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.
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.
Yes. At a recent American Kennel Club show in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (USA), a judge disqualified a Weimeraner because it had an undocked tail.
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.
Most of these people have never seen a tail get docked. And perhaps you have not either.
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!