Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dogs Rule at Westminster

"Maverick" a rescued Weimaraner, to participate in this year's Westminster Kennel Club show!
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show spotlights the creme de la creme of the dog world. And in a curious twist of fate, the world of canine rescue is also a hot topic of discussion at this year's show.

In one of the most heartwarming stories ever, we learn of a Weimaraner named Maverick. Maverick's owner purchased him from Craigslist a couple of years ago. Seems Maverick was in very poor condition, underweight, neglected and unhealthy. But within a few months, under the tender loving care of his new owner, Maverick began to go to dog shows....and win...and win big....and as a Grand Champion, he will now be a participant in Westminster, the most prestigious show of the year.

Maverick's owner feels that his dog was a “rescue”. Indeed, Maverick could well have ended up in a shelter or rescue had he not been sold on Craigslist. Had that happened, Maverick would almost certainly have been neutered. What a pity that would have been for the Weimaraner world.

I've often thought that the requirement to spay/neuter every rescued dog was not only unnecessary, and potentially detrimental to health, but also contributes to narrowing of breed gene pools. Canine geneticists advise us to keep as many individuals as possible in a breed's gene pool. Genetic diversity is necessary to maintain overall health, vigor, longevity, fertility and optimal immune system function. In the case of purebreds, spay/neuter of all rescues is a very unwise move that reduces genetic diversity. While of course we must be discriminating in selecting individuals for breeding, considering health and good temperament, it's also a beneficial goal to include as many individuals in breeding programs as possible to help promote diversity and avoid the pitfalls of inbreeding. Another benefit of genetic diversity is lower incidence of breed-specific genetic health problems.

Wholescale spay/neuter, along with over-use for breeding of just a few dogs deemed exceptional, dangerously narrows the gene pools of our breeds. Maverick’s story is a success story not only for him and for his owner, but for his future generations. They would never be born if the typical “rescue” ending of a routinely performed neuter had spelled the end of Maverick’s tale. Thankfully, Maverick’s genes were ultimately preserved.

Animal rights groups have convinced us that it is merciful to spay and neuter all the animals that pass through a shelter or rescue situation. They imply that breeding is a cruel fate for animals. I think they are wrong. Dogs enjoy the activity of raising their young, just as we do.

And speaking of animal rights groups and Westminster, we also learned this past week of the termination of the Pedigree “Dogs Rule” advertising/adoption campaign that has been held during the Westminster KC show for the past several years. In my case, there was an immediate visceral objection to seeing presented abused and neglected rescued dogs (very few of which were intentionally-bred purebreds) at an event of this nature. Animal rights groups do believe that purebred dog breeding is to blame for shelter intakes and they make no bones about voicing that opinion. Even the narrator of the Pedigree commercials, David Duchovny, is an “animal rights” proponent and a PETA supporter.

So, way back in 2007, I was curious about the Pedigree campaign which was jointly conducted with the American Humane Association.

I checked out the American Humane Association website, to see where they stood on issues. The page I referenced has since disappeared and the website has been streamlined, but I looked at their website and discovered that:

  • They support AR agenda legislation in various states.
  • They advocate for mandatory, pre-pubescent spay-neuter.
  • They oppose medical research using animals.
  • They promote various “freedoms” for farm animals.
  • They oppose commercial, for-profit breeding, slurring this as “puppy mills”, and state that this is inherently cruel.
  • They support “guardianship” as opposed to “ownership”.
  • They oppose any and all tail docking, ear cropping, debarking or declawing.
  • They oppose racing and coursing.
  • They support mandatory microchipping.
The AHA was surely laughing at us, because they were successful in perpetuating the image of show dogs as the source of shelter intakes. And they did it at the biggest kennel club event of the year! And the dog breeders actually CHEERED for them!

I found it curious that during the Pedigree drive and fundraiser conducted during the Westminster KC show in 2007, there was never any mention of the many breed rescue groups, run primarily by breeders and breed club volunteers. I did not pay much attention to the commercials in subsequent years, so I don’t know if breed rescue ever was mentioned.

The Pedigree commercials referred to AKC show dogs as “lucky”….saying shelter dogs are “not as lucky as the show dogs you see here”. The implication was that these show dogs are the few, the minority, that most dogs end up at shelters. Not true. A very small percentage of dogs end up at animal shelters each year….check the nationwide numbers, it is around 3-4% of owned dogs. The vast majority of dogs in the US are cared for in a responsible and humane manner, and do not end up abandoned. Sometimes, I think it is too easy to forget that, especially for those who work day-to-day in a stressful shelter or rescue setting.

It’s not a result of “luck” that the vast majority of dogs lead a good life. It is the result of plenty of hard work, effort and dedication on the part of their owners. But mostly, it's the result of our love affair with our dogs. Westminster is a quintessential display of that affection we hold for "man's best friend".

Responsible ownership and breeding is constantly under attack from AR groups. Good riddance to the Pedigree commercials at Westminster.

Remember, it was just a couple of years ago that PETA interrupted the Westminster show with their cheap shot-style protests. Maybe that is when the club decided enough was enough and to sever ties with animal rights groups:

"Rescued Weimaraner to show at Westminster":

"Pedigree replaced as Westminster sponsor":

1 comment:

  1. “Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me,” Mr. Frei told The A.P. The kennel club had expressed its concerns to Pedigree, he said, adding, “We told them that, and they ignored us.”