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Tag: animal rights

Tibetan mastiffs going out of style in China

nibble

Tibetan mastiffs, which once fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the Chinese marketplace, are going out of style.

The New York Times reports that the lion-like dogs — all the rage among the wealthy in China just two years ago — are quickly becoming yesterday’s trend.

The reasons? A slowing economy for one, coupled with “an official austerity campaign that has made ostentatious consumption a red flag for anti-corruption investigators.” On top of that, the fad is doing what fads do — fade away, often, when it comes to dogs, with disturbing consequences.

About half of the country’s mastiff breeders have left the business, and those that are left are dealing with a surplus so severe that members of the breed can now be spotted on trucks laden with dogs headed to slaughterhouses.

About 20 mastiffs were on one such truck, with 150 other dogs, when it was stopped by Beijing animal rights activists who purchased the entire load from the driver and sent the surviving dogs to rescue organizations.

The Times says that, amid decreasing demand, the average asking price for mastiffs, which have reportedly sold for as much as $1.6 million, has dropped to around $2,000.

“If I had other opportunities, I’d quit this business,” said Gombo, a veteran breeder in China’s northwestern province of Qinghai. “The pressure we’re under is huge.”

Since 2013, about half the 95 breeders in Tibet have gone under, according to the Tibetan Mastiff Association.

“In some ways, the cooling passion for Tibetan mastiffs reflects the fickleness of a consuming class that adopts and discards new products with abandon,” the Times reported.

“Fads are a huge driving force in China’s luxury market,” Liz Flora, editor in chief of Jing Daily, a marketing research company in Beijing, told the Times.  ”Han Chinese consumers have been willing to pay a premium for anything associated with the romanticism of Tibet.”

Other factors in the trend’s demise include unscrupulous breeders who mated purebred Tibetan mastiffs with other breeds, and the breed’s reputation of being aggressive.

Tibetan mastiffs are fiercely loyal, increasing the likelihood of attacks on strangers, experts say, and in the past couple of years some Chinese cities have banned the breed.

(Photo: Nibble, a Tibetan mastiff, was checked by veterinarians after being saved from the slaughterhouse by a group of animal rights activists; by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times)

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

Animal activist detained in Moscow

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A Russian animal rights activist has been detained in central Moscow after he and two others protested the country’s policy of killing stray dogs in Sochi, according to an Associated Press report

Three activists unfurled a banner near Red Square on Saturday that read “Bloody Olympics.”

The banner depicted a puppy covered in blood.

According to the report, a policeman approached and pulled the banner out of the activists’ hands.

One man was detained while the other two fled.

A year before the Sochi Olympics, municipal authorities announced a contract to “catch and dispose” of strays.

Public pressure led authorities to announce they’d dropped the plan — but they didn’t. Companies have been hired to continue killing the dogs throughout the games, which started Friday and end Feb. 23.

(Photo: A stray dog walks past the Olympic rings during the official flag raising ceremony; by Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press / AP photo)

Happy birthday, Bob Barker

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Bob Barker — game show host, outspoken proponent of animal rights and a man who has been putting his money where his mouth is — turned 90 yesterday.

And he was back on TV for the occasion.

Barker, who stepped down after nearly 35 years as host of CBS’s The Price Is Right in 2007, returned in an episode (taped last month) that aired yesterday, during the show’s celebration of Pet Adoption Week. He was greeted with a resounding round of applause from the audience.

Barker was known for his tradition of signing off with the words, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” His successor, comedian Drew Carey, has continued the sign-off.

THE PRICE IS RIGHTBarker’s passion for animals goes way back, and in 1987, it led him to resign from hosting the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe pageants — when organizers insisted on having contestants wear fur coats.

Since then he has campaigned for controlling pet overpopulation, fought for elephants and bears in captivity, supported anti-whaling efforts and funded college animal law programs.

 In 1994, he established the DJ&T Foundation with the goal of helping solve the tragic problem of animal overpopulation. The Foundation funds low cost spay/neuter clinics and subsidizes hundreds of spay/neuter voucher programs across the country in an effort to help control animal overpopulation.

Barker’s involvement with animal welfare is said to have begun in 1979, the same year he became a vegetarian. He has credited his wife, Dorothy Jo, with that, and after her death in 1981 he intensified his efforts for animal rights causes.

He was named national spokesman for “Be Kind to Animals Week” in May 1985. In 1994 he founded the DJ&T Foundation, named after his wife and mother. He has contributed millions for animal spaying and neutering programs and  animal rescue. In 2010, he donated $2.5 million to PETA to open a new Los Angeles office. The Bob Barker Building opened in 2012 on Sunset Boulevard.

HERE'S HOLLYWOOD -- "Bob Barker" -- Episode 54 -- Pictured: (l-r) TV game show host Bob Barker,  (Photo by Paul W. Bailey/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

He has also funded animal law and ethics programs at several law schools, including a $1 million donation to the University of Virginia, $1 million dollar to his alma mater Drury, and endowments to Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Columbia, UCLA, Northwestern and Georgetown.

In 2007, Barker was presented with the first ever Animal Legal Defense Fund Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of a life committed to animals and achievements made on their behalf at ALDF’s “Future of Animal Law” conference held at Harvard Law School.

In a recent interview with Parade, Barker revealed that, in addition to being a lover of dogs, bears and elephants, he also has a soft spot for rabbits.

“One day about 10 years ago, my housekeeper was coming to work and it was a cold day. And there was this little baby rabbit, sitting shivering in a yard about a block and a half from my home. She brought it home to me, and he is still thriving.

“He’s about 10 and a half years old, which is very old for a rabbit, but he’s getting good care so that he lasts long. He follows me around like a dog. He loves to be scratched, and I scratch him by the hour. I’ll scratch him until I get cramps in my hands. It’s true. He deserves it because he’s a fine, fine animal.”

Gun groups question Humane Society’s connection with governor’s dog

sutter

The Humane Society of the United States may not have Jerry Brown on a leash, but the organization’s state director takes the California governor’s dog out on one — nearly every day.

Jennifer Fearing is a regular dog walker for Sutter, the governor’s corgi, and gun rights groups are saying the free service she provides — on top of giving the lobbyist undue influence — may amount to an illegal contribution.

“Does the hand that holds the leash of California’s ‘first dog,’ cuddly corgi Sutter Brown, also have a hand in guiding policy with the dog’s master, Gov. Jerry Brown?” an article in the San Francisco Chronicle asked.

Gun rights groups point out that all six pieces of animal rights-related legislation Fearing lobbied for in the most recent legislative session were approved and signed by Brown, including Assembly Bill 711, which, over the objection of hunters, banned the use of lead ammunition.

“The question needs to be asked,” said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for Free California, a gun-rights group that opposed the lead ammunition ban. “Is there a conflict of interest with such a close relationship between a lobbyist and a governor.”

Kerns said gun-rights and hunting groups are considering filing a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission

Critics say Fearing may be breaking the rules because she hasn’t reported the dog walking as an in-kind contribution.

“For someone who did not hesitate to take the moral high ground in denigrating the ethical standards of hunters during the campaign to ban lead ammunition, it is disappointing to see that Jennifer Fearing does not hold herself to those same ethical standards in properly disclosing her relationship with the governor,” Chuck Michel, California attorney for the National Rifle Association, said  in a statement.

Fearing has been walking Sutter around the Capitol grounds since Brown took office in 2011, and their trysts have never exactly been a secret. The two toured the state together to campaign for the governor’s pet tax increase, which the Humane Society was in favor of. Last year, Sutter and Fearing joined the governor and animal rights activists to push for California’s Pet Lover’s license plate.

While it’s true the way to a governor’s heart is through his dog, Fearing and Brown (and we guess Sutter) are already of pretty like minds when it comes to animal welfare, so walking his dog isn’t likely changing the course of history. And as Fearing points out, the volunteer gig doesn’t give her direct access to the governor’s ears, just Sutter’s.

“I wouldn’t misuse that relationship,” Fearing told the Chronicle. “I deal with staff, and I go through the right channels,” she said.

Still, the arrangement provides gun groups with some ammunition, and their ethical concerns aren’t entirely off target.

Fearing says her love of dogs — not political gain — is what motivates her to walk Sutter.

“I would like to believe that we live in a civilized society where you can do neighborly things like walking people’s dogs.”

(Photo: Jennifer Fearing, senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, with Gov. Brown’s dog, Sutter; by Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee)

500 dogs in China saved from slaughterhouse

More than 500 dogs being trucked to a slaughterhouse in China were freed from that fate when an animal activist spotted the truck transporting them on the highway, went on line and used social media to arrange an impromptu blockade.

Around 200 people helped block the truck at a toll booth for 15 hours — until they were able to negotiate the dogs’ release for $17,000, saving the dogs from being slaughtered and served as food.

While farm-raised dogs are traditionally eaten in China and some other Asian countries, the man who arranged the spontaneous road block over the Twitter-like social media site Sina Weibo, in addition to being an animal activist, reportedly suspected they were stolen.

After spotting a truck packed with hundreds of whimpering dogs on a Beijing highway, he put out a call begging fellow animal lovers to come and help him force the driver to release the animals.

Many of the animals were dehydrated, injured and suffering from a virus; at least 68 have been hospitalized, and one has died, the Associated Press reports. Video footage taken Tuesday showed the animals barking and whining in cramped metal crates.

“They were squeezing and pressing on each other and some were biting and fighting, and I saw some were injured or sick,” said Li Wei, manager of Capital Animal Welfare Association and one of the people who participated in the rescue. Li said at least one dog had died in the truck.

The rescue was remarkable on several levels. It was a rare successful case of social activism in China, a sign that new sensibilities are rising when it comes to dogs, and that the traditional practice of eating them is, for many, intolerable.

China has no animal protection laws for dogs or livestock, but animal welfare movements are growing there and in much of Asia.

The activists reached an agreement with the driver to purchase the dogs for about $17,000 dollars — most of which was contributed by a pet company and an animal protection foundation, Li said.

AP reports that dozens of volunteers have flocked to the Dongxing Animal Hospital in Beijing where they are helping to clean cages and mop floors. Sixty-eight dogs were at the hospital, many of them bandaged and hooked up to intravenous drips. Most were severely dehydrated and some had parvovirus.

The rest of the dogs have been taken to a property on the northern outskirts of Beijing where Li’s group is caring for them.

“When I saw the poor dogs on Twitter, I cried and cried, but I thought there was no way they could stop the truck. So I was very surprised when they did it and I wanted to help,” said Chen Yang, 30, a woman who tended to a dog that had given birth to four puppies just after the rescue.

The volunteer response indicates a growing awareness for animal rights, said Lu Yunfeng, a sociology professor at Peking University.

“Dogs were historically on the food list in China and South Korea, while they were loved in Western countries,” Lu said.

But in China, “as people became well-off, they had money to raise dogs, and while raising these dogs, they developed feelings for dogs,” he said.

Were pups thrown in river saved downstream?

A grandmother in Bosnia is claiming she saved the six newborn puppies that a young woman tossed into a fast flowing river — an act that was captured on video and has outraged dog lovers internationally.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Ruza Pavlovic, a 75-year-old woman who lives in Bugojno, Bosnia, says she saw the pups struggling in the river and fished them out.

The Mail article points out that it hasn’t been confirmed that the puppies are the same ones that a woman in a red hooded sweatshirt was videotaped throwing one by one into the river.

The “saved” puppies seem to have a brownish coloring not seen on those in the video. And the “savior” is making it known that she is too poor to provide them with food. “They are healthy and happy,” they quote her as saying. “My problem is that they need at least three litres of milk a day and I live only on my small pension, but I do not have the heart to abandon them.”

Police, the Mail article reports, have tracked down the girl they believe threw the animals into the river and are set to interview her. The name of the girl, also from Bugojno, has not been published to protect her safety.

The video was posted on Facebook, and appeared on YouTube and LiveLeaks, enraging animal lovers at least as much as last year’s video of a man in Lithuania throwing a dog off a bridge.

Another animal rights group – SOS, which is based in Sarajevo – also claimed to have information confirming the location of the girl, who was reportedly filmed by her brother.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the young woman.

Meanwhile, several Facebook groups have formed, seeking to bring her to justice as well.