Sunday, August 09, 2009

Talk Is Cheap When It Comes to Bassets in Trouble

Over at the conservative blog "Never Yet Melted," David Zincavage has yet to apologize for getting the basic facts of the Philadelphia basset hound story wrong.

While he claimed the 12-dog limit was new, it was in fact more than 25-years old.

While he claimed the Philadelphia SPCA showed up without notice to seize 13 dogs, the truth is that the SPCA visited and left a note asking to be contacted about a complaint from a neighbor.

When they were not contacted, they stopped by again, and the woman who owned the bassets would not let them in, and threw rocks at the SPCA vehicle as it left. Not a good idea.

On the third visit, the Philadelphia SPCA showed up with trucks, police officers, and a camera to document the state of things.

At that point, the jig was up, and the owner of the bassets voluntarily relinquished the extra dogs that were over the legal limit, promised to clean up and repair the kennels, and also promised to take the dogs that needed medical attention to a veterinarian.

Those are the facts.

Rather than apologize to the Philadelphia SPCA for getting it wrong, Mr. Zincavage has gone in a different direction: he has decided to tell us how little he knows about animal control operations in the U.S.

Apparently, it comes as new information to him that many local SPCA's and humane societies are contract animal-control officers for cities, towns and counties.

Of course, a cursory look on Google could have told him this. In fact, a pretty detailed history of animal control operations in the U.S. can be found on this very blog at a post (and book review) entitled Beyond the Blue Solution of Dog Shelter Death.

Now here's the ironic part: You know why so many local shelters are a basket case?

Because conservatives complain that their taxes are too high!

Why pay for a decent animal shelter, when it's so much cheaper to put dogs and cats to sleep?

Conservatives call this "tough love."

And "tough love" is not just their prescription for dogs, is it?

After all, every human zygote is supposed to be a "miracle of life" until it is born. After that, it's just a sniveling little welfare cheat.

Why should society pay for better public schools, comprehensive sex education, or national health care? That will only encourage "those people."

And Mr. Zincavage and the organized hunts are not "those people." He writes to tell me that:

The Murder Hollow Bassets have 11 staff members, all of whom are eminently respectable, upper middle class dog-lovers who are part of the hard corps sporting community. Organized packs do not neglect hounds.


Wonderful then.

And so I have challenged Mr Zincavage and the 11 "staff members" of the Murder Hollow Bassets to pay for three or four years worth of private (and legal) kenneling for those seized Philadelphia dogs.

There are many commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, and I am sure the the SPCA will have no objection to the dogs being placed in a good private kennel provided that three or four years worth of kennel fees are paid up in full and in advance, plus any veterinary bills accrued.

No, not a month. No, not four months. Three or four years.

After all, these dogs deserve continuity of care, and with 12 people to shoulder the cost of kenneling, it shouldn't be too big a deal for everyone to pony up the price.

Talk is cheap.

But, of course, so too are most people -- a point missed by many conservatives.

They will tell you they are against taxation, preferring instead that everything be done by some mysterious thing called "a Thousand Points of Light."

Fine. Here's a chance for Mr. Zincavage and the Murder Hollow "staff" to be a Point of Light. Pay for the veterinary costs plus three or four years of private kenneling for Wendy Willard's basset hounds. She will still own them -- the donors will simply be making a charitable gift to make sure things are done right by the dogs.

Mr. Zincavage goes on to claim that "organized packs do not neglect hounds."

Really? Well, as a general rule that might be true, but I am burdened by specific knowledge, as I have actually seen a few fox hunting packs in Virginia.

In fact, I have challenged Mr. Zincavage to go out to the Casanova Hunt this morning to take a look at the hounds. I expect he will find what I found last time I was there: 20 couple of hounds and a stench that will knock your socks off. The hounds are fed the flesh of horses that are shot on site (their skulls can be found in the woods), and there will be a few vultures in the dead tree in the pen above the hounds, just waiting to clean the last bits of flesh from the bones.

It is not a pretty site.

Are the dogs healthy? They better be!

I do not think a dog ever gets a chance to raise too big a veterinary bill at the Casanova Hunt. After all, these are "just working dogs," and they have large litters. No one dog is all that important, and the Casanova Hunt takes great pride in getting it all done as cheaply as possible. Old racing greyhounds find homes in the suburbs; old fox hounds generally do not.

Now, to be clear, I have no complaints about the Casanova hunt. If they want to shoot old horses to feed the pack, and dispose of old dogs any way they see fit that causes no pain to the dogs, that is fine. But let's not act as if every mounted hunt is the model of genteel propriety, eh? It's not true. Surely we can be honest and admit that?.

And, above all, let's not act as if people do not lose their minds and fall down on the job just because they have money.

I'm sorry, but anyone who throws rocks at the cars of state-appointed officers who come to inspect a kennel is a little off the beam. And this woman, apparently, has been off the beam long enough that her neighbors thought it was more than time to intervene on the dog's behalf. When the Philadelphia SPCA looked things over, they agreed. When the police showed up, and pictures were taken, the owner of these dogs folded up like a wing-shot duck.

Regular readers of this blog know I have no love for animal rights loons. I have called the General Counsel of PETA a moron in print, posted a graphic representation of the kill rate of PETA's shelter, and done an autopsy on the very questionable direct mail economics of the Humane Society of the U.S.

But I do not fear the animal rights crowd. I still eat chicken, hunt freely, and go to zoos. PETA has no lobbying power on Capitol Hill. Farm subsidies still roll like candy from a slot machine. The hot dog is still the national food, even if Chevrolet is no longer the national car.

That said, I am always fascinated by the paranoia so many people have about "animal rights" groups. You see, I hunt, I post pictures, and I do not hide my real name. My address is in the telephone book, and my dogs are well cared for. There is no shit-strewn kennel at my place, or rotting flesh in the yard. In fact, there is no kennel at all. The dogs sleep in the laundry room on clean towels fresh from the dryer. Anyone can come by at any time, and anyone who can carry a post hole digger is welcome to come hunting with me on any day it is below 90 degrees out, and the ground is not soaking wet. I fear no one and nothing.

And neither does anyone else I know who actually hunts in this state or any other state.

Yet, as I once noted on this blog some people jump at the slightest shadow:

Some years back, I was lurking on several boards and list-servs when PETA came out with an advertising campaign against dairy milk. The folks over at FOL (Foxhunters On Line) went nuts. To listen to them talk, this was the end of the world and PETA's silly campaign was proof that the Anti-Christ was coming.

Over on the Dairy Management list, however, everyone yawned at the PETA campaign, and the talk quickly moved on to more germane matters such as the best low-grade slope to have on a loafing shed (3 percent as I recall).

The point here is that one embattled group -- the fox hunters -- freaked out, squawking like pet-store parrots next to a slamming screen door. The dairy folks, on the other hand, knew One True Thing, which is that America will always drink milk.

I recount this story because I believe that it was on Foxhunters On Line that Mr. Zincavage first learned of the illegally housed (and apparently poorly-kenneled) basset hounds in Philadelphia.

Now, here's the ironic thing: mounted fox packs in the U.S. rarely kill a fox. In fact, some people will ride two or three years before they even see a fox.

The same is true for rabbit hunting with the basset hound folks -- no animals are killed in the making of this movie.

These people are not hunting; they are playing dress up!

So why all this concern about PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S., and the animal rights loons?

Beats me.

After all, the United States is not the U.K. is it? We not only have a long tradition of citizen-hunters in this country, but in Virginia, where Mr. Zincavage and I both live, the right to hunt and fish is actually baked into the State Constitution.

In Maryland, where I do most of my hunting, a fox is on the cover of the current state guide to hunting and trapping.

In every state on the East Coast, the Division of Natural Resources is trying to get more people to shoot more deer. Seasons are getting extended, and in many counties around here the limit is 36 deer a year. Thirty-six!!

In Virginia, where PETA is actually headquartered, we do not hear a peep from them, even though we shoot more than 220,000 deer a year (to say nothing of bear, fox, bobcat, duck, geese, rabbit, coyote, squirrel, raccoon, etc.)

The Congressional Sportsman's Caucus is the largest caucus on Capitol Hill.

So what's with the paranoia among hound packs where no one is even doing any hunting?

I have no idea, but I think it might have something to do with a combination of ego and ignorance.

Most of the folks who ride to hounds (or walk to bassetts) enjoy the romance and dress up of it all, but are only tangentially connected to wild places, wildlife, and real hunting.

These are genteel people with pretty boring lives, and no doubt it makes them feel a bit more dangerous and important to imagine they are a "persecuted" class.

In fact no one gives a damn if they want to go out and jump a few coops on a Tuesday afternoon, or walk a pack of funny-looking achondroplastic dogs down a field looking for rabbits. Knock yourself out!

Now, to be fair, some folks may have heard of "the ban" on fox hunting in the U.K.

But do they know that fox hunting in the U.K. is now more popular than ever, and that terrier work is still going on in Great Britain?

Eh? Terrier work? What the hell is terrier work?

Yes, that's right. Most mounted hunts in the U.S. have no idea what terrier work is.

You see, in the U.S. the mounted hunts almost never kill a fox, and they never dig one out. Why would they? After all, a red fox generally does no damage to cattle, sheep, or corn fields. Those of us who engage in terrier work in the U.S. may dig on an occassional fox, but we have no need to kill them. I, myself, never kill fox, and only rarely dispatch raccoon (though I account for quite a few nuisance groundhogs all year long).

As for the basset hound folks, they do no killing at all. This is a dress up affair with slow dogs ambling down the field to a nice lunch at noon. See for yourself -- there are lots of green coats to be seen, but no shotguns. A rabbit getting chased down by a basset? Not likely!

Which brings me back to the Philadelphia SPCA.

The idea that these folks are jack-booted thugs is a bit of a stretch. For one thing, they operate as an arm of the state. If they screw it up, they can lose their contract and, by extension, their job. Everyone at the SPCA is very aware of this.

What are the folks at the Philadelphia SPCA really like?

Well, you can see for yourself.

It turns out there's an entire Youtube channel devoted to the Philadelphia SPCA. Click on this link and watch five or six videos. Do these people look like jack-booted Nazi's to you? Not to me.

I think most people who are regular readers of this blog know I have no love of the animal rights crowd. I will, for the record, continue to beat the loons around the head whenever that is warranted. But I do not beat things without cause.

Nor do I support those who do not do right by the dogs. If you think people who house dogs in filth are victims, rather that victimizers, then we will just have to part company on that point.

If you stand shoulder to shoulder with the puppy mill purveyors of pain, and care more about their business interests than the welfare of dogs, then we do not see eye to eye.

If you have looked around this great nation and never once seen a person falling down on their responsibility to dogs, then I think you are truely blind.

By the same token, if you want to live your life in terror of bubble-headed vegans, well go right ahead; I certainly cannot stop you from jumping at shadows.

All I can do is point out that there are more than 60 million dogs in this country and hunting organizations are the largest membership organizations in the U.S. We hold every reign of historical, political, and economic power. If, despite this fact, you still want to whine that you are scared, there is not much I can do to strengthen your lost backbone.

Some people, I have found, will cut and run at the sight of a mouse.

Finally, anyone who can carry a post hole digger for 6-7 hours in the field with me is always welcome to come out for a bit of digging -- even the lunatics at PETA if they think they can hack the dirt, the sweat, the bugs, and the thorns.

But be advised that no whining is allowed. We're not walking in the woods with fancy clothes here. We're hunting.

And yes, there will be blood..

As for the Philadelphia SPCA, who knows if they got it right with these Bassetts? My bet is that they did, but time will tell. One thing is for sure: the easiest way forward, right from the start, was to pay attention to the laws, do right by the dogs, and communicated without throwing rocks. On every one of those points, however, Wendy Willard and her pack of supporters failed.


FrogDogz said...

Welcome to the new reality, where ANY argument that there is such a thing as poor stewardship of dogs is akin to donating your entire paycheck to PETA.

The new mantra is that "you're with us or against us", and any criticism of the way dogs are raised, housed or cared for is not just seen as an attack, it's treated as one.

I learned about this when I objected to the AKC's print ads touting the virtue of selling AKC registered puppies in pet stores as a money maker, and learned that there are breeders out there who saw that as my letting "The animal terrorists win". Criticizing AKC, or large scale, commercial dog breeding is now somehow an attack on ALL dog breeders, and if you dare to open your mouth you're a lackey of the HSUS (and a communist, apparently, if you're from Canada - that's what one email accused me of).

The Black Helicopter crowd are vociferous and shrill, and they see animal rights conspiracies in every filth ridden kennel that gets raided, or every article decrying the housing of dogs in 3,000 animal facilities.

As you said, we might like circuses, but who wants one next to us? The BH crowd, however, will argue that if you speak out against a 3,000 dog kennel opening next to your house, you're somehow also shutting down the guy down the block who breeds one litter every two years. They want us all to hitch our wagons on to the commercial kennels, and tell the world that "Hey, we're all the same", even though we most certainly are NOT. It's as if you were being told that, as a hunter, you HAVE to also support canned hunts, because hey - you're all the same kind of hunters.

YesBiscuit! said...

My feeling is that if authorities come and find a person is over the dog limit and/or has sanitation issues, the owner should be given a written notice with a checklist of what specifically she must bring up to code. The notice should include a reasonable date by which she has to comply and then a return inspection should be performed to ensure compliance. This is how things are done in many areas - for example in the medical field (my job). I can certainly understand if authorities came and found something extreme - such as dogs who appeared gravely ill - they would want to take action immediately. But for a number of dogs violation, particularly when the owner is claiming some are not hers, and sanitation issues, it seems that a written notice and follow up visit would be in order.

PBurns said...

Yes, I 100% agree with you ... provided she had let them come on the place to see what was up.

When she denied them entrance, then she changed the equation to her detriment. It's a little like dealing with a bank -- provided you are straight up, don't lie, and try to work things out on a payment plan, people will work with you. When you throw rocks and require the police to come out, however, then things go in a different direction.

This is an unfortunate situation. All she had to do was to: 1) say she would clean up; 2) say she would take the dogs that needed veterinary care to the vets, and; 3) say she would reduce the dogs to the required number within 24 hours. A kennel is not that hard to book (though it it not cheap for 12 dogs!).

Now the question is who will step up with cash. She, clearly, will not.

I cannot IMAGINE what the thrid parties are saying whose dogs she turned over to the SPCA rather than make a call or do the right thing.


zron said...

I think you are right that much of the platform of the republican party is thinly disguised racism - their positions on abortion and capital punishment, and spending on welfare. Their position on health care reform is mostly about not helping "those people". They are not against spending to fight an unnecessary war.

Karan Aurelius said...

Though much of what you say makes sense I had a vague sense of unease, as I read your take on this story, that coalesced as I read that the "dairy peopled laughed". No one who wants to own an animal should every laugh. The HSUS, PETA and many SPCAs have a frequently stated objective of one generation and out. An agressive spay/neuter campaign is their way to begin denying us the right to pets, which is just the camel's nose under the tent of our rights to own, hunt, eat or wear animals. Never forget that every dog law is aimed at that goal. Why ese the spay neuter provision in every dog law introduced across the country.

PBurns said...

Eh? Karan Aurelius, read the post again. The dairy people did not laugh -- they yawned. They were BORED. They know bullshit when they see it (pun intended) and were not interested in picking it up and throwing it around.

As for PETA, HSUS, ASPCA and the various local SPCAs and humane societies, if you are lumping all these groups together, then you do not yet know very much about the very REAL differences between them.

Why not slow down a bit and read and try to understand the historical, political and economic differences beteeen PETA, HSUS, and the various local SPCA and humane societies? The differences are BASIC, and they are important.

For the record, I am against mandatory spay-neuter and very much in FAVOR of voluntary spay-neuter.

And, just to put a point on it, I am also in favor of voluntary surgical contraception for HUMANS too.

See this link to learn more (several posts) >>

As for human contraception and population growth, see the many posts on this blog. When it comes to children, please consider having one or none.


YesBiscuit! said...

I am personally opposed to warrantless searches. Authorities attempting to enter my home would be required to provide a lawful warrant. Once presented, I would comply fully.

Anonymous said...

I think Ms. Willard acted horribly-- and very stupidly.

But if this is a true hunt pack, as in owned by a hunt.

Why did the hunt allow the dogs to be kept in an area zoned for 12 dogs or fewer?

And if the PSPCA had been trying to work with her, as you evidence suggests, she deserved what she got.

However, I still want to see how this all pans out.

Maybe Ms. Willard is one of those radical libertarians who refuses to bow to any state authority over her absolute property rights (which have never existed in the history of the law).

PBurns said...

You CAN be opposed, but if you are, you better not have twice as many dogs on the property as are legal, and you better have a clean kennel in repair when they do show up with a warrant an hour later.

If you are going to make the cops work a lot harder just to do their job, they are not going to cut you any slack when they come-a-knocking.

And they WILL be back. Very, very quickly.

If you are in violation, and the violation is not too bad, and you show willingness on the front end, the SPCA and local humane societies under contract with the city or municipality are almost always willing to work with you.

Play tough guy, however, and you will find that they swing a hard bat and they will keep the label up. This is not their first rodeo, but for most scofflaws, it is their first run-in with animal law. The result is a very unequal battlefield.

You think you have rights as an owner? You do, but only to the extent you live up to your RESPONSIBILITIES to the animals and also obey all state, city and county laws.

And, for the record, if the county-contracted SPCA officer thinks the dogs are in immediate danger, no warrant at all is needed in most states. Locks can be cut and doors taken down. Saving animal lives take priority. Sorry, but dogs and other animals are not simple property like an old shotgun you can leave un-oiled and gathering dust in the corner. No food, no water, no shelter, and no veterinary care for serious problems, and you will find your theories about the 14th Amendment will be lying in tatters on the courtroom floor.

In this particular case, the dogs were in filth, loaded with parasites, a ceiling was coming down in the kennel, and the kennel walls were in disrepair. That's not a good place to start from, is it? Twice as many dogs were on the premises as was legal under a very generous local law. Think that *might* be a problem?

Remember, that after that first visit, this lady had quite a long time to do something else with her extra dogs, like take the extra dogs to a private kennel. She could have cleaned up and fixed up her own kennels, and called the SPCA back all sweetness and light.

Instead of taking responsibility, however, this lady simply blew off the SPCA thinking she was above the law. She tried to hide one dog in the house when they did arrive. Guess what? No one is above the law, no matter how much we may dislike the law. The SPCA did not arrive with a warrant to play games of hide-the-salami.

If you have local laws you do not like, ORGANIZE to get those laws changed. If you cannot change them, welcome to democracy and the rule of law. Welcome to America. You may think it sucks, but it's still the greatest nation on earth.

That said, picking and chosing what laws we obey has never been part of the equation.

Yeah, I hate that too. That said, I have learned from experience that there is dignity to coloring within the lines. If there is one take-away lesson in this mess, perhaps that is it.


PBurns said...

Retrieverman, this is not a professional hutn pack of the kind you are thinking of where there are paid subscriptions, paid staff, etc. This is a private pack owned by a lady with 21 dogs herself and a few others from other folks. This is "dress up and walk the dogs down the field" as entertainment, with perhaps someone crack a whip to show that can be done, and maybe blowing ona horn for effect. There is no real hunting going on here. This is to hunting what parading a hawk on your glove is to hunting, or go-to-ground is to real terrierwork, or chasing a plastic bag on a string is to true rabbit coursing.