Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Evil and Power of HSUS is...What Again???

Rod Russell writes from Florida:

Dear Mr. Burns: I am a regular reader of the terriermandotcom blog. I noticed you seem to repeatedly suggest that H$U$ is not as much of a threat to the purebred dog as others may fear.

I am attaching an article I wrote for the AKC magazine, Perspectives, published in September 2010, that disputes that opinion. Perspectives is distributed to AKC delegates and executive staff members.

Excellent! I always eager to be wrong, as it's always a pure positive: I either get new information (and I am always a pig in slop with new information -- more input!), or else; 2) the new information is a little less stellar than it might at first appear, which simply confirms, through attack, the original thesis.

So I poppped open the attachment with a little excitement, as one way or another this was going to be illuminating. And, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can pop it open too.

The article is well written and Mr. Russell comes to a good point in the end. But rather than illuminate the rapacious evil of HSUS or their power, I think the article actually makes the opposite points.

First, let's look at the real question at hand: Is HSUS a powerful organization capable capable of delivering well-crafted and well-timed legislative proposals supported by a blitzkrieg phalanx of public support?

Well actually, NO.  Mr. Russell notes that over the last two-year legislative session in Florida,"not one of HSUS’s lunatic bills was passed."

Not one of HSUS proposed bills passed in Florida over a two-year period? Wow. And why is that?

Mr. Russell notes that while the AKC and others blasted delegates with faxes, calls, and emails, their ultimate success "might not have had anything to do with our efforts, since the overriding focus of the Florida legislature’s attention was on desperately trying to balance the state’s budget."

That's refreshing candor. In fact, that no doubt had a lot to do with it. But that actually illuminates two reasons why HSUS enjoys so few legislative victories:

  1. They do not understand the political playing field they are on and/or cannot position for a win. Right now, 44 out of 50 states are running massive deficits, and that's a problem that is not going to go away. If you cannot play ball on a deficit field, you are not going to be playing ball now or into the future.
  2. HSUS, like a lot of other organizations is happy using futile action as an organizing tool. So too is the AKC. In this legislative pantomime play, one side gets a legislator to introduce some bit of poorly-thought-out legislation which they can then use as a bullet-point in their direct mail letters. The other side points out how crazy the legislation is (whether it is actually crazy or not hardly matters) and rallies the troops to defeat it. Both sides "win" in the sense that they raise cash and consciousness, and never mind if the ball was not even touched, much less moved down field.

So what is the great evil that HSUS (or H$U$ as Mr. Russell prefers to call them) doing? What is the "secret sauce" that gives HSUS their (alleged) secret power? Mr. Russell writes:

There is a lot more to HSUS than its deceptive mission and buying legislators. HSUS has full-time regional lobbyists and grassroots educational and training programs which are highly valued by state and local officials.

Did you know that HSUS is the primary nationwide provider of professional development and educational training for county and municipal animal shelter staff and animal control officers? One of its stated goals is “to support you with the very latest in training and skills enhancement whether you are in the advocacy, law enforcement, or animal care and control community.”

Did you know that HSUS has a disaster services program that offers training courses and planning assistance to animal disaster responders throughout the United States? HSUS puts on numerous regional three-day workshops and has on-line Internet courses.

In Florida, state and local animal control and disaster response agencies rely heavily upon information created by HSUS. As an example, go to this web page to see a slick, multi-colored HSUS brochure, “Disaster Preparedness for Pets”, which the Florida State Agricultural Response Team distributes to explain the state’s disaster preparedness program for pets.

In addition, HSUS has regional representatives who serve both as lobbyists to state, county, and local governments, as well as educators at government-sponsored animal control and disaster seminars and workshops. In Florida, the “go to” expert for legislators is not anyone associated with AKC or the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs; it is HSUS’s eastern regional representative, with over 20 years of HSUS experience and whose office, unfortunately, happens to be located in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

Now if you are like me, you read that two times to find the evil.

Maybe you missed it? No? Good. I couldn't find it either.

How is having "full-time regional lobbyists and grassroots educational and training programs which are highly valued by state and local officials" a bad thing?  How is holding "professional development and educational training for county and municipal animal shelter staff and animal control officers" a bad thing?  How is distributing a free brochure on “Disaster Preparedness for Pets” a bad thing?

Sorry, but I do not get it, and I am hardly a supporter of HSUS. 

My criticism of HSUS is that while they are experts in direct mail -- separating people from the money in their wallets -- they have never cared enough about dogs and cats to learn even the most basic elements of the debate, and their past actions have managed to savage a great deal of intelligent discussion. 

  • HSUS cannot lead in any discussion about hunting dogs as they are opposed to hunting.
  • HSUS cannot lead in any discussion about herding dogs as they are opposed to herding and eating meat.
  • HSUS cannot lead in the area of shelter management while demonizing the No Kill movement and while giving less than one percent of the $100,000,000 a year they raise to local shelters where dogs are (literally) dying for cash.
  • HSUS cannot lead in the arena of dog breeding after spending decades demonizing dog breeder and dog breeds.

But does that mean HSUS does not do some good?  

No, of course, not.  And I have said so.  But Mr. Russell has said it even better than I have. 

Is the activity they do a sufficient "bang" for the buck?  I will let others judge that, but suffice it to say that is it not what most HSUS donors think they are giving money for, and it does not make for very good direct mail copy.

So where does Mr. Russell end up? 

Actually in a place and with an idea that I fully salute:  the AKC has to actually do something for real dogs, no matter how minimal.

Right now, it does NOTHING.  Not.  a . thing.   

Mr. Russell argues:

AKC needs to go regional and start competing with HSUS in the education and training of state and local animal control and disaster response professionals. If AKC truly is “the dog’s champion,” then it cannot afford to just sit at its national headquarters and dispense advice to volunteers from local dog clubs.

A full salute there, and a prayer for action -- in Florida first, and then across the nation.  

But will the Big AKC Office in New York listen to this very good idea coming from someone in the Central Florida Kennel Club and the Florida State Association of Dog Clubs?    I would not hold my breath.  The AKC listens to no one.

Who is the Alpha Dog?

Notice the beds.  Source.  Hat tip Dan Gauss.

From John Cleese Comes This Assessment...

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
                        -- John Cleese - British writer, actor, tall person, and lemur lover.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The devolution of dogs. Has it already come to this?

From Craig's List

From Craig's List comes this little gem:

Big cow for wedding - $550 (Maryland)
African wedding in July 2011. looking to buy a big cow for this occation plus 2 goats and about 10-50 groundhauks for this big wedding in Lanham Md.will pay good price for any or all above items asap.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shotgun Shells, Puppy Mills, and Wal-Mart

Puppy miller operators, American Kennel Club show-dog breeders, right-wing ideologues, and folks who have embraced non-working and defective-by-design dogs, like to spend time inflating the power and influence of HSUS and PeTA.

As Border Collie man Donald McCaig has noted, this has largely been done as an organizing tool and as a way of deflecting away any sensible conversation about breeding for intentional defect, inbreeding, and ruination of working dog breeds.

Of course, HSUS and PeTA are actually very weak organizations that operate as little more than direct mail mills. 

In fact, these organizations are so weak, that puppy mills operate without much oversight and commercial dog kennels have only the most minimal of legislated standards (and almost no on-the-ground inspections).

You want to know who has real power in America? 

It's the NRA -- and I do not mean the National Rifle Association.  I mean the National Restaurant Association -- the folks who want to pump you full of Taco Bell buritos, McDonald's quarter pounders, and all-you-can-eat pizza.

Drive down any strip mall and count the fast food outlets.  There's not a sign of HSUS or PeTA is there?

HSUS and PeTA as a political force?  Gimme a break!  These folks are nearly invisible on Capitol Hill. 

If you want REAL political power, go to the beef, poultry, dairy, hog, corn, soy and wheat producers in any state.  That's power!

You want more power?  Go to the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus (the largest caucus in Washington) which makes sure that we continue to have wild lands where hunting and fishing are preserved as core American activities.

The truth is that the headquarters of both HSUS and PeTA are surrounded by Pittman-Robertson hunting lands, national forest hunting lands, and state forest hunting lands.

There is no place in America that is more than 10 miles from a vendor of guns, fishing rods, and ammunition -- or more than 30 miles from public lands on which to use them.

And, sadly, there is probably no place in America that is more than 30 miles from a kennel of horror where dogs are shoved into feces- and urine-soaked cages without mental stimulation of any kind. 

But we're supposed to be scared because HSUS and PeTA have all this power?  Power to do what?  To ask us to eat a salad every once in a while?

It's laughable.

So what's the latest? 

The latest is that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is now putting more hunting rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in its stores. 

About a third of Wal-Mart's more than 3,600 U.S. locations sell guns and ammo right now, but that figure will rise to about half as Wal-Mart decides to restore "heritage categories" of merchandise.


Hunting and fishing is part of America's heritage. 

I'm not sure right-wing paranoia, breeding diseased, deformed and defective dogs, or direct mail mills quite rise to that level... At least not yet.

A Jack Russell Fail

Now at Cruft's famous show down in London,
They have Lakelands that aren't worth the name,

If you showed em a fox or an otter
They would fly for their lives without shame.

They're not built to creep or do battle,
But to sit on a chair in the house,

And they do say that one recent champion
Was chased down the road by a mouse!
-  from The Terrier Song ...

Blue Tits on Twittter? That's Tweet!

Voldemars Dudums of Latvia has gotten birds to "tweet" on twitter by creating a keyboard which features small slabs of unsalted bacon fat on top of each key. The birds' tweets are complete nonsense, of course, but how is that different from most tweets?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

HSUS Donors are Flushing Their Money Away

In the past I have detailed the direct mail accounting shenanigans of HSUS, noting that by my calculations, HSUS is spending about 75 cents of every dollar raised in the mail on sending out more direct mail.

If HSUS wants to challenge my math, I have a standing invitation to a free lunch; I work around the corner from their main office in Washington, D.C. and if they will bring the direct mail accounting books (membership staff salaries and benefits, postage, printing, caging, envelope, list acquisition, lasering, computer services, creative costs, management and office space), I will pick up the lunch tab and we will have a grand old time making columns of numbers showing the income and outgo from their direct mail program.

My point here is not to demonize HSUS.   HSUS does a few small bits of good (not much bang for the buck, but a little) and the direct mail numbers at HSUS are not too far out of line with those of other direct mail-driven organizations.

So am I upset about the amazing amounts of wasted money?  A little, but compared to what? If one is looking for wasted money in the world of dogs, it's a lot easier to point to the jaw-dropping sums spent on dog shows in this country. Wow!

But I do not salute nonsense, and the notion that HSUS is primarily about helping poor shelter animals is complete hokum.

The Humane Society of the U.S. is primarily about direct mail and, as I have noted:

The direct mail business is not about saving the lives of cats and dogs but about management contracts, laser printing, #10 carrier envelopes, bar codes, caging operations, business reply envelopes, and rising pre-sorted non-profit postage rates. In short, it's about money.

HSUS's direct mail operation targets senior citizens who are led to believe they are helping poor dumb animals down at the local shelter.

This is the LIE that the Humane Society of the U.S. has maintained for more than 50 years.

More recently I noted that while HSUS claims 11 million members on its web site, the real due-paying membership of the organization is less than 450,000, a more than 24-fold exaggeration.

Now let's get around to the money HSUS raises money through the telephone. 

You see HSUS not only raises money through the mail -- they also make a lot of telephone calls. The economics here are pretty grim however, a point that has been made by no less of an authority than the State of New York.

In a 168-page report entitled Pennies for Charity:  Where Your Money Goes, the New York State Charities Bureau took a look at the telemarketing numbers behind charities operating in New York State, and what they found was disturbing:  Charities, on average, only kept 31 percent of the money raised through the telephone. The rest went to those greasy bottom-feeding telemarketers that call you right as you are about to sit down for dinner, or just as you come home from work.

Of course that 31 percent number is the average.

Some groups, like HSUS, did far worse. How much worse can be seen on page 29 of the report, where we learn that of the $1,083,071 raised on the telephone in New York state by HSUS in 2000, only $16,543 went back to the charity -- just 1.53 percent.

To put it another way, more than 98 percent of the money donated to HSUS by telephone in New York State went to fund a telemarketer's boiler room operation.

To put it another way, in 2000 HSUS gave more money to telemarketers in New York state than it did to ALL the dog and cat shelters in the U.S. that same year. A more than 98 percent waste on top of their "divide by 24" membership number.

Still think HSUS is a charity helping dogs and cats?  Think again!

Gideon Makes His Mark

Gideon will pee on anything and everything, stationary or moving.  Four or five hours in the field and you think his tank must be dry by now, but you will be wrong.  He's still got a small shot in there somewhere. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Bird-day John James Audubon

Google reminds us that today is John James Audubon's 226th birthday. 

The above Audubon print is labled "Maryland Marmot" which is what Audubon called the Groundhog, Woodchuck or Whistle Pig, aka, Marmota Monax.

The ones below are from lesser artist-naturalists who either:  a) cannot draw, b) have another species in mind.


Giant Urban Fox

Click to enlarge.
This giant Urban Fox is made of straw and bales over an armature, and is part of the 2011 Festival of Britain. I'm thinking it would be even a little more awesome on fire and at night.  Just saying...

A Veterinarian in Freetown, Sierra Leone

The Last Vet is an article about the only veterinarian in Freetown, Sierra Leone (hat tip to Heather Houlihan who posted a link to this Granta article on Facebook). 

Read the whole thing, but here is a sample:

First you notice the dogs. In all other ways Freetown is a West African city like any other, of red dust and raised cries, forty-degree heat and a year neatly segmented into two – hot and dry, hot and wet.

Today water tips from the sky. Beneath the canopy of a local store three street dogs and a man holding a briefcase stand and contemplate the rain. Another dog shelters beneath the umbrella of a cigarette seller. A fifth follows a woman across the street, literally dogging her footsteps, using her as a beacon to navigate the traffic and the floodwater.

In the dry season the kings of the city are the dogs. They weave through the crowds, lie in the roadside shade watching through slitted eyes, they circle and squabble, unite in the occasional frenzied dash. For the most part the people and the dogs exist on separate planes. The dogs ignore the people, who likewise step around and over them. On the road the drivers steer around reclining animals. This city has more street dogs than any I have known....

....Dr Jalloh is the only vet in the country. No, that is not quite true. There are three government vets, employed by the Ministry of Agriculture. They wear rubber boots, but mostly deal with deal with figures, with capacities, stock and yields. There are also a small number of charlatans. Gudush Jalloh is the only qualified vet in private practice. The single person in the country to whom you might bring your sick dog, cat, monkey or goat....

....Lunch in a nearby restaurant and a conversation begun the day before is reprised. Jalloh has a television crew arriving from Holland in a week’s time. On the drive back across town from the street clinic I’d asked whether he planned to allow the crew to film a clinic. Jalloh nodded. Some of what I had seen, I’d suggested, might prove unpalatable to Western viewers.

A small silence. Jalloh wrinkled his nose and sighed: ‘Oh dear,’ and then, ‘Europeans are so emotional.’

Ordinarily his tendency is to talk about the West in uncritical terms: as an animal nirvana where pets exist as legally protected family members. I wondered if this was a habit borne of the need to flatter, to treat everyone who visited from overseas – including me – as a potential donor. At the seminars and conferences Jalloh attends on his funded trips to Europe and America, the face the West wears is typically humane, rational, superior. Next to the representatives of international animal welfare programmes such as the RSPCA whose reserves of £150 million represent twice our nation’s annual revenue, Jalloh is the beggar at the banquet....

....An American came to Sierra Leone to work for the Special Court responsible for trying war criminals, one of hundreds of lawyers and support staff employed by the American-backed court. She wanted to fly three street dogs to the United States and asked Jalloh to prepare the dogs for travel. He suggested she give the money to his programme instead. For the same money he could help a thousand dogs. She refused, spent 3,000 US dollars to transport the dogs.  He remembers her name and repeats it. In time it will become a running gag between us, a byword for solipsistic sentimentality. It made him think he should be doing a ‘sponsor a street dog’ programme, like those for sponsoring children. Send a photograph of the dog and a monthly update.

That would work, I agree: ‘She wanted to be a hero.’

Jalloh repeats her name. Shakes his head and laughs.

Then there are those dogs, larger than the other street dogs, who roam the streets, tattered collars hanging around their necks.We call them the ‘NGO dogs’, adopted by aid workers, abandoned when the contract is over. Not so very different to their relationship with the country. A departing staff member at the British High Commission recently left two dogs in Jalloh’s compound before flying home for good. Last year the High Commission denied visas to two of his staff members who had been offered free training places at an animal centre in Britain....

....I will ask Jalloh what he thinks of the dogs he sees in Europe, bred beyond the point of deformity for the show ring and the fashionable, a million miles from Lorenz’s noble working dogs. Jalloh will smile and shake his head: ‘And now they call our dogs mongrels.’
To contribute to Dr. Jalloh’s work, email him at >>
Lumley beach
Dogs at Lumley Beach, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Dead Dog Tales

Major studies of canine mortality have been done before.

I have reported in the past, for example, on the 350,000 dog study done in Sweden which shows that Golden Retrievers in that country are about as healthy as mongrels -- and in fact may be a bit healthier despite a very high probability of getting cancer in old age.

Now a new U.S. study, based on a look-back of almost 75,000 American dogs, has been done.  In Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age-, Size-, and Breed-Related Causes of Death,  J.M. Fleming, K.E. Creevy, and D.E.L. Promislow look at all instances of canine mortality recorded in the Veterinary Medical Database (VMDB) between 1984 and 2004.  This study groups causes of death, categorized by organ system or pathophysiologic process, and segregates the dogs out by breed, body mass, and age (click here for an easy-to-print 12-page PDF).

What was found was, for the most part, not too surprising. 

For example, young dogs, which will put damn near anything in their mouth, are more likely to die from gastrointestinal obstruction from socks and balls and from puppy-born infectious caused by diseases such as distemper and parvo. 

Older dog, of course, are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, liver or other types of organ failure. No surprises there.

As for death as it relates to by body mass,  large breeds generally have significantly shorter lifespans than small breeds.  Again, no surprise there.

In the organ system categories, the top five breeds with the highest relative proportion of:
  • Cancer causes of death (neoplasms) were Bernese Mountain Dogs (54 percent), Golden Retrievers (50 percent), Scottish Terriers (47 percent), Bouvier des Flandres (47 percent), and Boxers (44 percent).
  • Gastrointestinal causes of death were highest in Great Danes (26 percent), Gordon Setters (22 percent), Akitas (21 percent), Shar-Peis (20 percent), and Weimaraners (17 percent).
  • Cardiovascular causes of death were highest in Newfoundlands (24 percent), Maltese (21 percent), Chihuahuas (18 percent), Doberman Pinschers (17 percent), and Fox Terriers (16 percent).
  • Neurologic disease as the cause of death was most common in Standard Dachshunds (40 percent), Miniature Dachshunds (40 percent), Pugs (27 percent), Miniature Pinschers (22 percent), and Boston Terriers (22 percent).
  • Musculoskeletal causes of death were most common in Saint Bernards (26 percent), Great Pyrenees (0.25 percent), Irish Wolfhounds (22 percent), Great Danes (22 percent), and Greyhounds (21 percent).
  • Respiratory disease as a cause of death was most common in English Bulldogs (18 percent), Borzoi (16 percent), Yorkshire Terriers (16 percent) Afghan Hounds (16 percent), and Treeing Walker Coonhounds (15 percent).
So what to make of all this?  To tell you the truth, I am not sure this study brings too much new information to the table; it simply underscores what we already know generally about canine health by breed, which is that purebred dogs are less healthy than mongrels, that certain breeds seem to carry heavier-than-normal genetic loads, and that some breeds have serious health issues as a function of their construction.

Now, what are we going to do about it?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coffee and Provocation

More Coffee Please!
If you drink a phenomenal  amount of coffee (who me?) it might be genetic.  If it is genetic, can we label it a disease so health insurance will start paying for my Starbucks? 

Iran Considers Banning All Dogs:
Dogs are considered "unclean" in Islam and dog ownership is banned in the Koran, except for working dogs (hunting dogs, herding dogs, protection dogs, guide dogs for the blind).  Now some Iranian legislators are proposing banning dogs alltogether.  As Time magazine reports:  "Lawmakers in Tehran have recently proposed a bill in parliament that would criminalize dog ownership, formally enshrining its punishment within the country's Islamic penal code. The bill warns that that in addition to posing public health hazards, the popularity of dog ownership 'also poses a cultural problem, a blind imitation of the vulgar culture of the West.'"

Banning Felons from Owning Vicious Dogs:
Wisconsin state Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay has proposed a law that would make it a misdemeanor for someone convicted of a violent or drug-related felony to own a dog that has been declared vicious by law enforcement or a humane officer. The misdemeanor could carry up to nine months in prison. If the dog in question attacked another person and the owner didn't try to control the dog (whatever that means), the owner could be charged with a felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to six years in prison. The prohibition would last 10 years after the felon is released from prison or until the end of the felon's extended supervision.

Let's Laugh at Fat Dwarves Trying to Run!
Because they're dogs, not people, laughter is considered socially acceptable.

Better Than a Tree House:
If you have little kids but no big trees for a tree house, how about building an underground fort?  When the kids grow out of it (it won't take long) it can be converted to a kennel for the dogs, or even tool storage.  A 1929 edition of Modern Mechanics gives the details.

This Dog Needs Help:
Read the story yourself and ask yourself if this Jack Russell/Beagle mix doesn't deserves a spot at your place.  Near Youngstown, Ohio.

Feeding the Ego:
This blog has been named one of the top 25 dog training blogs.  Nothing is more puzzling to me than being called a dog trainer, and I do not think this blog has too much dog training advice.  That said, if you want to get your small game-bred terrier working underground and in the field, I know how to do that.  While there is some advice about digging on the dogs on this blog, your best bet is to buy the book.

Re-Wilding With Tortoises:
On a small island near Mauritius (which is a small island off of the larger island of Madagascar, which is on the south east coast of Africa), Aldabra tortoises have been introduced as a way of reforesting the land with tree seeds.  Aldabra tortoises are replacing a similar species of tortoise that was once on the island, but was pushed to extinction.  Tortoises are needed to ingest the fruits of the ebony tree and to disperse their seeds which are more likely to germinate when they have passed through a tortoise's gut.

Shooting Has Become So Expensive These Days:
When John Weber was given a metal mug by his grandfather in 1945, he thought it was an ugly pot metal brass trinket and not worth much, and he sometimes plinked at it with his air rifle. It turns out the mug was solid gold, is over 2,300 years old, and is worth more than $99,000!

FDA at the Border:
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce about the FDA’s screening efforts for products that we (and our dogs) swallow (i.e. food and medicine) and that are made overseas. She notes:  "It is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of all food now consumed in the United States originates outside our borders. In fact, over 70 percent of seafood and about 35 percent of fresh produce consumed in the United States comes from foreign countries. Further, up to 40 percent of the drugs Americans take are manufactured outside our borders, and up to 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in those drugs comes from foreign sources. Imported medical devices are another rapidly growing area.... in addition to the sheer volume of imports and foreign facilities producing FDA-regulated commodities, there has been an increase in the variety and complexity of imported medical products.” 

I am NOT Cursing!
I am simply using language in an off-label manner.

The Wolf Population in Wisconsin is Not Small:
Wisconsin's gray wolf population has risen to 825 animals in over 200 packs, which is only one third of the wolf population in Minnesota, but still pretty impressive none-the-less.

Proof That Obama Was Born in Somalia:

More Proof That People Are the Problem:
The penguin population in the Falkland Islands is rebounding thanks to landmines left over from the 1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina.  It seems old landmines are keeping people out, which is just perfect for wildlife!   Of course, as we have reported in the past, landmines and radioactivity are often good for wildlife; we expect Japan to announce the creation of a massive new wildlife preserve sometime within the next two years.

One Reason This Country is Broke:
U.S. military spending has almost doubled since 2001, and we are now spending an astounding $698 billion  a year on the military.  To put this number into perspective, the U.S. is spending six times more than China — the second largest military spender.  Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has introduced legislation that would help put a stop to the madness by requiring Congress to pay for future wars and ensure that they do not add to the federal budget deficit. The Pay for War Resolution gives Congress the option to finance war through budget cuts, creating new revenue or a combination of both budgetary means. Franken said the bill is meant to avoid a repeat of the $1.25 trillion that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have added to the national debt.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Vanishing Members of the HSUS

I work in an office around the corner from Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S.  We have never met, but any time he wants to bring over his direct mail accounting records I am more than happy to buy him lunch.  Fair warning, however: I am a black belt in direct mail accounting practices, and I do not salute nonsense.   And there is a lot of nonsense in HSUS's direct mail accounting.

Take their membership numbers, for example.

A while back, I was quoted in a cover story in HSUS's All Animals magazine about the "The Purebred Paradox."  Supposedly this magazine went to all of HSUS's 11 million members.

Eleven million members?!  Really?  That's a jaw-dropping number.  The NRA has only 2 million members.   

And so, I waited to get an email or a phone call from someone, somewhere who had actually read the article.  Nothing.  

OK, I have a common name.  A lot of people who know me don't even know I have dogs -- I have a larger life than that found at the end of a leash.  There is no reason for most people to associate me with dogs.  No matter.

But surely a cover story in the flag ship publication of the Humane Society of the U.S. about painful health defects intentionally being bred for in pedigree dogs would generate a little secondary reporting in newspapers and magazines around the country?

Nope.  Nothing.  It was like the article was never written.  Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Which got me to wondering.  Did anyone, anywhere, actually really read this story at all?  What were the Humane Society's real membership numbers?  Could HSUS political power be a lie and a complete fabrication?

Hard to imagine, but guess what?    It's true!

HSUS's membership is not eleven million.  It's not ten million.  It's not five million, two million or even one million.  

The true membership of HSUS is less than 450,000 people.  That's the total print run of All Animals magazine, which is mailed to every HSUS member that gives $25 or more, and I assure you that this entire print run is not actually mailed to dues-paying HSUS members.   My best guess is that no more than one in ten people read the magazine's cover story -- 45,000 people or so.  No wonder that article made less noise than a penny thrown down a well!

But don't just take my word about HSUS's membership numbers.  You see, if you are willing to wade through a 115-page document, you can find those numbers yourself, buried on page 89 of the report they file every year with the Internal Revenue Service.  This is the same federal agency that nailed Al Capone.

So where does that 11 million number come from which the HSUS features so prominently on its web site?  

It's a complete untruth. A magical fabrication.  A fantastic fraud. 

It's a LIE.  Eleven million is not even in the same time zone as the truth.

So why lie?  What's that all about?

Simple:  Lying is how the Humane Society of the U.S. claims unearned political power.

HSUS figures they can lie to their members, the press, Congress, and state legislatures and no one will ever bother to check because no one will ever bother to wade through that 115-page IRS form.

But I did.  And you can too, by simply going to this link.

Now to be clear, a lot of organizations lie about their membership numbers.  The most common gambit is to assume that every dues-paying member also represents a spouse or an adult child who might also support the core mission of the organization. 

Fair enough, I suppose. 

But what HSUS has done is truly unprecedented.   You see, they have not inflated their true dues-paying membership number by a factor of two or three.... but by more than 24.

Divide by twenty-four.  

That's what the board of HSUS and all their supporters should do. 

Divide by twenty-four.

Take the salary of Wayne Pacelle -- more than $240,000 a year -- and divide by 24 to see if that "mathematical adjustment" might clarify the extent of the lie that HSUS continues to perpetrate on the American people

Divide by twenty-four. 

That's the scope of the lie, and that's why I do not expect to get a call or an email from Mr. Pacelle this week taking me up on my offer to buy him a free lunch if he only will bring along HSUS's direct mail accounting records.  Some free lunches are simply too expensive to accept!


Why Don't I Eat Fish?

Why don't I eat fish? 

People often ask me this when I eat out, as it's my only dietary restriction, and it seems odd to a lot of people including the "vegetarians" who have somehow (mysteriously) decided that fish are a kind of vegetable.

I am actually a pretty good fresh-water angler and love to eat fish (especially flounder, sole, swordfish, tuna) but I gave up eating fish more than two decades ago as it became clear that wild fisheries management was not possible under existing international law, and the science of aquaculture was not yet developed to the point where it was entirely safe on all scores.

Fisheries management is not easy, but by now it's pretty clear that aquaculture is the only way forward, same as poultry houses replaced pheasant hunting, and cattle ranching replaced buffalo hunts. We can repurpose horse and chicken waste (as energy and fertlizer for example), but we cannot quickly grow back an ocean bottom that has been trawled, nor do we (yet) know how to pen-raise swordfish, nor can we harvest wild shrimp without at least seven pounds of bycatch tossed overboard.

The problem of course, is that we now have too many mouths to feed in this world, and so as the world is new so must we think anew. Part of thinking anew is rethinking some of the less-sustainable food sources we have in this world.

Job One, the world has agreed, is to end whaling, as well as the killing of sea turtles and the harvest of sea turtle eggs.

Job Two is to get better at aquaculture, and we are quickly doing that, as I noted in an informal email I wrote some years back and which I now see has been picked up by the folks at Sea Shepherd.

Will I ever eat fish again?  Maybe. Tilapia (a genus of African cichlid with about 100 member species) is being farmed in a logical way that keeps the fish-food sources very low on the chain (i.e. the food is soybeans) while keeping the antibiotic and parasite load pretty low as well.  We shall see.  Maybe it's time to greenlight Tilapia?  I am not sure, but I am keeping my option opens.  As the world is new, so must I (slowly) think anew.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Digging Bars are a Necessity, Not a Nicety

The heavy bar, at left, rarely leaves the truck, while the lighter bar, to the right, is used on almost every dig.

My digging bar is 3/4 inch hex steel with a blunt point on one end
, and a chisel tip forged into the opposite end. The bar has been hardened for about 20 inches or so on each end. This bar was a gift from veteran terrierman Larry Morrison, and has been much used. I am proud to say that this bar is as straight as the day he gave it to me -- I value this tool and do not abuse it. With proper care, I expect it to be used to dig my grave. A similar bar can be made by any welding shop -- 3/4" hex bar is off-the-shelf stock steel.

My digging bar is 6 feet long, and I consider it the proper length and shape for good digging. I find a T-bar transfers too much vibration back into my hands and is too jarring to use when being hammered through shale, marl or rock. A bar that is too short cannot be used to reach deep in order to shatter rock or cut the edge off a hole that is four feet down (a frequent need).

The digging bar to the left of my regular digging bar is the heavier type of bar you might find at Home Depot or some other hardware store. The point end of this bar is attached to a cut down drain spade head to serve as a "Bertha," spoon, or heavy grafter (all the same thing). This heavy tool can cut through solid igneous rock -- and has. It almost never leaves the truck, but when it does, serious digging of very hard stuff has to be done.

I do not believe in going into the field with too light a bar -- it's a matter of safety for the dog. Though dogs can almost always exit places they can enter, there are times when you want to get down fast. In those rare occasions where a rock has slipped behind a dog, or a stump root prevents an easy exit, you should be able to call up the heavy artillery and get the dog out without having to call for reinforcements.

I use my light bar on almost every dig, and consider it a necessity, not a nicety.

A bar slammed deep into the ground behind a critter can be rattled to make it bolt to a snare, while a blow from a chisel point can quickly dispatch an animal in a hole. And, of course, a bar can be used as a listening device.

The primary job of bar, of course, is to break up hard packed rock and marl. When a bar is absolutely needed, nothing else will do.

Change of Season

Forest Falls to Field, and Field Falls to Freeway

The world's forests, rivers, oceans, and wild creatures are perishing at the hands of people. Across the globe, wildlife habitat is being destroyed by chainsaws, bulldozers, and chronic pollution. Much of the destruction of the natural world we see across the globe today is "fallout" from the human population explosion that has occurred over the last 50 years.

During the last 100 years, the world's population has quadrupled even as per capita consumption of natural resources has skyrocketed. At current birth rates, world population could double in the next 60 years. Even with rapidly declining birth rates, the population of the world is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 50 years. To put it another way, the world will add more people in the next 50 years than existed in the world in 1950.

Maryland Goshawks

Watch the full episode. See more Outdoors Maryland.

This is a nice little video, which I have seen on TV in the past, but could not find on the Internet.  Problem cured!
Steve Huy, who is featured in the first segment, is (or was) a reader of this blog.  When he first emailed me a few years back, I mentioned that, as odd as it might seem, there was a Gyrfalcon (an Arctic species) hunting free on one of my farms -- no leg jesses at all that I could see.  His first question:  Was this right off New Design Road?  Yep, it was.  Steve know his stuff and does service work for science and conservation trapping and banding Maryland Saw-whets in the Fall.

The second clip is about Maryland Natural Resource officers who are supported, in large part, by state hunting and trapping licenses happily paid by people like me.  The simple truth is that we have the best wildlife managers in the world, and conservation law enforcement is a core part of the equation.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Jack Russell: A History With a Warning

John Russell -- illustration by Kevin Brockbank
for the May 2011 issue of Dogs Today.

How did the Kennel Club come to add the "Parson Russell Terrier" to its roles 100 years after the Reverend John Russell died, and what does this story tell us about the role of all-breed registries in the world of honest working dogs?

The Rise and Fall of the Fox Terrier

The Reverend John Russell was born in 1795 and acquired his first white foxing terrier in 1815 from a milkman. Russell’s claim to fame is not that he invented the fox terrier, but that he was “the old man of terrier work” when the Kennel Club was founded in 1873.

Like most new organizations, the Kennel Club began on shaky legs, and sought to promote itself by trying to associate itself with big names as quickly as possible. Though John Russell had retired and sold off his hounds a few years earlier, he was still famous, and so he was tapped to judge fox terriers at the Crystal Palace Show of 1874.

Apparently, Russell did not much like what he saw, however, for he never agreed to judge a Kennel Club show again, and he refused to let his own dogs be registered.

Russell later described his own dogs as

"True terriers…but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose."

Working terrier men of the era agreed, and they too stayed away from the shows to the extent that by 1893 Rawdon Lee, author of Modern Dogs, noted the absence of hunt terriers in the ring:

"[Those terriers] best adapted for hard work… are cross-bred, hardy dogs, specially trained for the purpose, although many of the 'pedigree' animals will do similar duty to the best of their ability, but their 'pedigree' and no doubt inbreeding to a certain extent, has made them constitutionally and generally weaker than their less blue-blooded cousins."

Bam! The Kennel Club Fox Terrier had ceased to be a working dog in less than 20 years time!

The Rise of the Jack Russell Terrier

Dog dealers selling working terriers at the turn of the Twentieth Century sought to differentiate their working dogs from the non-working and over-large terriers paraded at Kennel Club shows. Advertisements for working dogs no longer called them “fox terriers,” but instead offered up "Jack Russell" terriers, the name Robert Leighton was already calling them in his 1910 book, Dogs and All About Them.

By 1930, a survey of over 100 mounted hunts in the U.K. found "Jack Russell" terriers listed, as well as "white hunt terriers" and "Devonshire working terriers". When the term “fox terrier” was used, it was carefully proceeded by the words "cross," "cross bred," "non-pedigree," or even "mongrel".

No one was using a pure-bred Kennel Club dog!

World War II saw a decline in the mounted hunts, but things roared back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as easy access to cars made it easier to get out into the countryside.

In 1974, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain was founded "to promote and preserve the working terrier known as the Jack Russell." In 1976, its U.S. analog was created -- the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America.

Both clubs have prospered and stuck to their original mission, and today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America remains the largest Jack Russell terrier club in the world.

The Kennel Club Steps In

With an increase in the popularity of the Jack Russell terrier, a push was initiated to pull the “old” fox-working terrier into The Kennel Club.

In 1990 this goal was finally achieved with representatives from several smaller Jack Russell Clubs meeting to draw up a conformation "standard" that called for a dog standing 12-15 inches at the withers. The new dog was to be called the “Parson Jack Russell Terrier," a name invented special for the occassion.

The origin of the new Kennel Club standard is a bit vague. It is said to be adopted from one originally written by Arthur Heinemann, an American-born badger digging man and dog dealer from the 1920s, but no evidence to support this claim has ever been presented.

Gerald Jones, who hunted with Heinemann and knew him well, says Heinemann did not value the kind of larger dog saluted at the top of the Kennel Club’s standard:

"He always said there was nothing a good fourteen inch terrier could do that a good eleven inch terrier couldn't do better…. Some of his best workers were no more than ten inches."

And, of course, Heinemann, like every other digging man, was opposed to Kennel Club registration. Jones quote Heinemann directly on this point:

"[I am] very much opposed to the modern show terrier and his type. Once you begin to breed it for show type, you lose the working qualities upon which you pride those terriers. I have been, I might say, the protagonist of the terrier bred for sport as against the terrier bred for show. I have no interest in cup hunting."

Russell and Heinemann may not have had any interest in cup hunting, but the Kennel Club hierarchy did, and so a few syncophants were rounded up, and the thing was done.

In 1999 The Kennel Club changed the name of the dog to the "Parson Russell Terrier" -– another name invented wholecloth and without historical roots.

The American Kennel Club followed the U.K. Kennel Club in embracing both the 12-15 inch standard and in embracing the various invented names and name changes.

In 2005, The Kennel Club added a bit more confusion to the story by changing the standard for the dog they were now calling the Parson Russell Terrier, extending it to encompass dogs ranging from 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulders.

The American Kennel Club, however, has not followed the U.K Kennel Club in changing the standard, instead chosing to simply create another breed of dog (now in its Foundation Stock Service) called the "Russell Terrier."

The breed description of this dog claims it "originated" in the United Kingdom, but that it was "developed" in Australia -- a country which John Russell never so much as visited, which had no Jack Russells at all until the very late 1960s, and where the dog in question remains a pet and show dog that never sees a moment's work!

Only Two Types

How to sort it all out, then?

I think simplicity is best.

In my opinion, there are only two types of terriers in the world: those that work and those that don't.

The white ones that work, and which come from a long line of workers, are called Jack Russell Terriers, and they are called that out of respect for the working standard that the Reverend John Russell himself honored throughout his life.

What are we to make of the Kennel Club dogs?   Simple: They are not Jack Russell terriers.

They are not Jack Russells in name, nor are they Jack Russell terriers in terms of performing regular honest work.

They are simply another small terrier, same as so many in the Kennel Club.

There is nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing very special either.

The good news is that with the name changes, no one will ever confuse these Kennel Club pretenders with the real thing – the real Jack Russell Terrier.

A Lesson To Learn

Is there a larger lesson to be gleaned from this history?

Indeed, I think there is, and it is this: No breed of working dog has ever been made in the show ring, while every working breed pulled on to the Kennel Club’s roles has been wecked or divided.

This, I think, is history with a warning!..

Friday, April 15, 2011

Down the Valley for a Couple of Days

Click for massive enlargement.
I'm traveling down the great valley of the Shenandoah for a few days. 

This colorized picture was taken in Nethers, Virginia in 1935.  Nethers is almost at the base of Old Rag Mountain.

Wildlife Management or Human Management?

A warning for language, but if bad language really gets you upset, you're probably popping Valium like Pez, and you're almost certainly not cruising around on the Internet. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PeTA Burger and Steak Sauce

Only in Alaska

Street Sign, King Cove, Alaska
Aleutian Islands, population 792.

The Tricks We Have Played on Animals

A smoking dog in 1908.  Click to enlarge.

This picture of a "smoking" dog breaks loose a small memory bubble from about 45 years ago.

When I was a very little kid, and living for a very few years in Washington, D.C., there was an old circus chimp living in a massive iron cage in a pet store on Pennsylvania avenue near Eastern Market.

This pet store sold puppies in the front window, and lizards and snakes in the back. 

The chimp's cage was to the right of the narrow aisle in between these two features, and as you passed by his cage, he would reach through the bars with his hand, his fingers curled, gesturing for a cigarette.   This poor old circus chip was addicted to cigarettes -- something he had gotten hooked on as a circus performer.  Now it seemed to be his only pleasure. 

I never saw that chimp let out of the cage.  The thing I remember now, more than 45 years later, was  how scary his hands were, with long cracked nails at the end of grasping digits.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Keeping Us Safe from Pointy Objects?

I get as exhausted from the pro-gun nuts as I do from the anti-gun nuts.

I'm pro-Second Amendment (and pro-First Amendment too it should be said), but I've never seen any reason to gin up contrived crisis or demonize folks who have a different point of view about guns because they happen to be a little confused about the nature of violence in America.

I look upon guns a bit like religion -- if you are a Christian or a Muslim, an Atheist or an Agnostic, a North American Reformed Druid or a Buddhist, good on ya. Have fun, but keep your spiritual enlightenment on the other side of the table. No harm no foul, God bless, and Peace Out.

Ditto for guns.

If you have a gun fetish, please feel free do whatever it is you think is right on the issue, but please don't wave your guns or your gun control nonsense around in public eh?

There's a time, place and manner for all things, but I'm pretty sure it's not when I'm in the room!

One reason Second Amendment defenders skeptics whiners on both sides of the aisle are so exhausting to me is that I see preious little evidence either side has read the Constitution, much less looked up the law or the data.

Here's a hint -- the Second Amendment does not mention guns.

This amendment is broader than that, and it's not even limited to citizens.

In fact, based purely on what is written in the Second Amendment, there's no reason a bearded Jihadi, fresh off the plane from Yemen, could not walk through Boston's Logan International Airport with a fully loaded rocket-propelled grenade on his shoulder, the safety off, chanting the first sura of the Koran, while his travel companion screams "death to American running dogs and especially their children!"

Of course, no one actually reads the Second Amendment in that kind of unrestrained way. 

No one.  Not even the National Rifle Association.

It turns out that everyone agrees that whatever the Founding Fathers (and their mothers) intended, it was not to allow foreign nationals fresh off the boat from another country (or domestic terrorists fresh from church sermons and cross-burnings) to walk through our crowded public airports with loaded rocket-propelled grenades on their shoulders.

There's a time, place, and manner for all things, and never mind if that time, place and manner is not spelled out too clearly in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Supreme Court has been quite clear that while there is an individual right to own a gun, there is not a right to own any gun, anywhere, under any circumstances. 

Time, place and manner.  The Second Amendment is about an individual but constrained right, and has been since we put limits on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns almost 100 years ago.  There is no honest disagreement on this point, from what I can see.

But even if we agree that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is an individual constrained right, does that mean it needs to be unnecessarily constrained? 

Is it too much to ask that we use common sense and reason at least once in a while? 

For example, should the constraints we put on the Second Amendment include knives?


Yep, knives.

Not only do these laws exist, but they are also quite common. 

For example, last summer Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., launched "a major initiative" to reduce the number of "illegal knives" on the streets of New York. 

And just look at the criminal knife dealers he decided to go after!

District Attorney Vance’s investigation led many of the sellers, including Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports, Paragon Sports, and four others, to enter into deferred prosecution agreements. The agreements require the companies to turn over all profits from the sale of such knives during the past 4-year period, totaling nearly $1.9 million to date, and to finance a campaign to educate the public about illegal knives

Home Depot? Eastern Mountain Sports?  Paragon Sports? 

These are the criminal arms traffickers that the District Attorrney in New York is going after?  Gimme a break!

Hey Cyrus, don't you know you can make a perfectly good shotgun out of the stuff you can get at any HomeDepot -- a piece of plumbing pipe, a staple gun, and a barrel-bolt hasp lock? You gonna ban those too?

Sadly, this is one more case of over-zealous legislators and law enforcement personnel checking their brains at the door when it comes to the roots of violence.

But wait.... it gets better.

Guess what originally inspired this national ban on gravity knives and switch blades? 

Wait for it.... wait for it... it was a New York city dance musical based on Romeo and Juliet!

A dance musical? Yep, a freaking ballet in the alley!

It seems that when Westside Story came out, all the over-educated white folks with too much money and not enough common sense got terrified that the knife-wielding Puerto Ricans depicted in the play would charge over from Spanish Halem and rob them as they made their way to their limos late at night.


Of course to every stupid action there is an equal and opposite stupid reaction, and so now we have.... wait for it ... wait for it .... a new organization called "Knife Rights Inc."

"Knife Rights" is an advocacy group based in Arizona whose founder was ... wait for it... wait for it ... was once mugged at knife point in New York City!

Yahoo!     God bless America.  You couldn't make this stuff up.