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Tag: dogs

Are dog rescue groups helping support big time breeders? It sure looks that way

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Are animal rescue groups actually helping keep big-time dog breeders — both good ones and bad ones — in business?

That’s the question raised in this blockbuster report that appeared in The Washington Post this morning.

The newspaper’s investigation found that rescue operations, traditionally the nemesis of puppy mills, have been buying dogs from breeders at auction, using donations from their supporters to buy dogs in what it described as a “nationwide shadow market.”

The result is a river of rescue donations flowing from avowed dog saviors to the breeders, two groups that have long disparaged each other. The rescuers call many breeders heartless operators of inhumane “puppy mills” and work to ban the sale of their dogs in brick-and-mortar pet stores. The breeders call “retail rescuers” hypocritical dilettantes who hide behind nonprofit status while doing business as unregulated, online pet stores.

But for years, they have come together at dog auctions where no cameras are allowed, with rescuers enriching breeders and some breeders saying more puppies are being bred for sale to the rescuers.

Bidders affiliated with 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters throughout the United States and Canada have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009 at the nation’s two government-regulated dog auctions, both in Missouri, according to invoices, checks and other documents The Post obtained from an industry insider.

Most rescuers then offered the dogs for adoption as “rescued” or “saved,” and charge adoption fees that range from $50 to $1,000 per dog.

The article reports that it is likely the success of rescue groups in reducing the numbers of dogs needing adoption that has led to an increase in such organizations turning to buying dogs offered at auctions by commercial kennels: “As the number of commercial kennels has decreased, so has the number of shelter animals killed in the United States: A February 2017 estimate put the total for dogs alone at 780,000, a steep drop from estimates for all shelter animals that were as high as 20 million in the 1970s.”

One golden retriever rescue group turned to the auctions after seeing 40 percent fewer dogs coming in as of 2016. At the auctions, such rescuers describe buying purebreds and popular crossbreeds such as goldendoodles and maltipoos as “puppy mill rescue,” the article notes.

Some rescue organizations have paid more than $1,000 for a single dog.

Animal-welfare groups, including the ASPCA, HSUS, say rescuers are misguided in buying dogs at auction because the money they pay only encourages more breeding on a commercial scale.

While they may be keeping some individual dogs from being purchased by breeders for a life of breeding, they are also lining the pockets of breeders and helping to create a “a seller’s market.”

JoAnn Dimon, director of Big East Akita Rescue in New Jersey, says that buying breeding-age dogs at auctions makes it harder for commercial breeders to profit in the long run: “That breeder is going to make thousands of dollars off that [female dog] if he breeds her every cycle. I just bought her for $150. I just took money out of his pocket. I got the dog, and I stopped the cycle.”

The majority of the $2.68 million The Post documented was spent since 2013 at Southwest Auction Service, the biggest commercial dog auction in the country, with some additional spending at its smaller, only remaining competitor, Heartland Sales.

As the last remaining government-licensed auctions, they let buyers and sellers see hundreds of dogs at a time and are a legal part of the country’s puppy supply chain. They are regulated by the U.S. and Missouri Departments of Agriculture and open to the public.

“I’m not going to lie about this: Rescue generates about one-third, maybe even 40 percent of our income,” Bob Hughes, Southwest’s owner, told the Post. “It’s been big for 10 years.”

“I honestly think there are very good, responsible rescues that just love the dogs and want to get them out of the breeding industry,” he added. “And I think there are malicious, lying, cheating rescues that are in it for the money and the glory and the funding.”

Rescue groups generally are organized as nonprofit charities and raise money through fundraisers, adoption fees, grants and bequests. Shelters and rescue groups connected to the auction bidders have annual revenue that runs from $12,000 to $1.5 million.

Hughes told the Post that what happens at auctions shows that nobody has the moral high ground in America’s puppy wars.

“In their minds, the rescuers think they’re better,” he says. “The industry is all alike. We’re all supplying puppies and dogs to the general public in some form or fashion.”

(Photo: Dogs being sold at an auction in Michigan))

German museum honors the dachshund

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A museum dedicated to the dachshund opened last week in Germany — the country in which wiener dogs originated.

It’s a labor of love, and the brainchild of two former florists, dachshund lovers both, who managed to bring more than 4,500 pieces and 2,000 exhibits featuring dachshund paraphernalia together over the last three months.

The Dackelmuseum (or Dachshund Museum) was opened in the Bavarian town of Passau on April 2 by
Josef Küblbeck and Oliver Storz, two former florists who share a bit of an obsession with the breed.

Among the items displayed are stamps, prints, figurines, stuffed animals, dachshund puppets, even a dachshund shaped from bread.

Their inventory took a leap recently when they purchased a Belgian punk rocker’s extensive collection of dachshund paraphernalia, Reuters reported.

“The world needs a sausage dog museum… No other dog in the world enjoys the same kind of recognition or popularity as the symbol of Bavaria, the sausage dog,” said Kueblbeck. “We wanted to give this dog a home where people can come and share their joy.”

Admirers of the breed over the years have included artist Pablo Picasso, actor Marlon Brando, former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, scientist Albert Einstein and Napoleon.

One of Germany’s oldest breeds, the dachshund can be long-, short- or wire-haired and is one of the country’s most popular dogs. It was bred for hunting, starting in the Middle Ages. With their pointy snouts, they are renowned for being able to burrow into holes to catch small animals.

My dream about selling out

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When a dark-colored sedan slows to a halt beside you as you walk down the sidewalk, and a tinted window powers down, it’s usually not a sign of good things ahead.

Especially not when all you can see inside is a gun barrel pointing out at you, and a face in the shadows that says only, “Get in.”

Such was the somewhat cliched opening of an actual dream I had the other night.

I got in, as instructed, and the grim and leathery-faced man in the passenger seat beside me told me were going for a ride, in a tone that suggested I neither disagree nor ask too many questions.

windowWhen we arrived at a cabin in some remote woods, he ushered me inside, sat me down and explained the situation.

He was a hit man, hired by some people whose identities he was not allowed to divulge, as that, too, would necessitate killing me.

His working orders were to convince me to sell my website to those people, and to kill me if I refused.

I could see no reason to debate any terms and I was about to agree when he told me I would get two days to think about it.

For the next two days, he sat in a straight-backed chair with a gun in his hand. He put it down only to make meals. He was mostly quiet, seemed to lack any emotions at all, and every once in a while he would hit me, slap me, kick me or verbally abuse me.

Yet, for a few minutes both days, he would let some humanity show through. We’d actually talk a little and make jokes and a tiny part of me came to actually like a tiny part of him, but that’s all beside the point, I think.

Still, I spent more time thinking about him than I did about selling the website. I’d never considered it, and as far it’s value, I figured that was up to the man with the gun to decide.

Coping-With-Anxiety-and-Depression-722x406As he had requested, I withheld any decision until he announced that the deadline had come.

“What is your decision?” he asked. “I will sell the website,” I responded, suspecting I was going to die either way.

At this point, you need to know two things.

First off, I’ve never really thought about selling ohmidog!, and don’t expect it would be worth much. My website, back when it ran advertising, once brought in a tiny bit of money, but now it operates at a loss. Now it is officially a hobby — because the money-making side of a website, as opposed to the creative side, all involves work that either bores me to tears or violates my outdated journalistic principles. For the purposes of writing this I checked a couple of those websites that profess to tell you what a website is worth, and they estimated $6-$7,000. (Interestingly both of those websites, when you typed their own domain name, in, were unwilling to estimate the value of themselves.)

Maybe it’s worth even more than that, I like to sometimes think. I’m not one to overestimate my worth, or my website’s. But I am a bit of a dreamer and this was, after all, a dream.

Just last week, the company that makes dog food with Rachel Ray’s name on it had just sold for $1.9 billion — and who’s to say her kibble is worth more than my daily writings?

You also need to know now about my fear of large bills, for I suspect it is from those anxieties that this dream sprung. I do not like possessing anything larger than a $20 bill.

The currency-holding part of my wallet is divided into two sections. In one I keep twenties, in the other I keep smaller denominations. I rarely go to a bank anymore, instead getting my cash via the cash back option at my grocery store. I usually get one hundred dollars, insisting on nothing larger than twenties.

On a few occasions, though, they have run out and had to give me fifties. I put those in with my twenties. And before I know it, they are gone. I will struggle to remember using one of them, and I’m unable to recall handing anyone a fifty. I can’t remember ever getting change back from a fifty. Handing over a $50 would be act of some significance for me. Surely I would remember that.

I suspect I unwittingly hand over fifties, thinking they are twenties, and that the cashiers, equally unwittingly, hand me back change for a twenty.

Where else could they be going?

So whenever I have a fifty in my wallet, I am anxious. I have to check on them frequently

Just as I am no high roller, I had no high hopes that my website would fetch big bucks, so I was greatly surprised when, in my dream, the hit man informed me that I was to be paid $2 billion. One catch, it had to be cash.

I signed the paperwork, in triplicate, and he handed me two $1 billion bills. I nervously stuffed them in my wallet, in the twenties section.

He told me I could leave.

Ninety percent of me expected that I would be shot in the back as I left, and that he would retrieve the $2 billion, along with my twenties and tens and such. A small part of me thought, just maybe, despite his cruel streak, he was a man of his word.

Turned out he was. I walked out, through the woods, back to the highway and started hitch-hiking.

It took three different rides to get me home, and during each I worried that the driver would somehow sniff out the large bills held in my wallet and rob me.

But I returned home safely, the bills intact, telling myself that tomorrow I would deposit them in the bank.

Tomorrow came and, even though I had nothing to do, nothing to write and post on the website anymore, I didn’t go to the bank. I kept putting it off. And the rest of the dream was just a series of anxious days each one just like the previous one.

It got to the point that I was checking my wallet every 30 minutes. Are they still there? Should I put them somewhere safer, or will I forget where I put them if I do?

As for investing the $2 billion, that didn’t even enter my thoughts. Nor did how I might spend it.

Eventually, the dream became so boring — just me continuing checking my wallet — that I woke up.

I’m not sure what it means, or what I learned, but the next day I took that check that has been lingering around the house to the bank — a state income tax refund of $25.

Should a cookie-cutter neighborhood be restricted to cookie-cutter dogs?

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The developer of a neighborhood of modern, look-alike, cookie-cutter homes in Lexington, Ky., apparently wants to also define the breeds of dogs that can live there — or at least stipulate what breeds cannot.

That’s not all that rare nowadays, but the company managing McConnell’s Trace is casting a pretty broad net when it calls for banning 11 breeds of dog it deems “dangerous.”

If you read this website, you already know who I think the dangerous ones are in this scenario.

It’s not the German Shepherds, or the Rottweilers, or the mastiffs, or the Doberman Pinschers, or the pit bulls, or the huskies, or the malamutes, or the chows, or the Great Danes, or the St. Bernards or the Akitas.

It’s the developers, property management companies, and/or homeowner’s associationsthat decide breed bans are necessary to maintain peace, sanctity and low insurance premiums — and then go about enforcing their ill-informed rules with dictatorial zeal.

They are the far bigger threat so society.

In a nation so concerned about everybody’s Constitutional rights, and protecting individual liberties, it’s amazing how much power such groups can exert over how we live, and that they get away with it.

Sometimes it is done by the developers who, rather than just build houses, want to impose a set of rules on the community that will last through perpetuity. They do this by establishing “deed restrictions,” stipulating what a homeowner can and cannot do on the property.

Sometimes it’s property management companies that, while collecting a monthly free from homeowners, also issue edicts. Seeing liability insurance premiums rise, for example, they might decide to ban a breed, or two, or 11, of dog. The latest correspondence I received from mine informed homeowners that any alterations to the way grounds crews have laid down pine needles around their houses (it’s a southern thing) “will not be tolerated.”

Sometimes it’s the homeowner’s association, which generally means its board of directors.

All can tend to become little fiefdoms, dispensing rule after rule, threat after threat, warning after warning. When pressed for answers, when asked for reasons, they get vague about who is responsible for what, and pass the buck.

In the Lexington situation, homeowners in McConnell’s Trace were sent letters by the neighborhood developer detailing a reported change in an existing dog restriction, which previously referred only to unspecified “aggressive breeds.”

At least that’s what Josh McCurn, president of the area’s neighborhood association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Developer Dennis Anderson said Monday that Anderson Communities has been prohibiting the 11 dog breeds since 2006. Deed restrictions signed since then have included the prohibited list of breeds, he said.

“We want a mother and her child to feel safe when walking to the mailbox or hiking on the Town Branch Trail,” Anderson said in an email. “We want McConnell’s Trace to be the safest place to raise a family.”

Anderson sent the Herald-Leader a copy of deed restrictions dated in 2006 that lists the 11 restricted breeds.

The letter sent out last week to homeowners, however, stated “restrictions are now amended to include a complete list of prohibited breeds.”

Some homeowners said they never were provided a copy of deed restrictions when they moved in. One said, though he bought his home just over a year ago, he received the 2001 list of deed restrictions.

So it’s entirely possible, given how these places operate, that the developer’s attorney was the only one who actually had a copy of these restrictions he says have been in place for more than 10 years.

The letter said homeowners who already have a dog that belongs to one of the listed breeds can keep their dog.

“Please note, however, that all future pets must meet the breed requirements.”

Residents in the neighborhood organized an emergency meeting for 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the restrictions. It will be held at Masterson Station Park shelter #3 and will be open to the public.

Given the meeting is being held outside the neighborhood, I’m assuming dogs of all breeds are welcome.

Diller: The avocado-eating dog that helps propagate the species

avocadodogWhen it comes to avocados, Diller is a dog who doesn’t just crave the fleshy green fruit, but seems to have an abiding respect for the pit as well.

Diller was born to the litter of a pregnant rescue dog and taken in by a family that was moving to a horse ranch in Southern California.

Roaming the grounds there, he quickly discovered a couple of abandoned avocado trees that remained from an old orchard that used to be a few hundred feet from the house.

He tried one. He liked it. And he’s been picking them off the trees and eating them ever since.

We’ll point out here that giving your dog an entire avocado is not a good idea. They are not toxic to dogs, but the pits can be a choking hazard

avodogtwoDiller, though is a meticulous eater, according to a recent story in The Dodo. He never bites into the pit, but he does lick them so clean that they shine.

“One day I came home from work and there were two perfectly clean avocado pits sitting at the foot of my chair. They seriously looked like they had been polished,” said Diller’s owner Robert Moser. “I was sitting there wondering, ‘What the heck?’, when Diller sauntered in with the third, gently placed it on my shoe, and wagged his tail, clearly expecting pets for being a very good boy.”

Moser had tried sprouting avocados from pits before, but never with success.

“Pits that had been whacked out of the avocado with a knife were usually too scuffed up, and if you tried to grow them with the brown seed skin still on, they’d usually rot,” Moser said. “With that in mind, I knew what I had to try the moment I saw the clean pits laid at my feet.”

Almost all of the seeds Diller brought him have sprouted, and Diller ended up with more avocado saplings than he knew what to do with.

avothreeNow he regularly gives them as gifts (accompanied by a photo of Diller with the seed the plant sprouted from) and trades them with other farmers.

“There are probably a few dozen Diller-trees throughout California nowadays, Moser said.

“The earliest of Diller’s trees are just starting to bear fruit. I know the folks that have them will think of him every time they harvest. It’s the sort of thought that makes you smile when it crosses your mind, you know?”

(Photos: From The Dodo; provided by Robert Moser)

Smucker Co. buys Rachel Ray dog foods

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The nation’s most beloved maker of jams and jellies is buying up the pet food company that carries the name of the nation’s most beloved TV cook.

J.M. Smucker Co. has agreed to pay $1.9 billion to buy Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, which makes primarily the Rachel Ray brand dog Nutrish.

The acquisition is the latest pet food line taken over by Smucker, which also owns Kibbles n’ Bits, Meow Mix, Gravy Train, Skippy and Ol’ Roy brands.

By putting more emphasis on pet food — specifically so-called “premium” pet foods — the company hope to invigorate sales, which have been sluggish for consumer goods aimed at humans.

The purchase comes on the heels of recent recalls for some of Smucker’s canned dog food brands — Gravy Train, Skippy, Ol’ Roy and Kibbles ‘N Bits.

Traces of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital found in some cans led to the recall.

smuckersSmucker first got into the pet business in 2015 with a $5.8 billion acquisition of Big Heart Pet Brands, according to Bloomberg. The company, best known for its namesake jam, also produces Folgers coffee and Jif peanut butter.

With the purchase of Nutrish, pet foods will become Smucker’s larges source of sales.

The company is also looking at selling off some of its human food products, including the Pillsbury line of baked goods.

It is focusing more on premium pet foods. High-end pet food has surged 33 percent industrywide over the past five years and now accounts for more than 50 percent of the market.

Smucker generates about 85 percent of its revenue in the U.S. and the acquisition of Ainsworth will make pet food its largest business unit, accounting for about $3 billion in sales.

Smucker is the latest food company to tap into the upscale pet market. General Mills Inc., mired in a three-year sales slump, agreed in February to buy Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. for about $8 billion.

Are there too many dogs on the Internet?

image001Depictions of dogs, as any one who has ever read the wall of a prehistoric cave knows, date back to well before ancient times.

Pharaohs commissioned artworks of their favorite pets. Portrayals of hunting and images of medieval banquets often featured dogs in the background or foreground. In the Victorian-era, aristocrats hired painters to make portraits of themselves and their pooches.

As the 20th Century dawned, as humans came to live ever closer to the species, artists seized upon the idea of depicting dogs dressed in human attire and doing human things, bringing us such classes artworks as the inimitable (but often imitated) work, Dogs Playing Poker.

Well before photography went digital, before somebody flicked that World Wide Web switch on, dog depictions were being shared — if not as instantly, often, ridiculously and (often) demaningly as they are today on the Internet, and social media in particular.

Even in my earliest days in journalism, back in the 1970’s, I remember some newspapers had a pet writer — someone who penned a pet column, usually weekly. He or she was commonly an older person who performed mostly clerical duties, maybe a secretary for some top editor, who, due to his or her love for dogs, had volunteered for the task, likely at no increase in pay.

He or she would probably feature a dog in need of adoption every week, or write about pet care and training, or simply ask readers to submit photos of their pets for publication — an opportunity many readers seized, sending actual photos through actual mail.

One of the differences between then and now — a time when many a website is telling you how much they would like to see photos of your dog — is that the old clerk/pet writer’s request for photos was more than likely at least partly sincere.

pokerThose folks who want to see your dog’s photo now? Almost always, they are after something else. You can trust them about as much as the bulldog sneaking an ace to his friend in that painting to the left there.

Pet food websites, pet toy websites, even (we hate to admit it) pet news websites will commonly beg you for a photo of your pooch — not because anyone actually wants to see it, but because they want to get you on their email lists, get you “registered,” introduce you to their products and enlist your loyalty.

They want, more than anything, your money, and like many other businesses that want your money, they will gladly deceive you and try to capitalize on your love for/pride in your pet:

“We’d love to see a photo of your dog!”

Yeah, right.

I’m not here today to say that there are too many dogs on the Internet — even if never before in the history of man have we been so saturated with dog photos and images. The more the merrier, I say.

But I would argue there is too much dog exploitation and too much dog ridicule on the Internet, much of it carried out via those “adorable” photos of your “fur baby” — sometimes by profit-making concerns, sometimes by dog owners themselves.

Compare and contrast, if you will, our old, likely unpaid, pet columnist with someone like Matt Nelson, who is making a six figure annual salary by posting photos sent in by readers, along with a comment and a numerical rating (based on the dog, not the photo) at @dog_rates.

He is not taking any photos. He is not buying any photos. He’s really not doing much work at all, other than accumulating followers. He is merely sharing other people’s photos on Twitter — and managing to make a handsome living from it.

Nelson — profiled by Money magazine recently — dropped out of college once he saw how popular his dog photo sharing Twitter page had become:

There, WeRateDogs’ operations are relatively simple. Nelson estimates he runs 95 percent of things from his iPhone (which, yes, he confirms, does require a massive data plan to handle all the dog photos). He has two remote employees: Ricci, who culls submissions down to about 20 each day, and Tyler Macke, who manages the WeRateDogs online store. His dad, an executive director of a law firm, advises him on finances.

Nelson says he brings in “a low five figures” every month. At minimum, that puts him over $100,000 a year.

Thanks, Money magazine, for doing the math for us.

While Nelson may not be doing much original or creative work, at least his pursuit is mostly cute and kind and well meaning.

20151016_181413-e1522168748576Other dog photo sharing websites are more distasteful to me — dogshaming.com, in particular.

It features photos of dogs who have misbehaved, along with hand-made signs — all submitted by readers.

But perhaps most troubling of all are the photos and videos that individuals post to their Facebook page showing their dogs doing distinctly human things.

Alexandra Horowitz, the author and researcher who has spent her career seriously studying and trying to understand dogs — despite what seems to be society’s preference to see them as dress-up dolls, movie characters with human voices, or (apologies to those who use the term) “fur babies” — made note of the phenomena in last week’s New York Times Opinion section.

In it, she asked the question:

“Why can’t I stand to look at one more photo of a ‘funny dog?'”

She continued, “In a typical image, the dog is posed in a distinctly person-like way, as if on the phone, seated at a table or wearing headphones and dressed up in human attire — glasses, a dog-size suit and tie, even pantyhose.”

” … These dogs are but furry emoji: stand ins for emotions and sentiment. Each representation diminishes this complex, impressive creature to an object of our most banal imagination,” Horowitz wrote. “Such treatment may not be mortifying to the dog, perhaps … but it is degrading to the species.”

Only the most extreme examples of making our dogs look ridiculous receive any sort of backlash — primarily from people who see the pet as being abused. Like this one on Twitter. Go to the link and read all the comments and you almost think, maybe people are coming to their senses.

It bugs me that society is this way — that it took a species, molded it to its liking, and continually foists its own likeness and peculiarities upon it. It bugs me what people will put their dog through to achieve a Facebook post or Halloween costume that makes their friends laugh. It bothers me that some people are getting rich off it.

It’s like we were blessed with an original Mona Lisa, and 85 percent of us want to draw a mustache on it slap it on their own personal billboard.

Somebody needs to grow up, and it’s not the dogs.

(Photos: At top, The Feast of Dives, about 1510–20, Master of James IV of Scotland, the J. Paul Getty Museum); lower, one of the many reproductions of Dogs Playing Poker, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, other photos via Twitter)