Monday, March 17, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

One of my passions happens to be dogs -- more specifically, MY dogs. But dogs in general, too. I've shown them, trained them, loved them, and yes, spoiled them -- but just a little bit, around the edges. I've done some rescue work and contributed to all kinds of dog causes. I've spent the last 15 years in this doggie world, or as dog people refer to it, "the dog fancy". Like every other hobby of the heart -- NASCAR, bass fishing, figure skating and lots of others -- it has its own culture.

A few days ago, I read a piece on that really brought out the terrier in me (my dogs and I are a lot alike in some respects). Entitled "Time for a Westmuttster dog show", it was written by one of the PETA Faithful Fanatical, Alisa Mullins. (For those of you unfamiliar, PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) Basically, it was a put down of dog shows, show dogs, the owners, potential owners, the breeders, the handlers and the people who derive any enjoyment from watching said dog shows.

Now, I don't know Ms. Mullins from Adam's house cat, but it's apparent to me she doesn't know a damn thing about dogs, dog showing or the people involved in the sport. And I quote:

"Westminster and other dog shows are simply overblown beauty pageants -- nothing more, nothing less. So what if a dog wins. What does it mean? That she was having a really great hair day? How silly is that?"

Well, no sillier than sitting in a boat from dawn to dusk in a drizzly 40 degree day trying to catch a fish, I'd say. And, so what if it is a beauty pageant? It's a friendly competition; people are having fun; dogs are content. What it means is that folks are participating in what they consider to be a wonderful past-time. Back off, sweetie. You're treading on some constitutional rights here. You know. The ones about life, liberty and the pursuit......

According to Ms Mullins though, it is due to dog shows and the dog fancy that there are so many dogs in shelters. And to back up that claim, she throws out some almost-impressive numbers as follows:

"It is estimated that 6 to 8 million animals are abandoned at shelters every year and roughly half are euthanized. Most of thee animals are young, healthy and friendly (and approximately a third of them are purebreds.)"

Let's just take a little closer look at this. According to the latest figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are approximately 72 million (yes ma'am, MILLION) dogs in the U.S. Taking Ms. Mullins' highest shelter figure of 8 million, that would mean that 11% of all dogs are abandoned (a figure still way too high, I agree). If half of those are euthanized, that is about 5%. And if one-third of those animals are purebred, that would be about 1,320,000 dogs, or .018%. Obviously, responsible breeders can't be fingered for filling animal shelters and are not "as culpable in the deaths of shelter dogs as if they had administered the lethal injections themselves". Understand that this comment is made by a senior writer for an animal organization who in 2006 killed 97% of the animals it took in for "adoption". (

Inflammatory pieces such as Alisa Mullins' take the focus away from the true roots of the problem of abandoned animals: shelters that don't do a good job of placing animals and irresponsible people who abdicate their responsibility to care for their animals. Dedicated dog people -- at least all the ones I know or have ever heard of -- actively work to make sure dogs are properly homed and cared for, their own and others as well.

15-20 years ago, animal numbers in shelters were stated as being in the neighborhood of 11-15 million. Numbers have steadily dropped primarily due to public education efforts regarding spay-neuter and responsible ownership. For example, in 1996, 494,998 dogs came in to the California shelter system. The numbers reached a peak of 521,300 in 2002. Since then, statewide shelter admissions have fallen dramatically: 292,531 dogs in 2006. And much of these efforts at public education have been supported, funded and endorsed by kennel clubs, dog performance clubs and breeder/owners across the country.

So, if you have a hankering to really support the WELFARE of dogs, do yourself and them a favor: support your local humane society, shelter, or rescue group with your time, talent and money. And if you have dogs of your own, be responsible in their care. Don't listen to pinheads like those at PETA (and their kissing cousins, HSUS and the Animal Liberation Front). Educate yourself. Animal welfare -- which we all support -- allows us the right to enjoy our animals. Animal rights does not.

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