Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Sight Unseen" and other Drivel

Something has been nagging at the back of my mind; this whole recent chain of events with new government rules didn't seem to make sense. I just couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew something didn't add up. Today, it finally dawned on me exactly what the problem is.

Different rules from the same agency should not conflict. If the overall goal is to discourage so-called "SIGHT UNSEEN" pet sales and rid the market of supposed "bad breeders", then why are "SIGHT UNSEEN" sales from other countries not only unregulated, but actually sanctioned by recent USDA rules?
As you may recall, NAIA was complicit in formulating the new USDA import rules and publicly applauded their passage.* These new rules require imported dogs to have rabies vaccinations and health clearances, (GOOD). They forbid importing dogs for resale under the age of six months (BAD). The new rules would allow import of a dog from another country by purchasers who do not plan to resell the animal, as long as there is a health clearance (GOOD). So overall, more good than bad. Hobby breeders aren't really affected, so they are all fine with these new rules. They are happy to embrace a rule that they perceive will only adversely affect "Rescue Retailers."

Meanwhile, there is yet another rule that the USDA is implementing right here and right now in the US. This new rule requires anyone who ships a dog “sight-unseen” to a buyer, (and who also owns more than four bitches) to apply for USDA licensing. This revised rule would require thousands of small breeders to become USDA licensed, have their personal information registered into a publicly available database, be required to meet USDA "commercial" breeder standards (difficult to achieve in a home environment), and be available 24/7 for unannounced inspections by APHIS, regardless of the constraints of your “real job”.

Now, unless you are willing to cease shipping dogs entirely, if you keep four or more bitches you must be USDA licensed. This means you are now on the radar screen of animal rights groups, like CAPS and other loonies, who will have your contact information.

Animal rights nuts can and do target USDA commercial breeders for nasty terrorist attacks, with the intent to drive them out of business. Why would anyone want a USDA license? And who heads the USDA-APHIS enforcement division? Why a former employee of the anti-breeding HSUS, that's who! Many APHIS inspectors have been fully indoctrinated by animal rights fanatics, and are looking to "find something" on inspection. After all, they need to justify their existence, and finding violations and fining people is the only way do do that.
Due to many concerns arising from and the ambiguity associated with enforcement of these new rules, and the fact that despite several conferences, no one seems to really understand the new rules (including APHIS personnel themselves), thousands of breeders and dozens of dog clubs have mounted a legal challenge to block the new USDA-APHIS rules for breeders.

Representatives from the AKC and NAIA have not been supportive of this legal effort, claiming that breeders do not have “standing” in the matter. They have been assuring us that exemptions can solve all our worries. The matter of "standing" has now been settled, as the courts have determined that the case does indeed have merit, and the lawsuit moved forward with a court date. The USDA-APHIS then hired a NAIA lawyer as their consultant, to give the impression that the concerns of dog owners will be addressed. Never mind the fact that they did not address our concerns after literally thousands of public comments and questions during the conferences that went unanswered. But, adding a representative from the "breeder" side of the equation on their team will give them better odds in court, they reason. Window dressing.

Now think about this for a minute. Why are the events in regard to these two new rules from the USDA troublesome when viewed in conjunction with each other?

Here's why. These new rules don't dovetail. Foreign breeders can ship “sight-unseen” to buyers, while those in the US cannot do so without Federal regulation of their breeding activities.

Are breeders in other countries automatically more holy and righteous than breeders in the USA? Does the USDA wish to encourage"sight unseen" sales from overseas? Because that's what is going to happen when more US breeders quit shipping or even quit breeding altogether.

We also have a study in progress from Purdue that intends to set guidelines for breeding activities. Once that come on the scene, we will have yet another set of anti-breeding regulations that will effectively squelch the hopes of newbies who might aspire to being dog breeders....if only it weren't so difficult to qualify for that breeding permit! And how will breeders in other countries comply? Who will regulate them?

And then, we will have to have a NEW RULE that prohibits imports for ANYONE. It is easy to do, because there is already a prohibition for those who re-sell dogs under the age of six months, and no one said BOO when they slipped that neat little rule in there. In fact, the breeders stood up and cheered! All they need to do now, is to tweak it a bit. No one can import a dog for resale PERIOD. No one can have a dog shipped in from another country "sight unseen".  After all, that is the intent of the OTHER new APHIS rule, and we need all our rules to apply fairly to everyone and in all the same situations. Don't we?

If we can't ship a dog with a health certificate "sight unseen" without Federal oversight of our breeding operation, how can people ship one in from another country with just a health certificate?

The new rule requiring almost all US breeders to register with USDA-APHIS  MUST be struck down.

Support the KODA effort. Court date, October 9.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

AKC, Animal Rights and Dog Training

Out of the UK, the cradle of the animal rights terror movement, comes a study that denigrates the use of electronic collars as a tool for dog training:

“The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Based Training” *
If you read the abstract, there doesn’t seem to be any real downside to using electronic training collars. But the take-home message? E-Collars work, but not any better than positive reinforcement, so why subject your dog to unnecessary stess? And now, we have another biased study to point to in order to justify the ban on E-Collars that animal rights nuts are pushing for in the UK. Talk about researcher bias! 

Of course, the group of dogs they studied were PET dogs. And what is the most common use for E collars in pet dogs? It’s for pet containment in areas where fences are not used. I suppose it’s better to have your dog tethered? Maybe these animal rights do-gooders would  prefer that your dog roam and be hit by a car?

E collars are also commonly used to avoid surgical debarking for dogs who are noisy. A noisy dog provokes complaints, and may end up at the dog pound unless the owner has options available such as a bark collar or surgical debarking.

E collars are successfully and humanely used to train dogs for off leash work, such as hunting or obedience.  A well-trained dog is a happy dog under the charge of a responsible and loving owner. 

Now, to add insult to injury we find AKC’s Vice President Gina DiNardo on a TV program discussing use of E Collars. DiNardo states that “we” (presumably the AKC) support only positive reinforcement in dog training.” **

Will corrections with a flat collar and lead soon be out at the AKC? Maybe they should make a rule that dogs can’t be restrained on a lead at a dog show. After all, a snap on the lead! WELL! That is NOT POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. 

This is what it says about electronic collars in the Board Policy Manual:***

Training Collars (July 2001 Board meeting) Special training devices that are used to control and train dogs, including but not limited to, collars with prongs, electronic collars used with transmitters, muzzles and head collars may not be used on dogs at AKC events, except as allowed in the AKC Rules, Regulations, and policies. 
The American Kennel Club recognizes that special training collars may be an effective and useful management device, when properly used, for controlling dogs that might be extremely active, difficult to control on a neck collar, or dog aggressive. These collars are also recognized as possibly useful for gaining control at the start of basic obedience training, essential education that dogs deserve and need. 
There is a point at which owners should have sufficient control of their dogs to manage them on regular neck collars, without the use of special training collars. This is the point at which dogs are acceptable on the grounds of AKC competitive events and will have the opportunity to participate in those events.

Yes, AKC has the right to ban muzzles, e-collars and prong collars from their shows, but what people do away from the show grounds is none of their business. The AKC does NOT have the right to get on national television and denigrate a very useful, humane and responsible tool for training. Trainers should have the option to choose which training methods work best for them, without the nannies of the world butting in. 

And speaking of the nannies of the world, why here’s one now! 
AKC's Vice President Gina DiNardo

Media Appearances:
• More than 100 TV/Radio appearances
• NBC’s Today Show – multiple appearances
• iVillage Live – multiple appearances
• TV Commentator – Mohegan Sun AKC Events
• Satellite Media Tours for AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and AKC Meet the Breeds
• NPR and Animal Planet Radio

She’s presented as a media pro and is a top level AKC official, and yet, she spouts notions contrary to the interests of dog owners….the very group that AKC supposedly represents. If AKC has ANY integrity, they will fire this ignorant talking head immediately. 

Not only is John Q Public being snowed, but seems as though AKC is being infiltrated by the warm, fuzzy, “they're our fur kids” types. The same type who recoil in horror at the thought of disciplining their child in any meaningful manner. Can you imagine controlling a recalcitrant child using only "positive reinforcement"? It doesn't work for kids and it doesn't work for dogs, either. A stern "NO" would also be banned under the system of positive reinforcement only. Boo Hoo! You might cause STRESS and hurt feelings! 

This kind of evolving intrusive and restrictive "Welfare" philosophy is why we should fear the publishing of the upcoming Purdue study on dog husbandry practices.

Let’s see, Sayre to PIJAC, Prager to APHIS . . . . what’s next, Pacelle to AKC?  


Friday, September 12, 2014

Zeus, World's Tallest Dog - Victim of Early Neutering


Zeus, the Guinness World Record-Holder for Tallest Dog Ever, died this past week. He was five years old. News reports claimed that Zeus died from “old age.” Really?

Now I realize that Great Danes and other large-breed dogs are lucky to make it to age 10, but to claim that death at age five from “old age” is really, er, stretching the truth a bit. Could his death be due to osteosarcoma, very common among large breed dogs? Could it be a result of crippling arthritis from his obvious abnormal structure, that hastened his demise?

I examined a few photos of Zeus that I found on the web. No testicles are evident in any of those pictures. Now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that when a dog is neutered before maturity, he will not have the proper hormonal balance for closure of the growth plates on the long bones of the body. In other words, dogs who are neutered as a puppy will often suffer from a rangy, weedy growth pattern. The long bones often become excessively long. They will more often suffer from problems like hip dysplasia and patellar luxation than their intact counterparts.

Could Zeus's tall, rangy conformation possibly be due to being neutered as a puppy?

None of the news reports of his death mention whether or not Zeus was neutered. I did a search and found a discussion in an online forum in which one of the participants was a member of the family who owned Zeus, the world's tallest dog. *

Here's an excerpt:

Q: Has Zues (sic) been (or is he going to be) a father of giant puppies?

A: He has not, nor will he ever be. We did get him neutered when he was a puppy.

Q: Do you regret neutering him?

A: Not really. We got Zeus for a family pet--we never had any intention of breeding him when we got him.

Remark: Thank goodness, or else we'd all be serving our new great Dane overlords

Someone later in the thread gently informed her:

I know somebody already mentioned it, but waiting on neutering would have "bulked" him up more. Large breed dogs do not stop growing until at least two years old. Cutting off the hormones too early, can give the "gangly" appearance and cause them a host of problems. But I know it is becoming standard to neuter and spay early, because of many reasons. Yet there are just as many pros to waiting.

Lest you think this abnormal growth can be chalked up to genetics; it is possible, but unlikely. Further in the thread, we find that Zeus was one of 15 puppies, and that none of the others were abnormally huge. Additionally, Zeus himself was normal-sized as a puppy. There is no other explanation for his "tallness" than early neutering.
Q: Was he an unusually large puppy?

A: Not really. Regular puppy size

And elsewhere in the thread: "We really started noticing how tall he was when he was 10 months old--we took him back to meet his parents and he was already 6 inches taller than his father! "

Q: Did you ever hear about how the rest of the litter grew up? Are they also ridiculously large?

A: As far as I know, we've only met two others from the same litter, and they're normal sized Danes. No idea how we got to be the lucky ones!

The adult owner said in an article from a couple of years ago that she was “thrilled” to own a Guinness World Record-holding dog.
Again, we don't know precisely what Zeus died from, except reportedly "old age", but osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is a common cancer in large breed dogs, and the risk of osteosarcoma is doubled when the dog is neutered.

I don't suppose life was quite so “thrilling” or “lucky” for the dog who died an untimely death.

Look Ma! No balls!

All humans smiling, but Zeus can't even stand up straight, and looks miserable.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You Can't Serve Two Masters

Here's some deeply disturbing news. At a time when literally thousands of dog clubs and owners are fighting a legal battle to stave off the new APHIS rules for breeders, NAIA's Julian Prager, a bulldog breeder, AKC judge, lawyer and former NY animal control director, announced yesterday that he is now working for USDA-APHIS. He just can't get enough of government rules and regulations. Especially when he is getting fed in the process!
 Do animal owners have any hope for the future? I don't think so. My crystal ball tells me we can only look forward to more red tape strangulation.
The USDA was not founded as an agency meant to regulate anyone, it was initiated to educate and advise farmers on good practices. But like most anything involving the government, it has expanded like the blob, feeding off of our human rights. Congress passed a law in the 1960s allowing USDA to regulate "commercial" dog breeders, and wala, here we are a few short decades later; now anyone who owns a few bitches and who sells even one dog by remote means like air shipping, is under their iron fist. Quite a nauseating turn of events here in a land where our freedoms are supposed to be a priority. 

A letter rife with baloney like how he will help develop government guidelines for "preserving bloodlines" and squelching "bad actors" was released yesterday by Mr. Prager. 
Now aside from the fact that the USDA could not produce even ONE example of a "bad actor" when requested to do so, what business is it of the government how anyone breeds, be it for the purpose of "preserving bloodlines" or crossbreeding to create a new breed? Will we now have minimal daily requirements for dog breeding? Get them OUT of where they don't belong! 
You just can't make this stuff up. Although it would have been nice to awaken and say, "oh gosh, it was only a bad dream."

I wanted to be sure that Delegates who were not at the meeting today and all club legislative liaisons received word of the announcement I made at today’s meeting.
Small hobby and show breeders have all been concerned about the implications of the revision to the “Retail Pet Store Rule" by APHIS and the implication for that group. APHIS has heard your concerns. At last year’s NAIA conference the APHIS Deputy Administrator met with about 20 of us after the session to discuss our concerns and issues. He committed to work with us to work to resolve these issues.
Two weeks ago, I was hired by Animal Care within APHIS as part of it central policy staff. My position, Canine Program Advisor, was advertised to bring in someone who would facilitate communication among APHIS, the breeder community, rescue groups and related animal interest groups. I will be providing APHIS staff with technical guidance on dog issues, assist in training their field staff, participate in developing program information material, conduct outreach and education and, most significantly, work on developing related policies and rules.
Both the amendment to the Animals Welfare Act in the Farm Bill and Conference Committee Report provide an opportunity for APHIS to clarify the existing rules and provide for a more clear structure for exemptions from licensing. APHIS was asked to clarify the definition of “breeding female” and I will be working with other staff to do that. The changes to the law give the Secretary the authority to exempt from licensing those whose activities have a minimal impact on interstate commerce and the welfare of animals. Both the AKC GR staff and NAIA are aware that the additional authority granted by Congress was, in large part, directed at addressing concerns expressed by smaller breeders who were breeding to preserve bloodlines.
I have asked for feedback from the Delegates and all clubs regarding what fact-based standards would work for your breed in your real world activities. APHIS needs solid data, not conjecture, to bolster each type of exemption and the exemptions should be tailored, to the extent possible, to a range of situations, not just a particular breed. For example, what data are there to provide a basis for determining when the number of animals being bred is insufficient to maintain breed existence? For all of the concerns expressed during the process of adopting the new rule, real world, grounded examples are needed to support an suggestions made to provide for exemptions.
As I said at the Legislative Caucus, drafting rules to include one group of require licensing of another group are fairly easy. What is difficult is writing a rule that the bad actors can’t wiggle around while still permitting those properly caring for their animals through. This all started because large breeding facilities that were previously excluded from the retail pet store definition because they sold wholesale, began selling dog of questionable health directly to purchasers through internet sales. That was the target of the rule revision. It is your mission (in your own self interest) to provide APHIS with the information that justifies including one group under licensing requirements, while exempting another group. And it can’t be “because we are the good guys.” It has to be some fairly objective criterion or criteria that are unassailable. Because you know there are those out there who will claim that just because you breed, you are suspect.
I can be reached at I look forward to your assistance in developing clear rules and meaningful exemptions for activities which have a minimal effect on interstate commerce. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please let me know. This is a complex process and it will take time to address Congress’ changes to the law and requests to the agency. In the meanwhile, the current rule is being enforced. Since discussions are just starting internally, I cannot tell you where this will wind up, but there is a way forward and I ask for your help in establishing a clear path ahead.
Julian Prager

NO WONDER Mr. Prager has pooh-poohed the legal challenge to the new APHIS rules. He LIKES the new APHIS rules!
Sort of creepy how we see prominent people doing their political power dances. First the USDA hiring from the ranks of the HSUS, then we had Ed Sayres and PIJAC, and now Julian Prager and the USDA! I'm afraid to see what will happen next!

Here's an old and wise precept about conflict of interest. Matthew 6:24: 
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Or we could revise it for today: 
"You cannot serve both the breeding community and the USDA-APHIS."