Monday, August 16, 2010

The Super Nanny State


A version of this piece in the current edition of Dogs Today.

Have you ever noticed that the same people who want to ban all tail docking are the very same people who want mandatory spay and neuter laws?

Why is one bit of 10-second work considered "mutilation," while the other (major surgery) is considered the height of responsible ownership?

Would these same people push for mandatory spay-neuter laws for humans while supporting a ban on all nipple-piercings, tattoos, circumcisions, tummy tucks and Botox injections for people?

And what do these people have to say about Mother Nature which makes naturally bob-tailed animals (including dogs and cats) but which makes no animals without reproductive organs?

If "natural" is good and "artificial" is bad, then perhaps they might want to rethink their position?

Or is this simply a case of nannyism
-- the precursor to jack-booted authoritarianism?

To be clear, I am no libertarian. Call me a communist if you want, but I think there is a place for police and fire departments, and I want the public health service to be fully funded. I am affirmatively in support of regulated commerce.

I readily concede there is a place for the state to intercede when individuals maintain misery by not properly taking care of their charges, whether those charges are human or animal.

And I am all in favor of spaying and neutering dogs. All of my own dogs have been "fixed," and I encourage others to do the same.

But I do not demand it
.

Surely, we still live in a free world where a difference of opinion is still allowed if it harms no one, man or animal alike?

And if we are going to start legislating dogs, why would anyone start at the tail?

In a world where dozens of breeds, such as the English Bulldog, the Pug, and the Boston Terrier cannot breathe due to overly flat faces, and hundreds of breeds have rising rates of defect and disease due to a legacy of inbreeding within a closed registry system, why would anyone elevate tail docking to the top of their concern pile?

Some will say that dogs cannot give permission for tail docking.

Right.

Does anyone seriously think dogs are giving permission for spays or neuters, poodle haircuts, or vaccines? Dogs do not sign permission slips when they get microchipped and tattooed for identification purposes. And no, on their last day on earth, they are not asked to sign a release before a veterinarian with a syringe full of sodium pentobarbital sends them on their way.

Dogs are not people. Does this really have to be said?

Now, to be clear, I have no problem if folks do not want to dock their own dogs. In fact, I applaud it. Let freedom ring.

Of course, not everyone agrees on that either. On the opposite side of the fence from those that would ban all tail docking are those who would mandate it.

Mandate it?

Yes. At a recent American Kennel Club show in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (USA), a judge disqualified a Weimeraner because it had an undocked tail.

Ridiculous.

But, of course, no more ridiculous than those who would wade in to ban the practice!

Those who oppose all tail docking claim the procedure, done at one or two days of age, causes great pain to the pup.

Nonsense.

Most of these people have never seen a tail get docked. And perhaps you have not either.

No matter.

The good news is that in this modern age anyone can see what all the fuss is about by simply going to Youtube and typing in "Tail Docking and Dew Claw Removal in 2 Day-Old Pups:Torture or Not?"

And while you are there, type in "Dr Greg spays a female dog" and "Dr. Greg neuters." All three procedures are performed by the same vet. Compare and contrast.

With a tail nip, the dog is ready for its mothers teat a minute or two after the start.

With a spay and neuter, it's heavy sedation, 12 hours at the vet, and a cone around the neck for 10 days!

Some claim a docked tail is a hindrance to canine movement and communication.

Really? It has never been a problem for Corgis, Australian Shepherds or other naturally docked breeds that seem to communicate well and run without a hitch.

So why are the tails of some breeds docked at all?

The answer is that some breeds have long thin tails that can be damaged when whipped about in brush or worked in rock. Dogs of these breeds may benefit medically if their tails are docked. How often an over-thin and fragile tail is a real medical problem depends on the breed, the dog, how it works, where it works, and if it is worked at all. In all cases however, a tail trim on day two is much simpler and less complicated than a tail dock at a later age.

Some will argue that if dog tails were not docked, breeders would breed dogs with stronger or shorter tails.

No doubt they are right. But have the proponents of this argument really thought this one through? You see, we are not talking about a theoretical world, but a real one.

In the real world, breeding for a thicker or shorter tail will mean a further narrowing of the gene pool within the Kennel Club's closed registry system. Breeds that have already been pushed to the edge by generations of inbreeding, may be pushed over the edge if tail selection results in a third or more of all dogs being removed from the gene pool. Yes, after 20 years you may have a tail you can live with, but at what price in terms of rising cancer, cataracts, liver failure and epilepsy within the breed?

Opponents of tail docking argue, that most tail docking is done for cosmetic and historical reasons.

True enough, but so what? We do a lot of things for cosmetic and historical reasons. Why can't tail tail docking be one of them?

People circumcise their children, and whole TV shows are devoted to tattoos. Every third teenager has a pierced tongue, nipple, eyebrow or navel. Women are getting breast implants or breast reductions, and men are getting hair transplants and scalp reductions.

Noses are bobbed, fat is sucked out, teeth are capped, Botox is injected, and ears are being pierced, ringed, barbelled, and pinned.

Have you ever been to a PeTA rally? If you look around, you will see a lot of metal hanging out of nostrils, off of eye brows, or rammed through tongues. Every other girl will be showing off her "tramp stamp" tattoo on the small of her back. God only knows what you might find ringed, belled and pierced if you were foolish enough to ever see one of these people standing before you naked. The mind shudders.

PeTA spokes-idiot Pamela Anderson, has had her own body repeatedly tucked, sucked, injected, lifted, dyed, bobbed, and implanted.

And these people are worried about a ten-second tail nip? What on earth for?

There are real problems in the world of dogs, and this is NOT one of them.

Not everything in the world needs to be legislated, and this is something that fits under the umbrella of "leave it alone and let freedom ring."

But, of course, people cannot do that.

And why not?

Simple: the fixation on dog tails has nothing to do with dogs.

This is part of a larger cultural war that pits liberals versus conservatives, rural vs. urban, vegan vs. meat eaters, and traditional Britain versus "Euro-England."

Whatever side you are on is fine with me; just don't tell me you are fighting about dogs!
.

16 comments:

HurricaneDeck said...

Anti-tail docking folks make me crazy. As do the anti-debarkers, who are so pleased that they got their legislation passed through Massachusetts. No doubt other states will follow suit. I am curious now to see how many dogs end up in the pound because they are chronic barkers and their owners can do nothing about it but give them up (Shelties come to mind).

The people who are against such procedures have never seen a dog's tail broken, and they've never watched the painful limp of an adult dog whose dewclaw has been ripped off in the brush.

I like to do my tails and dews at birth - easy, simple and all the "trauma" is over and done with quickly!

Ah - and I am reminded of the lady who told me that docking is cruel - while standing there holding her infant girl who had her ears pierced!! THAT was a WTF moment for sure.

Anton said...

psst Posum still has his balls i believe ;)

re:"All of my own dogs have been fixed"

Luisa said...

Stands, applauds [and is late for work, but never mind that now].

In a just world, the extreme levels of cognitive dissonance produced by supporting spay/neuter while pushing for bans on ear-cropping, debarking, etc. would be too much for a single human head, thereby causing said head to explode, thereby ridding the world of quite a few unpleasant little fascist wannabees.

Yes, Smoke still has his balls.

And for the record, I hate hate hate ear-cropping and debarking.

Sean said...

Good points, but I have to disagree with the principle that circumcision is ok. A person will eventually be able to give consent and a child is not a dog.

If you grow up and chose to believe that the supreme power in the universe is deeply concerned about foreskin then have it done yourself. How can we say circumcision is fine, but clitorectomies of Islamic baby girls is bad? Infant genital mutilation (of either sex) should not be tolerated.

PBurns said...

Anton, you are right about Possum-Gideon being intact, but this was written three months ago and Possum-Gideon was not on the radar then as Trooper was very much alive (and neutered). The distance between the cup and the lip (writing and publication) in a magazine is long one!

P.

PBurns said...

Sean, the principal is not that circumcision is OK. I have no point of view, though the Center for Disease Control DOES, and it is that your child be circumcised for health reasons.

See >> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/15/AR2010011503106.html

Read that again: the CDC says research shows a substantial health benefit to circumicision.

Does that mean we should now DEMAND and REQUIRE male circumcision as a matter of law? I would say NO. But then, I am not an authoritarian. Let freedom ring!

The principal is that coercion is not Step One.

Research is Step One.

Education is Step Two.

Persuassion is Step Three.

Incentives are Step Four.

Coercion (law) is way down the list and speaks to a failure of persuassion.

As a general rule, coercion is not needed except in those areas where the behavior is self-rewarding.

Cicumcision and tail docking do not fit that bill.

Neither, should it be said, does female genital mutilation (or genital cutting), which is often a great deal less grotesque that it sounds (though it can be every bit as grotesque; cultures and practices differ widely).

It should be said that female genital mutilation is NOT similar in any way to circumcision. Making a parallel here is simply medically wrong. And, of course, female genital cutting happens with most babies, but we do not call that female genital mutilation. We call that an episiotomy. My point here is that quick and facile comparisons are not useful. Research is Step One.

As odd as it may sound, I have know two of the world's experts in the area of female genital mutilation, and have read some of their stuff. One was Gordy Wallace, one of the funders of the Wallace Foundation that funds NPR. The other is Gerry Mackie, who I first met when he was a tree planter and have not see in 20 years (though I do look him up!). Since I knew Mackie, he has gone on to graduate school in London, and is now at the University of California as a professor. Gerry has found that the law does not work in Africa, but that simple social persuassion of a communal sort does. See >> http://www.tostan.org/data/images/femalegenitalcutting_thebeginningoftheend%20gerry%20mackie.pdf

P

PBurns said...

Sean, the principal is not that circumcision is OK. I have no point of view, though the Center for Disease Control DOES, and it is that your child be circumcised for health reasons.

See >> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/15/AR2010011503106.html

Read that again: the CDC says research shows a substantial health benefit to circumicision.

Does that mean we should now DEMAND and REQUIRE male circumcision as a matter of law? I would say NO. But then, I am not an authoritarian. Let freedom ring!

The principal is that coercion is not Step One.

Research is Step One.

Education is Step Two.

Persuassion is Step Three.

Incentives are Step Four.

Coercion (law) is way down the list and speaks to a failure of persuassion.

As a general rule, coercion is not needed except in those areas where the behavior is self-rewarding.

Cicumcision and tail docking do not fit that bill.

Neither, should it be said, does female genital mutilation (or genital cutting), which is often a great deal less grotesque that it sounds (though it can be every bit as grotesque; cultures and practices differ widely).

It should be said that female genital mutilation is NOT similar in any way to circumcision. Making a parallel here is simply medically wrong. And, of course, female genital cutting happens with most babies, but we do not call that female genital mutilation. We call that an episiotomy. My point here is that quick and facile comparisons are not useful. Research is Step One.

As odd as it may sound, I have know two of the world's experts in the area of female genital mutilation, and have read some of their stuff. One was Gordy Wallace, one of the funders of the Wallace Foundation that funds NPR. The other is Gerry Mackie, who I first met when he was a tree planter and have not see in 20 years (though I do look him up!). Since I knew Mackie, he has gone on to graduate school in London, and is now at the University of California as a professor. Gerry has found that the law does not work in Africa, but that simple social persuassion of a communal sort does. See >> http://www.tostan.org/data/images/femalegenitalcutting_thebeginningoftheend%20gerry%20mackie.pdf

P

PBurns said...

Answer: No one cares about an animal that does not care about them. And so no one cares too much about cats. The AR folks are not about common sense, policy or real problems; they are about fundraising (sales) and attention-whoring. Dogs are perfect for that agenda, but cats are not.

Sean said...

Patrick. I largely agree with what you have said above. While this is far afield from the subject of dogs, I think the subject is an important one.

The CDC has changed course. The US is the only first world country to have a medical organization recommend this practice in recent history. The reasons seem to shift (keep kids from masturbating, now disease prevention). The newly claimed benefit, however, only affects sexually mature men, not babies. There is no reason to do this to babies except that they cannot talk and therefore cannot protest (and bronze age superstitions recommend it). If a man capable of consent decides he wants to give up sensation in exchange for reduced risk of STD infection, let him do so. The reasons for doing this to infant boys is the same for cutting girls sexual organs.

Nothing (not even according to the CDC) would be lost in performing this procedure when the patient is old enough to participate in the decision.

Viatecio said...

We have had many many litters in within the past three weeks at my place of internship for tails and dewclaws.

I finally got to see a declaw surgery today, and we've had a recent spate of earcrops because a local Dobe breeder had a litter and recommends this particular vet for his artistry.

In each case, I can see why someone might be against them (and I do believe that pups feel their tails being cut off, even though they quiet down very quickly afterward!). However, I stand by the vets when they say that, if they don't do the procedures, people will take it upon themselves to do it. And we all know what happens when ears are scissored off in the back yard without anesthesia or asepsis. We all know what happens to that cat where it's the difference between the operation and staying in the home versus being put outside permanently or going to an already overburdened feline shelter.

There's a reason people choose to go to a vet to get these procedures done, the main one being that they might not have the ability or the knowledge to do it themselves, especially in a safe way. I know some breeders do their own tails, and that is fine, since most of them do the job well and I have no right to pick on them. However, for the average BYB (of which population I suspect some of these are), they'd rather a trained professional do it.

I know I certainly wouldn't do my own tattoo or pierce my own tongue...not that I was going to anyway...

PBurns said...

Good news Sean: You can do anything you want with your own penis.

Also good news: You can decide whether you want your prospective son's penis circumcised or not.

Bad news: You do NOT get to decide what anyone else does with their penis or their son's penis.

How is that for clarity!?

Of course, some women might not think an uncircumcised penis is such a great thing, and one of those women *might* be your wife.

You see the research shows that uncircumcised men are a healthy issue to themselves AND OTHERS, including WOMEN.

And yes, the research also shows that lack of circuncision is a health problem for INFANTS.

As The Washinton Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/15/AR2010011503106.html notes (you clearly did not read the article):

_ _ _ _ _ _

"In addition to reducing the risk for urinary tract infections among INFANTS, studies indicate that circumcision cuts the chances of adult men's getting penile cancer and becoming infected with a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, AIDS, herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts in men and women and cervical cancer in women."
_ _ _ _ __


HPV, of course, is a primary driver for cervical cancer in women.

Use the Google, and you will find that failure to circumcise is actually a real health issue -- and that scores of thouands of people are dying every year because they or their partner did not get the procedure done.

But, to come back to it, I am OK with choice.

I am OK if you want to risk your son's life or his wife's life, or the welfare of your grandchildren to come.

To put a point on it, people also smoke (and those peksy health researchers changed their story on that too!), have loaded guns in the house, drink booze, drive too fast, surf on the North Shore of Hawaii (craziest thing to do, ever!) and have unprotected sex.
Child-birth is not risk-free, for woman or child.

Life comes with risks, and the job is to make people aware of the risks and let them choose.

As for children, parnts make decisions about their kids all the time, and those decisions are irrevokable.

Did you vaccinate your kids? Of course you did! And why? Because though the chance of death from disease was low without vaccination (herd health and all that), you wanted to lower the risk and also there is some social responsibility here too.

Now about circumcision?

Circumcision lowers HIV and HPV infection rates (both lead to predictable death). It lowers rates of cancer of the penis and rate of syphillis and herpes (more death) How much death and misery needs to be avoided to balance the equation for you? Are you OK with 10 deaths this year? 100 deaths this year? 10,0000 deaths in a decade? 100,000 deaths in a decade?

Or are you just OK with education and persuassion and letting freedom ring?

Because you see, there is a good reason to MANDATE circumcision.

But, for the record, I am against that. Because I believe in freedom and SCIENCE. Not religion. Not "someone somewhere told me something once and..."

Above all, I believe in "the Google" and the CDC. ;)

P.

D said...

Umm, Sean,
As the mother of a child whose penis was summarily mutilated at the age of 3 days, without his consent, I want to share with you that there are real-world reasons for the procedure that have nothing to do with 'tradition' and everything to do with health. Let me explain.

I have a brother who believes much as you seem to. He has opined at great length about how our mother 'sanctioned mutilating his manhood' because it was 'the socially popular thing to do.' He gave her, and the rest of us, no end of grief about it, for years, and felt he had been cheated out of some magical sense of 'feeling' that he would now never get to experience due to the loss of this foreskin. He read every article he could find about how 'wrong' this was to us, with no lack of drama and pathos for his irrevocable loss. And so, as could easily be predicted, when his firstborn son came into the world, he left the hospital with his foreskin intact. Huzzah! Freedom rings! No one was going to cheat HIS child out of that magical 'sensitivity' that poor Papa could only read about...

...of course, several years later, my nephew had to be rushed to the hospital for an EMERGENCY circumcision. Yes, you read that right. Seems that when he reached puberty and his organs began to grow, his foreskin did not retract properly, trapping the head of his penis (the glans) and the resulting loss of blood very nearly cost the poor boy the tip of his manhood instead of just the foreskin. The procedure for a near-adult is MUCH more painful and invasive than that for an infant, and he was in the hospital for several days. Thankfully, the end of his penis was merely bruised and did not slough, but there was much concern for the first few days as it turned first purple, then near black...

Of course, he had a younger brother at home who was also uncircumcised. Younger brother did not make it as long as is older brother; he was rushed to the ER at about 9 for... you guessed it... emergency circumcision. Caught it earlier this time and again no tragic result, but still.

Their youngest was born a year or so later, and was circumcised at the hospital. My brother says that he didn't want to have to explain to him why he was 'different' than his brothers, or cause him undue embarrassment. Uh-huh. Well, at least he endured less trauma and pain than either of his brothers with the procedure, not to mention the near-loss of the end of his penis...

When my son was born, I opted for circumcision. I do not have a prejudice against uncircumcised men; my life mate is one. However, as a mother who had the well being of her child to consider, I took into account the two nephews who had this happen, and my decision was that protecting that tag of skin was not as important to me as protecting his ability to procreate *at all.* Is this a family quirk, one that could show up in MY son? Who knows; how many generations of our family were routinely circumcised, who keeps track of that kind of genetic knowledge? And, who knows what kind of damage losing the end of your penis can cause to the rest of the organ? Would the blood vessels that cause erection be damaged beyond their ability to work? No... I felt it was wiser to have the procedure done. My son fussed for an hour or so, then blip. You do the math. ;o)

I mention this because it is relevant to our larger freedoms, including the issues of tail docking, de-barking, etc. All such decisions are personal, i.e., everyone who comes to the decision point, will-he-won't-he, comes with a different set of problems and a unique situation. It is my strong opinion that we introduce 'mandatory' laws in most things at our peril. These decisions are best left to the mothers/owners/responsible parties and their doctors/vets/medical specialists. Anything else is simply tyranny of the majority.

PBurns said...

OK, I said no more penis stuff, but that was an interesting story you have to admit.

Anyone who wants to know more about human penises(what is the plural of this word??) is free to use the Google and write their ass off somewhere else. This blog is not about human penises, even if I have written about gorilla and duck dongs in the past (also about a museum of animals dongs, I should add).

P.

D said...

My apology P; it was not really my intent to discuss human hardware, as such. It was more of an attempt (and I apologize for its round-about-ness) to explain that in issues that to some seem cut-and-dried, such as mandatory spay/neuter or docking/ear crops, it is not always the way it seems. Opponents of cropping/docking are adamant in their position that it is *only* a cosmetic decision; they fail utterly to consider the health aspects or claim that those who try to point them out are simply rationalizing their cruelty. I was using the foreskin issue and our family's experience to underscore that these decisions are often based of FAR more than a casual observer (or worse, one with a particular bias or agenda) could really imagine. Which is why I am in favor of leaving these decisions up to the individuals involved and their health care providers, rather than trying to second guess or worse, bully people (ESPECIALLY legally!) into accepting a 'moral' imperative that has far less to do with morality than it does control issues. Sorry that the message got lost in the rhetoric. ;o)

Hershey said...

Regarding cats and the declaw procedure, most vets do not educate owners about the cons of declawing, and most owners don't even give a thought to what the procedure entails. Few owners know that it is not the removal of the nail itself, but a 10 digit amputation where each toe is cut at the joint. Few owners know that the paws of a declawed cat are left sensitive, and the cat has to adjust to a different method of walking. (Cats walk on their toes.) Litterbox aversion and declawing go hand in hand, with many cats preferring to not use the box because the clay or gravel litter hurts their feet. Not to mention many cats resorting to a bite first, rather than the typical front paw warning swipe; they learn, over time, that their paws are useless for defense, so they skip right to biting. Working with cats at both a shelter and a vet hospital for years now, I have seen many a cat abandoned or put to sleep because of behavior problems caused by declawing. A cat that scratches the couch can be encouraged to use a scratching post. A pity that cats are widely considered "second-class citizens."

Her Royal Highness Pookie said...

I'm not fond of cropping ears or docking tails for a few reasons:
- it gives up the breeder's duty to a surgeon (i.e. if you want your breed to have short tails or ears a certain shape, then breed them that way - the genes are out there.)
- it adds unnecessary stress to puppies at a very delicate age.
- And most importantly, it leads to in increased risk of incontinence later in life. People seem to overlook this particular fact, but it's shown up in several veterinary studies of incontinence. And no one likes a leaky dog.

[references:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8236712
Association in bitches between breed, size, neutering and docking, and acquired urinary incontinence due to incompetence of the urethral sphincter mechanism.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19457785
Spaying-related urinary incontinence and oestrogen therapy in the bitch.
"the disease seems to be associated with tail docking"