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« CDC investigating water frog breeder for salmonella | Main | No Kill Conference 2011: Advocacy blogging »

23 July 2011

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The OTHER Pat

I don't have problems with the "import/export" as long as specific populations aren't at the same time killed wholesale. So - for example - in rural areas, small breeds tend to be less desireable than larger, hunting-type breeds. While in large cities, they often have waiting lists for the little dogs, while all their lab mixes are languishing in their runs. This would seem to beg for "swaps" and - in fact - I think there is some swapping now going on.



But that kind of thing needs to be more prevalent and acceptable: If a certain kind of dog tends to do poorly on the adoption floor IN YOUR AREA - find the area where that kind of dog is in more demand and then send those dogs there.



I know - the whole "accounting numbers" thing. But that's just not a good enough reason to keep killing dogs that could find homes in a different part of the country.

Carol

Christie,

Can you provide the details about how the statistics shown in the chart were arrived at? When and how was this study done and by whom?



Thanks.

Carol

dottie

You continue to be a voice of reason for the unfortunate animals who end up in "shelters" around this country. One thing isn't going to do the job of saving them and getting them into good homes.

My dream is that someday there will be few shelters (that truly are shelters) to help only those extreme cases of animals who need help. I'm too realistic to believe that they will all be out of business, but wouldn't that be nice?

Keep writing what you're writing, Christie and keep the attention of the people on the things that can really help these precious animals.

A question I've had - why are those in charge of some of these "shelters" so unwilling to look at a different way of doing things? Why do they think that killing is the only way? I just don't get it!

H. Houlahan

I generally agree.



However, adoption is not ALL low-hanging fruit.



Increasing adoption, especially in areas that already have high adoption rates, means finding appropriate homes for more challenging animals.*



Adult pit bulls in many urban areas. Coonhounds in many rural areas. (Just to give two demographically significant examples.) Dogs who typical adopters have not previously considered, and often for valid reasons.



Shelters need to be devoting resources to making those animals genuinely adoptable, with fostering, effective training, and honest evaluations of the animals. They need to devote resources to educating potential owners about the real challenges of a less-simple, perhaps less "traditional" pet, and then supporting those who choose to adopt with follow-up, access to training classes.



A two-year-old coonhound who has lived his life on a chain is not going to magically become a good choice for a sedentary first-time dog owner who lives in a condo and works long hours. But training the dog -- housebreaking and manners -- can make him suitable for a less skilled home than could have previously handled him -- and training the adopters (before and after adoption) can make them more skilled and capable of being good owners to a wider variety of dogs.



I look forward to the day when we can describe most of the shelter population as "mopping up" -- but the mopping up is the hardest part of any project. By no means impossible, but the challenges will be different.



* Don't even get me started on organizations that "import" cuter animals to an area where social change has reduced the shelter population while killing vast legions of their "unadoptables" -- and generally lobbying for state-forced sterilization while they're at it.

Christie Keith

Carol, it was research conducted by DraftFCB, an advertising agency in Chicago, for the Ad Council, Maddie's Fund and HSUS, as part of the development of The Shelter Pet Project, the Ad Council's first-ever public service advertising campaign for a companion animal cause.

It was conducted around three years ago, and was based on extensive one-on-one, phone and focus group interviews with a wide range of people, both current adopters and "lapsed," those who had never had a pet but were thinking about adopting, those who had never adopted, across a diversity of geographic regions, ages, ethnic backgrounds, and other factors.

Feel free to email adoptionpet@gmail.com if you'd like to ask if Draft can share more of their data with you. Although I am involved with The Shelter Pet Project now (I do their social media), I was not involved with the campaign when they were conducting the research, so I don't know/recall more than I've just told you here.

Oh, and the general statistics on pet ownership numbers, where pets are acquired, etc., was I BELIEVE but am not certain, based on American Pet Products Association research.

KateH

The difference in attitudes between those people and shelters who want to 'solve' the problem of too many animals already in their shelter by having mandatory speutering in the community, and those who try working with the community to adopt out the many animals in their shelter is the difference in wanting to punish and wanting to reward to change behavior. Changing the attitude can be hard (it's so easy to blame and get angry than to calm down and learn to persuade/encourage), but just about every place that works harder at asking for help from the community, ends up getting more than those places that won't change their ways and kill/scream only about the irresponsible public not speutering. Compare Memphis with any place trying adoption, for example. The Cleveland (Ohio) APL adopted out 145 cats and kittens today because they explained the need (huge influx), asked the community for help (and lowered prices), and danged if the community didn't step up.

Christopher@BorderWars

Thank you for this post, Christie.

Kenneth Newman,DVM

Many pets who wind up in shelters are there because they had behavior problems, including aggression. Although the following comment is not popular with many who favor rescue adoptions, the American Association of Family Practitioners recommends because 4 million people are bitten each year by dogs, that people with children under the age of 14 get puppies at 8 weeks old from breeds that are known to be non aggressive, ie Larador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, etc. At this age, the puppy spends the critical socialization period with the family who will keep the puppy for it's entire life. I believe that until we recognize the different personality traits of different breeds, and can discuss these intelligently without the fear of political correctness, that people will continue to get dogs and give them away when they begin to act as they were bred to act over thousands of years. Years ago a neighbor adopted a dog from the local SPCA. He asked me what I thought of his new dog and I told him that as a veterinarian, I had concerns because the dog looked like

a pit bull/ sharpei cross. His vet told him it was a Labrador to make him happy, and the end result is the dog bit my son while playing at the neighbors house, and they returned the puppy when it began to act aggressive towards the family. Aggressive dogs are best behaved in the hands of knowledgable trainers. Permissive, enabling pet parents are dangerous owners. I ask that everyone google search dog bites and see the danger that aggressive dogs can be to people, particularly children. The veterinary profession is silent on this issue for fear of offending anyone. Veterinarians know better than anyone the dangers of a large breed aggressive dog.

Karen

This is so well stated, and it will be great to be able to provide this post as a link when people wave the S/N flag in comment threads after shelter-related stories in general media. Thank you!

Joyce Madsen

Actually, most thinking people who care about animal welfare and increasing adoptions don't buy into either one of your simplistic assumptions. You're obviously not working on the front lines of a typical shelter.

Lis

Many pets who wind up in shelters are there because they had behavior problems, including aggression.



Most pets in shelters are there for human-related reasons, not dog-related reasons. Reasons like moved, lost home to foreclosure, have a new baby, landlord discovered they have the pet, etc.



The ones that are there for "behavior reasons" are mostly adolescent dogs whose owners didn't know how to train them, and there's nothing wrong with them that some training won't fix.



Yes, there are exceptions. They're fairly uncommon, though, because most shelters will not take the chance of adopting out a dog with aggression problems.



Although the following comment is not popular with many who favor rescue adoptions, the American Association of Family Practitioners



And they have what expertise, exactly, in animal behavior?



recommends because 4 million people are bitten each year by dogs,



And you, or they, got this statistic where, exactly? Do you know what percentage of emergency room visits are due to injury by dog? Which is a far more relevant statistic, and would probably come as a shock to you.



that people with children under the age of 14 get puppies at 8 weeks old from breeds that are known to be non aggressive, ie Larador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, etc.



There's a lot to be said for getting a puppy with young children, though I have difficulty believing that anyone acquainted with actual, living, breathing children believes they need to be fourteen before they can understand and comply with basic rules of good manners and safety around dogs. Although, come to think of it, they may need to be that age before they can figure out the rules on their own, without instruction from any adults who have any familiarity with dogs, which is what the children of the concocters of the the AFP "guidance" about dogs probably have to do.



If you rely on a dog's breed to determine whether it is "aggressive" or not, you are a fool, and you are going to get bitten. Goldens and Labs are quite frequently involved in dog bites--to the extent that any breed can be said to be frequently involved in dog bites, given how seldom dogs actually bite--because the world is filled with geniuses who "know" that Labs and Goldens are "friendly" and "non-aggressive" and they pull Darwin Award-level stunts around these poor dogs.



What's left out of virtually all news stories about dog bites is the absolutely crucial information: What was the person who got bitten, and other people in the immediate vicinity, doing right before the dog bit them? When that information can be tracked down, the answer is nearly always "something really stupid, often something aggressive or scary to the dog."



At this age, the puppy spends the critical socialization period with the family who will keep the puppy for it’s entire life. I believe that until we recognize the different personality traits of different breeds, and can discuss these intelligently without the fear of political correctness,



Ah, yes, the only possible reason for someone telling you you're wrong is that awful Political Correctness.



Dr. Newman, dog breed identification by non-experts, which includes nearly all police and ACOs, is haphazard at best. And the people who are most certain that they know which breeds are "safe" and which are not are usually abysmally ignorant of the actual histories and purposes of the dog breeds they can't identify anyway.



The Dread Scary Dangerous Pit Bull, for instance, was mostly used as an all-purpose farm dog and a good family companion, right through the 1950s. Even the people who were breeding them to fight other dogs wanted to be able to handle their own dogs safely and separate two dogs when it was time to end a fight, and dogs who showed aggression to humans were eliminated from the gene pool.



The average pit bull raised in a family home by non-idiots is a people-friendly, gregarious animal. There's a somewhat greater than average risk of dog aggression, but then, there's a greater than average risk that a Lab will chew all your furniture to splinters and shatter all your knicknacks with its tail before it's three years old.



that people will continue to get dogs and give them away when they begin to act as they were bred to act over thousands of years.



More importantly, they will neglect to ask about or consider energy levels, and expect a dog to behave like a perfect pet without any training. Not teaching a dog how to behave around humans and how to communicate with humans is a major factor both in the dog bites you're obsessing about, and the surrenders of perfectly normal, friendly pets who just need some training, which you apparently don't realize is something that happens routinely.



Years ago a neighbor adopted a dog from the local SPCA. He asked me what I thought of his new dog and I told him that as a veterinarian, I had concerns because the dog looked like

a pit bull/ sharpei cross. His vet told him it was a Labrador to make him happy,




And his vet is at least as likely as you to have been right, given that sharpeis aren't that common and Labs are often mis-identified as pit bulls.



and the end result is the dog bit my son while playing at the neighbors house,



And what was your son doing right before the bite? Do you know? Did you think to ask?



and they returned the puppy when it began to act aggressive towards the family.



Did either you or their regular vet tell them they needed to train and socialize their new puppy? And--you describe it still as a "puppy" at the time it was returned to the shelter. There's a long, long, long list of normal puppy behaviors that people ignorant of normal dog behavior tend to identify as "aggressive."



Some people, too many people, inadvertently teach their dogs that the only way to enjoy a meal or a nap in peace is to to growl and snap. They think it's a fun, friendly behavior to put their faces right in the dog's face. They have no idea what body language signals mean the dog is scared or uncomfortable.



And when the situation the people created ends in the dog using the only tool it has left, it's the dog that's blamed.



Aggressive dogs are best behaved in the hands of knowledgable trainers. Permissive, enabling pet parents are dangerous owners.



I bet you're not a big fan of clicker training and food rewards for teaching new skills, are you.



I ask that everyone google search dog bites and see the danger that aggressive dogs can be to people, particularly children.



Oh, God, no. Google is a great tool, but only if you know good information from bad when you look at it--and anyone who thinks that breed is the major determinant in whether or not a dog is aggressive or safe, simply does not have a clue.



There are some really, really bad sites out there, including one by a seriously disturbed woman who admits she doesn't include dog bites or "attacks" by dogs that are clearly not pit bulls. Because, see, she knows it's the pit bulls that are dangerous...



Instead of Google, how about recommending a couple of books that look seriously at the numbers, the factors other than breed in dog bites, and the actual level of risk that dogs represent:

Dogs Bite But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous by Janis Bradley



The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths, and Politics of Canine Aggression, by Karen Delise



For The Pit Bull Placebo, I've linked to the free download, but you can also buy a print copy from Amazon.



The veterinary profession is silent on this issue for fear of offending anyone. Veterinarians know better than anyone the dangers of a large breed aggressive dog.



Oh, please. Most veterinarians have little to no training in canine behavior, and tend to see dogs--large, small, aggressive, or social butterflies--in situations of fairly high stress for the dogs.

Susan Fox

Gosh, I was just going to say the Newman doesn't have the faintest idea what he's pontificating about, clearly has not an iota of a clue about dogs and simply leave it at that. Go, Lis!

The OTHER Pat

Comment by Lis — July 24, 2011 @ 4:39 pm



there’s a greater than average risk that a Lab will chew all your furniture to splinters and shatter all your knicknacks with its tail before it’s three years old.



And it's a sad fact that this terribly "dangereous" behavior is as likely as not to be the deciding factor in a fair share of energetic young dogs finding themselves left - alone and puzzled - at the nearest available shelter.

H. Houlahan

Lis has done a fine job of deconstructing Ken's nonsense, but how can one resist:



the American Association of Family Practitioners recommends because 4 million people are bitten each year by dogs, that people with children under the age of 14 get puppies at 8 weeks old from breeds that are known to be non aggressive, ie Larador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, etc.



So the AAFP is under the impression that "breed" is "brand" and that a "Larador" is like a Honda -- safe, reliable dog ownership that rates well in Consumer Reports?



The single most dangerous, and the single most crazy (also dangerous, but not as much) dogs I have trained in a 17 year career were, respectively, a golden retriever and a Labrador, each acquired at 7-8 weeks from a "breeder" and raised in homes with kids.



The golden was made more dangerous by his owners, the Labrador, not, but both dogs were genetically screwy from the get-go.



The golden's bite rap sheet got up into the double digits before I even saw him. His owners were fired by both me and the dog's vet. Dog eventually mauled their young son and put him in the hospital.



You know what EXPERTS ON DOGS tend to say?



They tend to say that you should get a dog that you can both enjoy and handle from a source that will take care to evaluate both you and the dog and make only an appropriate placement.



That can be an ethical breeder or a conscientious shelter/rescue. It can be a puppy or a great adult dog.



I rarely recommend young puppies for families with preschool-aged children. Lots of reasons for that.



Years ago a neighbor adopted a dog from the local SPCA. He asked me what I thought of his new dog and I told him that as a veterinarian, I had concerns because the dog looked like

a pit bull/ sharpei cross.




So your neighbor asked you for your "expert" opinion and all you could come up with was alarmism based on what you took to be the puppy's breed?



Funny, when people ask me what I think of their new dog, I can generally find something nice to say about the dog's personality. I may have lots of caveats, too, based on the animal's behavior or my read of the owner's level of competence/knowledge. But "You got a bad brand of dog, take it back" doesn't generally feature.



His vet told him it was a Labrador to make him happy, and the end result is the dog bit my son while playing at the neighbors house, and they returned the puppy when it began to act aggressive towards the family.



"The end result is ..." -- you say this as if your kid getting bitten was the end result of the dog being a certain breed (for which we have only your word, contradicted by another veterinarian). I would submit that your kid getting bitten may have been the end result of a lot of things, including your neighbor not appropriately training and managing the puppy appropriately, and perhaps you not teaching your child how to behave around a dog that is not behaviorally inert. It may have been the end result of your neighbor not getting useful advice when he naively sought it from the veterinary profession rather than from a trainer. It may even have been the end result of a shelter not evaluating the puppy and the family in order to make a good match. But it was not "the end result" of the puppy being a particular breed, or having come from a shelter.

The OTHER Pat

Another comment on the "breeds that are known to be non aggressive, ie Larador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers" statement: Both of these breeds are HUGELY over-bred in this country, which results in a level of variability among individuals all over the spectrum - not only in appearance, but in temperament as well. You can no more say all "Labs and Goldens" are "non-aggressive" than you can say "All couches are comfortable to sit on".



Which brings us right back around to the advice for a family seeking a reliable family pet to do so with input and guidance of a knowledgeable dog person - whether that knowledgeable person is a breeder helping the family find a suitable pet of their breed of choice or a trainer or representative of a well-run shelter or rescue helping the family find a suitable pet of ANY given breed or mix whose temperament is a suitable match to the family that is looking to add a pet to their home.

Kenneth Newman,DVM

Dr Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori met me and my Labs, Sunshine, Hannah, and Libby at the book signing in Sarasota, Fl. Well behaved dogs that were trained with only love, respect, and patience. No clickers or food rewards. They are my Family and we love each other. They go to work with me each day and greet everyone at my animal hospital.

Christie Keith

Serious warning: Discuss the issues, not make personal jabs at each other on a personal basis. I don't care if we disagree... and Dr. Newman, I cannot express how totally I disagree with you on virtually everything because right now I don't have the time -- but it needs to be issue-focused. I can't stand it when we start going after each other as individuals.

CatPrrson

I seem to recall - from Alley Cat Allies I think - that speutering ferals or "community cats" makes a big difference to shelter intake and killing. Alley Cat Allies and other organizations are already making a huge difference there, not through "mandatory" S/N but through providing the help that caretakers need. Most community cat caretakers WANT to speuter and they WILL speuter if the option is there. Making speuter mandatory, or making colony caretakers "owners" only encourages killing because, surprise surprise, the reason many caretakers haven't speutered their colonies is because the resources aren't there - not because they don't have a law breathing down their necks.



I thought of something that would probably make a huge difference in the numbers of pets that could be adopted out: making it mandatory that landlords allow ONE dog or ONE cat in all rental housing (there would be the option to allow more; I've rented many apartments with multiple pets). If everyone who now lives in a rental with a no-pet policy, and can't adopt, could adopt ONE dog or cat, that would clear a LOT of animals out of shelters. Especially adult cats - an adult cat is the ideal companion for someone who wants one pet and goes out to work every day. My one cat doesn't need the "company" of other pets and she's perfectly happy to sit and watch the birds, the neighbors, and the mailman as they go by outside her window.



Incidentally, this would cut down on "single cat guilt" - people who really do just want ONE cat, and cats who really DO want to be the only cat in their household, wouldn't have to constantly hear the drumbeat of "please please adopt a pair!"

Katie

I don't believe in spay and neutering dogs. I do not want to breed my dog, I just think altering them that way is curl. I don’t believe in altering a dog at all. I hate when people cut their dogs ears/tail to make them "look better". God did not put ears and tails on puppy dogs to have them chopped off. Same goes with declawing and debarking surgery, I just think it’s wrong. They say that not altering you dog will cause cancer. We as people have to deal with that all the time. Should we all get fixed too? Aren’t there enough people in the world also? Maybe we should start getting fixed do to over population. NO, we just control ourselves, same goes with dogs. Take responsibility for your dog. Take them to the vet, take care of them. Make sure they can’t get out of house/yard. That doesn’t just lead to them “over populating” but it can also lead to them getting hit by a car or getting attached by another dog or animal. If you think about it they are most likely to get hit by a car then to find another dog that they can mate with. People just don’t take care of their animals in general. People are preaching to us all the time about over population yet we are still a loud to sell dogs at pet stores. Why is that? Shouldn’t we crack down more on that? Shouldn’t we start cracking down more on people who are over breeding animals then people who don’t get their dogs fixed who have no intention of ever breeding them? Spay and neuter cannot make sense if people are still aloud to over breed and sell dogs.

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