Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sick Puppies and Broken Dogs

Steve Dean is the new Chairman of the Kennel Club.
Art by Kevin Brockbank, for the August 2011 issue of  Dogs Today

It's Time To Stop Praying
at the Church of the Kennel Club.

I have a low tolerance for whiners and professional victims, and it comes out two ways in the world of dogs.

The most common way is in a kind of “compassion fatigue” for people who do not do serious research when it comes to buying dog.

If you bought a dog at a pet store or from an ad out of the back of a newspaper, and everything did not work out for you, please do not come complaining to me!

Ditto if you are the kind of person who got a Boston terrier or an English bulldog that cannot breathe, a dachshund with a back problem, or a show line German shepherd that walks like a drunk exiting a bar after midnight.

What part of “read a book,” “be a consumer,” and “this is an important decision” did you not understand?

On the other end of the stick, are the folks breeding and selling diseased and defective dogs with fabricated histories and contrived standards.

The world is no longer saluting your nonsense? Boo hoo! Let me pour you a big pot of pity and never mind the dogs!


Where Do Dogs Come From?

The good news is that the world is not chock full of fools.

In the U.S., more than half of all dogs are mixed breeds of some kind, and almost none of these are overly extreme in appearance or deeply inbred genetically.

Of the 47 percent of American dogs that are purebred, only 25 percent are registered with the American Kennel Club — the rest are not registered at all, are registered with a breed-specific registry, or hold paper from some other registry.

To put it another way, 87 percent of American dogs are not registered with the AKC

In the United Kingdom, two-thirds of all dogs are said to be purebred, but this number is a bit deceptive as the number two and number three breeds, in terms of popularity, are the Jack Russell terrier and the border collie.

These two “breeds” are really types, bred for function rather than for show. The owners of these dogs have never been too finicky about closing the gate on their respective gene pools.

If the dog works like a Jack Russell terrier or a border collie, and looks like one, then it’s pure enough. Oh, you have a piece of paper? Excellent, but I am not sure the fox or the sheep much care!

If you add the border collie and the Jack Russell terrier to the “not bred within a closed registry” tally, the non-pedigree population of dogs in the U.K comes within striking distance of what we see in the United States.

What about dogs bred within the closed registry systems of the Kennel Club?

The story here is mixed.

Some breeds, such as beagles, are quite healthy. Others are burdened by genetic problems, such as skin allergies, which may cause a lifetime of misery. Many have decent, if somewhat shortened, lives up until a few weeks or months prior to their death due to cancer, liver, or kidney disease. Quite a large number of Kennel Club dogs live to ripe old age with grey muzzle and rheumy eyes. In truth, most Kennel Club dogs are reasonably healthy, and only about two dozen breeds are so wrecked as to require a caution flag under any and all circumstances. What’s amazing is that these broken breeds still sell!


Failed Consumers Buy Defective Corporate Products

To be clear, there’s no shortage of crap breeds being produced by the Kennel Club. On this score I pull no punches. If you are buying a Pekingese, a pug, a cavalier, a Dogue De Bordeaux, an English bulldog or any of about two dozen other breeds I can rattle off in short order, you are simply a fool the same as someone buying a model of car famous for shoddy workmanship and dodgy design. You would never buy a car based solely on a dealer’s brochure, would you?

Yet people buy dogs all the time after doing little more than reading a Kennel Club sales brochure or an all-breed picture book, somehow oblivious to the fact that Kennel Club breeds are simply corporate products manufactured under license and with approved (if defective) standards.

It is sad, but true, that most folks spend more time planning their vacations than they do reading up on the health, training, temperament and exercise needs of a dog they hope to spend the next 15 years with.

And yet how often do we give these shoddy consumers a pass when they get a dog that is diseased, defective or unsuitable?

Too often!

Why? Has extending sympathy to such people helped the dogs? Not from what I can tell; in fact, quite the opposite. Too often these same people turn around and simply buy another dog of the same breed.

Is there a better definition of insanity than doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result? If so, I have not heard it!

The time has come for a new approach – a kind of tough love. The simple truth is that stupid consumers and willful ignorants are not victims, they are participants in systematic canine abuse.

We are supposed to pity poor Harriet because she bought a Pekingese that cannot breath and now has to pay for expensive soft palette surgery for her dog? How about if we shun her instead?


Pedophiles and Puppies

In fact, how about if we treat everyone who owns a Kennel Club dog a bit like someone who announces they are Catholic?

You are Catholic, eh?

There is a pause. Both sides know what is being thought; now the only question is whether it will actually be said.

“What are your thoughts on the pedophilia?” you might ask. “Have you thought about changing churches, especially now that you have children?

How rude, some may say.

Really?

You think it rude to ask how -- in a world where there are a thousand ways to salute God -- someone would choose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a church hierarchy that winks at child buggery and has shied away from naming the problem and finding solutions for hundreds of years?

I guess we differ there!

But is it any different in the world of dogs?

When pressed about the physical abuse and pain heaped on dogs by extreme standards, and the systematic inbreeding of dogs within a closed registry system, the Kennel Club is quick to blame “the Victorians.” There is little they can do to change things quickly, they explain. It will take time. Reform will be slow. But good news; they have created an advisory committee of show dog breeders to point the way forward!

Right. And the Vatican has also put the question of what to do about pederasty to a group of celibate old men who think it perfectly fine to wear dresses to the office.

What? You are making a parallel between the Kennel Club and the Vatican? That’s outrageous!

Really? Which side have I offended?

And, of course the parallels go on.

When asked about pedophilia, the Catholic Church routinely claims such problems are quite localized. Yes, Saint Anthony’s church had “that problem,” but the Church is in “this world” and “not immune” from “such things.”

Now we know the truth: child buggery in the Catholic Church is a global problem and has gone on for centuries.

In fact, it has been so chronic and systematic that the Vatican has had a “pedophile referee” at the Vatican for decades.

That man is now the Pope.

But again, is any of this different from what we see at the Kennel Club?

The problems associated with extreme exaggeration or “selection for defect” are not new and neither are the diseases and illnesses associated with inbreeding.

These problems are not confined to one breed or one country, but cut across many breeds and many countries.

And who is the new Pope at the Kennel Club? What faces are we to see in the College of Cardinals choosing the way forward for the Church of the Kennel Club?

Why, none other than an unbroken phalanx of show dog breeders!


Vote With Your Feet… and Your Wallet

Do I think change is possible?

Absolutely.

In fact, I know change is possible for both the Kennel Club and the Catholic Church.

But neither side will see the light until they have first felt the heat.

Things will not change until the pews are bare and the collection plates are empty.

The way forward is not just to yell at the Kennel Club or to yell at the Church: it’s to vote with your feet and your wallet.

If you are buying a Kennel Club dog or attending a dog show, you are part of the problem, same as the Catholic Church parishioner who throws his fiver into the plate every Sunday morning, and who marches his child to alter boy practice on Tuesday and Thursday.

A victim? I think not. A participant!

_ _ _ A version of this piece appears in the August issue of Dogs Today
. 

12 comments:

Kate Price said...

Me!!

I hope that from my end of the stick I am preventing others joining me, and trying to make change at the other end of the stick, but the way things are going the stick needs to be just snapped in half or burnt.

PBurns said...

You are indeed helping Kate -- a lot. What has to happen is that people like you have to stand up, suit up, and speak up. They have to bear witness in the old-fashioned religious sense of that word, because the dogs cannot speak for themselves. They are like small abused children in that regard.

The show people and dog breeders, of course, are not happy to have people note the systematic abuse of dogs that has gone on the name of purity, pedigree, and contrived and exaggerated standards. They cry, wail, and gnash their teeth. They heap invective on any who tell the story of what has happened to the dogs on behalf of the dogs. They pound the wall and howl at the moon and claim discrimination and exaggeration. But I have learned one thing from 30 years of hunting vermin in politics and in the field -- if it is not making noise, you are not yet moving it. The barking, growling, and ad hominem attacks heaped on people like Jemima Harrison and others that have stood up for the dogs (James Serpell, Donald McCaig, David Sargan, Beverly Cuddy, Patrick Bateson, and even myself), is nothing but proof that the ice is breaking up. Standards have been changed (albeit only slightly), registrations are being opened (albeit only a crack). This is how the the break up of ancient ice always starts -- with a long period of heat and then a few fissures and loud pops that sound like a gun shot. We may yet see real change. It is a process, not an event, and the process will stop as soon as the heat stops. But slowly, things are happening, and it is happening to correct over 100 years of abuse that the Kennel Club hierarchy still wishes could be swept under the rug. What side are you on? Do you stand with the dogs. You do Kate, and that is making a world of difference.

P

retromodernist said...

Well said, Pat. You, beverly and Jemimah have been an inspiration to me recently.

My dogs have always been rescue dogs, and I've long been suspicious of the purebreed industry. Even before I became aware of all the health issues arising from inbreeding and excessive conformation, I worried about treating dogs like brands of beans.

Where I live, the Jack Russell rules. Some are lanky, others look like barrels. They are black, they are tan, they are white and they a mix of the lot. My last one looked a bit like a collie. My new one's dad probably shagged a daschund. Or a corgi. Or something. Whatever.

What's telling is that nobody seems to really care what size and shape they are. They keep them, mate them, pass them on, and they seem to thrive as a result. No health tests, no hip scores, just lots of yappy, happy Jackies. I love it.

PBurns said...

Thanks retromodernist!

The purebreed world is not totally wrecked any more than the Catholic Church is, but there are SERIOUS systemic problems.

I expect to get hate mail on this one from both sides.

But if a Catholic church-goe or two is incensed that someone is talking about the buggery of small boys by priests, then I take it they think silence is the answer? They think we should not notice that this problem is found in the priesthood in every country and across 200 years in the Catholic priesthood? They think we should not notice that the current Pope was in charge of the pedophilia coverup prior to his tenure as Pope, and that he had a staffed office and a massive bank account to help sweep it all under the rug? This is a matter of fact for anyone to look up.

If a few puppy peddlers and rosette-chasers are incensed that someone is talking about the intentional breeding of deformed and diseases dogs, then I take it they think silence is the answer? They think we should not notice that this problem is found in every country and across 100 years of the Kennel Club? They think we should not notice that the Kennel Club's hierarchy is dominated by show-ring breeders who salute a closed registry system and exaggerated standards that leave dogs diseased, deformed and misery? They think we should not notice how much time, money and energy has been spent by the Kennel Club denying there is a problem? This is a matter of fact for anyone to look up.

If these facts upset a few Catholics or a few dog breeders, so what? Surely, in the world of dogs and in the world of Christ, we strive to to do more than peddle puppies and pass the collection plate?

There is an old saying, that you are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution. The folks who cry havoc over mention of pedophilia in the Catholic Church are WHY pedophila has existed in the Church for so long. Ditto for the breeding and inbreeding of diseased and defective dogs in the Kennel Club.

They want the problem to go away?

So do I! But the only way it will go away is by talking about, condeming it, and changing policies. The Catholic Church did not start off with a celibate class of priests any more than the Kennel Club started with a closed registry system. What has been corrupted and twisted, can be made straight and repaired. But it cannot be done by fainting at the discussion.

P

Kate Price said...

Thank you Patrick.

"Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear."
(Mahatma Gandhi )

PrairieProf said...

Hi, enjoy this blog. I just wanted to say that if anyone wants a 100% purebred dog with a REAL not imagined glorious history, one carefully bred for performance and never for appearance, and with no connection to the AKC ... consider adopting a retired racing greyhound. (Of course I am biased and think they're the most wonderful dogs in the world, although wholly different from terriers.) All NGA-registered greyhound pedigrees are online back to, oh, 1800 or so at Greyhounddata.com. Not that greyhounds are 100% free of health issues (mostly the tendency towards osteosarcoma that besets many similar dogs), but they don't have many and none that are the result of stupid breeding.

Seahorse said...

A bold and painfully true blog entry, Patrick. I caught just a bit of Juan Williams on NPR this morning, discussing his latest book, "Muzzled" The Assault on Honest Debate". The snippet I heard dealt with the religious attempting to stop debate by invoking "God's word". I loved it when he said that that tactic was completely to be disregarded. Absolutely God-damned RIGHT!

Seahorse ;)

Tiago Paolini said...

I am a Catholic I am really pissed off and offended by your article. I am holding holding myself on my chair to not launch a buttload of insults towards your bigotry and hypocrisy, but I will try to maintain the composture.

Please do not make yourself a victim by complaining that people get offended by your words. It is just a defensive mechanism for not taking responsibility for your claims.

> When asked about pedophilia, the Catholic Church routinely claims such problems are quite localized. Yes, Saint Anthony’s church had “that problem,” but the Church is in “this world” and “not immune” from “such things.”

> Now we know the truth: child buggery in the Catholic Church is a global problem and has gone on for centuries.


So are you insinuating that just because someone is a Catholic clergy it is pedophile? Or that the Catholic Church is a pedhophile paradise? How many catholic churches have you visited to see how it is?

What to you have to back up your claims? Just a couple of news stories from a biased media that hates the Church? You need more than that, you need facts: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2011_05_18_John_Jay_Causes_and_Context_Report.pdf).

From the 6000 priests that were accused of pedophilia in a 50 years span, only 4% were found to be guilty, which is about 240. We have 240 in a period of 50 years, whick is less than 3 cases per year. Is it your child abusing paradise that you insinuate that the Church is? I dare you to find any other big group (religious or not) that have a rate of pedophilia smaller than that. You would not find that not even in U. N. (http://www.prisonplanet.com/un_finally_forced_to_probe_its_pedophillia_scandal.html). It is just beyond me why the "Church critics" ignore pedophilia in any other place outside the Church, it is plain hypocrisy.

Accusing an entire group for the mistakes of just a few has a name: CALUMNY. But repeating a lie often and often will not make it become more true.

I have come to your blog to read about dogs, not to have my faith insulted. I am afraid I am not coming back to your blog.

Good bye,
Tiago

PBurns said...

Oh poor Tiago Paolini! He resents the fact that I mention that the Catholic hierarchy is so boiled in the oil of pedophilia that the current pope was actually in charge of pedophilia investigations for the church. Wow. What does it say that the Catholic church has an office in charge of such things? And what does it say that the person in charge of such things did so little (nothing) and knew so much (racks and racks of affidavits and reports) that he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals who wanted it all swept under the rug? This is not biggotry -- this is fact. So too is the fact the the Catholic church has paid out billions of dollars to try to make it all go away, but it continues to embrace contrived nonsense about celibacy and marked discrimination against women (points that are NOT part of the Bible). In this regard the Church is very much like the Kennel Club -- bluster and motion without any real movement towards change. Instead, we get sad apologists for systematic and institionalized buggery such as that provided by Tiago Paolini, who cannot even do basic math. Pathetic.

P

Ruthie Houston said...

Wow, I've been cruising around your blog, and loving it, until this one.

Really? You're going to paint an entire group of people as if they were the same as their worst offenders? At almost half a decade, I've held many passionate viewpoints in my life, but one bit of perspective I've come to realize is that any large group of people is pretty much the same as any other -- the same number of greedy, corrupt, the same number of selfless saints, the same number of loudmouths, the same numbers of courageous and cowardly, the same number of those who collude with the status quo via their silence, and so on.

But to get to the dogs -- which is really more to the purpose, I should think -- it is a mess out there. When I first decided to get a dog, the first question was, "What kind?" I read and researched, went to dog shows, visited breeders, spoke long distance to breeders in other states, went to a dog behavior/puppy socialization class -- for months before I actually purchased a dog. And the breed I chose and have never regretted is the Siberian Husky. And one of the big reasons I did is because they are a "natural," moderate, healthy breed, with excellent, friendly temperaments, smart, full of personality, and also, well, also because they have fur coats that remind me of teddy bears, and eyes with the history of the world in them. Over the years of owning, showing, doing obedience, sled racing, titling, tracking, agilitying, and therapy-dogging them, and most of all living with them and loving them -- I have never regretted it. I love dogs in general, but I love my breed supremely. And according to the history buffs, they were likely a "pure" breed for 3000 years before the first were imported to Alaska in the early 1900's.

I've rhapsodized about "my" breed here to make my real point -- which isn't that Siberians are the best breed, but to illustrate that different breeds are beloved by different people for their own personal reasons. And if there were no breeds, then..._______

Then we'd all find mutts to love, and that would be fine in many ways. But then certain things would not exist that have been (lovingly?) (egomaniacally?) created. And some of that might be good. For instance, I'll admit to a bias against the breeds whose extreme form make it difficult to breathe, to have brains that fit in their tiny skulls, to have hearts that can support their large size, to have temperaments that go against the social, bonding, loyal, intelligent, generous canine soul, and so on. But to say that ALL purebred breeding is evil and doomed and damaging -- well, come on a walk with me, and lets discuss this.

(to be continued...)

Ruthie Houston said...

...continued


I was fortunate enough to have found a wonderful mentor (as well as many who were willing to teach) who had incredibly high moral standards, sometimes quite inconvenient ones, for the dog fancy. She always taught these to me as the standard and traditional rules of morality in showing and breeding dogs. For example, good breeders never make money. At least not in dogs. Their dogs eat better and have more medical care than themselves, more often than not. Their every moment, from prior to conception to their last breath is the breeder's sacred responsibility, whether they go for some are part of their lives to another home, or remain in the breeder's. The very existence of the breed is a sacred charge, in fact, and changes to a breed standard are only to be made, if at all, upon extensive consideration and debate, and always with the betterment and preservation of the best image of the breed in mind.

What boggles my mind, what I do not know what to do about, is that so few people, even passionate and active people in the world of dogs, seem so unaware of these folks who dedicate their lives, their entire bank accounts, their energy and caring, to their careful, slow, precious breeding programs, then test them and compare them and share them at shows with other breeders, where ideas and images are exchanged, where future directions are planned and replanned, results are ecstatically or bitterly debated, and on and on... the STUFF that keeps the breed going -- and not the nasty, strange looking version of the breed that can be seen on the end of 99% of the leashes out there, no less beloved by pet owners, but NOT the breed.

Contrast these caretakers of beloved breeds and breeding programs with the money-purposed breedings of BOTH puppy millers and most backyard breeders, which comprise the large majority of dogs being "bred" or randomly allowed to procreate, as the case may be. Contrast the experienced, deeply researched, and very much scrutinized (by other breeders) practices of selection, screening, vet care, puppy rearing and socializing and stimulating, to the best and highest known levels of knowledge about such things to the vastly varying experiences of the family pet who got knocked up so the kids could see birth (really?), and then contrast further to the disgusting and effed up methods of mass market puppy millers.

And PLEASE -- Discriminate! Discern!! Punish and reward appropriately, malign and praise specifically.

Ruth Houston Barrett
Wildoney Siberians
(currently home to one special dog)

PS Thanks for the conversational topic and space -- and for your great blog!

PBurns said...

Ruthie Houston, I think you are a wee bit confused on a few points. I have gotten lost in the world of dogs too, but after 45 years I know my way down this particular corridor (still lost in a few others!), so let me see if I can help you a bit on this one...

First, you start with "everyone is the same" and end with "we must discriminate."

In fact, people are NOT all the same, thank God. Selection bias occurs all the time, and we see it in many professions and passions.

Stereotypes are NEVER universally true, of course, but almost always have an iron keel of truth or they would not survive too long.

So what is the selection bias in the world of show dog folks? Well, a whole movie was made about that (see post on "Best in Show")! More gays, more people with dysfunctional relationships with other people, more people with the need for a ribbon... a need for status so powerful they spend vast sums of money and time chasing a "sport" where they often do not breed the dogs, groom the dogs, train the dogs, or even walk the dogs around the ring. And the people who are most broken this way, typically end up controlling breed clubs, etc.

Normal? Average? In most ways, but not in their ferocious need for ribbons and status despite having themselves no skills or special talents.

Of course, selection bias occurs in the Catholic church hierarchy too. Ban normal committed sexual relations, and you WILL get deviants. And though they may be a small minority, the majority power structure may protect them and wink at the excess. And does that happen in both the world of the Catholic Church and the Kennel Club? You bet!

The wreckage of breeds in the Kennel Club is not an accident any more than pedophilia in the Catholic Church is. Selection bias created strange groups of people and even stranger leadership, and the result has been systematic abuse of dogs and children .... and congregants who, when this is pointed out, say they have nothing to do with it. "I am in the husky ring... what does that have to do with bulldogs that cannot breathe, dachshunds with broken backs, and deaf dalmatians?" And to that, all I can say is that if you do not see it, then you are well and truly breed blind. But I am confident you are not blind. The world of dogs is simply confusing.

A lot of nonsense is parroted in the show dog world. You will even be told a lot of nonsense about your own breed. For example, you say your "breed" is 3,000 years old. It is not. Breeds are less than 140 years ago; TYPES are thousands of years ago.

You say you value the natural working type known as the husky, shaped without a closed registy and hardened in the forge of hard work, ice and snow. OK. So how do you think this dog will be saved or preserved or kept healthy in a closed registry without work, snow or ice?

Take some time to look at the Pedigree Dogs Exposed and ABC TV clips in the right hand margin of this blog, and also read the "Inbred Thinking" post on this blog, in which pulling dogs are specifically mentioned.

P