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Tag: avma

Your dog, too, might be “worthless”

monyaks

It’s bad enough that Barking Hound Village — an upscale day care and boarding facility with locations around Atlanta — is defending itself in Georgia’s Supreme Court by arguing, in part, that a dog that died after being in its care was “worthless.”

What’s even scarier, and more hypocritical, are the organizations that are agreeing with that.

When the case went before the state’s highest court yesterday among the documentation the judges had to consider was a friend of the court brief, filed by the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association — all agreeing pets are mere “property” and that courts should award no more than “market value” in cases involving their deaths.

Yes, Barking Hound Village, at least on its website, professes to love your dog — and clearly has no problem charging you $60 a night for said dog to stay in its “presidential suite.”

And yes, veterinarians have no problem with you spending tens of thousands of dollars on your sick dog.

And, for sure, the American Kennel Club is only too happy to see the price of dogs go up, up, up — at least the provably purebred ones whose owners have registered them with the organization.

But your average, paperless pet, in the view of all those “pet-loving” organizations, is worth nothing — at least according to the friend of the court brief.

lolaThe case centers around a dachshund mix named Lola, who was 8 years old when she died of renal failure after her stay at the kennel.

Lola’s owners allege Lola was given medication she wasn’t supposed to receive, and it ultimately led to her death.

Barking Hound Village denies that it is responsible for Lola’s death. And even if it were, its lawyer argue, Lola’s owners should not recover anything more than the dog’s market value — in Lola’s case, since she was adopted from a rescue, exactly zero dollars.

“Their position is that a dog is like a toaster — when you break it, you throw it away and get a new one,” Elizabeth Monyak told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A dog is indeed property under the law, but it’s a different kind of property.”

She and husband Bob Monyak spent $67,000 on veterinary expenses, including regular dialysis treatments for Lola.

Neither are strangers to the courtroom. She works for the state attorney general’s office. He’s also a lawyer, specializing in defending medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits. He argued Lola’s case before the justices on Tuesday.

Both sides have their supporters.

In the brief filed by the AVMA and AKC, the groups argued that considering a pet’s emotional value will lead to exorbitant amounts being awarded to pet owners in wrongful death lawsuits. And that, they all but threaten, would lead to bad things.

“Concerns over expanded liability may cause some services, such as free clinics for spaying and neutering, to close,” the groups said. “Shelters, rescues and other services may no longer afford to take in dogs and other pets … Fewer people will get pets, leaving more pets abandoned in shelters to die.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief in support of the Monyaks. It cited industry studies showing U.S. pet owners spent $58 billion on their animals in 2014, including $4.8 billion on pet grooming and boarding.

“It is hypocritical for these businesses, including (Barking Hound Village), to exploit the value of the human-companion bond, while simultaneously arguing that the same should be unrecoverable when that bond is wrongfully — and even intentionally — severed,” the ALDF said.

The Monyaks boarded Lola and their other dog, Callie, at Barking Hound Village in 2012. At that time, Callie had been prescribed Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory for arthritis. The Monyaks contend the kennel incorrectly gave the Rimadyl to Lola.

They further allege that Barking Hound Village knew that a medication error had occurred during Lola’s stay, and the kennel covered it up by destroying evidence and withholding critical information.

They seek to recover expenses for Lola’s veterinary treatment as well as for the value Lola had to their family.

Barking Hound Village denies any wrongdoing. It says both dogs were fine when they left the kennel. And attorneys for the kennel said this in court filings:

“The purchase price of the dachshund was zero dollars, the rescue dog never generated revenue and nothing occurred during the Monyaks’ ownership of the dog that would have increased her market value. The mixed-breed dachshund had no special training or unique characteristics other than that of ‘family dog.'”

We hope the Georgia Supreme Court uses the case of Lola to send a message to those who see dogs as mere “property.”

And we’d love to see an answer to this question, from the kennel, from the AVMA and from the AKC:

If our dogs are so “worthless,” how do you explain the fact that you are getting so rich off of them?

(Photos: Top photo by Branden Camp, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; photo of Lola provided by Monyak family)

Postal service wants to stamp out dog bites

Happy National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Once again, the U.S. Postal Service — 2,863 of whose letter carriers were bitten last year — is launching its annual dog bite prevention campaign.

And that’s just part of a larger effort aimed at reducing the 4.7 million dog bites that occur each year,  mostly with youngsters as the victims.

Half of all U.S. children will be bitten by a dog by the time they’re high school seniors, says pediatrician Alison Tothy, chairwoman of the committee on injury and poison prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics Illinois chapter.

The academy, postal service, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and several other groups have joined in the National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 16 – 22) campaign, according to UPI.

Here are the tips the Postal Service provides on avoiding dog bites.

— Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.

— If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.

— Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.

— If you believe a dog is about to attack, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

Dog owners, meanwhile, are encouraged to keep dogs inside and away from the door when the postal carrier comes, and to not let children take mail from the carrier in the presence of a dog.

(Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

New York Times looks at debarking

What do some Westminster show dogs have in common with some drug dealers’ attack dogs?

They’ve been debarked.

The surgical procedure, which critics label outdated and inhumane, has been around for decades, but continues to fall out of favor, especially among younger veterinarians and animal-rights advocates, the New York Times reported this week.

There are no reliable figures on how many dogs have had their vocal cords cut, but veterinarians and other animal experts say that dogs with no bark can  be found in private homes, on the show-dog circuit, and even on the turf of drug dealers, who are said to prefer their attack dogs silent.

David Frei, the longtime co-host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, acknowledged that some show dogs have  the operation. “There is no question we have some debarked dogs among our entries,” he said.

Many veterinarians refuse to do the surgery on ethical grounds, and some states have banned it, except for therapeutic reasons, including New Jersey. Similar legislation is pending in Massachusetts.

In the surgery, vets anesthetize the dog before cutting its vocal cords, either through the mouth or through an incision in the larynx. Dogs generally recover quickly, veterinarians say, and while they usually can still make sounds, their barks become muffled and raspy.

But Dr. Gary W. Ellison, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, said the procedure can lead to complications, such as excess scar tissue building up in the throat of dogs, making it difficult to breathe.

Ellison said the procedure is no longer taught at the University of Florida’s veterinary school.

Banfield, the Pet Hospital, with more than 750 veterinary practices across the country, formally banned the surgery last summer.

“Debarking is not a medically necessary procedure,” said Jeffrey S. Klausner, the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. “We think it’s not humane to the dogs to put them through the surgery and the pain. We just do not think that it should be performed.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that the surgery only be done “after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed.”

Docking, cropping and other acts of barbarism

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, a Doberman pinscher should have a docked tail and “cropped and erect” ears — an appearance (above right) of “alertness,” albeit one achieved through surgery, rubber bands, tape and splints.

The altered appearance of the Doberman is one we’ve seen so often that we’ve come to accept it as normal, even though an unalderated Doberman (above left) has floppy ears and a whip-like tail.

Why do we do it — not just to the Doberman, but about 50 other breeds that are still commonly docked and cropped?

Mainly because of the aforementioned standards, based on traditions — barbaric, silly traditions, but traditions all the same.

Docking Dobermans goes all the way back to the man who created them, Louis Dobermann, who mixed a handful of breeds in hopes of coming up with a medium-sized guard dog. Being guards, they needed to look alert. Hence, the tail docking and ear cropping.

With breed standards under fire — primarily those that have led to inbreeding and genetic health defects among some breeds — the practice of docking tails and cropping ears should be re-examined, too 

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which had long recommended against docking and cropping for cosmetic purposes, came down harder on the practice in a new policy adopted last year, calling for them both to removed from breed standards.

The AKC, in response to the AVMA policy change, said that “mislabeling these procedures as ‘cosmetic’ is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs … These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at Police Departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field.”

That high and mighty stance came close to painting those who might oppose docking and cropping as unpatriotic. I’m pretty sure letting dogs keep their tails is not going to compromise national security, or lead to more crime.

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AVMA comes out against cropping, docking

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has come out more strongly against tail docking and ear-cropping — when done for purely cosmetic purposes.

The revised policy “encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”

The AVMA said the change was based on a review of scientific literature and available data, an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians, and deliberations by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.

“For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients,” explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “Our latest policy revision doesn’t represent a change in perspective, but, rather, makes that perspective clear with a stronger statement.”

In recommending policy revisions, the committee was careful to distinguish ear cropping and tail docking performed for cosmetic reasons from procedures performed for therapeutic or preventive purposes. “If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the Association would support the appropriate surgery,” said Dr. DeHaven.

The AVMA, established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 76,000 veterinarians.