Jun 19, 2014 - Pet Care    No Comments

Spaying, Neutering, and New Paradigms

Everybody knows that responsible pet owners spay or neuter their animals.

Everybody knows that responsible pet owners do their best to ensure their pets live long, healthy lives.

The above statements are part of a paradigm we have been following for decades: in many parts of the country, you almost never see an intact animal unless somebody is specifically planning to breed their pet.  And pet owners strive to ensure their companions’ long, healthy lives, each year spending more and more time and money on medical treatment, new food options, toys, even psychiatric prescriptions.

So what happens as more and more new information is uncovered that says spaying and neutering animals may not be the best way to ensure the longest and healthiest life possible? What are responsible pet owners to do when this cognitive dissonance has been foisted upon them?

Joint disease, cancer, and behavioral issues? Ovaries might mean a longer life for my pet? This does not jibe!

This is an issue that only pops up around the edges of pet ownership right now: you generally only hear about it from people with an interest in veterinary medicine, the “granola” crowd, or trainers and agility enthusiasts with an interest in structural health. But it is not going away,* and is an issue that will have to be addressed and reconciled by casual pet owners eventually.

Finding the best way to transition from the paradigm of “Everybody knows that responsible pet owners spay or neuter their animals” to “Everybody knows that responsible owners manage their pets to ensure that they do not create unwanted litters” is going to be an important task in the years ahead.

Running Boston Terrier

No paradigms here. Just a good romp in the field!

 

* in fact, “Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs” which was published in 2007 is one of the most visited pages on our website, and continues to grow in popularity.

Jun 14, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

The Drama of Animal Transport

Here is a provocative take on rescue transports (what we refer to at NAIA as “humane relocation”) from Animal Ark that was published several months ago.

Particularly interesting is the author’s observation of the inherent drama that accompanies animal transport, as opposed to boring ol’ local adoptions:

And, lets face it: long-distance “rescues” are much more dramatic than local ones. It is easier, therefore, to get high-profile PR for them, like this spot on Anderson Cooper about a celebrity who paid to have dogs flown from California to a no kill shelter in New York. Note: While it is nice the rescuer flew the dogs to a no kill shelter in New York, no one seems to wonder why the no kill shelter took the animals, instead of simply driving over to New York Animal Control to rescue more dogs from death row there? You can bet that the PR for both the “rescuer” and the receiving shelter had a lot to do with it.

This is so obvious, but a point that isn’t made often enough — you have heroic people who drive or fly all day, and brave dogs on a journey from likely death into a loving home — it’s so much easier to put a face and story behind a dog you adopted from 1,000 miles away than a dog you simply picked out from the local shelter. And oftentimes, these dogs with the great backstory are marketed as being smaller (read: more desirable for many adopters), and you can pick them up with less paperwork and hassle than you can from the local rescue or shelter.

Which is great for the dogs that are being transported… not so great for your local dogs who still need homes or for solving problems at their source.

girlAndSmallDog

Let me tell you the story of Rocket…

May 30, 2014 - Animal Rights    3 Comments

Not an Isolated Incident

From a blog by Paul Munshine, “SPCA agents caught acting like animals again“:

They searched the house for five hours, snooping through her checkbook and wallet. Eventually they charged her with 66 counts of animal abuse, mainly because several of the dogs’ water bowls were dry. In fact, Decker said, she was so concerned for the dogs’ health that she used a water filter so her pets wouldn’t have to drink the water that mere humans drink.

At first the SPCA demanded she pay $68,000 in fines, she said. Then they lowered that demand to $15,000, but “they wanted to take all my pets kill all of them but two of them,” she said.

“You touch that phone and I’ll slap these handcuffs on you.” – SPCA agent to 69-year-old Kate Decker
“This was straightforward extortion by racketeering,” she said.

SPCA officials declined to comment on the case.

Paying them off would have been cheaper than fighting them, but Decker fought anyway. She hired attorney Justin Loughry to build a case with a long list of witnesses who would attest to how Decker babied her dogs.

Earlier this month, the Moorestown municipal prosecutor dismissed all of the charges. It was quite a victory, but “I’m $120,000 in debt,” Decker said. She’d like to sue the SPCA but doesn’t have the money, she said.

What a horrible situation for Decker. It would be hard to believe that people against cruelty could behave so thuggishly, but this case is but one out of a larger pattern of human mistreatment and deception from so-called “animal lovers.”

She is certainly not the first person to have charges dropped but still suffer under the crush of enormous legal fees. And it’s not just against individuals. We’ve got large animal right organizations forking over tens of millions of dollars in a settlement with Feld Entertainment after a huge, frivolous lawsuit and an “essentially paid witness,” we’ve got animal rights activists posing as farm workers, going so far as to abuse animals in order to “maintain their cover.” We’ve got animal rightists making us wonder if there is any point at which the ends don’t justify their means.

RazorDeathThreatHighlighted

Unfortunately, Decker’s case is not surprising or hard to believe at all.

May 27, 2014 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Health Alert Regarding Imported Dogs

A health alert has been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the increasing number of dogs being imported from rabies endemic countries with questionable documentation.

A particularly disturbing line in the alert is this:

These documents state that the puppies are older than 4 months of age and
fully immunized against rabies. However, upon examination, these animals were found to be less than 4 months old and sometimes as young as 4-8 weeks of age. Documentation has also included falsification of birth location and breed registration. 

Clearly they are seeing a lot more than honest, innocent mistakes.

One of NAIA’s longstanding campaigns has been to awaken the public to the threats posed by the irresponsible importation of animals into the American pet marketplace — especially from countries still suffering from diseases and parasites that have been largely eradicated in the United States.

NAIA appreciates the attention the CDC is giving this matter, and looks forward to the publication of the finalized USDA rule outlying the importation of dogs less than 6 months of age for resale (which includes transfer by adoption).

 

PuppyShot

 

May 15, 2014 - Animal Law, Animal Rights    2 Comments

HSUS Coughs Up $15.75 Million, Settles Racketeering Suit

Great news today: HSUS and several co-defendants have paid Feld Entertainment $15.75 million for their involvement in a “frivolous,” “vexatious,” “groundless and unreasonable” case brought against Feld Entertainment and to settle the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case brought against them. (Couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of conflict fundraising organizations!)

This is the second settlement Feld Entertainment has received from the same case; in 2012, Feld received $9.3 million from the ASPCA.

The case in question claimed that Feld was abusing elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was accompanied by numerous fundraising campaigns viciously maligning the circus. “Claimed” being the all-important word here; while the case created great publicity for the animal rights organizations involved, it all fell apart when the star witness turned out to be an “essentially paid plaintiff” who had received $190,000 from animal rights organizations. Oops!

This is what happens when conflict fundraisers play their unethical, ends-justify-the-means games against somebody who can and will fight back, rather than roll over, pay them off, and pray they go away. Let’s hope this becomes a larger trend. Congratulations to Feld Entertainment for having the guts to see this through to the end, and winning a battle for everybody who works with animals!

Apr 23, 2014 - Animal Policy    No Comments

NASPHV Addresses the Issue of Unregulated Animal Importation

Applause applause! On April 21st, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) released a policy statement recognizing the threat to humans and animal health posed by the unregulated importation of animals — rabies, in particular.

Throughout the last decade, the growth of the importation of dogs for the pet trade, especially by unregulated rescue and black market dog peddlers has been of great concern to NAIA, and it is great seeing these issues addressed.

NASPHV Statement

More Background:

 

Apr 10, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

Fewer Puppies Entering Rescues and Shelters Is a GOOD Thing

Interesting article on the ASPCA Professional blog today.

Interesting because it acknowledges pet overpopulation trends we have been following for years:

[...] trends all point to the very real likelihood (assuming the community pulls together at least at some levels) that your community, too, will not have many puppies some day soon. Look at the following graphs showing puppy intake in 10 different communities that we partner with. You will see that in almost all, puppy intake is down.

An interesting admission, to be sure. But even more interesting is the tone of the overall blog. A cynic would say it almost sounds like they’re worried there won’t be enough homeless puppies in the future. Uh… isn’t sheltering and rescue supposed to be about putting itself out of business, not keeping its corner of the pet selling market?

If people are having trouble finding puppies in shelters, isn’t that a good thing? Yes, lip service is given to the “great news” of fewer puppies entering the sheltering system, but the author’s concern is palpable. She is clear that she wants people getting dogs from them, as opposed to the other, bad sources.

And it would be easy to infer from this blog that there is no such thing as a “good source” outside of rescue for getting a dog. Perhaps that viewpoint is the problem, why there is such concern over fewer and fewer puppies coming through the door. For when the possibility of getting a dog from a reputable breeder is finally broached near the end of the entry, it is immediately written off as a form of elitism:

Responsible breeders are expensive, and as I have said before, I personally do not think having a dog in the family should be an elite activity. The benefits of having a dog, both physically and psychologically, are too powerful to leave just to the ‘Haves.’

Interesting position to take. Especially when one can easily pay several hundred dollars to adopt a dog from a rescue — certainly not pocket change. Is paying a few hundred more for a dog from a reputable, known source, a dog with predictable traits (energy level, size, coat, etc.) really out of reach for all but the “Haves?”

This is just a strange article all-around. We at NAIA do not fret, but celebrate fewer puppies entering animal shelters and rescues, and sincerely hope the trend continues. We also celebrate puppies born to reputable breeders, living in great homes with great care their entire life, never having to be rescued and rehomed.

Apr 8, 2014 - Animal Law    No Comments

What is Animal Law? Available for Download

What Is Animal Law? by Jerrold Tannenbaum, M.A., J.D.,  published in the Cleveland State Law Review, is now available for download. This is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand the complex and often-confusing issue of animal law, and covers the importance of how it defines itself.

An excellent and important article, don’t miss it. Click the links below to read:

Abstract

Article

APHIS: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Real life makes for great movies.

Just in the last 5 years, moviegoers have been enthralled with Social Network, Secretariat, Black Hawk Down, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, all films based on real events. It’s tempting to conjecture that if the travails of the dog fancy over the last twenty years were ever made into a film adaptation, surely the movie would fall within the genre of a “spaghetti western.” Why? Because the line between heroes and villains is blurred, morality is flexible, and the remaking of an American tradition is happening before our eyes.

SpaghettiCowboy

With “spaghetti westerns,” Italian filmmakers repackaged the classic American western and influenced the way an entire generation looked at traditional stereotypes. In much in the same way, the animal rights movement challenged the public’s perception of all dog breeders by painting ethical ones with the same broad brush used to color substandard breeders. To hear radical groups say it these days, all breeders (good, bad or ugly) are responsible for pet overpopulation, the deaths of millions of shelter dogs, poorly bred dogs living in agony, and climate change.

SadDogFor years, images of caged and sad-eyed shelter dogs have beamed nightly into our bedrooms through our television sets, and the public responded with donations that have made at least one humane society very rich, indeed.

Entrusted to oversee the welfare of animals in the United States, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the Department of Agriculture received complaints from a public concerned about the humane treatment of pets bred in commercial facilities and sold in pet shops, especially those sold over the Internet, a venue never imagined when the Animal Welfare Act was written over forty years ago.

To handle these complaints and be compliant with the Animal Welfare Act’s original intent, APHIS responded in May 2012 with a proposed rule to narrow the definition of a “retail pet store,” and license and regulate internet-based breeders and sellers who acted as dealers. The agency invited comments for 90 days during which time it received 75,584 individual comments, 134,420 signed form letters, and 213,000 signatures on petitions submitted by groups supporting or opposing the proposed rule.

Ethical breeders, already battle weary from poorly written legislation affecting them, cringed at yet another regulation intended to target substandard breeders, but one that would probably impact them, as well. Nevertheless, they wrote letters, participated in conference calls, and were among the individuals who provided 70,000 signatures to a petition submitted by the AKC expressing concern over the future of responsibly bred dogs and small/hobby breeders.

And then they nervously waited.

When the final rule was announced during a USDA-hosted conference call on September 10th, the fancy felt its greatest fears realized. Despite a Herculean effort to inform USDA about the unintended consequences of a regulation aimed at commercial breeders, the final rule was virtually unchanged from the original language.

Hobby breeders were incredulous. How could this happen to them? They were law abiding. They spent countless hours reviewing genotypes and phenotypes before selecting a suitable breeding pair. They sacrificed to run health tests, slept in their dogs’ whelping boxes, carefully screened potential homes, and cried their eyes out when saying goodbye to a puppy they had raised.
As verbiage of the final document “sank in,” hobby breeders read it and found themselves mostly confused. How could they meet standards worded for breeders with different realities?

To the detriment of the hobby breeder, a last minute document posted by the USDA has gone largely unnoticed, and consequently, it’s done little to dispel the depression and outrage felt by the dog community. This document must be regarded by dog fanciers before they’re ready to “chuck it all in.”

In the finest tradition of a particularly popular “Spaghetti Western,” let’s review “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of this new regulation, and the document which followed it, the Retail Pet Store docket.

The Good:
NAIA legislative director, Julian Prager, JD, reviewed the Retail Pet Store docket, a 91 page document intended to help clarify the USDA’s position of the new rule, and interprets it as evidence that hobby and residential breeders are exempt from its worst fears of regulation.

Of particular interest to hobby breeders is that while all dealers must be licensed by APHIS, not every breeder is a dealer. Key in determining whether one is a “dealer” or a hobby breeder is the purpose of the sale of a dog or a puppy.

  • If a breeding is done to maintain bloodlines or produce working dogs, a license is not required;
  • Shipping semen, a bitch, or an animal for breeding purposes does not require licensing.
  • Any number of breeding females may be owned as long as the sale of a dog or puppy takes place face-to-face, and the buyer, seller and dog are in the same place at the same time at the time of the sale or delivery of the dog, and the location of the transaction can be anywhere;
  •  The person who takes possession of the dog at the time of sale or delivery is the buyer even if they’re not the ultimate owner. This is important to know if the ultimate owner is sick, elderly or disabled and needs someone to act on their behalf;
  • The rule won’t limit the number of dogs one can own/co-own, breed or sell. It’s designed to regulate under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) those who sell dogs as pets over the Internet or “sight-unseen.” Remember, this only applies to the dogs on one’s premises.

The reasoning for this language is one responsible dog breeders can get behind: When the Office of Inspector General audit found that over 80 percent of sampled breeders weren’t licensed under the Animal Welfare Act because they sold pets over the Internet (thereby claiming “retail pet store” status), the Department of Agriculture realized that this involved a lot of dogs. Tightening up regulations on Internet sales impacts the kind of breeders who hurt the ethical ones. Revising the definition of “retail pet store” brings dogs purchased through “sight unseen” transactions under the protection of regulation so that they receive basic standards of care. The buyer also benefits by personally seeing a dog before purchasing it and ensuring that it is healthy.

The Bad:
The ambiguity of the regulation on certain issues requires greater clarification:

  • The rule seems to indicate that if a dog is sold as a breeding prospect, to maintain bloodlines, or as a working dog (hunting, herding, or security, for example) a breeder is exempt from requiring licensure. If a dog is sold as a pet, however, a breeder isn’t exempt. It’s significantly important, therefore, that a breeder is able to demonstrate their purpose in selling a puppy, but how is this done, and what kind of “evidence” will be indicative of compliance?
  • Of concern is that this regulation might encourage a bit of  “creative” truth telling. If a breeder determines that a puppy isn’t a breeding prospect, they have the option of putting a limited registration on the dog to preserve the gene pool – but at the same time, they’ve now invited APHIS to investigate their sale because they’ve designated the puppy as “pet quality” and the new regulation stipulates that only “dealers” can market or sell or a puppy sold “as a pet;”
  • Further explanation is needed on the issue of puppies received in lieu of a stud fee or for the receipt of a puppy back from the sale of a female on a breeder’s terms. Although these don’t qualify for the exemption based on owning four or fewer breeding females and selling puppies born and raised on a breeder’s premises, APHIS might find their sale exempt under other provisions of the AWA regulations;
  • What about the sale of dogs whelped or born by C-section at a veterinary practice? As long as the dogs are sold in face-to-face transactions, this is, one supposes, a moot point – but who decides?
  • Leaving to an APHIS inspector the determination of what a “breeding female” is is entirely too subjective. Ideal breeding ages vary from breed to breed, and former show dogs are sometimes left intact by breeders who feel it’s the best interest of their dog to avoid surgery;
  • Breeders are now hamstrung from selling puppies to “repeat customers” living out-of-state, buyers with whom they’ve had a relationship because they previously owned a dog bred by the breeder and demonstrated themselves as ideal homes; Conversely, if an out-of-state buyer wishes to purchase a puppy from a breeder they’ve come to trust, their puppy will cost a lot more when additional travel and hotel expenses are factored in;
  • If one must open their home to an APHIS inspection, the regulation requires that the breeder be at home five days a week during business hours. This is problematic for the person who works or attends dog shows.

 

SpyFace
The Ugly:

  • The new rules expand the influence of USDA/APHIS at a time when the public is reeling from revelations of privacy leeks and admissions of government scrutiny of the private sector;
  • APHIS estimates that between 2,600 and 4,640 dog breeders will be affected by the new rule. It’s likely that more than a few will have to become licensed breeders in order to comply with the new regulation which is sure to generate additional income for APHIS. APHIS has suggested that even at the highest end of the cost of a license (an estimated $760 for a breeder with gross revenues in excess of $200,000), they point out that it’s still less than the price of many purebred dogs. Using their own figures and logic, however, that means that if one were to multiply the “high end” of the range of affected breeders (4,640) by $760, this is an additional income of $3,526,400.00 for the Department of Agriculture, hardly chump change even for a government agency. In that light, a cynical person might be tempted to think of another “Spaghetti Western:” A Fistful of Dollars;
  • During the USDA conference call, the answer to many questions posed was that APHIS officials would “determine [them] on a case-by-case basis.” Given human nature, this kind of ambiguity invites charges of potential shenanigans – preferential treatment, cronyism, maybe even potential pay-offs; It is an ugly thing to think, but there will be some who will think it;
  • APHIS has indicated that it will use various methods to access publicly available information to identify breeders they determine may need an AWA commercial breeding license. These methods include “reviewing” the marketing and promotional materials of breeders and Internet retailers. If breeders become fearful of non-compliance, if not government intrusion in their lives, what financial impact will this have on the sites of national breed clubs, the AKC or even pet-finder sites?
  • Given that there are former animal rights activists now in the employ of the USDA, law-abiding, ethical breeders feel vulnerable to the anti-breeder bias of people in high places, and with vague rules and a lack of specific guidelines in certain situation, there is real concern about discrimination;

As Don Miguel Rojo said in A Fistful of Dollars, “A man’s life in these parts often depends on a mere scrap of information.” There are dozens of nuances in this regulation that need to be clarified, and the NAIA will be reviewing them more in depth in the coming weeks.

~ Susi Szeremy, 10/11/13


A writer and editor by profession, Susi is also the creator of KnobNots pet safety signs, as well as the dog blog, DogKnobit. An owner/breeder/handler of Pulik since 1978, she is active in the dog fancy where she is a co-chair of Judges Education for the Puli Club of America.

If I Ran the Dog Show…

At NAIA we believe that hands-on experience with animals is one of the greatest ways of fostering a child’s sense of responsibility and empathy, and of laying the groundwork for a realistic view of animals and our connection with them. Groups like 4-H have long provided youth with hands-on experience in areas such as agriculture — but when it comes to the world of purebred dogs and dog shows, there has been virtually no concerted effort to nudge forth the next generation.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t start now…

Great fun for a great cause. Click the image above to open it in PDF format and order your book(s) today!

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