Monday, October 31, 2011

Kennel Club Problems? Compared to What?

Between 1946  and 2001, the AKC registered 42,280,840 dogs while increasing their breed count from 107 to 150.

That may sound like a lot of dogs (it is!) but today the AKC registry is in free fall, with total numbers plummeting by 60 percent in the last 15 years, and some suggesting the AKC may go out of business altogether by 2025

In recent years, AKC registration numbers have fallen so fast that the AKC no longer publishes them; the last breed-by-breed numbers were published in 2006.

Today, less than 12 percent of all dogs in the U.S. are AKC registered, while more than half are cross-breeds or mutts.

Of those dogs that are AKC registered, more than half are accounted for by just 10 breeds.

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Beagles
  • Golden Retrievers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Shih Tzu

The rarest 50 AKC breeds combined represent just 1.2 percent of all AKC registrations, or less than 0.15 percent of all dogs in the United States (i.e. if we had a population of 2,000 dogs in front of us, a total of just 3 AKC-registered dogs would come from any of the 50 breeds named below).

  • Spinoni Italiani
  • Bluetick Coonhounds
  • Kerry Blue Terriers
  • Manchester Terriers
  • Redbone Coonhounds
  • Australian Terriers
  • Tibetan Mastiffs
  • Briards
  • English Toy Spaniels
  • Welsh Springer Spaniels
  • Irish Terriers
  • Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens
  • Miniature Bull Terriers
  • Clumber Spaniels
  • Field Spaniels
  • Boykin Spaniels
  • Plotts
  • Black Russian Terriers
  • Affenpinschers
  • Lakeland Terriers
  • German Pinschers
  • Greyhounds
  • Bedlington Terriers
  • Scottish Deerhounds
  • Swedish Vallhunds
  • American Water Spaniels
  • Kuvaszok
  • Pulik
  • Curly-Coated Retrievers
  • Lowchen
  • Irish Water Spaniels
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdogs
  • Irish Red and White Setters
  • Ibizan Hounds
  • Sealyham Terriers
  • Beaucerons
  • Komondorok
  • Sussex Spaniels
  • Pharaoh Hounds
  • Glen of Imaal Terriers
  • Finnish Spitz
  • Norwegian Buhunds
  • Skye Terriers
  • Otterhounds
  • Pyrenean Shepherds
  • Canaan Dogs
  • Dandie Dinmont Terriers
  • Harriers
  • American Foxhounds
  • English Foxhounds

One take-away message from all these numbers is that a lot of dog writers today seem to be missing the forest for the trees.

Yes, a lot of pure bred dogs are health care wrecks.

But isn't there a bigger problem in the world of dogs that too many remain deadly silent about?

Consider this: more Pit Bulls are killed in U.S. shelters every year than ALL American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club registration combined.

If you are writing about dog welfare and health and are not talking about that, you are missing the canine story of the decade.

And it's not just an American story is it?

Consider this:  Last year less than 110 Neopolitan Mastiffs were registered with the U.K. Kennel Club, while down at a single shelter in London, they put down 800 Pit Bulls -- i.e. "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types".  That's about one-third of all the healthy dogs euthanized last year at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.  That's more dead Pit Bulls from that single shelter than the number of Pekingese, Chinese Cresteds, Portgese Water Dogs, or Boston Terriers registered by the Kennel Club that year.  And why did they put down so many "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types"?   Simple:  Because no one wanted them.

And yet these dogs are still being bred by people who say they love them. 

And they are still being acquired in droves by people who say they want them. 

And yet what happens next is all to predictable:  about half of these dogs end up on death row because they prove to be too much for their owners.

And what is the dog writing community, saying about all this? 

Not much.   The silence is pretty deafening.

And why is that? Mostly because folke are bullied when they do write about it.  Try to talk about solutions, and just see how quickly the Pit Bull denialists show up!

"Blame the deed not the breed" they wail.  

But they don't mean the deed of breeding dogs for quick cash, do they?  No, that's a sacred cow. 

Talk about a ban on advertising these dogs for cash sales, and suddenly there is no concern at all about the dogs.  Now it's all about property rights

The dead dogs? 

They offer up no solutions for them, other than to fire up the ovens and push a few thousand more corpses into the landfill while, like parrots, they squawk "ban the deed not the breed." 

I Make Plans and God Laughs

I make plans and God laughs.

Such was Saturday when JRTCA Nationals were to be held, with icy rains coming down not quite sideways, but with a 15-mile an hour wind nonetheless. I looked at the weather and decided to go up Sunday. It would be a smaller day, but at least there would not be icy rain and wind!

Sunday morning I was out of the house on time. despite the ice on my windshields front and back. Gideon was in the crate and the radio had passable music.  All was fine with the world.

We got about half way there, and I realized I was running a bit early, and so I decided to take a short loop up through Cunningham Falls State Park. It was a good call -- the leaves were just starting to the turn, and the ice and snow pushed everything down into a kind of bowery  over the road. Very nice. Yes some branches were down, making two lanes one at spots, but nothing too serious.

It was about this time that the tire warning came on. This is the valve gauge that lets you know you have low tire pressure, but one of my tire valves broke off a while back, and it was replaced with a straight stem, so now the sensor goes off for no reason every once in a while.

As I left Cunningham Falls State Park, the tire gauge tone and lights came on continuously, but my tires were clearly fine. What the hell?

Long story short, the truck died outside of Smithsburg (gateway to Cavetown) at an intersection not too far from Antietam Creek, the sight of the legendary violent Civil War Battlefield.

FORD -- found on road dead.

The good news is that a call to AAA brought out a truck within the hour, and he discovered two things: 1) I needed a new battery (pretty clearly visually, and I saw the test on it too) and; 2) my alternator was toast. That wasn't the tire sensor coming on and off, it was my "check electrical system" sensor. Oh. The damn thing was flashing so much I could not read it and drive, and I just assumed it was the tire sensor, since everything else is always fine Silly me!

My savior from Blue & Gray Towing swapped out a new battery and he volunteered to lead me to the place that could put in the new alternator because the battery was no sure thing over the distance. He called up the place before we left and got the alternator delivered while he packed up his truck. Twenty minutes later I was inside Mr Tire, which was a very busy place, large and clean, with a lady running the place that was pushing nothing. This was an honest and competent shop, and I would go back there in a minute.

A few hours later, and I had my alternator in, but now it was noon and I was still an hour away from JRTCA nationals.

I got the message God; I went home.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rare as a Tiger and as Useless as a Shih Tzu

The last man to dig with a Kennel Club Sealyham was Jocelyn Lucas in the 1930s.

The Daily Mail has a piece on the Sealyham Terrier:

They look so cute it is almost impossible to believe these dogs have had their day.

But the Sealyham terrier, once beloved of Hollywood stars and royalty, is now ‘rarer than a tiger’ and on the verge of extinction.

The staggering decline in the popularity of the little white dogs is highlighted in the latest edition of Country Life magazine...


The Sealyheam is a rare terrier
, while Jack Russells are everywhere, and it's not hard to find a good Patterdale is it?

Why is that?

You will not get a useful answer from The Daily Mail who went to a Kennel Club spokesperson looking for an answer.  Her reply?  It was all due to the ban on tail docking and the rise in the popularity of Shih Tzus!

Nonsense.  Do they make up these answers whole cloth as they stumble out of the drinks tent?  It sure seems like it!  The Sealyham was as rare as frog hair long before the tail docking ban, and if the Kennel Club thinks a Shih Tzu and a Sealyham are interchangeable then they really have told us they think a Sealyham is a toy poodle.

In fact, the reason there are so few Kennel Club registered Sealyham's is that the Kennel Club Sealyham is useless as a working dog and undifferentiated (except by price) as a pet dog.

A working terrier cannot be thick in the chest, but that's exactly what has happened to the Kennel Club Sealyham terrier which is why there are no working versions of this terrier. 

Look at the picture, below, of a recent Cruft's winner. The dog is as big as a sofa cushion!

Terrierman Eddie Chapman has said it about as well as anyone when it comes to the small chest size needed for a working terrier:
"On the working side, I think if we look at the country as as whole [the U.K.], I think we will find that the most used size is between ten and a half inches and twelve and a half inches ... I have never seen a Russell of fourteen inches that was as small in the chest as a vixen.... I am a small man and have reasonably small hands, but in more than twenty years during which time I have handled well over 1000 foxes, I have never handled a full grown fox which came anywhere near the span of my hands. The biggest I can remember was a South Hereford fox that was one and a half inches smaller than my hand and that was without squeezing him."
-- Eddie Chapman,  "The Working Jack Russell Terrier"

Jack Russell Terriers and the Patterdale Terriers remain popular all over the world because they are true terriers, which is to say that they are small enough to get to ground to find their quarry, and they are tough enough to stay once is is found.   No, most Jacks are not hunted, but everyone wants a dog that could hunt and there are not many candidates in the terrier world any more.  A Sealyham?  It's a big Shit-zoo -- the Kennel club lady herself said as much! 

Western Kansas, 1905


This Is How We Roll


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Five Articles and 60,000 More for Free

The Royal Society Journal has just been given us all free access to their archives, complete with search engine

For your amusement, here are five articles that might be worth reading, depending on your level of interest in things canine.  Check out the dates on two of them -- pretty early work there!
  • The pace of morphological change: historical transformation of skull shape in St Bernard dogs, Proc. R. Soc. B January 7, 2008 ....the study of historical shape change in dog skulls provides an excellent opportunity...Kennel Club 2006; Young Bannasch 2006). Dog breeds are maintained by breeders as distinct...heterochrony and allometry in the evolution of dog breeds (Wayne 1986), we also examine ... Abstract   Full Text   Full Text (PDF)
  • Random drift and large shifts in popularity of dog breeds, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B August 7, 2004 ...drift and large shifts in popularity of dog breeds H. A. Herzog 1 R. A. Bentley...phenomenon-changes in the distributions of popularity of dog breeds in the United States in each of the...drift and large shifts in popularity of dog breeds.  Abstract   Full Text (PDF)
  • The Micro-Organism of Distemper in the Dog, and the Production of a Distemper Vaccine, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1900  Full Text (PDF)
  • Observations Tending to Shew That the Wolf, Jackal, and Dog, are All of the Same Species.  By John Hunter, Esq. F. R. S.Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1787  Full Text (PDF)
  • Precision animal breeding, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B February 12, 2008 disease in Shetland sheepdogs, Scottish terriers and Doberman Pinschers (where different...Setters, copper toxicosis in Bedlington terriers, and hereditary cataract and L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria in Staffordshire Bull terriers are already available in the UK through...       Abstract     Full Text    Full Text (PDF)

    Pheasant Plucker's Song

    The Suburban Bushwacker has a nice bit on the Pheasant Pluckers song, but we have audio-video!


    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Coffee and Provocation

    Which Pet for You?
    The folks who make infographics have come up with a flow chart that helps readers pick which sort of pet would be best for their individual lifestyle. I was braced for it to be total crap, but it's surprisingly well done!

    Betty White Wants Her Dog on the Orvis Calendar:
    And to be honest, if I was making the decision, that dog would be on that cover now.  I looove me some Betty White!

    Hunting Is Not a Sport:
    I agree with Chas Clifton over at Southern Rockies Nature blog even though I do carry over 50 pounds of tools into the field and I have to dig my dogs out of the ground.  Baseball is a sport.  Dog showing and hunting are not.

    In the Future Your Robot Will Scoop Your Dog's Poop:
    They have already built the machine.  Yes, this is the culmination of all human effort up to this point... that and computer porn.

    Look Up and Wave Your Glove:
    A terrific video on falconry directed by Matthew Huston.

    Airstream Porn:This is a flickr set of 54 photos of an "Adirondack" Airstream.  I am not ashamed to say I want one!

    Kate Holmes Can Keep a Secret
    She says mum's the word, but fox hunting is still going on all over the U.K. and it's entirely legal.

    This Could Change Starbucks Forever:
    A commercial version of the Philips Saeco Xelsis Digital ID could change the economics of Starbucks forever, as it is the first coffee machine to use fingerprint recognition to identify how you like your coffee. Once you select your poison and "train" the local machine with three taps of your finger on a pad, it will remember your order, including strength and amount of milk and froth.

    This Probably Won't:
    The AeroShot is an inhalable caffeine "shot."  Sorry, but I want to drink my coffee while reading a newspaper, not huff it while running a red light. 

    A Back Country Intimacy Kit?
    This "Back Country Intimacy Kit" does not come with a bar of soap or a shower. It does, however,  come with a ridiculous price tag.

    Edgar Allen Poe Was an Incestuous Pedophile?
    I came across a list of famous people who married their cousins.  Buried within that list was the creepy tale of a 20-year Edgar Allen Poe who fell in love with his 7-year old cousin and married her when she was only 13.

    Calamari Rings As Big as Tractor Tires:
    What's bigger than a Giant Squid?  How about an even larger species called a Colossal Squid?  The first adult was landed intact off of New Zealand, and it was 33 feet long and weighed 990 pounds.

    Is There Another Mountain Lion Loose in Connecticut?
    Maybe.  After you've already had one come over from South Dakota, another one showing up does not seem quite as crazy.  Plus it was an Animal Control Officer that saw the animal, not an old lady off her meds, or a young man on his.

    The Source of the Mystery Feet Is Found:
    For years, severed feet, almost always with a tennis shoe attached, have been found along the coast of the Pacific Northewest. Now the source of the mystery feet has been discovered:  suicide-jumpers off a bridge.

    Compared to What?
    Who do you think gets paid more, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the head of the Immigration Lawyers Association?  One has 200,000 employees (DHS), the other has 57 (ILA). Here's the answer that you already know.

    Turtle Man Gets a TV Show:
    Gap-toothed redneck Ernie Brown's YouTube  snapping-turtle catching videos went viral, and now Animal Planet has decided to give the Kentucky native his own reality show, Call of the Wildman.  It starts November 6th.  If Animal Planet wants to do a reality show on working terriers, all they have to do is call me.  Be advised, however, that I have all my teeth, I do not do rebel yells, and I do not work for free.

    Good Question!
    Here's a good question for the instant experts and the math challenged.

    Steve Tyler is Not Aging Gracefully:
    Just sayin'.

    His Prison Name is "Crying Bitch Puppy":
    Walter "Lone Wolf" Bond, 35, the lunatic animal rights activist who has "VEGAN" tattooed in large letters across his neck and is currently serving 5 years in federal prison for arson and animal rights terrorism, just got another 87 months tacked on to his sentence. 

    Florida Python Swallows Deer (With Pictures)

    This very large Burmese python was captured and killed in the Florida Everglades on Thursday, right after it caught and consumed a whitetail deer.

    The snake was 15.6 feet long, weighed 215 pounds (counting the prey inside). 

    The doe deer inside weighed 76-poundsSource.

    Punish the Deed... of Breeding Pit Bulls for Cash

    UKC Pit Bulls mated on "rape rack" in North Carolina.  Current breeder web site picture.

    There's no money and no glory in writing about the numbing numbers behind animal shelter deaths

    Merritt Clifton writes for a publication called Animal People.

    I do not know Merritt Clifton, but I like him.

    For starts he didn't show up yesterday. He's been standing for dogs and cats for more than 30 years. In my book that counts for something.

    An instant expert? No, thank God.

    Merritt Clifton is not in it for the money or the glory.  There's no money and no glory in writing about the numbing numbers behind animal shelter deaths and the direct mail organizations that are working to raise money, ostensibly on their behalf.

    So why does Clifton do it? Why does he spend the long hours and suffer all the abuse from those who find his data... inconvenient?

    Well, perhaps because he thinks the data is important.

    If you truly believe animal welfare is important, then it's important to make sure donations are not wasted.

    If your goal really is to minimize shelter dog and cat death, then you want to know how many animals are in shelters, how they got there, who they are, and where they go in the end.

    So Clifton has toiled away for decades doing the dog work (pun intended) of actually collecting the data.

    If you want know how rare that is, consider this: I have challenged the Pit Bull community to document the non-molosser breed fatalities and show where Pit Bull types (aka butcher's dogs) do not ALWAYS come out on top. No takers there, even though the data is really not that hard to find (here you go) and has already been assembled by others. Instead, the Pit Bull community closes its eyes, puts its fingers in its collective ears, and chants like small children who do not want to hear bad news.

    There's another reason I like Clifton; he has had to make peace with counting the uncountable. I too have spent three decades doing the same thing, first working with massive population and immigration data sets, and then with data on alcohol and drug abuse in the U.S., and now with various kinds of fraud.

    People who want to do nothing will often punt back to "bad data" arguments, saying that since we don't know exactly how many illegal aliens there are, or how much cocaine is coming in, or how much fraud is costing us, or what the base line was 30 years ago, we should do nothing. Let's study the problem some more -- a little more paralysis from analysis, please!

    But, of course, you do not have to have exact numbers to move on policy, do you? You just have to agree that there is a problem, and that things are getting worse.

    Is there any doubt about that when it comes to Pit Bulls?

    Clifton Merritt, unlike most of his critics, has worked with shelter data for a long time, and as an consequence he is as familiar with the data sets as a farmer is with his soil.

    When you have been handling a data set for a long time, you no longer pay too much attention to the individual numbers. Instead, like a musician glancing over sheet music, you see the flow, the cadence, and the tone. You hear the music.

    So what is the melody Merritt Clifton hears these days?

    It is not all bad.

    Clifton writes in the October issue of Animal People:

    [T]he past 25 years have produced unprecedented improvement in the human relationship with dogs, especially here in the United States...

    A dog who was impounded or surrendered to a shelter 25 years ago had just a 10% chance of being rehomed. Dogs in shelters today have about a 60% chance of being rehomed -- unless they happen to be pit bull terriers or close mixes of pit bull, whose sterilization rate is still barely 25%.

    Only 3.3% of the dogs advertised for sale online are pit bulls, implying that only about 3.3% of all the dogs sold are pit bulls. Yet more than 16% of the dogs adopted from animal shelters since 2007 have been pit bulls, meaning that shelters are persuading adopters to choose pit bulls at about five times the rate that dog purchasers choose to buy pit bulls when they buy dogs from breeders.

    Despite that extraordinary rate of success in pit bull placement, however, about 75% of the pit bulls and pit mixes arriving at shelters are killed, either due to dangerous behavior or simply because shelters are receiving pit bulls in ever-escalating volume. Each year from a third to 45% of the total U.S. pit bull population enters an animal shelter, a phenomenon never seen with any other dog breed....

    Impoundments of fighting dogs and impoundments of neglected pit bulls both soared after the April 2007 arrest of football player Michael Vick in connection with dogfighting. Twenty-six percent of the dogs entering U.S. shelters were pit bulls. Yet, for the first time in at least 20 years, the numbers of pit bulls killed in shelters actually dropped. The Best Friends Animal Society, already opposed to breed-specific legislation, ramped up efforts to block breed-specific laws, and redoubled promotion of pit bull adoptions. The American Humane Association also became active in opposition to breed-specific legislation.

    The publicity boost from the Vick case and the investment of Best Friends et al in saving pit bulls appeared to pay off, for a time, as the numbers of pit bulls killed in U.S. animal shelters fell from 920,000 in 2007 to 825,000 in 2008 and 810,000 in 2009. But the U.S. economy turned bad in 2008, causing more people to surrender pets to shelters, more people to neglect pets, and more people to try to earn a few dollars through backyard breeding. Meanwhile, the vigorous pit bull promotion appeared to hit inherent limits on just how many dogs of any one type can be adopted out. Even if every pit bull had the positive qualities of Lassie, and no problematic behavior, there are only so many people who want big dogs.

    Even the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, which appears to rehome more pit bulls than any other agency in the U.S., kills about 40% of pit bull intake, and has reported increasing pit bull intake since 2008. More pit bulls have been rehomed in recent years than ever before, but as most of the U.S. still has no effective brake on pit bull breeding, pit bulls in 2010 rose to 29% of shelter dog admissions and 60% of shelter dog killing.

    The 2010 U.S. shelter pit bull toll of 930,300 was the second highest yet.

    The bottom line: We are NOT going to be be able to adopt our way out of this Pit Bull mess. It's like trying to drain a swimming pool with a Dixie Cup, even as the garden hose pumps in more water.

    So what to do?

    Clifton says, that with the massive numbers of Pit Bulls in the U.S. today, in order to achieve a balance between demand and supply, we would need to see a 90 percent Pit Bull sterilization rate.

    That may sound like a phenomenally high number, but 70 percent of other dog breeds are sterilized right now. A 90 percent sterilization rate for a single generation of Pit Bulls might actually be possible were Pit Bull owners normal people.

    But they aren't.

    Pit Bull owners are more likely to be criminal, young, and ignorant than the average dog owner.

    Clifton is too nice a fellow to say it that way, but Pit Bull owners themselves say it, don't they?

    Isn't that the subtext of the Pit Bull apologists refrain that, "it's not the dog, but the owner"?


    But actually it's the dog and the owner. Put amped-up canine genetics together with sub-par human intelligence, and sprinkle denial over all of it, and you get America's Pit Bull mess.

    Or, as Clifton puts it:

    The central behavioral issue involving pit bulls is not a matter of "nature versus nurture," but rather a matter of inherently problematic dogs being acquired by inherently problematic people, who then keep and train the dogs in a manner that multiplies the risk factors.


    But what to do?

    Clifton suggests one small step in the right direction would be to stop glamorizing Pit Bulls in ads and start treating them like any other overly-promoted breed.

    When Budweiser featured a Bull terrier as part of its "Spuds McKenzie" ad campaign, there was a great deal of tut-tutting by the shelter and pet community all around. Oh. My. God. Now everyone will run out and get a bull terrier like they did with German Shepherds (Rin Tin Tin), Collies (Lassie), Saint Bernards (Beethoven), and Dogue de Bordeaux (Turner and Hooch).

    Stop treating dogs as cartoon characters in ad campaigns screamed the pet community!

    When Disney featured Dalmatians in the live-action re-make of 101-Dalmatians, the shelter and pet community went nuts for spotlighting this cute and dramatically photogenic breed. The movie would predictably lead to over-breeding, abandonment, and the death of thousands of dogs, they said. And they were right.

    When Taco Bell featured a Chihuahua in their commercials, they too got beaten up for helping foster the subsequent Chihuahua explosion.

    So what happens when the dog is a Pit Bull?

    Suddenly the rules change. Every commercial and movie that has a lovable Pit Bull in it is celebrated. Ditto for every Pit Bull featured in a television show or YouTube video, no matter how ridiculous the premise or the message.

    Of course, ending the glamorization of Pit Bulls as "nanny dogs" and "pibbles" and "pet bulls" will not change the game. We are too deep in the mud for that.

    Changing social cues might be able to prevent a very small problem from escalating, but it's not going to put out a raging fire like we have with the American Pit Bull.

    And so Merritt Clifton has, very reluctantly, come to the same place I did a few years back. While generally skeptical of mandatory spay-neuter, he says we may have to impose a "pit bull exception" to break the back of commercial breeders and get-rich-quick backyard entrepreneurs.

    Is Clifton embracing an across-the-board ban on breeding?

    He is not. Instead, he suggests a more modest and targeted response: making it illegal to advertise or sell Pit Bulls for money. He writes in the October issue of Animal People:

    [A]ctive enforcement of breed-specific legislation would be most effective if enforcement is triggered by evidence of breeding, sale, or other exchange. The act of offering animals for sale constitutes an admission both that the animals belong to the would-be seller and that they are not considered members of the family.

    In short, Clifton is suggesting treating Pit Bulls a bit like some would have federal and state governments treat marijuana. You want to grow your own? No problem. You can even grow a little weed for your friends. But if you sell dope, advertise dope, or trade dope, you are going to get busted. A right to own, and even a right to breed, but not a right to sell.

    Of course some will say that criminal Pit Bull dog fighters will simply ignore the law. Yep. But so what?

    You see, most Pit Bulls are not being bred by criminal dog fighters; they are being bred by young get-rich-quick idiots who think cranking out two or three litters a year might be a good way to make their rent and beer money.

    Make it impossible for them to advertise or sell dogs without attracting police attention, and a new calculation will be made.

    Of course, some will turn around and say it is impossible to know which dogs are Pit Bulls, and so how can breeding them for sale be made illegal?


    If the dog looks like a Pit Bull and is not registered as another breed by the AKC, it's a Pit Bull. Lets stop hiding behind semantics and remember that the heat is not going to be vested on the dog, but on the human who decided to breed another litter of common-as-dirt large molosser dogs for cash. Punish the deed not the breed? Damn right!

    Remove the money from the equation, and let's see if things change. Clifton thinks it will, and I think he may be right.

    We know denormalization campaigns work. They have worked for cigarettes, and they have worked for drunk driving. If we went one step further, however, and required people who wanted to smoke cigarettes and drink wine to grow and bottle their own, you can be sure use and abuse numbers would plummet even further.

    What would the world look like if we banned the commercial sale and advertising of Pit Bulls?

    You could still own the dog.

    You could still acquire the dog.

    The only thing that would change is that all those backyard breeders and "hump and dump" commercial kennels would have to find a new line of work.

    And who would benefit? Not Merritt Clifton. Not me. Not you.

    Nope, the beneficiaries would be about a million Pit Bulls a year that are now killed and shoved into land fills. A lot of those dogs would not be born, and lot more of the others would end up getting adopted. How great would that be?

    * * *

    A Final Note: Merritt Clifton and I do not have much in common. He is a bunny hugger and I am a hunter. He is a vegetarian, and I am a ready apologist for commercial chicken farms. It's pretty clear to me that we have come to dramatically different conclusions on a lot of things, and I am OK with that. You see, though Clifton and I may disagree on some fundamental issues, I think Clifton cares a great deal about reducing shelter animal death in general, and Pit Bull deaths in particular. I do not question his integrity; instead I give a solid hat tip to it. I do not fear his vegetarianism any more than I fear "catching gay." I suspect he thinks deer hunters are barbarians and I know he thinks my own form of hunting is beyond the pale. I am OK with that too. Who knew truth to suffer in a free and open debate? I am pretty sure deer hunting, Kentucky Fried chicken, and hunting with dogs is here to stay. I have no fear to sell, and I am not scared of animal rights folks.  Not in the least.  That said,  I am interested in building a few bridges if it will help the dogs.

    So what's my point?

    My point is that if you are looking for an animal charity to support, "Animal People" is a pretty low-cost expense.

    This is a tiny little outfit that, working with a few true believers, has managed to leverage a very small amount of money to help shape a better understanding of what is going on in the world of shelter dogs and cats. Not everything they produce is smooth or slick. These folks have production standards about as rough as the old Mother Earth News, but I consider that a mark of integrity. If you want to piss your money down a rat hole in exchange for glossy pictures of a guy in an expensive suit and a good haircut, go ahead and give to the Humane Society of the United States. If you want to help at the local level, give to your local No Kill shelter. But if you want to stand for animals and influence the national debate, consider subscribing to Animal People. You do not have to agree with all their goals. I do not. That said, these folks are not fly-by-night publicity whores like PeTA, nor are they purveyors of forest-killing direct mail campaigns in which 75 cents out of every dollar goes to fund more direct mail, like HSUS. No, these folks are true believers, and they have quietly stood for shelter dogs and cats for a hell of a long time. There is a principled asceticism to their actions and so, as odd as it may sound, I encourage everyone to click and treat

    We are not going to adopt our way out of this mess, and we cannot continue to fiddle.


    A River Runs Threw It

    The White Salmon River runs free again for the first time in 100 years. Salmon and steelhead will once again be able to run all the way up stream -- another 33 miles of fishing. 

    Nick Kwas Makes Violin Super Cool

    This is not just talent, it is joy.  Not a one-off either.  When I see abilities like this I am reminded what a great country this is with rivers of talent, dedication, and hard work running through it.  Yeah, the kids are alright!

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Territorialism in the Yard

    Two of the yard fox have a small discussion.

    Your Arguments are Invalid

     About 15 times a day I read something so good and fun I think, "I wish I had written that," and then I share it with the world.

    Here's one of those occasions.

    Over at The Last Word on Nothing, Christie Aschwanden looks at the business of blog commentary in a post humorously entitled, "You've got mail, you Idiot!"

    Read the whole thing

    Seriously, it's good stuff

    That said, here's a long quote that more or less summarizes a few core points (but without the humorous graphics, hint, hint):

    [T]ell readers that they’re wrong about something they know in their heart to be true, and they will send you hate mail...

    Now it’s tempting to dismiss these angry readers as a bunch of idiots. But they’re not, and the truth is, I know where they’re coming from. I’ve been that person.

    I’m married to an amazing guy. Dave is like those honeybees that always know the way back to the hive. Me, I’ve gotten myself lost in the Hearst building.

    We’ll be hiking and we’ll come to a split in the trail and I’ll point one way and say, we need to go here. And Dave will say no, actually, this is the right way (as he points in the opposite direction). And I’ll insist that, no, this is the way.

    And then he’ll point out that my way peters out below some cliff face. Which only pisses me off. The more evidence he shows me that I’m wrong, the more insistent I become — I’m right and he’s wrong....

    ... So when Dave tells me that his way is right and mine is straight up a cliff, I think, oh yeah? Well I’m smart, independent and capable, so therefore I’m correct. I would never point us in the wrong direction.

    See, it’s never really about the hiking trail. It’s about some bigger story you’ve told yourself. I’m not taking issue with Dave’s direction. I know he’s right. But the factual mumbo jumbo he’s showing me clashes with the story I’ve told myself. I don’t like what it says about me.

    The idea that I could be giving wrong directions contradicts the vision I have of myself as a competent person. I’m sure that I know the right direction, because I’m too smart to lead us astray.

    When Dave points out that I am directing us to a cliff face, here’s how I process the evidence. Dave’s way = I’m a helpless, dumb blonde. But I’m not a dumb blonde, I know I’m not, and so I reject his facts.

    Which is the same thing that happens when the vitamin takers read my story.

    They see the vitamin headline and they hear: your vitamin pill is a worthless scam, sucker! And then they think, no way! I’m no sucker — therefore this article is wrong. They reject the evidence.

    Because the story they’ve told themselves is that they’re smart and “proactive” for taking the vitamin. In that story, it’s possible to protect yourself from scary diseases by taking a vitamin pill. And honestly, who doesn’t want to live in that world?


    Fantasy is comfortable, and we all like to hear stories that support our core frame, which is that we are pretty smart, pretty well-informed, quite experienced, and that the world operates exactly as we think it does all the time.

    And so one party tunes in to MSNBC and the other tunes into Fox, and fewer and fewer people bother to color outside the lines or even consider getting all the facts, much less tease through the competing explanations for all those facts.

    Of course, people often know when they are driving faster than their headlights.  They may not slow down, of course, but they know. And so what do they do?

    On the Internet, they post comments anonymously, or they create "sock puppets" to agree with themselves, or perhaps they attack on a minor issue, claiming (for instance) that if someone got one small fact wrong, then the entire train of what is being said (or has ever been said by their opponent) is wrong.

    But are they really arguing about the issue here, or is this all sound and noise being driven by ego, denial, fear of being found out, and outrage that someone, somewhere, might not share their world view which they perceive (somehow) to be a direct attack on them?

    Christie Aschwanden thinks it's too often the later, and she understands.   She really does. She feels your pain.

    The Stanley Milgram Dog Show at Age 50

    Scientific America notes that this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Stanley Milgram experiment in which people were shown to be obedient to authority to the point that they were willing to kill unknown civilians. 

    How's that relate to dogs and dog shows?  See below.

    What the Hell is the Saint Francis Terrier?

    This morning I popped open my email to get a very nice article from someone who cares a great deal about reducing shelter death in general, and Pit Bull death in particular.

    More on that in another post, but for right now, in order to keep the focus on the story, I append a little squib that jumped out from the piece.  It's about the efforts of shelters and rescues to "sell" Pit Bulls to the public:

    Striving to implement the 1994 Adoption Pact, which made San Francisco at least nominally the first U.S. "no kill" city, the San Francisco SPCA introduced free sterilization of pit bulls. When that did not stop the rising influx, the SF/SPCA in 1996 renamed pit bulls "St. Francis terriers," in hopes that changing their image would make them more adoptable. More were adopted--but the original "St. Francis terrier" program was suspended within 60 days, as was a similar program introduced by the Wisconsin Humane Society, when several of the strenuously screened and rehomed dogs turned out to be cat-killers.

    After retooling and relaunching the "St. Francis terrier" program several times, and having another fiasco in 2003 when an adopted pit bull attacked a police horse, leading to two human injuries, the SF/SPCA and San Francisco Department of Animal Care & Control between them reduced their pit bull killing to 450 per year. Then, against vigorous opposition from the SF/SPCA and local animal rights groups, the SF/DACC persuaded the San Francisco City Council to pass an ordinance requiring all pit bulls to be sterilized. Pit bull shelter killing in San Francisco fell to 300 in the first year after the ordinance passed. Within another year San Francisco shelters were killing fewer pit bulls than any cities except Denver and Miami....

    ... Echoing the "St. Francis terrier" program, the New York City Center for Animal Care & Control opened 2004 by announcing that pit bulls would henceforth be promoted as "New Yorkies." That lasted just three days.

    The Saint Francis Terrier?

    New Yorkies?  


    Surely this cannot be true?

    But, of course, it is. A quick tour of Google and I come up with this:

    The Saint Francis Terrier, which has been their name, officially, since 1996, and first used by the SPCA in San Francisco. They were formerly known as the American Stafford Shire Terrier, or Amstaff.

    "Saint Francis Terrier" is very befitting, because this breed has a lot of integrity, warmth, is extremely loyal and loving -- the most affectionate and intelligent dog in the world!

    Uh, right. Very smart, very loyal and very loving most of the time.

    And yet these dogs are often very dog aggressive, are they not?

    They are also implicated in about half the dog-related deaths and a very large percentage of the serious maulings that occur in this country.

    Yes, that too is true.

    And, of course, they are not a terrier.   As I have noted in the past, an "American Staffordshire Terrier" has no terrier in it at all. It is pure molosser, and is descended from a long line of butcher's dogs that now includes Boxers, Rottweilers, and Dogue de Bordeaux.  A terrier does not become a terrier because you tack that word on to the end of its name!

    Of course, the world has not been much deceived, has it?

    Look up Pit Bull in the dictionary and see what you see:

    Now, to be clear, I am all for adopting Pit Bulls from the pound.  Yes, absolutely!  Please look them over and consider them, especially if you are in the market for a mid-sized to large dog, have a fenced yard, and you are not a first-time dog owner.

    But be advised that Pit Bulls are not "just like every other dog" in the world. That is a lie.

    No, Pit Bulls are not as dangerous as lions, but they should never be marketed as "nanny dogs" either.

    And for God's sake, let's not start marketing them as "New Yorkies" or "Saint Francis Terriers" either.

    These dogs are Pit Bulls, not "pet bulls" or plush toys.

    As I note in a 2006 post entitled What the Hell is an American Staffordshire Terrier?

    Kennel Club owners of these dogs will tell you they have worked hard to breed all aggression and prey drive out of their charges. And no doubt many have. What a comical thing that is, of course -- a bit like an auto club bragging that their sport cars have no engines.

    The only thing is .... it's not always true. "Bad breeding" and "poor socialization" are often blamed when dogs descended from pit and catch dogs attack small children, but ... could it be .... perhaps ... that a small bit of genetic code remains unbraided as well? It is certainly in the realm of possibility, is it not?

    In fact, molosser breeds can make fine pets in the right hands, but many of these dogs demand much more time, energy, and commitment than their young owners realize.

    A large dog in the hands of a young man with shifting interests and an unstable housing situation (i.e. most young men) is a recipe that too often leads to dead dogs at the County shelter.

    Sadly, as true then as it is now.

    The nearly one million Pit Bulls that will be killed this year were all bred, acquired and dumped... most of them by young men and women with shifting interests and unstable housing situations who said they loved Pit Bulls. For too many of these people a Pit Bull was their first dog.

    And what was the predictable result?

    Dead Pit Bulls and a lot of misery.

    We are not going to change that equation with new marketing slogans and fantasy names for these dogs.

    The problem with Pit Bulls is not marketing; it is the reality that this is the wrong dog for most people.

    The problem with Pit Bulls is that too many people are breeding them, and too many people are marketing them as something they are not.

    The problem with Pit Bulls is the Pit Bull.

    Until we embrace the dog for what he is, rather than what we want him to be, the mis-match between dog, prospective owner, and society will continue unabated.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Whistling Past the Pit Bull Graveyard

    Fence sign on Darla Napora's house.

    When BadRap supporter Darla Napora and her unborn baby
    were fatally mauled by one of her own Pit Bulls,
    BadRap was almost silent.
    Was there a lesson they failed to learn?
    Was there a lesson they failed to teach?

    Darla Napora, a pregnant and very vocal 32-year old supporter of "BadRap," a Pit Bull rescue in the San Francisco bay area, was fatally mauled by her own Pit Bull on August 6th of this year.

    An autopsy on her body was conclusive: she died of blood loss due to the mauling she got from her dog, Gunner.

    The only trauma was that done by the dog, which was standing over her bloody and ripped body when she was found dead.


    But that hardly matters does it?

    As I noted back a few years ago, it's not really that crazy for a "tiger to go tiger" or for a pit bull "to go pit bull" is it?

    Tightly wound genetic code can explode inside any bred-for-purpose dog.

    Of course, when that code explodes inside a Pointer, he might go rigid in front of a feathered hat, while the unbraided double-helix of a Pit Bull might result in a dead neighbor's dog or a mauled child.

    And yes, both of those events happen every day in this country

    Fatal maulings of human by dogs are rare (only about 30 a year in the U.S.), but serious hospitalizing bites are not, and Pit Bulls are the breed most likely to both kill and to seriously maim. 

    This is a fact, no matter how inconvenient.

    So too is the death of Darla Napora.  

    She was dead when I started to write this article, and she is dead now, and she will be dead tomorrow. 

    Her baby is dead too.  Dead, dead, dead.

    And yet, here is a woman that was supposed to know what she was doing. 

    Here is a woman who knew that an unaltered male Pit Bull was a serious liability on legs, but she did not neuter the dog.

    Here is a woman who knew that almost a million Pit Bulls were killed in U.S. shelters last year, but she still wanted to breed this dog, which is why she left its testicles on.

    The silence from the Pit Bull community about Darla Napora's death is palpable. 

    Consider how the The San Francisco Examiner reported the death with lies of omission:

    Darla Napora 32, beloved wife, sister, daughter and expecting mother, passed away in her home on Thursday, August 11th, 2011.

    Passed away?!

    She just fell asleep in bed and never woke up, eh? 

    I imagine in truth she died screaming, blood pouring out of serious rips on her body.  Exsanguination from animals bites and rips is not a quick, painless, or pretty way to die.

    So what did BadRap, the Pit Bull rescue and advocacy organization, have to say about the death of their vocal supporter? 

    Did they use this opportunity to urge people to neuter male Pit Bulls so they are less likely to be aggressive? 

    Did they use this opportunity to urge the spaying of female Pit Bulls so there are less Pit Bulls being dumped in shelters and on rescues?

    Did they use this opportunity to note that Pit Bulls are not the right dog for most owners?

    Nope, nope and nope.

    From what I can tell, they were almost silent. 

    Over at the BadRap blog they illustated the shocking and brutal killing of one of their own vocal activists and suporters with a picture of a placid Husky.

    The single post on the event was given a title meant to make you not read the post at all, while the rambling opening was designed to make you stop reading past the first sentence.

    Talk about denial!

    Talk about whistling past the graveyard!

    Talk about missing the message!

    For God's sake please neuter your male Pit Bulls and spay the females. 

    We need more Pit Bulls in this country like we need a hole in the head. 

    No one should be breeding Pit Bulls when we have almost a million young Pit Bulls a year being tossed dead into land fills, many of them fine young dogs who only needed a second chance and a loving home.

    Those are the messages BadRap failed to deliver.

    BadRap failed to park the blame for the 40,000,000 pounds of dead Pit Bulls that are killed every year in this country.

    And who is to blame for these death?

    It is not Pit Bull haters that are breeding these dogs.

    It is not Pit Bull haters that are dumping these dogs at the shelters.

    It is Pit Bull "lovers."

    If you are looking for someone to blame for the dead dogs and the mauled children, look to the denial and the silence emanating from Pit Bull apologists who continue to claim this dog is just like any other.

    Look to those who continue to whistle past the Pit Bull graveyard.

    Court Upholds Roadless Rules

    The roadless forest protection act rule has been upheld by the courts, which is news to my ears as I spent several years working full time on that bit of legislation, which is the largest lands protection initiative of my generation. John Burgman at the Outdoor Life blog notes:

    For the origin of the rule, one must go back to the Clinton administration. In 2001, a ban was declared on timber harvests, road construction and road development in millions of acres of national forest to protect fragile wilderness habitat and to keep the forests remote and pristine for recreational use. The state of Wyoming and other groups protested the ban, saying it violated the 1964 Wilderness Act and hindered the mining and development of coal and other natural resources.
    The Federal court didn't buy Wyoming's protests.

    “Wyoming failed to demonstrate that the Forest Service’s promulgation of the Roadless Rule violated the Wilderness Act, NEPA, MUSYA, or NFMA,” the panel of judges wrote in their decision.

    The original Clinton iteration was protested by the Bush administration following Clinton's final presidential term. This paved the way for individual states like Wyoming and other groups to follow suit. The debate eventually found its way to the high courts.

    Had the ruling been overturned, 50 million acres of wilderness across the country would have been opened to various logging and road development projects, undoubtedly impacting animal species of all types.

    “Today’s decision is among the most significant conservation victories in several decades. It reinforces the roadless rule as the cornerstone of protection for our national forests and preserves these landscapes for generations to come,” said Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group’s public lands program.

    This is the second roadless win in court.

    You can read about the earlier win, and the more than 2 million public comments we delivered to the U.S. Forest Service, here.