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Tag: breeders

You might not love “The Dog Lover”

What if, in the interest of fair play, ads for movies were required to present an equal number of negative snippets to go along with all the positive ones they highlight?

It would go something like this:

“Stilted … clunky … manipulative” … The Hollywood Reporter

“Heavy handed… spottier than a kennel full of caged Dalmatians” …The Los Angeles Times

“Wow, why was this made and for whom and what the hell?” … RogerEbert.com

All of those disparaging comments — and very few superlatives — have been directed at the new movie “The Dog Lover.”

It’s a tricky little movie that starts out appearing as if it is going to be an expose of the unsavory practices of dog breeders.

What it actually is is a defense of breeders, financed by Forrest Lucas, oil tycoon and founder of Protect the Harvest — a pro-hunter organization and a staunch opponent of animal protection groups.

In other words, it is pretty close to propaganda — or maybe out and out propaganda — and, judging from the reviews, it’s not particularly artistic or creative propaganda.

Lucas is president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. He campaigned against Missouri’s Proposition B, which was aimed at preventing cruelty to dogs in puppy mills.

And he makes no bones about what he thinks of some animal protection groups.

Lucas says he produced the movie to discourage people from supporting and donating to large animal rights organizations.

“They’re collecting money in the name of dog welfare, but there’s no welfare about them at all. They’re out there to make money,” Lucas said.

That, remember, comes from the CEO of a big oil company. (And if you can’t trust big oil companies, who can you trust?)

Of the movie, Lucas said, “I guarantee you everyone will have a tear. But they’ll walk out of here feeling good, saying ‘I get it now.'”

In the movie, idealistic college student Sara Gold (played by Allison Paige), becomes an undercover operative of the United Animal Protection Society, a fictional PETA-like organization.

Her assignment is to work undercover at a rural dog breeding operation run by the Holloway family, consisting of the handsome but gruff father Daniel (James Remar); true blue wife Liz (Lea Thompson); and hunky son Will (Jayson Blair), who, of course, becomes Sara’s romantic interest.

Sara starts off suspicious of the operation. What, for instance, is going on in that locked shed she’s not allowed to enter?

With her cell phone camera, she begins documenting what’s transpiring at the breeding operation — including the killing of a vicious dog that wandered onto the property and threatened Holloway’s daughter.

When Sara’s video footage of that event is passed on to the animal welfare agency, they manipulate it, and broadcast it, and all hell breaks loose.

The operation is shut down, charges are filed, and a trial is held — but as it all unfolds Sara realizes the family is doing nothing wrong; that they are gentle, and loving and treat their animals well.

The ruthless ones, it turns out, are those with the animal welfare agency, who will go to any means to achieve their goal.

Sara, as a result, finds herself turning against the overzealous animal protection group she works for and trying to prove the family’s innocence.

At the movie’s premier in downtown Springfield, Missouri — a state long considered a haven for puppy mills — there were some protesters, according to KSPR.

Of particular concern was the fact that, as part of the movie’s publicity campaign, an Australian shepherd puppy was being auctioned.

“The fact that we’re auctioning off this puppy, there’s nothing bad about that at all,” Lucas said. “So if that’s the best they can find, then we’re in pretty good shape.”

Clearly, he hasn’t read the reviews.

Program works with Amish in southern Indiana to improve breeding conditions

odonamish

While Amish breeders are notorious for running puppy mills, some of those in southern Indiana are working with Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to improve their breeding practices and, in the process, their reputations.

“It was time that we as breeders recognize that there are professionals out there that can help us and we need to involve them in our businesses,” said Levi Graber, a member of Odon’s Amish community who helps several breeders in the area.

Though the Amish aren’t known for reaching out, or letting people in, Graber contacted the university a few years ago about improving Amish-run breeding operations in the region. That led to a pilot program in which the operations are reviewed, and suggestions are made on how to improve them.

Already, those behind the program say, they’ve found that improving conditions and practices at the kennels leads to happier, healthier, better behaved dogs.

Under the program, which is open to non-Amish breeders as well, a set of voluntary standards will be created for breeders to follow, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“Many folks hear about breeding and animal welfare and they don’t know what (breeders) actually do. They just want to put them out of business,” said Purdue’s Candace Croney, director of the animal welfare center.

Most dogs she and her team of researchers have observed have been in good physical health, Croney said, but some had room for improvement in their behavior. Some facilities’ dogs were loud and dogs became over-excited when they saw people, which Croney said indicated they weren’t used to seeing people often.

The research team advised those breeders to make sure something positive happens for the dogs, such as receiving a treat, every time someone comes into the kennel area. They also suggested letting the dogs out in the yard daily to exercise and socialize.

The changes made a big impact, Croney said. Over four months, the dogs in the kennel with the most behavioral issues became calmer when they saw people, and they physically looked better.

“We’ve seen a very positive impact on some of the things she recommends,” Graber said. “I’ve seen more contented, happy dogs.”

Once the trial program is complete, a third party will audit the breeders’ practices, Croney said.

Breeders who qualify will receive a certification that she said goes beyond the standards mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cover areas such as housing, sanitation, food, water and protection against extreme weather and temperatures.

Graber said the community feels fortunate to work with Purdue and emphasized that the breeders don’t want to sell puppies that disappoint anyone.

Not all Amish-run breeding operations are like those that end up on the news, noted Dale Blier, who works for Blue Ribbon Vet & Supply in Odon and sells supplies to many breeders in town.

“The majority of dog breeders in Indiana treat their dogs the same way they treat making furniture: They want to be the best at it they can,” he said.

(Photo: A child sits with puppies at a breeding operation in Odon that’s working with Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science program; by Levi Graber)

Harley dishonored? You won’t be seeing this

harley

Allegations of wide-scale voter fraud may not effect the presidential race, but they have kept a one-eyed Chihuahua from appearing on the tail of Frontier Airlines jets.

The Denver-based airline announced Monday that it has suspended its “Mascot on the Tail” contest because it had been “compromised” by fraudulent voting.

“We have determined that the contest has been compromised by fraudulent activity and ineligible voting that has created an unfair environment for all participants,” the airline said in a statement. “We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”

The contest, launched in March, invited universities, high schools and other organizations to campaign and vote for their mascot to appear on the tail of some Frontier planes.

Given that getting themselves free publicity (and gathering as many email addresses as possible) were the real reasons for Frontier to hold the contest, and given online contests aren’t exactly the epitome of the one-person-one-vote ideal, the airline’s explanation came across as a little hollow, and a little suspect.

Especially to those supporting Harley, a one-eyed Chihuahua who was the mascot of National Mill Dog Rescue.

Harley3Harley, a puppy mill survivor and the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog for 2015, was among the top vote-getters in the contest (voting was scheduled to end April 30) when it was abruptly called off.

“Once entered, Harley quickly gained tremendous support thanks to you – his fans – and he also gained the support of several news stations, animal welfare organizations and even celebrities,” a statement on on Harley’s Facebook page says.

“Over the course of a week Harley reached over 37,000 votes and was in first place. He was well ahead of all other contestants…It soon became clear that Harley had an excellent chance of winning the contest. Then, suddenly, Frontier Airlines suspended the contest. Their explanation was that there was voter fraud and they blamed international voters.”

Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner said the airline did not suspend the voting due to the possibility of Harley winning, the Denver Post reported.

Instead, the contest was halted due to “several” instances of fraud, including cases of ineligible, non-U.S. residents voting, he said.

Faulkner did not pinpoint any particular contestant that was benefiting from “fraudulent” voting.

The airline plans to send $20 travel vouchers to everyone who voted in the online contest as “a token of good will,” he added.

Harley’s supporters freely admit to campaigning heavily for their candidate. They saw it as a way to educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills and honor the memory of Harley, who passed away last month at the age of 15.

Creating a social media buzz, and spreading the word about the contest served them well, and served Frontier Airlines well.

harley2So is there some other reason — other than wanting to be certain their online voting process was pristine and ethical — behind Frontier’s decision to terminate the contest?

We’d hate to think politics were involved, or that some airline big wig thought the image of a one-eyed dog might besmirch their shiny jets.

Other mascots competing in the contest included Colorado State University’s Cam the Ram; University of Colorado’s Ralphie the bison; University of Florida’s Albert and Alberta Gator; and the University of California Santa Cruz mascot, Sammy the Slug.

Harley, a little dog who came to represent perseverance and resiliency, was the only contestant with a message — and maybe that frightened the airline. Maybe they were afraid of losing any unethical breeders they had as passengers.

Michele Burchfield, marketing director for the National Mill Dog Rescue, said Harley’s high number of votes were the result of his message and an active social media and e-mail campaign that caught on with puppy mill opponents across the country.

“If Frontier opens up the contest again, we would be thrilled to enter him again and honored to have him on the tail of a plane knowing that our voting is legitimate and honest,” Burchfield said. “We did everything we could to bring this honor to him.”

“This little guy could get a million votes in a month if he needed it,” she said.

What is the “truth” about Just Pups?

Police investigating the source of a stench in Paramus found 67 puppies packed in a van parked behind Just Pups, a North Jersey pet store.

The pups — some covered in feces — were seized early Monday and taken to a North Jersey animal hospital, where 15 of them were determined to be in need of medical treatment.

Found locked in steel crates, the puppies were scheduled to go to other stores in the Just Pups chain. They had come from the Missouri breeding kennel of store owner Vincent LoSacco.

That’s him in the video above — responding last week to allegations of animal cruelty filed by the New Jersey SPCA in connection with the chain’s largest outlet in East Brunswick, N.J.

Last week, East Brunswick’s council unanimously voted to revoke LoSacco’s license at that store, prompting him to post a video he called “The Truth About Just Pups.”

Despite the scrutiny, LoSacco still apparently saw no problem with leaving 67 puppies in a parked van in Paramus on a night that temperatures dropped to 35 degrees.

Authorities said that about 3 a.m. Monday, Paramus police officers approached the van and detected the stench of urine and feces.

The officers, hearing whines coming from inside the van, opened an unlocked sliding door and found the dogs.

paramus1Police said the temperature inside the poorly ventilated van was 38 degrees, and that some of the crates did not contain food or water. The small crates held two to four puppies each.

LoSacco on Monday told NorthJersey.com that the van was temperature controlled, and leaving puppies parked in the van overnight was not an uncommon practice.

“It’s not unnormal to leave them in the van, as long as they have air conditioning or heat — depending on the season — and food and water,” LoSacco said. “It’s the same thing with the pet store. People aren’t there 24 hours.”

He denied that the cages were overcrowded, and suggested that any dogs who were covered in feces got that way when police officers loaded the van onto a flatbed truck to transport it.

paramus2As of Monday night, four pups remained at the vet’s office. The rest — golden retrievers, Labradors and terriers — were transferred to Tyco Animal Control, which has contracts with more than 20 municipalities in Bergen and Passaic counties.

The incident is being investigated by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Animal Cruelty Task Force, Paramus police detectives and the Paramus Health Department.

The Paramus was closed Monday pending the investigation. It reopened Tuesday.

paramus3Paramus Mayor Richard La­Barbiera said the store had been the subject of complaints in recent weeks from residents about unsanitary conditions and animal cruelty.

The mayor said a Paramus inspector visited the store in response to the complaints and found some unsanitary conditions, but no signs of cruelty. The store was closed for about 24 hours while those sanitary conditions were addressed.

Just Pups has four New Jersey locations — in Paramus, East Hanover, East Brunswick and Emerson, according to its website.

“Just Pups is the only puppy or pet store that you can shop at where you have a 100% guarantee that 100% of our puppies have come from reputable breeders only,” the website says. “..We have never ever purchased a single puppy from a questionable source or a puppy broker.”

In February, LoSacco’s attempts to renew his license for a Just Pups location in Valhalla, N.Y., were denied, according to the New York Daily News.

The charges filed by the NJSPCA against the East Brunswick store came after three dead dogs were found in the store’s freezer on Feb. 29. In total, 267 animal cruelty charges were filed by the NJSPCA, alleging, among other things, that LoSacco exposed puppies to illnesses by commingling healthy and sick animals.

An online petition calling for that store to be shut down and for a state Department of Health investigation into all Just Pups locations has gathered nearly 160,000 signatures.

(Photos: Paramus Police Department)

Crufts 2016: Another choice of scandals

Just like last year, Crufts offered up a choice for discerning scandal mongers as the world’s most prestigious dog show came to a close in the UK over the weekend.

Before the dog hair had been cleared away from the NEC in Birmingham, charges of nepotism were swirling after it was revealed judge Di Arrowsmith awarded best gundog to a Gordon setter partly owned and bred by her sister, Josie Baddely.

And animal advocates and others were raising a stink about the Kennel Club judges awarding best in breed to a German shepherd who would have been a walking exemplar of the direction breeders had long been trying to take the breed in — that slinky appearance, with a sloped back and hind legs that seem to trail far behind the rest of the animal.

He would have been an exemplar of that, at least, had the dog had been able to walk.

First, because it’s a little more clear-cut, we’ll deal with the nepotism.

Arrowsmith insisted she awarded the prize on the dog’s merits.

“When I adjudicate, I do so without fear or favor,” she told the Daily Mail. “The Gordon setter was the best dog in the ring on that night. It would have been dishonest not to give the award to him.”

The Telegraph reported that criticism was running rampant on dog breeder forums on the Internet.

“Most exhibitors who adhere to decent standards of behavior don’t enter under judges who are related to them,” one said. “The decent thing to do is withdraw from the group judging,” said another. A third said: “This is yet another Crufts controversy that will only harm the competition.”

The Kennel Club, which runs the show, insisted no rules were broken.

Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club, insisted the winning gundog won the prize on his merits. In a statement, she said: “It is important to clarify that no rules were broken here. Any dog that is chosen as a winner is done so because of the judge’s honest opinion on the day and is judged with integrity.”

The statement goes on, at length, with trademark bluster, to defend the decision — even though that’s really not the point.

Whether it’s Miss America pageants, Nobel Prizes or dog shows, you just don’t allow people to serve as judges in competitions in which their family members are entered. Fathers shouldn’t be judging sons. Sisters shouldn’t be judging sisters — even sisters who don’t get along (as is reportedly the case here.)

But does the Kennel Club say, “Yeah, you’re right, that was pretty stupid of us?” No, they spin and defend, manipulating the truth much like breeders and breed standards have manipulated dog breeds.

Which brings us back to the deformed, mutant German shepherd.

Sure, it could have been a case of nerves, or health problems unrelated to genetics that led her to stumble her way through the spotlight at Crufts.

But I suspect it has something to do with a limited gene pool. Design a human whose feet aren’t under his butt and he’d have trouble going through the paces, too.

Just as close relatives shouldn’t be judging each other in contests, they shouldn’t be breeding with each other — especially when the sole goal of those overseeing the breeding is to produce an offspring that accentuates some silly, and often unhealthy, physical characteristic that the latest breed standards deem “desirable.”

As seen in the video at the top of this post, the dog named best in breed, Cruaghaire Catoria, is barely able to trot across the arena floor. It’s as if her front legs and rear legs are operating independently of each other.

Why then award her best in breed? For one thing, her shape conforms to what, until recent years, was considered the ideal (when in reality it was unhealthy, prone to causing hip problems, and gave the breed the appearance of a skulking, runaway felon).

Correcting that, just like achieving it, takes some time — and that’s if there’s consensus among the breeders and all those smug kennel club types who have trouble ever admitting they were wrong.

If Cruaghaire Catoria is any indication, that consensus doesn’t exist.

(Photo: James, the Gordon setter chosen best gun dog; ASC/ZDS/Anthony Stanley / WENN.com)

Sparring for sperm: Legal fight stems from neutering of a champion bichon frisé

beauWhen a  bichon frisé named Beau Lemon retired from the dog show circuit as the second best of his breed, plans were for him to spend his leisure years raking in the stud fees.

At age 3, his owners in Minnesota figured Beau — full name Victoire Gerie’s No Lemon Gemstone — could breed at least until he was 10.

In the process, they figured, they would be ensuring his genes and his legacy lived on .

And they’d get the puppy that they desperately wanted.

But those hopes, and those bucks, seemingly became a thing of the past when Beau’s breeder had the little white dog neutered without their knowledge, owners Mary and John Wangsness allege in a lawsuit.

The legal dispute has been going on for about a year now in Minnesota’s Ramsey County, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Wangsnesses allege breeder Vickie Halstead, who sold them the dog, acted in “vengeance” by neutering Beau because they had tried to breed him twice to a female dog, Cha Cha, without obtaining Halstead’s approval, which  was required in the sales contract.

They are seeking more than $50,000 in damages, and about eight vials of what they believe to be Beau’s frozen semen, now stored in a veterinary clinic and estimated to be worth $3,000 each.

The semen is being held under Halstead’s name, and the lawsuit alleges she has already profited from selling two vials.

As John Wangsness sees it, since it came from the loins of his dog, what’s in those vials are his.

“Damn right, they’re mine,” he said.

Beau was neutered without their approval in July 2013, when he was 4.

“After hearing about the neutering, and I’m not overstating things at all, Mary literally cried and stayed in bed for three weeks,”  said Wangsness, adding that she never fully recovered before she died this past March.

The case isn’t as black and white as it might seen.  In the competitive world of dog showing, ownership of a dog — as well as decisions about its care and profits — are often contractually shared between the breeder and the owner.

And that much debated sperm might not even be Beau Lemon’s.

Halstead’s attorney, Joseph Crosby, said at a recent hearing that the frozen semen belongs to Beau’s brother, Beau Jangles.

Crosby said Halstead “rescued” the dog from the Wangsnesses because they were neglecting him. He said Beau was suffering from dental disease, a low sperm count, impacted anal glands, and a matted and unhealthy coat.

Crosby said Beau’s neutering was necessary due to his “deteriorated health condition.”

In June of 2013, Halstead borrowed Beau from the Wangsnesses for what she told them was breeding purposes, the lawsuit says.

They did not learn of his neutering until he was returned.

Larry Leventhal, attorney for the Wangsnesses, said the couple treated Beau as a pet, but they also expected to have the option of breeding him several times a year at a rate of $2,000 to $3,000 per breeding until he turned 10.

Wangsness said that, more than money, he wants justice for his wife.

“I would like some vindication for the emotional distress that happened to Mary as a result of [Beau’s neutering],” Wangsness said.

Attorneys were scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss a settlement agreement.

(Photo: Beau, as pictured on the website for Victoir’s Bichons)

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)