Sunday, October 16, 2011

Senseless in San Diego

Despite record low shelter numbers, and thousands of dog smuggled across the border into San Diego County each year, the city of Chula Vista is considering a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance


by Geneva Coats, R.N.
Secretary, California Federation of Dog Clubs

According to the latest US Census, San Diego County is home to over 3 million people. And, by my calculations, there are approximately 2/3 of a million owned dogs in San Diego County. And close to that many owned cats, as well.

How do we arrive at this figure? Over 39% of US households own at least one dog, according to the latest American Pet Products Manufacturers survey. Further, 40% of dog-owning households own multiple dogs. San Diego County contains over a million households. Crunching the numbers, the estimate is that San Diego County is home to at least 625,000 dogs.

Further, shelter numbers in San Diego County (as available on the website of the California Department of Public Health) reveal that, in 2009, for the entire county, there were 371 dogs killed in San Diego shelters. That's less than 0.06% of all the owned dogs in San Diego County.

In 2010, less than 1% (0.78%) of all the dogs in the county, or 4869 total dogs, were killed in San Diego shelters. The exact number of dogs who were truly adoptable, and not ill, injured, aggressive or otherwise not adoptable, is not known, but of course would be even lower than that 3/4 of 1%.

From "Maddie's Fund" website:

"Saving all of our healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats by 2015 is more than possible - we're almost there!"

Not many when put into perspective, right? Of course, there is always room for improvement. And, none of us want to see any adoptable pet killed unnecessarily. 

In fact, no shelter in San Diego County should be killing any adoptable animals. There is a huge market for dogs in San Diego County. Those hundreds of thousands of dogs have to come from somewhere. If the average lifespan for a dog is about 10 years, then San Diego County will need over 60,000 new puppies each year. Demand far outstrips available supply. At least one shelter in the County, Helen Woodward Humane Society, imports dogs from other states, and sometimes from as far away as Romania. When it was noticed that a proliferation of sickly puppies were being smuggled in from Mexico and sold to unsuspecting consumers in the greater San Diego area, a US Border Patrol survey was conducted in 2005. The survey concluded that, each year, nearly 10,000 dogs and puppies are brought into San Diego County from Mexico.

The City of Chula Vista is the second largest city in San Diego County (after the City of San Diego), and is situated about 10 miles from the Mexican border. Chula Vista undoubtedly absorbs thousands of smuggled puppies each year.

Ignoring the existing market demand and lack of locally-sourced puppies, Chula Vista City Councilman Rudy Ramirez has decided that a mandatory spay-neuter law is needed. Now perhaps we can't blame this gentleman for believing such a law might be necessary. On the City's animal control website, we find this:

The Chula Vista Animal Care Facility encourages owners to always spay and neuter their pets. There is a serious pet overpopulation problem in San Diego County that has resulted in thousands of euthanizations each year.

The fact is that euthanizations in San Diego County are down significantly. The number of dogs euthanized in 2010 is down by 70% over the numbers killed in the late 1990s. Remember, some of these euthanized animals were severely injured, sick, aggressive, or otherwise not savable. Clearly, great progress is being made in the reduction of shelter intakes and deaths. And, this success was achieved without the use of coercive legislation.

"A serious pet overpopulation problem in San Diego County"? There is absolutely no evidence to support that assertion. Let's put the figures into perspective. There are over 3 million residents in San Diego County. Last year, one animal entered a shelter for every 63 county residents. One dog was killed for every 637 county residents. One cat was killed for every 327 county residents.   

When animals are killed in shelters, it cannot be reasonably blamed on "overpopulation."  The number of puppies smuggled in to San Diego County is more than DOUBLE the number killed in shelters. There is a market for pets in San Diego. Spaying/neutering all the local dogs and cats will remove the best sources for healthy, well-bred and well-socialized animals. People won't own fewer pets; they'll just get them from somewhere else. A mandatory spay/neuter proposal would only serve to increase the black market demand and to promote the breeding of dogs in foreign puppy mills.

While the goal of reducing shelter deaths is laudable, mandatory spay-neuter laws don't help. In fact, the opposite is true. Every locale that has enacted a mandatory spay/neuter law has seen a RISE in shelter admissions and killings. 
  • San Mateo County's Peninsula Humane Society spearheaded the nation's first mandatory spay/neuter law. They did not have the expected success with that approach. In the areas of the county where the ordinance was implemented, dog deaths increased by 126 percent, while cat deaths went up by 86 percent. Licensing dropped by 35 percent.
  • Fort Worth, Texas repealed their mandatory spay and neuter law as licensing and compliance plummeted, and cases of rabies increased.
  • Memphis, TN passed a mandatory spay and neuter law last year. Since then, shelter intakes have risen 8% in that city.
  • Los Angeles is another case in point. After decades of steadily declining shelter numbers, LA reversed the good trend in one fell swoop with enactment of a mandatory spay and neuter law. Intakes and deaths immediately rose by over 30% and continue in an upward spiral.
  • Lake County, CA has has a mandatory spay-neuter law. Their shelter killings are now four times higher than the state average.
  • Montgomery County, MD repealed their MSN ordinance after there was no improvement in shelter deaths, but there was a 50% drop in licensing compliance.
  • Aurora, Colorado, also has had a dramatic drop in licensing compliance since their mandatory spay-neuter law passed.

No mainstream animal welfare organization supports mandatory spay and neuter. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes it. So does Best Friends Animal Society, American Humane Association, Maddie's Fund, Alley Cat Allies, the American Kennel Club and the No Kill Advocacy Center. The ASPCA also opposes mandatory spay neuter, saying: 

"The ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law."

Mandatory spay and neuter does not work because it does not address the reasons that animals enter shelters. Those reasons are varied, but they have nothing to do with births. Animals enter shelters due to social problems like loss of a job, home foreclosure, or divorce or death of the owner. Mandatory spay/neuter does nothing to help pets remain in their homes. Ownerless cats make up a large portion of shelter intakes and spay-neuter laws won't reduce the numbers of feral cats. 

Sometimes there are behavioral issues for which training programs might provide a useful solution. To help get more animals adopted, shelters could implement more proactive ideas like extended hours, foster programs and off-site adoptions. Advertising campaigns can help educate prospective pet owners to consider a shelter animal when they are thinking of getting their next pet. Trap-neuter-release programs are proven methods for feral cat population control.

Besides, a recent national pet population survey reveals that 78% of owned dogs and 88% of owned cats are already sterilized. The public is cooperating with voluntary spay and droves!  

Education coupled with voluntary, low-cost sterilization clinics, has been very successful.  Collaborative, supportive programs always outperform punitive and coercive programs like forced spay/neuter. Such laws do not serve the best interests of pets or their owners.

Community programs in our California cities should be based on education, science and fact, and modelled after programs with proven success. Mandatory spay-neuter is a proven failure. Chula Vista officials should reject this cruel and counterproductive policy. 

Please attend Rudy Ramirez's "town hall meetings" and make your voice heard on this issue.

Chula Vista City Hall
276 Fourth Ave.
(Fourth and F St)
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Monday   October 17 @ 6 pm
Thursday October 20 @ 1 pm
Saturday October 29 @ 9 am

And now, for a glimpse into the crystal ball:

Dear Abby,

Recently my city forced me to have my dog Chipotle neutered. Chipotle was my best friend! I took him wherever I went. Unfortunately, Chipotle was a tiny Chihuahua who barely weighed three pounds. He died during his neuter surgery. I am devastated. What should I do?


"Chumless in Chula Vista"

Dear "Chumless",

First, I'm very sorry about the loss of your Chihuahua "Chipotle". There is no sense suing the veterinarian when the City of Chula Vista is clearly the responsible party. Get a good lawyer and take them for every gold Chip in their treasure Chest.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Designer Dogs



By Bonnie Dalzell, MA
October 3, 2011. I corresponded for a brief time with one of the main Aussie Labradoodle breeders. As I recall from my correspondence, the F1 cross inherits the lab type coat so you have to back cross the poodle or breed to another F1 to get the non-shedding coat. In the first case you get a 3/4 poodle in the second you would need to have two different relatively unrelated labs and poodles to get decent genetic diversity in the F2's and of course only 1/4th of the F2's would have the desired non shedding coat.

Once you start breeding poodle coat to poodle coat you will keep it, of course, as it is recessive. Still, in order to have a viable breed, you should start with something like 20 lab - poodle pairs of relatively unrelated dogs or you are going to have an even more inbred "new breed" than the most inbred of the foundation breeds.

What prompted my correspondence with the lady in Australia was that the local rescue I help with was encountering some very aggressive male labradoodles. What is not appreciated by the general public is that some male standard poodles can be rather dominant and aggressive on maturity if not raised by a fairly strong minded, pack leader type owner.

Well, it seems that rather than getting the trainability of the poodle and the laid back (although full speed ahead energy) personality of the lab, many of the Labradoodle males were showing the strong, dominant personality of the poodle and the full speed ahead high energy personality of the Labrador. Just what you do not want in a dog that may be going to some owner who is attracted to the dog because it has a cute name.

As a dog trainer I have had two instances of personal experience with very strong-willed Labradoodles. In the right home they would have been fine but neither of them were suitable for the soft-tempered people who were their owners.

I have also met delightful Labradoodles. When I talked to the different owners of those dogs, all of them were Australian Labradoodles and had many generations of breeding for working seeing eye and assistance dogs behind them. These latter dogs represent "a breed in the making" - not first and second generation crosses made for the cute dog market without selection for suitable temperament and trainability.

My impression is part of the marketability of these inter breed crosses is that the name needs to have double vowels in it or have a diminutive form to make it sound appealing and cute.

Around 20 years ago a close friend of mine who bred bearded collies and afghan hounds died rather unexpectedly of ovarian cancer. One of her best Afghan bitches was pregnant at the time and I promised to help find homes for the pups when they were an appropriate age.

When the pups came it became obvious as they matured and turned out to have mustache faces that they were bearded collie - afghan crosses, so at an appropriate age we advertised to find pet homes. I called them "Culligans". The cute label helped and we did find good homes for all but one of them. More about that one later.

These dogs were actually part of a traditional "gypsy dog" cross which is called a "lurcher". Note this is not a cute name so people do not fall all over themselves to get or breed lurchers. Lurchers are the cross between a sight hound and a herding dog (specifically a drovers dog - one that moves the flock) or a sighthound and a hunting terrier.

The aim - which does show up in the first generation of the cross - is to get a dog which is a keen hunter but is highly biddable (that is pays attention to what the owner commands). If you breed a greyhound to a border collie and you have your prize lurcher you would breed it back to one of the parent breeds for the next generation and then after that to the other parent breed or to a small terrier. Back and forth between the parent breeds. And since they are bred for hunting (specifically poaching) you only breed from the ones that are good workers.

How did a gypsy or other person hunt with a lurcher? Until a few hundred years ago in England it was illegal for anyone lower in aristocratic rank to own a full-blooded hunting dog such as a greyhound. And anyway, all the game belonged to the aristocrats (remember Robin Hood).

So you strolled along the main road and sent your lurcher into the lord of the manor's fields to fetch you a fat hare (the poorer people were always protein deprived in their diets) and if the dog was returning with the hare and the gamekeeper came up to converse with you - the dog had been trained to hide with his prize in the bushes and not be seen.

A full-blooded greyhound would have caught the hare and perhaps eaten it or charged back to you with the hare no matter who was with you, and then things would have gone very badly for you - a mere peasant or a gypsy.

A number of or modern sight hound breeds have lurcher heritage - whippets are the most obvious, but the Borzoi goes back to crosses between Saluki (Tazi) from Turkey bred to native winter hardy Russian herding dogs with an infusion of the husky-like hunting Laika of Northern Russia. Even the aristocratic English Greyhound had a documented cross in 1770 to the ancestral bulldog. According to Lord Orford who was responsible, the intent was to improve the pluck and courage of the greyhound. As far as I can determine, all modern greyhounds have some ancestors that trace back to this cross because a 4th generation dog from the cross was a highly successful coursing hound.

This is basically a discussion of how a new breed can be formed by crossing breeds. It is important to know how things are inherited. Of course, breeding to select for specific functions not seen in breeds that are otherwise available is very important. In addition, having a number of healthy, vigorous and temperamentally fit dogs from the founding breeds present as parents of the founding population is necessary in order to avoid founding a breed on too small a population and producing dogs in which health is at risk due to inbreeding depression.

Simply doing F1 crosses to produce cute dogs with cute pseudo breed names to appeal to novelty owners in order to make money is against the long term well being of dog breeds as such.

Dogs deliberately bred for specific purposes need to be selected from parents talented for those purposes. This includes breeding dogs to be pets. One selects for a loving pet personality as well as general health and vigor in order to have puppies that will be successful as pets and companions. This is why the parents of dogs bred to be pets and companions need to be integrated into a home where their ability to function as pets and companions can be observed.

Especially with small-breed dogs, dogs that are kept crated as breeding stock all their lives have never been "tested" in the pet and companion venue. Could they be house trained? Will they be comfortable with visitors? Will they be trustworthy with children? Will they easily allow you to groom them and care for them? Who knows if all that was experienced by generations of their ancestors was sitting in a small cage.

Bonnie Dalzell, MA

mail: 5100 Hydes Rd PO Box 60, Hydes, MD,USA 21082-0060

Freelance anatomist, vertebrate paleontologist, writer, illustrator, dog
breeder, computer nerd & iconoclast…

Borzoi info at