and a police officer answered questions from attorneys Wednesday at a hearing in Houston County District Court.

Both Blanks denied hearing complaints about Sadie.

Emma Blank, who works with special needs children at La Crescent Elementary, told of how Sadie was gentle with children and would come across the alley to play with students at recess.

Judge James Fabian asked how the dog was able to come when called.

Blank replied Sadie was free to roam but was trained to stay on the family’s deck. (bold mine)

Right, and I’m Queen of freakin’ England.

Newsflash – the only dog that is going to stay on a deck, by itself, all day long, when the only people around are the really interesting distractions that exist only in the world off the deck – is either a very ill dog or – maybe – one that is contained by an invisible fence.  A healthy, happy, normal dog has far better things to do than lounge around by himself on a deck all day.  Especially when the neighbors are serving steak.

As maddeningly annoying as it may be, the Blank’s brazenly irresponsible  management of their dog in no way excuses  the Bailey’s conduct.  Shooting a dog in the act of worrying livestock or attacking a pet or person is an act committed in the immediate defense of person or living property.  And – it’s a duty that no good farmer looks forward to.  Poisoning a dog because his owners let him run loose to steal your steaks and crap all over your yard is not an act of self defense – it’s just cold, pointless, premeditated cowardice.

Last time I checked acts of cowardice were not among those protected by our Constitution.

When I was faced with a deluge of obnoxious canine invaders owned by irresponsible dolts I didn’t load my gun or serve  antifreeze appetizers.  I’m not capable of shooting or poisoning innocent dogs and I wasn’t prepared for the kind of range war that would break out if I persisted in complaining or, worse yet, started calling the sheriff (we had no animal control) every time an infraction occurred. After considering our options husband and I elected to suck it up and build a fence – ’cause you see – two wrongs really don’t make a right.

July 12, 2009 at 1:57 am 4 comments

Glowing Disapproval

Today reported that the world’s first transgenic puppies were recently born in Korea.  The five cloned beagles have been genetically modified to produce a fluorescent protein that glows red under ultraviolet light.

Lee and stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang were part of a team that created the first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005. Much of Hwang’s work on human cells turned out to be fraudulent, but Snuppy was not, an investigation later concluded.

A team led by Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea created the dogs by cloning fibroblast cells that express a red fluorescent gene produced by sea anemones.

Lee’s team states that the goal of the experiment is to create transgenic dogs to help model human diseases.  Dogs are commonly used in comparative medicine studies.  Humans and dogs share many physiological similarities and we suffer from a lot of the same diseases.  The genetic bottlenecks common in purebred dogs combined with the terabytes of data obtained from the dog genome study have made studies on dogs vital in identifing genes that cause diseases in both species.

Lee’s team created Ruppy [short for ruby puppy] by first infecting dog fibroblast cells with a virus that inserted the fluorescent gene into a cell’s nucleus. They then transferred the fibroblast’s nucleus to another dog’s egg cell, with its nucleus removed. After a few hours dividing in a Petri dish, researchers implanted the cloned embryo into a surrogate mother.

Starting with 344 embryos implanted into 20 dogs, Lee’s team ended up with seven pregnancies. One fetus died about half way through term, while an 11-week-old puppy died of pneumonia after its mother accidentally bit its chest. Five dogs are alive, healthy and starting to spawn their own fluorescent puppies, Ko says.

Besides the low efficiency of cloning – just 1.7 per cent of embryos came to term – another challenge to creating transgenic dogs is controlling where in the nuclear DNA a foreign gene lands. Lee’s team used a retrovirus to transfer the fluorescent gene to dog fibroblast cells, but they could not control where the virus inserted the gene.

Creating transgenic dogs is difficult, expensive, time-consuming and highly controversial and the jury is still out on whether this work will lead to the development of viable laboratory populations or not.  It’s not entirely new work.  Ruppy and her kin aren’t the first fluorescent transgenic animals created in the laboratory.  Scientists have already produced glowing bacteria, bollworms, fruit flies, mosquitoes, zebra fish, chickens, mice, rabbits, cats, pigs, cows – and even a monkey.

Fluorescence has become the standard marker in transgenic work because it gives scientists a simple way to verify that gene insertion was successful.  The first flourescent transgenic animals were worms and bacteria created in at Columbia University in 1994.  Thinkness writes:

These fluorescent creations, colorfully illustrating one of science’s hottest topics, are well tailored for consumption by the mainstream media. Eduardo Kac claimed to have created “transgenic art” by adopting a glowing rabbit, and his manipulated photos of the bunny he named Alba appeared in news stories around the world. The GloFish, which also borrowed its “Glo” from the jellyfish, drew similar attention when it went on sale last year as the world’s first transgenic pet.

Despite its absurd appearances, the glowing creature is a bona fide scientific revelation, one of genetic engineering’s most valuable tools. Researchers consistently rave about its performance as a transgenic marker. Moreover, they appreciate that it frees them just a bit from the most rigorous demands of research. All humans are, to some extent, natural scientists, relying heavily on sight to collect data from our environs. Professional scientists, however, must often overpower their eyes’ innocent observations with a relentless rationality. When working with fluorescent animals, they are able to act a little more like the rest of us, more like children playing with fireflies – they can once again goggle at something amazing, and know for a moment that seeing really is believing.

Kac’s kitschy art project and the idea of pet GloFish concern me.  Given our human fascination with odd and unusual animals I’m more than a little concerned that if they become cheaper and easier to create, transgenic pets will become all the rage.  In a world where many people lust for the biggest, smallest, most bizarrely marked or extremely built dogs – even when the traits that make these animals “special” come at a terrible cost – I’m afraid that glow-in-the-dark beagles could all too easily become the next yuppie status dog.

As for me – when I want to “goggle at something amazing” I’ll go watch the fireflies dance in the willows near the creek.  And, ignoring of the whims of fashion, I’ll stick with the wonderfully unremarkable purpose-bred dogs I share my home with.

April 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

PeTA Pecks at Chicken Dance

The brilliant minds at PeTA took another giant step toward irrelevance this week.  Apparently having temporarily run out of fur coats to dump fake blood on and hot chicks to film in abstruse, sexually provocative ads — the group is now threatening NASCAR fans’ God-given right to dance.

Yes my friends, PeTA wants us to boycott the Chicken Dance at Talladega Superspeedway — an attempt to set a world record for the most people doing America’s Favorite Dance in one spot at the same time. 

Thousands of people simultaneously doing the chicken dance at a NASCAR event – how utterly horrific

Or maybe not…

Are Ingrid et al. incensed because the Chicken Dance represents a shallow, speciesist mockery of galline lifestyles?  Is PeTA concerned that vibrations generated by thousands of waggling NASCAR butts will attract flocks of bait-seeking worm charmers to Talledega where they can make a killing harvesting hordes chicken dancing annelids?  Are they worried that the hot, carbon-dioxide saturated exhalations of throngs of over-weight, out of shape, beer-guzzling fans will trigger a surge of polar ice melting?  No – our friends over at PeTA are madder than wet hens because the Great Talledega Chicken Dance is sponsored by Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Now mind you, I’ m no fan of factory farmed chicken. Or of battery eggs. I’m just amused (and a bit pleased) to observe that these days it appears that the folks at PeTA seem to be capable of little more than mindless, incessant fishing for media attention.  And the stunts they employ get more outrageous – and more pointless – by the day.  Are they morphing into:

Pathetic Egomaniacs Targeting Anonymity?

I can hope…

April 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Animal “Husbandry”

Hat tip to BluntObject who pointed me to a atort in today’s Miami Herald.    Apparently Florida is one of the few states where bestiality is not yet illegal.  In a laudable effort to change this and make it a third-degree felony to engage in sex with animals the state senate has drafted a new piece of legislation.  The authors of the legislation felt they needed to specify that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are still permissible and the Herald reports:

That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.

”People are taking these animals as their husbands? What’s husbandry?” she asked. Some senators stifled their laughter as Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, explained that husbandry is raising and caring for animals. Bullard didn’t get it.

”So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?” Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman’s suburban chimpanzee went mad and was shot.

While I’m certainly not above a bit of snickering at Sen. Bullard’s expense, I have to say that I find this little anecdote far more disturbing than amusing.  At first glance I thought that the FL senate was engaging in pointless nit-picking when they granted exceptions for conformation and husbandry practices.  But viewed in the dim light of a state senator’s staggering ignorance of very basic animal welfare issues, their disambiguation makes perfect sense.  In fact, now I’m left wondering if they went far enough.

Has modern urban society become so disconnected with the realities of the natural world that we need to worry that conformation judges will be arrested for checking testicles on long-coated dogs or that collecting semen for artificial insemination could lead to years in prison?  Inconceivable!

March 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm 4 comments

ABC Exposes American Dogs

Last year Jemima Harrison’s controversial BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed gave British dog lovers a shocking look into the ugly side of the dog breding industry.  Inbreeding, exaggeration of maladaptive traits, a maniacal focus on eugenic purity and an obsession with fashion over function have wreaked havoc in far too many breeds.  While the expose hasn’t yet provoked the kinds of wide-spread changes in breeding that many of us would like to see; it certainly opened a lot of eyes.

This week ABC’s Nightline aired an eye-opening episode called Best in Show? exposing the countless, needless problems caused by closed registries.  As my friend Gina posted over at PetConnection:

It’s time to open these registries and get some fresh genetic material into the business of purebred dogs. And into the dogs as well. Open the registries to well-planned, scientifically sound outcrosses. You will still have your breeds as you like them, just healthier.

I couldn’t agree more. Pat the Terrierman posted some great information here — he was involved in preparing the episode.  Please watch both documentaries and share them with your dog-loving friends.  We owe our dogs the best health we can give them.  To do that we need to provide them with a genetic heritage based on health, temperament and working ability rather than outdated ideas of exaggerated type and racial purity.

March 13, 2009 at 1:52 am 2 comments

The “Creatures’ Caucus” – A Call to Action

Back in December the HSUS bragged that a record number of animal “protection” laws had been passed in 2008.  Their website states that; “The nation’s largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.” 

While we’re absolutely in favor of well-written legislation that improves the lives of animals — it is our opinion that the goal of the “protective” legislation pushed by HSUS lobbyist is to end all use of animals.  HSUS lobbies for breed-specific legislation, limit laws, mandatory spay-neuter and overly restrictive breeding regulations designed to put hobby, show and working dog breeders out of business.  While 2008 saw record numbers of these kinds of laws introduced at every level across the country, 2009 may be even worse. According to a press release just posted by United States Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t be happier with the formation of a new group of Congressmen that will promote its agenda.

On February 18, U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D- VA) and Elton Gallegy (R- CA) announced the formation of a new Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The goal of the group is to get like-minded members of Congress together and promote animal rights policy in Washington, D.C. through forums and briefings. 

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the legislative wing of the HSUS, the new caucus will “take lawmaking for the animals to the next level.” HSLF went on to gush in its blog, “we could not be more excited about their leadership of this new organization of humane lawmakers.”


This group of legislators, also known as the “Creatures’ Caucus” appears to be operating under the false assumption that HSUS speaks for American pet owners.  A press release published yesterday on Moran’s website prominently features this quote:

“The American public is united in its belief that all animals deserve humane treatment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse.”

NEWSFLASH Representative Moran — the beliefs of the American public are in no way “united” with those of the HSUS.  Most of us enjoy eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and wool and owning pets.  Lots of us enjoy hunting and fishing.  Many of us love “dangerous” breeds of dogs. And unlike the self-rightous a$$#*les at HSUS, we don’t feel entitled to force our social / religious / moral standards on other people.

Folks, this is something we all need to keep an eye on. Write to your senators and representatives and let them know that “Humane Wayne” and his vicious pack of mindless, mean-spirited monsters don’t speak for you.  According to USSA:

As of press time, a full list of other U.S. Representatives joining the caucus was not available. However, the USSA will let sportsmen know as the names become available. Each member of the caucus should be contacted by constituents in their districts. 

Don’t wait for that list to come out. Call or write NOW.  We all need to make sure that we are the voice our elected representatives hear.

February 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm 4 comments

More Killing in the Name of “Rescue”

Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a dog blog, but sometimes a story comes along that’s just too important to ignore. Please bear with us.

It appears that killing in the name of “rescue” isn’t just for those lucky pit bulls anymore.  According to KSTP-TV:

Last Wednesday, the Humane Society wanted to show us the nearly 120 cats they saved from animal hoarders in St. Anthony.

Now 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has learned that same day—the shelter began putting them down, despite the plans they told us. They said they had little time to act.

Two local shelters—Animal Ark and Home for Life—state they reached out to the Humane Society in Golden Valley, willing to take in the cats, regardless their condition.

Kathie Johnson, director of animal service with the Humane Society, said it would take weeks to determine the cat’s health.

“We’re giving them time to settle down and we’re hoping after a few days, we can start fully evaluating them,” Johnson said on Feb. 11.

But now, the Humane Society said they were euthanized—not weeks later, not days later—but just hours later that same night.


The Golden Valley Animal Humane Society must be reading from the H$U$ playbook.  You know, the book that says that the key to a “successful” rescue is to:

  • Show up for a high-profile seizure. Preferably this will involve a puppy or kitten mill or animal hoarder where large numbers of sad-looking animals can be shown being removed from dire conditions while your articulate, well-groomed spokesperson provides voice over commentary about how deeply your organization cares about animals.
  • Take the animals back to your facility for more photo ops. Immediately update your website pleading for donations for the care of these “poor victims.”
  • Don’t waste your time doing those messy and time-consuming temperament and health evaluations.  Just declare the whole bunch hopelessly damaged and say that their deaths were “unavoidable.”
  • Use the situation where you seized the victims as a springboard to advance laws that will restrict responsible small-scale breeders — while encouraging large-scale, industrial breeders. After all, it’s the PR you get from the large scale breeders and the pet stores they supply that helps keep you in business.

Mike Fry of the Animal Ark posted a scathing  prediction of the Humane Society’s actions titled “How to Make 100 Cats Disappear” — days before the mass killing was reported. It seems that this isn’t the first time that Golden Valley Animal Humane Society has been involved in this kind of “rescue” effort.

Given the conditions of the place they were confiscated from, I’m sure that some of the cats were beyond hope — but… I’m also convinced that some of the 118 animals could have been saved. And even if only a few of them could be saved — these animals deserved a better fate than a quick trip to the death room.

February 19, 2009 at 2:36 am 4 comments

Help Support Iditarod Sled Dogs!

The nutjobs at peta are making their usual fuss about the Iditarod again this year.  It is, after all, unspeakably horrible to expect sled dogs to run.  While we’re at it, shouldn’t we lobby to keep labradors out of the water and border collies away from sheep?

Proving once again that they don’t know anything about real animals, peta’s pitching a fit about some of the happiest, best cared for and most psychologically fulfilled dogs in the world.

Peta is promoting a website where they ask people to contact race sponsor to express their outrage at the ‘mistreatment’ of the dogs. With the start of the race just a few short weeks away I think that it would be a nice gesture for those of us who really understand and appreciate working dogs to take a minute to express our appreciation them.  Sponsors are the backbone of the race.  Without them, it’s not going to happen.

So, below the fold you’ll find a list of the 2009 Iditarod sponsors.  Please don’t spam them with a bunch of email.  Take a few minutes and write a letter. A real ink and paper letter. And send by postal mail.  It’s kindof old-fashioned I know, but a single well-written letter is worth more than a thousand tossed off at a whim email messages.  You can still cheat by using your computer. I hope that these letters and cards of appreciation help convince them to maintain their sponsorship.



February 18, 2009 at 9:24 pm 4 comments

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