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Tag: akc

New kids film “Show Dogs” draws fire from parents groups

In the somewhat bizarre world of dog shows, the one traditional practice that most strikes outsiders as weird comes at that point in judging when a judge cops a feel of a male dog’s testicles.

As part of what’s called conformation — or seeing how well a dog conforms to “standards” — the process is usually a quick check, aimed at making sure the dog is intact (not fixed) and that his testicles have properly descended.

But to dog show spectators, who traditionally include families and children, it’s hard to miss.

It is also hard to miss in the new film “Show Dogs,” a family-oriented movie that stars Ludacris as the voice of a talking police dog named Max who infiltrates a prestigious dog show to investigate a suspected animal smuggling ring.

One subplot of the movie involves Max becoming comfortable, as a dog show contestant, with strangers touching his genitals.

In the PG-rated film, Max must learn how to “get used to” the groping, and it’s that aspect that has some parenting groups fuming about the movie.

showdogsWhatever parents teach their children about “inappropriate touching” and sexually predatory behavior, they say, this movie seems to be sending an opposite message: Grin and bear it, accept it, it’s no big deal.

Valid a concern as that may be, it’s funny — to me at least — that the practice is so accepted and goes so unquestioned at dog shows, also aimed at being fun for the whole family, but is proving so irksome in a comedic family movie.

Does that piece of a dog show really have to be performed before an audience of adults and children? Couldn’t it be done backstage, or as part of a behind the scenes pre-show screening procedure?

You don’t hear those concerns voiced so much among the high society dog show crowd — just as you don’t hear too much discussion about why a similarly sized, fully descended pair of testicles is so important in the first place in such competitions.

It’s because the American Kennel Club and other dog show operators see the competitions as a way to select and crown dogs that are prime breeding stock — those healthy and perfect dog that comes closest, appearance wise, to standards. (Standards set, by the way, by the AKC and other groups.)

Standards? How about one that doesn’t require a dog to to through a public groping in front of thousands, or maybe one that doesn’t require him to go through it at all.

From the makers of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” the movie opened in theaters May 18. It tells the story of a human detective (Will Arnett) and his canine partner Max, a Rottweiler whose voice is provided by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Together they go undercover at the world’s most exclusive dog show to solve a big case involving a stolen panda.

Since it opened, the movie has caught the attention of several parenting blogs, Entertainment Weekly reported.

“Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!” wrote Jenny Rapson in the blog “For Every Mom.”

In reality, those who show dogs do condition their dogs to get used to the groping to ensure they will behave properly during the judging practice.

“The movie ‘Show Dogs’ sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, previously known as Morality in Media. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier.

“Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”

The filmmakers responded to the concerns with this statement:

“It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges.

“Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”

Yesterday, though, the studio announced it would be removing two of the most controversial scenes from the movie, according to CNN.

Guess us kids will have to wait for the next Westminster Dog Show to see the grabbing of the gonads.

“Show Dogs” is clearly not an exercise in reality, what with its talking dogs and all, but it did pretty accurately nail this particular aspect of dog shows.

So why is it people are so quick to jump on, edit and whitewash a portrayal of a reality and fashion it more to their liking — all while not giving a second thought as to whether the reality deserves some scrutiny and reconsideration, too?

Rise of the French bulldog continues

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French bulldogs are now the most popular breed in New York and Los Angeles, and the fourth most popular nationwide, according to the American Kennel Club’s annual ranking of breed popularity.

This year’s national ranking show Frenchies climbing into the top five for the first time. Twenty years ago, the breed was 76th on the list.

And, no, we’re not burying the lede here.

Yes, Labrador retrievers have once again been proclaimed America’s most popular breed, but after 27 years in a row of that happening it hardly qualifies as news.

DSC06082The French bulldog’s rise is a fresher, more significant and more worrisome development, perhaps highlighting the divide between dainty big city breeds and those good ol’ breeds we’ve long held dear.

The breed jumped two spots from number six to number four in 2017. In doing so, it knocked the beagle out of the top five for the first time since 1998, and further cemented its hold on the top spot in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and West Palm Beach.

Yes, it is a trendy breed, and an urban breed. A French bulldog is not going to retrieve that duck whose life you just ended. You’re not going to see a French bulldog on the cover of Field and Stream.

One did make the cover of the Village Voice back in 2015, though, under the headline, “Don’t Buy This Dog.”

The breed had already become No. 1 in New York by then, and the article, by Michael Brandow, enumerated all the reasons that was a bad thing — chief among them the health problems the breed faces because of decades of inbreeding.

An excerpt:

“What’s wrong with French bulldogs? Where should I begin? Generations of unwise inbreeding to no good end, far beyond what would be needed to keep their signature looks, have left these cartoon critters with low resistance to illness and allergies. Physically handicapped at birth (by cesarean, because the heads are, like the owners’ pride, inflated) with squashed-in faces that are freakishly flat, they face serious challenges in performing some of any mammal’s basic functions — like getting enough oxygen and keeping their bodies at a safe temperature. Life’s burdens grow heavier under a long list of deformities preventing even mobility, and a task as simple as walking is no small feat.”

New Yorkers didn’t much heed the then-newsweekly’s warning. Demand just kept increasing, and with it so did worries about unscrupulous breeders and under-informed owners.

AKC officials say they expect the popularity of the downsized bulldogs with the pointed ears to continue as more city dwellers look for a breed that is compact and relatively quiet.

“The French bulldog is poised for a takeover,” AKC Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo said in a statement, noting the breed’s “adaptability” and “loveable temperament.”

Here are the top 10 breeds in the U.S., according to the AKC:

1. Labrador retriever

2. German shepherd

3. Golden retriever

4. French bulldog

5. Bulldog

6. Beagle

7. Poodle

8. Rottweiler

9. Yorkshire terrier

10. German short-haired pointer

American Kennel Club grants recognition to two centuries-old European breeds

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Rembrandt recognized the kooikrhondje nearly 400 years ago. It took the American Kennel Club until this week.

The breed — its formal full name is the Nederlandse kooikerhondje — is one of two the AKC announced this week have been added to its list of officially recognized breeds.

The AKC’s breed list is a fairly arbitrary one, and making it involves — more than anything else — jumping through the proper AKC hoops and paying the proper AKC dues. Usually, every year or so, a breed or two or three gets full recognition bestowed.

This year, it’s the kooiker, as it is sometimes called for short, and the grand basset griffon Vendeen.

They bring the number of AKC-recognized breeds to 192.

Both breeds will be eligible to compete in most dog shows this year, but can’t compete at the Westminster Kennel Club show until next year.

kooikerleashes1The Nederlandse kooikerhondje (if you want to try to pronounce it, it’s NAY’-dehr-lahn-seh KOY’-kehr-hahnd-jeh) are small, brown-and-white, spaniel-style dogs whose history goes back hundreds of years in Holland. They can be seen in the paintings of Rembrandt and even more commonly in those of another 17th Century Dutch Master, Johannes Vermeer.

Kooikerhondjes were trained to help hunters lure ducks into cages and net-covered canals. The practice waned in the 19th century, and the dogs neared extinction during World War II before a baroness began working to re-establish the breed.

There are now about 7,000 worldwide and roughly 500 in the U.S.

The other breed officially recognized by the AKC is the grand basset griffon Vendeen, which also has centuries-old roots in Europe.

gbgvleashes1The GBGV (for short) has a long and low-to-the-ground body and wiry hair, and the AKC describes the breed as laid back, intelligent and friendly.

A smaller cousin, the petit basset griffon Vendeen, has been recognized by the AKC for decades.

The process of getting a breed fully recognized by the AKC involves first establishing a National Breed Club.

After that, those seeking to get a breed established — namely, or at least mainly, breeders — get the breed listed with the AKC Foundation Stock Service by submitting a written request, and documentation that includes a written history and a written breed standard.

Before getting recognition, it must be shown that there are at least 300 dogs of the breed spread around at least 20 states.

If the criteria are all met and a substantial nationwide interest and activity in the breed is demonstrated, the AKC Board of Directors can vote to allow the breed to compete in the Miscellaneous Class.

Even after that, it can still be years before the breed is fully recognized, also by a vote of the board.

(Top image, courtesy of Rembrandt; breed photos, courtesy of American Kennel Club)

California takes bold step: As of 2019, pet stores can only sell rescues and shelter dogs

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California has become the first state to require that pet stores cease selling pets provided by breeders and sell only cats and dogs from nonprofit rescues and shelters.

The law is expected to hit the pet industry like an earthquake when it goes into effect at the beginning of 2019.

The mere discussion of it, in recent months, has been sending tremors through the ranks of breeders, pet store owners and American Kennel Club officials.

Despite the contention of those groups that the law would strip Californians of their rights, it does not prohibit people from buying dogs and cats directly from breeders.

Instead it’s aimed a puppy mills and stemming the flow of dogs bred in unacceptable conditions to consumers through pet stores.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 485 on Friday.

“This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course. But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters,” Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, the author of the bill, said in a statement Friday.

An estimated 35 cities across California have enacted similar laws, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but the passage of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act marks the first time a state has adopted such protections.

Violators will face $500 in penalties.

“We are overjoyed that Governor Brown signed this historic piece of legislation into law,” said Judie Mancuso, president and founder of Social Compassion in Legislation.

(Photo: Pinterest)

Bring us your tired, your poor, your … On second thought, don’t bring us anybody

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The American Kennel Club apparently wants to keep dogs rescued from foreign countries out of America, saying they will bring disorder and disease to our pristine shores.

In voicing its opposition to a California bill that would prohibit the sale in pet stores of dogs sourced from professional breeders, the AKC says the law would create a “perverse incentive” to import “greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins.”

Limiting the public’s access to purebreds, as the AKC maintains the proposed law would do, would result in the U.S. becoming “a magnet for the world’s strays and sick animals.”

jindolAKC Vice President Sheila Goffe, in a commentary piece published in the Orange County Register, singles out dogs rescued from abusive situations in foreign countries — as my dog was — and portrays them as unpredictable and diseased.

Dogs that come from rescues and shelters, or through rescues and shelters, aren’t as well-screened, as temperament-tested, and as disease-free as breeder-raised dogs purchased at pet stores, she says.

Those “facts” are questionable. That logic is wrong. That stance reeks of snobbery and flies in the face of those words on the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, and what many Americans still think America is all about.

And, as with the immigration debate when it comes to humans, it’s more than a bit ironic, considering all those purebred breeds the AKC celebrates, and makes money from, came from foreign countries.

Of course, the AKC isn’t saying America should ban German shepherds, or Irish setters, or Portuguese water dogs, or even Afghan hounds — or any of the many other breeds who proudly carry their country of origin in their breed names.

Those, assuming they are purebreds, and have their paperwork, and pay their AKC dues, are always welcome here.

The great unwashed masses, though? The dog saved from being turned into meat in Korea? The starving street dog in Afghanistan or some other war torn country? That mangy cur searching for sustenance in the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami or other far away natural disaster?

The AKC apparently believes they have no place here.

Reasonable people disagree when it comes to how much effort we as Americans should put into saving dogs from overseas. Legitimate arguments can be made on both sides.

Given the shrinking but still mind-boggling number of unwanted dogs that are euthanized in U.S. shelters, given the needs created by our own disasters at home, like Hurricane Harvey, there are those who feel American dogs should come first. Others feel our compassion for animals shouldn’t be limited by boundaries — that we should help dogs who need help, wherever they are.

There’s a place for that debate. But Assembly Bill 485 — still awaiting Senate approval — really isn’t that place.

AB 485 bans the pet store sale of dogs, cats and other pets raised by breeders, who, especially when it comes to puppy mills, aren’t always the rule-following, highly policed and regulated operations the AKC portrays them as.

DSC05635 (2)Saying the law will lead to an influx of unwanted and unsavory foreigners, as the AKC is doing, is the same kind of fear tactic that taints our country’s broader debate over human immigration.

Banning the sale of breeder raised dogs at pet stores will not lead to an influx of Mexican rapist dogs, or Muslim terrorist dogs.

What the bill would do is limit pet stores to dealing in dogs obtained through shelters and rescues — a direction many stores and some local governments have already embraced.

Having visited many humane societies and a few puppy mills, I can tell you that even if shelters face fewer government-imposed restrictions, their dogs are more likely to be temperament-tested, well-adjusted and healthy than those that go the puppy mill to pet store to consumer route.

And we don’t see rescuing mutts or purebreds, from any country, as “perverse.”

“Selling only shelter or rescue dogs creates a perverse incentive to import greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins for U.S. retail rescues,” Goffe, who is the AKC’s vice president for government relations, wrote. “In fact, the U.S. already has become a dumping ground for foreign ‘puppy mill’ and rescue dogs, importing close to 1 million rescue dogs annually from Turkey, several countries in the Middle East and as far away as China and Korea, according to the National Animal Interest Alliance.”

(Don’t be too impressed by the reference to NAIA. It is mostly a front group for breeders and agribusiness and the AKC, and it was founded by an AKC board member and a biomedical researcher.)

“It’s a crap shoot whether these foreign street dogs Californians may be adopting are carrying serious diseases,” Goffe added. “That’s because while importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is commonly invalid or forged … dogs from other countries are not subject to the health and welfare laws of professionally-bred U.S. dogs.”

The AKC says Californians would lose their freedom to have the kind of dog they want if the law passes, implying that pet stores are the only place one can find a purebred.

That’s not the case. You can generally find any breed of dog in a shelter or rescue — often even locally. And the proposed law would not prevent people from buying dogs directly from breeders.

So fear not, California (even though the AKC would like you to.) Your liberties are not about to be taken away. Your shores are not about to be inundated with sickly, mangy killer dogs who don’t speak English.

And if more dogs rescued from other countries end up in the U.S. — in hopes of saving their lives and making their lives better — chances are they, as with the human immigrants before them, will only enrich our culture, whether we’re talking California or Connecticut.

We’re not a nation of purebreds, no matter what the AKC says — not when it comes to dogs, and not when it comes to people.

(Photos: At top, dogs awaiting slaughter at an outdoor market in Seoul; Jinjja, the rescued Korean dog I adopted; Jinjja and me)

Dog museum heading back to New York

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The Dog Museum of America (yes, it’s a real thing) will move from its home in Missouri back to New York City.

The museum spent its first five years of existence in Manhattan, until it moved west, in part because the rent would be cheaper.

It first opened in the New York Life building at 51 Madison Avenue in 1982, and moved to St. Louis in 1987. After 30 years it will be moving back, probably within a year, to be housed in the American Kennel Club headquarters, the AKC announced Friday.

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog boasts one of the world’s biggest collections of canine art.

The move is aimed at enhancing its future, and is the result of a “mutual agreement” between the museum’s board and the AKC board, the New York Post reported

“New York City is world-renowned for its art and museum culture and we feel that it is the perfect place to house a museum and educational interactive learning center as a destination,” said Ronald H. Menaker, chairman of the board for the American Kennel Club.

Stephen George, the museum’s executive director, said the decision was made to increase the number of people who see the artwork.

George said attendance and programming has increased in recent years, with about 6,000 paying visitors last year. Its revenues, however, have dropped.

In addition to George, a curator, an event coordinator and five part-time staffers will lose their jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After a year-long nationwide search for a new home, it was moved to Missouri, reopening in 1987 as the Dog Museum of America at the Jarville House in Queeny Park.

museum2St. Louis County officials had meant for the Jarville House to be a temporary home, but plans to incorporate the museum into a planned horse park and condominium complex fell through.

The museum operated on its own in St. Louis County, but in 1995, it and the AKC reaffiliated, and the museum was renamed the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

There was more talk of relocating after that, with a move to North Carolina being described in 1996 as a “done deal.”

But the AKC reconsidered and opted to keep it in St. Louis.

Through the years, the AKC has donated more than $4.5 million to keep the museum open.

The museum in houses 4,000 pieces of dog art, including paintings, photos and sculptures. It also holds more than 3,000 books and other publications, and it maintains a registry of more than 250 artists who are available by commission to paint dog portraits.

(Photo: Robert Cohen / Post-Dispatch)

Is America really running out of dogs?

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America is going to run out of dogs.

That, stunningly, was the conclusion of a Mississippi State University study funded by (and this is the important part) an organization that represents the American Kennel Club, the American Pet Product Association, PetSmart, breeders and other pet industry leaders.

The study disputes oft-cited figures from the leading animal welfare organizations, which estimate between 1.9 million and 2.5 million dogs are euthanized by shelters every year.

Instead, the study says, fewer than 780,000 unwanted dogs are being euthanized a year, many of them dangerous or damaged, and America will soon not to be able to meet the demand for dogs through shelter dogs alone.

Not that it currently does, or ever has.

The Pet Leadership Council funded the study, then hired additional analysts to “interpret” (read, spin) the results.

As a result, the message they are putting forth is not that progress is being made in reducing the numbers of unwanted animals that end up euthanized (the reality), but that America is going to run out of dogs (the new myth).

In a press release, the PLC says it is “welcoming” the study’s findings — as opposed to saying they paid for it — and that those findings show a need for more “responsibly bred” dogs.

“Mississippi State’s study will also have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership,” said Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the PLC. “Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem. This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”

Here are the far from solid numbers the study came up with.

American shelters are taking in 5.5 million dogs a year, about half of which end up euthanized. America, based on census figures, ownership patterns and the life-span of dogs, needs about 8.1 million dogs a year to maintain current levels of ownership.

With only 2.6 million dogs being adopted out of shelters each year and far fewer transferred or euthanized, “that means millions more must come from other sources.”

Meaning breeders. Meaning large scale puppy mills and store bought dogs and all those other things that helped lead to the dog overpopulation problem in the first place and are better off gone.

“It’s a total myth for anybody to say or think that every American who wants a dog can go to a shelter and find one,” said Mark Cushing of the Animal Policy Group, the lobbying firm that “crunched the numbers.”

“Increasingly the ones we are euthanizing are very sick or dangerous,” he added.

So shelter dogs are going to run out, they’d like to have you believe, except maybe for the dangerous and sick ones you wouldn’t want in the first place.

That’s not only balderdash, it’s the kind of fear tactics that have become so common in the world of politics and persuasion — somehow even more loathsome when applied to the world of homeless dogs.

The study seems to assume that shelters are the only source of homeless dogs, when in fact rescue groups, formal and informal, have become an increasingly popular option and are finding homes for more and more dogs. Nor does it seem to address the number of non-professionally bred dogs being born, despite more spaying and neutering. Nor does it address the hundreds of millions of unwanted dogs in other countries in need of homes.

The Pet Leadership Council commissioned the study as a follow-up to a survey it previously commissioned on dog ownership rates and where people get their dogs. A lobbying group that advises the council then used the study to extrapolate that Americans wanted more than 8 million dogs in 2016 and will want more than 9.2 million by 2036, the Washington Post reported.

The study suggests that euthanasia estimates by the Humane Society of the United States and the No Kill Advocacy Center, both of which say about 2.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year, may be based in large part on animals other than dogs.

The research was funded by the Pet Leadership Council, which represents organizations including the American Kennel Club and the American Pet Products Association; PetSmart and other large retail stores; and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which is the legislative and lobbying voice of the pet industry.

Mike Bober, the president and CEO of PIJAC, which regularly lobbies on behalf of commercial-scale dog breeders and pet stores at the legislative level, said the study shows dog breeding and retail sales must remain protected under state and federal laws.

“Adoption can’t be our only option when it comes to helping Americans find their ideal, lifelong companions,” Bober said. “Responsibly bred puppies are an essential part of the equation.”

The industry push comes at a time that “adopt, don’t shop” campaigns urging consumers to shun breeders and pet stores are showing some results.

According to the Humane Society, more than 200 localities have passed “puppy mill” laws in the past two years that sometimes make it illegal for pet stores to source dogs anywhere other than shelters and rescuers. A similar state-level law is under consideration in New Jersey.

Breeders and pet-store owners see such legislation as misguided, saying there are not enough dogs in U.S. shelters to fill annual consumer demand.

“Our concern was that so many very different estimates have been generated by a number of entities that have often led to conflicting conclusions,” said Bob Vetere, president and chief executive of the American Pet Products Association. “It is important to have a solid understanding of the facts before making decisions impacting the supply and availability of healthy dogs.”

The study’s findings were presented Tuesday at the North American Veterinary Community conference in Florida. While the Pet Leadership Council issued a press release about the study Wednesday, it has yet to be published in a scientific journal.

The study is based on a telephone survey of 413 shelters, out of an estimated 7,100 shelters nationwide.

Using data from the surveyed shelters, the researchers concluded that more than 5.5 million dogs enter shelters each year, about 2.6 million get adopted, and that fewer than 780,000 are euthanized. The remainder are returned to their owners, or transferred to other rescues or shelters, the study said.