The NAIA Blog has moved along with the rest of the site:
It may be hard to imagine, especially if you are living in a world with leash laws, animal control, and a culture that spays and neuters its pets, but stray dogs -- not just one or two or a small pack, but thousands upon thousands -- are a very real problem in many parts of the world. This is something we've been documenting for quite some time, an oft-neglected issue with major implications from both an animal welfare and public health and safety standpoint.
In the past, when stray dog populations grew out of hand, they were simply shot or poisoned. Just a century ago, it wasn't an uncommon occurrence in New York City. But this isn't something anybody wants to do, and with advancements in veterinary science creating alternatives, spay and neuter campaigns for strays are becoming more and more common.
One campaign we will be following with particular interest in 2012 is the combined efforts of Project Potcake and the New Providence Five Year Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Initiative.
In New Providence, the most populous island of the Bahamas, estimates of the stray dog population range between 10-20,000, and is growing -- on an island with a population of only 250,000 people, this is huge.
But you know what else is huge? The the numbers of dogs these campaigns are promising to spay or neuter this year: 3,000 pets and 2,000 strays. For their part, the Veterinary Medical Association of the Bahamas (VMAB), headed up by Dr. Peter Bizzell, will continue beyond 2012, with a five-year goal of 15,000 sterilizations.
"If, indeed, a total number of 5,000 dogs and cats are spayed/neutered during 2012, 3,000 by members of the VMAB and 2,000 by Animal Balance, this would provide an almost immediate reduction in the number of unwanted dogs and cats in the subsequent years and would effectively jump-start the five-year programme."
"For the first time in the history of animal welfare in New Providence, all of the veterinarian professionals are prepared to participate in low cost spays and neuters, all are committed to our five-year initiative, and hopefully all the animal welfare organizations appreciate what the vets are offering," Dr Bizzell said.
This is a very positive step, one that strikes at the root of the problem. Until recently, the only "solution" to the tragedy of stray potcake dogs has been to cull them or ship them out of the country for adoption in the United States, a practice referred to as humane relocation (or dog trafficking, depending on your point of view).
Only time will tell if these programs are a viable long-term option for controlling stray dog populations, but the efforts are noble and definitely worth applauding: they are seeking a cure for the problem -- not a treatment, not stopgap measures, but a solution -- and that is something we can't help but applaud.
If you tune in to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight, be prepared for a change of tone in the advertisements. Gone will be the usual ads focused on homeless dogs, sad and desperate for adoption, in will be commercials portraying happy, vibrant dogs at work and play -- all types of dogs: show dogs, working dogs, rescue dogs, purebreds, mutts, therapy dogs, you name it.
The reason for this change in tone has to do with a switch in sponsorship. The previous sponsor, Pedigree, chose to focus its advertisements almost entirely on the plight of shelter dogs -- not exactly the "celebration of dogs" that Westminster is all about -- a discordant relationship that eventually led to them being dropped by Westminster. Quoth David Frei, Westminster spokesman and television host:
“Show me an ad with a dog with a smile. Don’t try to shame me,’’ he said. “We told them that and they ignored us.’’
Purina has stepped in as sponsor, and says their ads will be much more balanced and positive in tone. Expect much playing, chasing, licking, and joy from this year's advertising dogs, a tone that is much more in line with the spirit of celebration. This looks like a big win for both Purina and Westminster, an infinitely better fit all around.
Students: would you be interested in taking a minor like this if you were in college?
"The Animal Studies minor is for students interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of the diverse ways in which the lives of animals and humans intersect," says McEachern. "The interdisciplinary nature of the minor allows students to consider historical and contemporary interactions between humans and animals from a range of perspectives."
The foundational course for the minor is Animal Ethics. It is team-taught by instructors from the fields of biology, criminology, philosophy, psychology, religion and sociology. Besides Animal Ethics, the other five courses required for the 18 credit hour minor are: Animals in Literature, Animals and Society, Animal Law, Social Movements and an Undergraduate Internship Experience.
Humanity's relationship with animals forms a rich, fascinating, contentious and contradictory tapestry. An objective study of our interactions with animals throughout history would be interesting at the very least, with the potential to be an enlightening crash course in critical thinking. Count me in!
Ah, but there's more. What if this minor was funded by long time animal rights activist Bob Barker? A former game show host who, when not donating millions to the cause of animal rights, has spent much of his retirement protesting biomedical research, rodeos, even Sea World?
Still signing up?
Disappointing. Presented from an objective, at least semi-mainstream position, such a program could be brilliant, perhaps even a revelatory. But considering the players involved, it's impossible to view it without a great deal of skepticism. Will this animal studies minor will be anything other than animal rights studies? Would definitely have to see it to believe it.
It is with great sadness that we report the recent passing of Diane Makinney.
Diane is one the finest people I have been blessed to know; a protector of animals and their owners, a woman who was never afraid to fight for her beliefs, a tireless volunteer for NAIA, and most importantly a great personal friend. Nobody will ever replace Diane Makinney in our hearts and lives.
-Patti Strand, NAIA National Director
After a condo's tough restrictions against pit bulls and harassment by neighbors and management left actor Nick Santino feeling that he had no choice but to put his dog Rocco down, the guilt-ridden owner took his own life as well.
His suicide note bares the anguish of the decision:
Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend.
Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.
No dog or dog owner deserves to go through this. What a tragic reminder of the pain and suffering wrought by breed specific prejudice. Would this man and his dog be dead right now if Rocco hadn't been a pit bull mix? If Rocco hadn't faced restrictions and harassment because of his breed? You don't need a Magic 8-Ball to answer that one; it's a safe bet that management didn't require Yorkie owners to enter and exit the building through the back door.
There was an article in Slate yesterday that may have hit a little too close to home for those among us who have recently adopted from a rescue. If you've ever felt like the adoption process has become less a step in finding permanent homes for needy pets than a testing ground for enhanced interrogation techniques, Emily Yoffe feels your pain, and has captured it in all its tragic absurdity.
The full gamut of disqualifications are covered: no full-time workers, no apartment dwellers, no unfenced-yards, no off-leash time, no kids or old people allowed -- pretty much nobody who might possibly have a life outside their (high-fenced, stick-built) home, when you get down to it.
Also brought to light is the issue of post-adoption home inspections, and the fact that even years after you adopt your dog, you still might not actually own him:
If an applicant manages to get approved, the adoption papers should be read carefully before signing. It turns out the contract often specifies the adopter is not the actual owner of the animal. Sure you’re responsible for the pet’s food, shelter, training, and veterinary care, but the organization might retain “superior title in said animal.” This means the group can drop in unannounced at any time for the rest of your pet’s life and seize Fluffy if it doesn’t like what it sees.
Yikes! Now that is definitely something to look out for.
Yoffe's article has already received over 2,300 comments; it is depressing to see how many prospective pet owners have been burned -- even turned away -- by invasive, zealously overprotective, or just plain rude rescue organizations. I think we can all agree that some level of screening is appropriate, even necessary, but as much we'd like to see every pet in a perfect home, how often does that actually happen? Who among us is perfect? Isn't it better in practice to find safe, caring, and permanent -- if imperfect -- homes for ten pets than an ideal home for one... or none?
If you were cast as the villain in a horrific string of cat mutilations by the media, sent hate mail and death threats, and forced to live under house arrest for 18 months while your family spends thousands upon thousands of dollars defending you in court... do you think you'd be just a little teed off to discover that the people so eager to make a case against you had no idea what they were talking about?
Yeah, me too.
In the case of Tyler Weinman, charges were quickly dropped once it was determined that eight of the 19 cats he had been accused of mutilating had actually been killed by dogs (the other 11 had already been destroyed and could not be tested), but even if you put lost time and money aside, it is still light years away from a no harm, no foul scenario. The accusations will follow Weinman around forever, and there are people out there who will go to their graves convinced he is a cat killer -- because he wasn't "serious" enough in court, because they need a villain to hiss at, or simply because they read it on the Internet. Just enter "Tyler Weinman" into Google and see what it suggests. Pandora's box has been opened.
But really, when you think about it, Weinman was actually lucky: given the anger and sensationalism surrounding this story, can you imagine how it would have turned out if his dad didn't have the money to hire a good defense team? I certainly don't want to.
It could have been much, much worse. So it should come as no surprise that Weinman is suing Miami-Dade County and the ASPCA for negligence leading to his false arrest.
Sara Pizano, the Animal Services director who determined 19 cats had been killed by a person, is also named in the lawsuit, as is the University of Florida, Melinda Merck's former employer (Merck is the ASPCA’s director of veterinary forensic sciences). It is chilling to consider the fact that Merck signed off on Pizano's opinion without even seeing any of the bodies herself -- isn't that supposed to be her area of expertise? Is her animal abuse proof-o-meter set at a "This kid is weird and smirks a lot; he is clearly guilty" level? (Or perhaps "This dog owner tells highly inappropriate and unfunny jokes. He must be an abuser"?)
It certainly appears that way
Of course, aside from her position of authority, Merck is in no way unique: judging from the numerous commentators still referring to Weinman as a "cat killer," there are a lot of people out there who believe they are capable of determining guilt without actually seeing any evidence.
Last September in Texas, nearly 200 dogs were seized from the Alpha Tex Kennels after a complaint of bad conditions. Last week, a jury found that Mark and Sandra Smith, operators of the kennel, did not treat their dogs cruelly; the seized dogs will be returned to the kennel once they are located.
We have received information from multiple sources with wildly differing points of view on this case, but nobody from NAIA was in the courtroom or at Alpha Tex Kennels; we cannot speak with authority as to the conditions of the facility. But what we can say without any hesitation, is that this case is the perfect crystallization of a deeply flawed system, the kind of system that allows for the armed confiscation and transfer of a person's animals before a verdict has even been read.
There has to be a better way. In the Alpha Tex case, it is clear that neither animals, humans, nor justice were served.
Animal rights activists are fuming over a farm show display that portrays commercial farms and farmers in a favorable light -- because heaven forbid the public associate clean facilities, healthy animals, and well, anything even remotely positive with large-scale animal agriculture.
It's not as much fun when someone else controls the message, is it guys?
I can't help but wonder if the woman who railed against this "misinformation campaign," who wants people to see the "whole picture," has the same reaction when presented with one-sided media that paints commercial farming as wholly cruel and irredeemable?