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Tag: perceptions

Program works with Amish in southern Indiana to improve breeding conditions

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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)

Pit Boss: Little people tackle big job

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With the rescue of pit bulls and other abused and neglected pets having proven a popular reality TV show formula — with everything from burly tattooed guys to prison parolees doing the rescuing — you might be wondering what they’ll think of next.

Turns out they’ve already thought of it, and it’s little people.

“Pit Boss” premieres January 16, starring Shorty Rossi, who runs a Hollywood talent agency for little people and a pit bull rescue.

The show features Rossi and his fellow little people — including Maryland’s own Ashley Brooks — as they rescue and rehabilitate what the show’s press material points out is a frequently looked down upon breed.

Brooks, 23, who was raised in Elkton, Md., is the receptionist for Shortywood Productions, the company Rossi formed to “manage little people entertainers for all types of shows, private parties and corporate events,” according to a network press release.

Its staff also forms the nucleus of Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue, which was formed in 2001 and has worked since then to rehabilitate pit bulls — both individual dogs and the breed’s image.

“Pit bulls have a bad rap, though they don’t deserve it at all,” says Rossi. “It’s what people have done to these pits or how they have trained them that caused this horrible misperception. Pit bulls are beautiful and energetic dogs that make wonderful companions and have the ability to bring out the best in just about any one – the elderly, children, the handicapped, and yes… even the little people of this world.”

“Pit Boss” follows Rossi and his crew as they rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for dogs, all while working to fight stereotypes — both those faced by pit bulls and those faced by little people.

The show will air Saturdays at 10 p.m on Animal Planet.

Rossi, 35, grew up in Los Angeles, and pit bulls have been part of his life since 14. He left home by the age of 15, and by 18 had been involved in a gang-related shooting and convicted of several felonies. He served 10 years in prison, and upon his release turned to entertainment jobs, landing his first role at Universal Studios Hollywood as “Alvin” for an Alvin and the Chipmunks stage show.

Since then, he has appeared in several commercials, dozens of TV shows and worked on several movies. He started his own company in 2000, and formed Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue the following year.

Here’s a trailer for the show:

(Photo: Courtesy of Animal Planet)

Dogs often scapegoats in gentrification wars

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It’s a familiar chain of events in many a city — a particular neighborhood, usually by virtue of its location, emerges as desirable. Young and affluent people move in. Real estate prices rise and, with them, taxes. The old neighborhood bars get upscaled. Mom and pop shops close down. Oldtimers start leaving. A Whole Foods opens. Then you step in dog poop.

The fancy word for it is gentrification — and while dogs are, for the most part, innocent bystanders (byrunners? bypoopers?) they often seem to surface as the issue around which gentrifications wars play out.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between a recent story out of Venice, California, appearing in the Santa Monica Daily Press, and our situation right here in South Baltimore.

The  story looked at a growing conflict between long-time black and Latino members of a Venice neighborhood and affluent newcomers and their dogs. Long-time residents are complaining about the presence of off-leash dogs in the park.

“When families in the neighborhood see the blatant disregard for the law and there is signage throughout the park, it sends a message that they’re above the law and privileged,” said Lydia Ponce, who serves on the Oakwood Park Advisory Board, “It sets up a cultural divide.”

Dog owners, meanwhile, say they are simply seeking a place for their dogs to run — an activity that, properly monitored, impinges on no one’s rights or space. “We’re law-abiding citizens and we don’t want to get tickets for exercising dogs in the morning,” said Dr. Douglas Stockel, who has lived in Venice for five years.

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