In the aftermath of the horrific massacre of 100 sled dogs in British Columbia, Marcie Moriarty, the head of animal cruelty for the B.C. SPCA went on record as saying that even had the organization known that the dogs needed help, they'd have probably ended up killing them all themselves.
Her reason? Working sled dogs are "unadoptable." As she told the Vanouver Sun:
"What people have to realize because of the way they're raised they're not highly adoptable animals. Maybe a few could have been adopted, but these dogs are on tethers 90 percent of their lives."
From my SFGate.com column today:
That sweeping generalization is easy to disprove, simply by meeting any of the thousands of working sled dogs who have successfully made the transition from tether to living room sofa.
"Two of my four sled dogs were adopted as adults from a professional dog racing kennel," said Jo Jacques of Salem, Mass., president of the International Siberian Husky Club. "One was two and the other was nine when we adopted them. Both adore meeting new people and love dogs. They can take Cheerios from babies without even leaving spit on their fingers."
One of the dogs, Viking, grew up in a mushing kennel. Around six months after Jacques had adopted him, she became very ill. "I had a difficult time walking," she said, "Viking never left my side. When I would have to move anywhere, he would paste himself against my left hip and stabilize me. If I fell, he would position himself in front of me and help me up."
Amazingly, Jacques never trained Viking to do this; it was all his idea. "Hearing the SPCA call these dogs 'unadoptable' as a group, sight unseen, without any individual evaluations infuriates me," she said. "It makes me just want to hug my 'unadoptable' sled dogs and cry all day."
Nannette Morgan of Morgan Hill adopted a sled dog named Cricket from a mushing kennel.
"The biggest problem I had with her is that she was used to being outside," Morgan told me. "The first couple of weeks it was hard to get her in the house at night. Then when she'd come in, she'd look up at the ceiling, looking for the stars."
It took only around a month, the companionship of Morgan's other dog, Binks, and what Morgan called "gentle guidance" to get Cricket adjusted to her new life.
"She's totally at home," Morgan said. "She's a princess. She has a chair she likes to sit on. She sleeps on my bed."
Both Jacques and Morgan went into detail about sled dog operations that know how to do right by their dogs, the still-developing sled dog re-homing network, and tips on helping working sled dogs make the adjustment to family pet:
Those stories, along with those of Cricket, Viking and the rest, demonstrate that people who insist sled dogs are "unadoptable" are wrong.
That alone should end the argument, but somehow, it doesn't. The bias of those like the B.C. SPCA and their unnamed "expert" is just too deep to be changed by the facts.
But if the Michael Vick case taught us anything, it's that all dogs being assessed for temperament and the ability to adapt to life as pets deserve an individual evaluation and shouldn't be dismissed as "unadoptable" because they came from a certain background. This is true of dogs like Vick's and the many lesser-known victims of dog fighting rings; it's also true of racing greyhounds and sled dogs.
I have a lot more to say, and I hope you'll read the whole article.
Thanks to Jo Jacques and Nannette Morgan for talking to me about their dogs, and sharing their beautiful photos with my readers. Seen here is Viking, courtesy of Jacques.