Monday, October 13, 2014

She Said What?

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

She Said What?

Carlotta Cooper

There is a popular belief among the uneducated that electronic dog collars, or e-collars (sometimes called “shock” collars) are cruel and inhumane. Some people seem to think that if an owner has trouble training a dog he or she is inclined to run out and purchase an electronic collar so he can zap the heck out of his dog when he misbehaves. Not only is this view insulting to dog owners, but it seriously misunderstands how e-collars are used.

Any tool – and that is what an e-collar is – can be misused. A hammer is intended to strike a nail but you could accidentally hit your thumb with it. Used properly, e-collars are very good training aids for many kinds of dog training. They are not simply used for obedience training. They are used for advanced field training, for agility and other sports. E-collars are also used for training dogs at a distance when you are not close enough to give a correction. And they are used for behavior modification for dogs with behavior problems. This can be especially important when no amount of positive reinforcement will work.

You should also know that e-collars aren't used to teach dogs basic commands. They are best used to reinforce commands that a dog already knows.

E-collars today are extremely advanced. They can literally have a couple of dozen settings and the handler can choose a very precise degree of stimulation for the dog. “Stimulation” is the correct term because the handler can choose from a tone, a vibration, or a slight shock to reinforce a command. Sophisticated collars can have many other features.

It's also important to remember that people who use invisible fencing for their dogs are using the same principle. The dog wears a collar that picks up a signal. If the dog gets too close to the fence and ignores the warning tone, the dog will receive a slight shock. Most dogs quickly learn the boundaries and stay inside, but the fence works because of the e-collar approach.

I'm explaining this information about e-collars and invisible fences because a representative for the AKC – Gina DiNardo – appeared on Fox and Friends a few days ago and inexplicably gave the impression that the AKC opposes them.

Here is the AKC's policy on e-collars, as stated in the Board Policy Manual online:

Training Collars (July 2001 Board meeting)
Special training devices that are used to control and train dogs, including but not limited to, collars with prongs, electronic collars used with transmitters, muzzles and head collars may not be used on dogs at AKC events, except as allowed in the AKC Rules, Regulations, and policies.

The American Kennel Club recognizes that special training collars may be an effective and useful management device, when properly used, for controlling dogs that might be extremely active, difficult to control on a neck collar, or dog aggressive. These collars are also recognized as possibly useful for gaining control at the start of basic obedience training, essential education that dogs deserve and need.

There is a point at which owners should have sufficient control of their dogs to manage them on regular neck collars, without the use of special training collars. This is the point at which dogs are acceptable on the grounds of AKC competitive events and will have the opportunity to participate in those events.

That policy seems to be reasonable and easy to understand. It's been in place for some 13 years. It appears that Gina DiNardo's statements were out of line, perhaps prompted by a new study out of the UK that suggests e-collars might distress dogs.
As far as anyone knows, there has not been any kind of change in AKC's policy regarding the use of training collars. AKC's Social Media person, Chris Walker, said that the comments were intended for an audience of pet owners. Unfortunately, when a spokesperson for the AKC goes on national television and disparages a training tool, people do not make that distinction. I think we can expect to see a bumper crop of animal rights legislation trying to ban e-collars at the state level soon – all of it quoting Gina DiNardo and claiming that the AKC opposes e-collars.

I think we all understand that AKC would like to be popular with pet owners. It's nice to sound politically correct. But there are many subtle nuances involved with dogs, dog ownership, training, and breeding. AKC has a core constitutency that expects AKC to know and protect their interests in dogs instead of brushing them aside to gain some media approval.

The Fairness To Pet Owners Act

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

The Fairness To Pet Owners Act

Carlotta Cooper

Let me start by stating that, according to, an online legislative tracking tool maintained by the government-transparency company Civic Impulse, LLC, this bill has zero percent chance of passage this year, so it's not something that either veterinarians or pet owners need to stress about at this time. However, it was originally introduced in 2011, and again this year. If it doesn't pass this year, it will likely be introduced again at some point in the future. This means that you should know about it.

The Fairness to Pet Owners Act in the U.S. House (HR 4023) was introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson, (D-Utah). The bill would require veterinarians to provide clients with written prescriptions for pet medications regardless of whether such a prescription is requested by the client. It would also prohibit veterinarians from charging a prescription-writing fee or asking clients to sign a liability waiver related to writing the prescription. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

House version of the bill here:

Even though the bill may not pass at this time, Rep. Matheson thinks the Fairness to Pet Owners Act may raise public awareness about their veterinary-drug purchasing options.

“I think it’s important to have the issue out there and have people talk about it,” Matheson told the VIN News Service in an interview. (“Lawmaker behind proposed Fairness to Pet Owners Act aims to inform consumers,” March 14, 2014, Edie Lau.) “Even if the legislation were never to pass, I think consumers should be aware that they should at least ask for a prescription.”

Matheson originally introduced the legislation in 2011. That bill died in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee when the legislative session ended in early 2013. Matheson reintroduced the legislation early this year. The bill is now with the Energy and Commerce Committee.

According to press releases from the American Veterinary Medical Association and an article in DVM360 Magazine (“Fairness to Pet Owners Act now brewing in U.S. Senate,” July 23, 2014, by Julie Scheidegger), the AVMA staunchly opposes the bills. The AVMA calls the act “burdensome and unnecessary.”

As dog owners, most of us have had experiences buying prescription medications from veterinarians. Opinions among owners and breeders seem to be sharply divided in the fancy over these bills.

Here are some of the pros and cons:

  • Veterinarians often mark up prescriptions 100 percent or more to help pay for some of their other services. Getting a prescription from your vet would allow you to buy the same medications cheaper elsewhere.

  • Some people are reluctant to ask for a prescription. If veterinarians are required to provide a prescription, you won't have to ask.

  • Some pet owners may not know that they can ask for a prescription or buy medication for their pets somewhere else. Automatically giving every client a prescription makes sure they know.

  • Vets would be prohibited from charging a fee for writing a prescription.

  • There may be less chance of a vet prescribing medication your dog doesn't really need.

The act would also:

  • Prevent vets from specifying from where clients must buy medications as a condition for receiving a prescription; and

  • Prevent vets from requiring clients to sign a waiver relieving the doctor of liability in the case of any problems with a prescription filled elsewhere

  • The AVMA says that clients are already free to purchase prescriptions from other sources. Some states already require vets to provide a prescription (two states). And vets are ethically obligated to write a prescription if you ask for one.

  • The AVMA says they have no data to show that this law would lower the overall cost of pet care.

  • According to the AVMA, there would be an “administrative cost” if vets had to automatically provide prescriptions to their clients.

  • According to the AVMA, it would be a burden on vets if they had to write a prescription every time they prescribed medicine for a client's pet.

  • Pharmacists are not well-versed in requirements for animal dosing.

Ashley Morgan, DVM, Governmental Relations Division assistant director for the American Veterinary Medical Association, says the bill is being presented “under the guise of saving consumers money on their pets’ medications.” Honestly, it's hard to see how pet owners would not save money if they bought their pets' medication outside the vet clinic. There are countless stories of pet owners who are able to save lots of money by having prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart or their local pharmacy. Just ask around and you can find owners who have paid a vet $30 for a tube of eye cream that is $4 at Costco. Or find someone whose vet made them pay to get a prescription – even if they were ordering something online and the prescription only had to be faxed. Lots of people use heartworm preventive that isn't carried by their vet but the vet will still charge for a prescription or refuse to write the script. In short, some veterinarians are not nearly as cooperative as the AVMA suggests and pet owners could save money.

Dr. Morgan admits that there may be instances of veterinarians declining to provide prescriptions, but not enough to justify a law.

“Our understanding and belief is that it’s not a pervasive problem,” Morgan said. “The AVMA's Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics states that a veterinarian should honor a client's request. If there are veterinarians not providing prescriptions, hopefully they have a medical or ethical reason for doing it and are communicating that to the client.”

As far as it being a burden for veterinarians to have to write prescriptions or requiring an “administrative cost,” how are M.D.s able to write prescriptions for people without suffering these problems? When you go to see your doctor you don't have to buy your prescriptions from him or her. You expect to get a prescription so you can go out and have it filled. You are free to shop around for the best price if you like. Perhaps at one time you bought your medicine from your doctor when he made housecalls and carried a doctor's bag to your house but those days are gone. It seems silly for pet owners to have to go on purchasing over-priced prescriptions from veterinarians while the cost of pet care rises dramatically every year. Pet owners have access to cutting edge treatments that are similar to the same treatment given to humans these days – and we pay similar costs for it. Shouldn't we be able to save money where we can on the cost of prescriptions?

Rep. Matheson also sees the similarity between physicians and vets. “In the case of human doctors, they can’t dispense medication,” he said. “We’ve made a decision that that is a conflict of interest. I’m not raising that issue right now (for veterinary medicine), but I could.”

Will there be a backlash from veterinarians? Possibly. If this bill passes at some time in the future, we could see other pet care costs rise as vets try to make up the loss of income from prescriptions. Ethical? Not really. But it could happen. Many vets already charge for an “office visit.” What's that about? What does that cover? I suppose it allows you and your dog to sit in the lobby for a few minutes.

The one con for the bill that seems like a realistic concern is that pharmacists are not well-versed in dosing for animals. If you take your vet's prescription to your local pharmacy to be filled, your pharmacist might not know about possible substitutions or how they would affect a dog. He or she might not know if it's okay to sell you a different size pill and tell you to cut it in half, and so on. Will your vet be cooperative if the pharmacist has to call to get information?

Other people believe that this bill is a bad idea because they think that the marketplace should sort things out. More laws, even to protect pet owners, would only interfere with the rights of veterinarians to practice and charge what they want.

I was curious about who was supporting this bill and eventually found a group called APAW – Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness. APAW describes itself as “a national coalition of pet owners and advocates dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of America’s pets and empowering pet owners everywhere to demand affordable, quality health care and medicine for their animals.”
On its website, which focuses on the proposed legislation, APAW has a page titled “Where to buy meds” that displays the logos of 45 retail supermarkets and pharmacies. The stores are, or are owned by, Wal-Mart, Costco, K-Mart, Target, Albertson’s, Kroger, Bashas’ and Brookshire Brothers. Also in the listing is one online pharmacy, PetCare Rx. Founded by a petsitter and dogwalker in Huntington Beach, CA, the coalition is made up of politicians, veterinarians, retailers, product companies and shelter groups.

Obviously, these retailers have something to gain by supporting the legislation, but it's good to know who is backing the bill. According to APAW, on average, pet owners can save up to 80 percent on their pets' medications by buying from non-vet sources.

Rep. Matheson also co-sponsored the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003. This act, which passed, requires eye doctors to provide patients with prescriptions that allows them to buy their lenses somewhere else. There are a lot of similarities between this law and the Fairness to Pet Owners Act.

I don't usually like more laws and regulations but this time I think pet owners are over a barrel when it comes to prescriptions. If you need medication for your dog, you don't have options. You have to use a vet. After much thought and consideration of the pros and cons, I think the Fairness to Pet Owners Act is a good idea for pet owners. I think that vets should provide us with a prescription so we can buy medication for our pets anywhere we like. While veterinarians have a near monopoly on selling pet medication, the prices remain high. Giving pet owners more information and options about where they can purchase medication for their pets should help lower costs.

Rep. Matheson is not running for re-election and it is doubtful that this bill will pass during what remains of this Congressional session. However, we can expect to see the Fairness to Pet Owners Act again in the future so remember the pros and cons. As costs for pet care rise, this bill to save pet owners money on prescriptions will probably look better and better.

Sentience Is Not Enough

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

Sentience Is Not Enough

Carlotta Cooper

Animal rights activists have become fond of pointing out that dogs and other animals are “sentient beings,” as though this is a new discovery. In actuality, philosophers and scientists have been discussing the sentience of animals since at least the 18th century. Researchers today seem to amuse themselves by conducting experiments to prove that animals are sentient, but this is not news to most people, especially those of us who have dogs.

Representative Jim Moran (D-Virginia), long a thorn in the side when it comes to animal legislation because of his joined-at-the-hip status with HSUS, recently regaled readers of the political web site TheHill with his thoughts on animals as property and their status as sentient beings.

"I recoil at the mindset, still espoused by some in Congress, that animals are mere property rather than sentient beings. It is that perverse worldview that led to mass exterminations of whole species throughout history,” Moran wrote.

Fortunately Moran, who has received 100 percent ratings from HSUS and been named Humane Legislator of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, is retiring from Congress. However, there are plenty of other members of Congress with this same mindset who shill for HSUS.

Apparently people don't understand what the word “sentient” means. Perhaps the confusion for animal rights people – and that would seem to include Rep. Moran – comes from their own philosophers. Sentience is simply being able to feel or sense; having consciousness. There are some who would argue that trees and plants have sentience. Afterall, there are studies that show plants respond better when you play music for them or talk to them. Vegans could be committing murder when they eat a plate of kale.

When it comes to animals, animal rights activists usually cite the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham as an early founder of animal rights thought. He put forward the idea that if you can feel, then you can suffer; and the ability to suffer conveys certain rights. Even to animals. In Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Bentham wrote:

What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Animal rights activists argue that sentient beings of all kinds can experience feelings of pleasure and pain. Most of us would probably agree with this belief but ARs take it farther and would give animals rights because they can feel.

In the 20th century animal rights philosophers have taken this concept even farther. They have rejected some human rights – among them property rights – in favor of animal rights, calling efforts to keep human rights more important than animal rights “speciesism.” Peter Singer, one of the modern founders of the animal rights movement, wrote the following in his book Animal Liberation:

Assume that, as sometimes happens, an infant has been born with massive and irreparable brain damage. The damage is so severe that the infant can never be any more than a "human vegetable," unable to talk, recognize people, act independently of others, or develop a sense of self-awareness. The parents of the infant, realizing that they cannot hope for any improvement in their child's condition and being in any case unwilling to spend, or ask the state to spend, the thousands of dollars that would be needed annually for proper care of the infant, ask the doctor to kill the infant painlessly.
Legally, the doctor should not [kill the infant], and in this respect the law reflects the sanctity of life view. Yet people who would say this about the infant do not object to the killing of nonhuman animals. How can they justify their different judgments? Adult chimpanzees, dogs, pigs, and members of many other species far surpass the brain-damaged infant in their ability to relate to others, act independently, be self-aware, and any other capacity that could reasonably be said to give value to life. The only thing that distinguishes the infant from the animal, in the eyes of those who claim it has a "right to life," is that it is, biologically, a member of the species Homo sapiens...But to use this difference as the basis for granting a right to life to the infant and not to the other animals is, of course, pure speciesism. It is exactly the kind of arbitrary difference that the most crude and overt kind of racist uses in attempting to justify racial discrimination.

Singer takes Bentham's argument farther. Is an infant's life, even one with brain damage, more important than the life of an animal? Is it discrimination to value the life of a human more than that of an animal? These are the arguments Singer raises, with the obvious belief that an animal life is just as important as a human life.

Gary Francione, another leading animal rights philosopher, has a somewhat different view than Singer. He is an abolitionist."All sentient beings, humans or nonhuman, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others." (From his blog.) For Francione and some other animal rights philosophers, groups such as HSUS are not appreciated because they work incrementally, through legislation, instead of calling for the out and out abolition of pets and animal agriculture. These groups are too slow for some AR philosophers who would like to see an end to animal “enslavement” right away.

There is no reason why sentient beings can't be property. We're talking about dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, and all of the other animals that populate our domesticated world. We're not discussing human beings as slaves, even though ARs like to use the terminology of slavery. Sentience – the ability to sense and feel – doesn't convey some quasi-mystical status that gives animals human rights. Sure they think and feel. I don't think many people are surprised by that news. But they can't be held morally responsible for their actions. They don't know right from wrong as humans do.

I think most of us who have animals support animal welfare rather than animal rights. This is the belief that we are responsible for taking good care of our animals and preventing them from experiencing any unnecessary pain or suffering. We are stewards of the animals in our care and it's up to us to look after each generation so we can pass it along to the people who follow us. That doesn't mean surrendering our human rights or our property rights. It doesn't mean giving animals rights either.

Besides, people don't have to own animals as property to exterminate whole species. Native Americans didn't own the horses that were in the Americas before the continent was colonized by Europeans but they hunted them to extinction. According to biological diversity experts, we are losing dozens of species (including amphibians, birds, fish, insects and other creatures) per day simply because of changes to the environment.

So, Rep. Moran's discussion of the sentience of animals seems a little behind the times. Of course animals are sentient. Of course they feel and sense things. That's not the point. Your dog still can't tell right from wrong beyond knowing he's not supposed to poop in the house – which you have taught him. Your dog doesn't have the moral sense required to make or obey laws in a human society. Your dog needs you to make these decisions for him and take care of him as a domesticated animal. That's why we don't need animal rights. That's why sentience is not enough.

Why the C-BARQ Pet Store Study is Garbage

Why the C-BARQ Pet Store Study is Garbage

Carlotta Cooper

If you are at all familiar with research then you know that there are good studies and bad studies. It's not unusual for the researchers designing the study to have a bias or, in some cases, even set out to prove their own hypothesis, regardless of the facts. Such is the case with a study that has received lots of attention since it came out in 2013 – “Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders,” by Frank McMillan, DVM, Dipl ACVIM, James Serpell, PhD, Deborah L Duffy, PhD, Elmabrok Masoud, PhD, and Ian R. Dohoo, DVM, PhD, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Popular headlines after the release of the study proclaimed, Penn Vet study finds pet store puppies come with increased risk; and Pet store dogs have more psychological problems than dogs from breeders. But the truth is, we still don't know if that's true or not. That's because the research for the study was ridiculously biased.

Since most of us, as hobby breeders, presume that well-socialized puppies raised in the home get a better start in life, it's easy to believe that puppies that come from “noncommercial” breeders are better off from a psychological viewpoint than puppies that come from pet stores. Many of these pet store puppies probably come from commercial – professional – breeders. Hobby breeders believe that our puppies are bred with more care; that the parents are more carefully chosen based on health, genetics, and conformation; and we believe that our puppies are better socialized than any puppies that can come from a commercial breeder. We also believe that we are careful when we place our puppies in new homes. These things may be true in many cases. That's not in dispute in this research.

What should be disputed is the research itself which was slanted from the start toward vilifying puppies that come from pet stores and their commercial breeders.

The study looked at 413 dogs obtained from pet stores and contrasted them to 5657 dogs obtained from breeders. The purpose was to compare purebred dogs from different sources – obtained as puppies – at approximately the same age.

The behavioral measurements for the study were obtained by using an online version of the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ). This questionnaire had 100 questions and was developed by James Serpell, one of the researchers on the team. It asked questions based on the owner's observations of their dog's typical responses to a variety of everyday situations. Behavior assessed included trainability, excitability, aspects of sociability, fearfulness, and expressions of aggression.

The researchers concluded that the data showed that dogs purchased from pet stores were not as psychologically sound as dogs from breeders; they showed less desirable behaviors in most categories; and did not achieve better scores than breeder dogs in any category.

The most troubling results were reported in relation to aggressive behavior. Owners of sexually intact pet store dogs were three times more likely to report that their dogs had acted aggressively toward them than similar dogs from breeders. The data showed that pet store dogs were almost twice as likely to show aggression toward strange dogs. The data even showed that pet store dogs were more likely to have problems with aggression directed toward strangers and toward other dogs in the home. And the study went on and on describing behavior problems in pet store dogs. The researchers were blunt in their assessment: "[U]ntil the causes of the unfavorable differences detected in this group of dogs can be specifically identified and remedied, we cannot recommend that puppies be obtained from pet stores."

Right now you're probably nodding your head and thinking, “I knew it. It's those pet store dogs giving all of us a bad name. Something should be done about them. They're not socialized properly. Let's get rid of them.” Well, hold on. As I said, the problem here is the way this study was conducted – not the dogs.

How can I say that? Because I took the survey for this study myself. Once upon a time I saw an Irish Setter puppy in a pet store, felt sorry for her, and bought her. Believe me when I say there was never a dog with better mental health than Molly the Irish Setter. For that matter, there has probably never been a dog with better physical health. She was my dog well into her teen years with never a health problem of any kind. She had no particular behavior problems unless you consider Irish Setter energy and enthusiasm to be behavior problems (some people do). She was one of the smartest dogs I have ever owned.

So, I felt well-qualified to take the C-BARQ survey for people who had owned pet store dogs. That is why I can say, categorically and under oath, that it was hopelessly slanted toward forcing owners to say that their pet store dogs were sickly and had outrageous behavior problems. Has your dog ever growled at another dog in the house over the best place to sleep? Well then, your dog obviously has problems with aggression. This is not very important if your dog comes from a noncommercial breeder – dogs will be dogs -- but if your dog comes from a pet store, time to call a town meeting! Shut down the pet store!

As a hobby breeder myself, I believe that we breed and raise the best puppies anyone could wish for. But I also like to see honest research and this piece of – research – doesn't cut it. HSUS is currently using this study in an effort to try to eliminate pet stores in many cities. Whether you like pet stores or not, it's important for all dog breeders to realize that when cities and counties shut them down or pass ordinances requiring pet stores to sell only shelter pets, it puts hobby dog breeders at risk. To the general public everyone who breeds a dog is pretty much the same. Your city commission has a hard time distinguishing between a commercial breeder and what you, as a hobby breeder, do. If they get rid of pet stores, the next item on their agenda is getting rid of all breeders. That includes you. Try to stay informed about what is happening in your area. Fight efforts to close pet stores.

By the way, if you're really interested in comparing pet store puppies to puppies from other sources, you can check out this much more comprehensive 1994 study:

Scarlett, Janet M., DVM, PhD; John E. Saidla, DVM; Roy V.H. Pollock, DVM, PhD, “Source of acquisition as a risk factor for disease and death in pups,” Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, 204, No. 12 (1994), 1906-1913.

That study indicates that puppies acquired from pet stores are as healthy as those from any other source. It doesn't suggest any kind of mental or psychological problems for puppies from commercial breeders either. The study determined that the prevalence of serious disease, behavior problems, and congenital problems did not differ significantly regardless of where a puppy comes from. Data were obtained and analyzed for 2,144 pups examined at 65 veterinary hospitals in the northeastern United States to determine whether there were significant differences in the frequency of disease and death among pups acquired from private owners, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/pounds, breeders, or pet stores. All health problems reported by owners and veterinarians in the first 2 weeks of ownership were tabulated. The prevalence of serious disease among pups (resulting in death, euthanasia, return, or extensive treatment) was < 4% for all sources and did not differ significantly between pet stores and other sources. Pups from pet stores had more respiratory tract disease, but fewer fleas and parasites of the intestinal tract. Data supplied by the veterinarians indicated that the risk of intestinal tract diseases was significantly (P < or = 0.01) higher among pups from pet stores and Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/pounds, compared with those from private owners. The prevalence of reported behavioral and congenital problems did not differ among the 4 sources.

The nice thing about this study is that it was not based on an Internet survey and the puppies were examined by veterinary professionals.

The moral of this story is that you should not believe every new study that comes out today, especially if it is being promoted by animal rights groups. Studies are frequently biased, especially if they are about animals. Even if you agree with the results of a study, it's a good idea to ask some questions because the study could very easily be flawed.

Ooo La La! France Changes the Status of Pets

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

Ooo La La! France Changes the Status of Pets

Carlotta Cooper

I happen to believe that most of the bad ideas that crop up in the United States commence in Europe. For Exhibit A I would like to offer a recent vote in the French parlement. Following a petition that was signed by nearly 700,000 French citizens (which goes to show you that mob rule is still not a good idea), the French MPs voted to change the status of animals from personal property (“movable goods”) to “living and feeling beings.”

The law the French were overthrowing dated from 1804 and was part of the Napoleonic Code. The new legislation was sponsored by French President Francois Hollande's Socialist party. Dogs, cats, horses, and other animals in France will now have new rights and stronger protection according to activists. Oddly enough, the French rejected proposals to ban cockfighting and bullfighting.

The original petition was initiated by 30 Millions d'Amis (translated to “30 Million Friends”). The head of that group, Reha Hutin, applauded the vote, telling Britain's Telegraph that by approving the bill the parlement recognized “an obvious fact: animals are beings endowed by feelings.” “[It was] ridiculous to see pets as pieces of furniture that can walk by themselves,” she adds.

By all accounts, the new legislation will give France's 63 million pets more protection from cruelty. (Apparently cockfighting and bullfighting don't matter when it comes to cruelty.) Britain's Daily Mail quoted philosopher and former education minister Luc Ferry, who called the previous status of animals “absurd.” According to Ferry, “animals suffer, they have emotions and feelings. It is not a question of making animals subjects of the law… but simply of protecting them against certain forms of cruelty.”

The change in the status of pets will also mean other things will change. For instance, couples will be able to fight for shared custody of pets in divorce cases. If a pet is run over by a negligent driver, s/he will be able to sue for compensation for suffering. Inheritance laws will also change to allow owners to leave their estates to their pets

Some of these issues are already in play here in the U.S. and have been working their way through the courts. Couples have already gone to court over the custody of pets – and even of stored semen from stud dogs. Owners have sued for suffering and emotional distress over the loss of a pet with varying outcomes. And here in the U.S., many owners leave large sums to their pets or for their future care after their owners die.

While these issues for pet owners in France may seem benevolent there are other issues that could be much more problematic. Critics point out that changing the status of animals could have detrimental effects on breeding, hunting, fishing, and agriculture. There is concern that animal rights activists could use the law to challenge animal slaughter practices by arguing that it is wrong to kill “beings with feelings” or to eat meat. Wolf culls and culls for other dangerous animals could also be challenged. There is also the issue of using animals for medical research which could be challenged on the same grounds.

Not mentioned by critics but no less worrisome is the fact that once pets are no longer an owner's property, an owner has fewer rights regarding the animal. It is much easier for the government or an outside agency to take your pet from you when your pet is not your property. A “living, feeling being” is much more of a free agent or wildcard than a pet who belongs to you by law.

I think we all would like to see animals treated well and have good animal welfare practiced everywhere in the world. Animals are certainly
not furniture. However, the issues that lie ahead in France, now that they have taken this step, may illustrate some of the problems that come when a society changes the status of animals from property to non-property. Just because an animal has feelings doesn't mean it should be autonomous. Or that it needs a lawyer or an activist to speak for it.

Bells Are Ringing! (At Least For Now)

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

Bells Are Ringing! (At Least For Now)

Carlotta Cooper

Dog breeders in Tennessee are celebrating, at least for the next few months. Tennessee recently became the first and, so far, the only state to get rid of a commercial breeder law. It took five years but the law will be gone after June 2014.

It should be said at the start that the commercial breeder law in Tennessee was never as harsh as the laws passed in some states. The law was passed in 2009 during the first wave of commercial breeder laws. Perhaps HSUS had not fine-tuned their approach yet. We also fought the law hard and had a lot of help from hunters as the 2009 legislative session went on. Most legislators would not oppose the law but they were troubled by it enough that they weakened it considerably. In the end, the Tennessee commercial breeder law had a sunset provision. It would end in June 2014 unless the legislature voted to make it permanent.

As you might expect, most of the owner and breeder groups in the state have been watching and waiting anxiously over the last five years to see how things would go. Early on it became apparent that hardly any dog (or cat) breeders were signing up for state licenses. Informal statements made by the new department set up to license and inspect “commercial” breeders suggested that there was no one to license and inspect as described in the commercial breeder law.

This information was confirmed in a state audit from 2012 which revealed that only 20 breeders had signed up for the program. The commercial breeder law had used figures from the Humane Society of the United States which promised 500 breeders in the state would sign up and that the program would be self-sustaining. Not just self-sustaining, but that the program would be a money-maker for the state in terms of sales tax and revenue from breeder license fees. By the end of 2013, the state reported that the program was nearly a million dollars in debt and it would continue to lose approximately $300,000 per year.

Faced with these obvious signs that the commercial breeder law was a complete failure, the Tennessee legislature killed the bill that would have extended the law and made it permanent. Even last ditch efforts by HSUS to extend the law for just one year failed. Sometimes even legislators can tell something is manure when they step in it.

There were other signs that things would not go well for HSUS and animal rights groups during the 2014 session, but they started last year and earlier. HSUS spent at least $100,000 lobbying against a bill in Tennessee in 2013 that would have required someone to share undercover videos of animal abuse with law enforcement. They spent another $100,000 on a media campaign against the same bill – a media campaign that got very ugly and earned them no friends with the public or in the legislature. Many legislators began to see a rotten, bullying side of HSUS that they usually try to conceal.

One result of HSUS's strong arm tactics last year was that every single animal rights bill in the Tennessee legislature was defeated this year. Not just the commercial breeder extension bill, but an animal abuse registry bill, a tethering bill, and others never made it out of committee. Only one bill made it out of a subcommittee.

It would be nice to think that Tennessee dog owners and breeders could count on these results every year but, unfortunately, we can't. Every year is different and this is an election year. Legislators who understand our issues need support. Some may be defeated. Some may retire. New lawmakers are always being elected and they may not know anything about dog breeders or pet issues. No matter what state you live in, it's important for you to stay in touch with your state representative and senator. Let them know how you feel about animal issues. Lawmakers frequently say that they vote for or against something because they only hear from one side. Let your legislators hear from you so they know that dog owners and breeders care about these issues. The same goes for your U.S. representative and senator.

Tennessee owners and breeders owe special thanks to the Tennessee Federation of Dog Clubs, the Sportsmen's and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance (SAOVA), and to the AKC for their legislative help this year. Thank you to everyone who made a phone call or sent an e-mail. Now we'll start working on next year's agenda because we know that HSUS will be back with another version of a commercial breeder bill.

Is Your Breed "Vulnerable"?

This article originally appeared in Dog News and is published here by permission of the author.

Is Your Breed “Vulnerable”?

Carlotta Cooper

The Kennel Club in Britain recently released their 2013 registration information, including breed figures. For those of us with breeds with smaller registration numbers, even in the U.S., it's refreshing to see this kind of information. I have a breed (English Setters) that's been hovering around the “vulnerable” mark in Britain – that is, a native British breed with fewer than 300 individuals registered per year. English Setters grew from 312 puppies registered in 2012 to 326 registered in 2013. Pop the champagne! It's certainly too soon to celebrate but just a couple of years ago the breed only registered 234 puppies after a decade of decline. And the English Setter is by no means as bad off as some of the other native breeds. You can see registration numbers for the breeds registered in the UK here, along with their 2012 numbers.

Total Kennel Club registration figures for 2013 were 223,770. That's 5,460 fewer than in 2012 which represents a 2 percent drop, though Kennel Club officials note that the last quarter of the year showed a slight recovery in numbers. The three most popular breeds in Britain remain the same as in 2012, though with slightly reduced numbers: Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels (English, to us), and the English Springer Spaniel. You should keep in mind that the United Kingdom is a nation of some 63 million people when looking at their numbers – about one-fifth the population of the United States at 313 million people.

Vulnerable breeds, overall, increased their registrations by about 2 percent. However, some vulnerable breeds continue to struggle. Registrations for the Skye Terrier, for example, fell by 59 percent last year with the breed registering only 17 puppies.

Unfortunately, we currently have little idea what the individual breed figures are for our breeds here in the U.S. Per Alan Kalter's recent Chairman's Report, the AKC registered 479,404 dogs in 2013, but I haven't seen an individual breakdown of the breeds. I think we all know that there are plenty of pressures on breeders and buyers today which are responsible for the drop in registrations. We have a heavy push from animal shelters for people to get a mixed breed dog instead of buying a purebred puppy. Animal rights people talk trash about dog breeders and purebred dogs at every opportunity. It's more expensive to breed and show dogs today. New laws make it harder and harder to keep and raise dogs. There is lots of social pressure on dog owners to spay and neuter puppies as soon as possible instead of thinking about breeding a litter at some point. We're living in a different world than the one that existed in 1992 when AKC registered 1.5 million dogs.

Since we are living in a different world today, we need to get rid of the old playbook, especially those of us who have “vulnerable” breeds. We may not have the same kennel club-sanctioned program here in the U.S. that exists in Britain, but there are certainly breeds here which have to be cognizant of the fact that we don't register many dogs each year and we have a small gene pool. That's why it would be so helpful if AKC would once again start posting the breed registration statistics – both the litters and individual dogs registered. If the AKC is now registering one-third of the dogs that they registered in 1992, it means that the individual breed numbers are also down. We need to know what those numbers are so we can take action. There are many people in each breed who won't take these issues seriously until they see how low the numbers in their breed have gotten in the last few years.

Your Flat-Coated Flugelhound may still be ranked 54th in the registration rankings but that tells you nothing about how many litters are born or how many dogs are registered. Your breed might be on the verge of extinction and you wouldn't know it.

Now, according to the old playbook, we, as “responsible breeders” sold puppies on limited registration or with spay/neuter contracts. We did not breed every puppy in a litter. We didn't have to because there were lots of puppies being produced and we could pick and choose. Even as more and more health and genetic tests became available, we could toss out any dog who had the slightest problem we didn't like. And you know what happened? We now have fewer and fewer dogs being bred and fewer puppies being registered.

I think, when we see those individual breed statistics again, we will find that many breeds are looking at low numbers. If we want to save our breeds, we have to change our thinking and our tactics.

  • No more spay/neuter contracts unless a puppy has a serious fault.

  • Encourage your puppy buyers to consider breeding their puppy when s/he's an adult. Become a mentor to them.

  • Try to use more dogs and bitches in each litter for breeding.

  • Don't remove dogs from your breeding program for small problems. Weigh and consider pros and cons of health issues.

  • Learn more about genetics and good breeding practices in general.

I'm not saying to produce a lot of mutts or become a puppy farmer. I'm not telling you to lower your standards. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't health test your dogs. What I am saying is that these suggestions can help breeds who have lower numbers. Include more puppy buyers in your future breeding plans and more dogs in the gene pool and it can help increase the number of dogs bred as well as the overall health of the breed. This isn't something that I thought of all by myself. Some of these ideas come from population genetics. It's good to use more dogs and bitches in the gene pool; and it's good to keep individuals in the gene pool if they don't have major problems and you use them sparingly. Most of all, you want to breed more instead of less. If we don't do some of the things recommended here for breeds with low numbers, then at some point in the future it might become necessary to use outcross breeding to try to save various breeds. I don't think that's something that most breeders of purebred dogs look forward to with pleasure.

I think it would be great if AKC would do something to encourage breeders with some of the breeds with low numbers but they would have to identify them first. Maybe they could reduce the price of registering a litter by a few dollars or give a breeder/owner some recognition for persevering with these breeds – it's really not easy finding majors when you have a breed with such low numbers! (Especially if you live in the middle of nowhere, as I do.) We need to keep these breeders and owners involved with their breeds or they will be doomed to extinction.

I know these ideas go against the grain for many breeders. They are contrary to popular thought today that encourages people to spay/neuter every dog and breed very little. But if we want to keep a lot of our breeds around, we need to take actions like these. If you love your breed and you want to make them less vulnerable, keep breeding, despite all the obstacles. Their futures are in our hands and we have to make sure we leave them strong and healthy for the next generation.

Now, if we can just see those breed statistics.