Responsible rescue, responsible breeders

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A couple of recent posts on various pages, or on friends’ pages, have me thinking.  Again.

I am going to be breed-specific here, but I believe this applies to most breeds.  Fair warning, though, I will be using Elkhounds as an example!

A facebook friend (never met her, share the same values) posted about a concern about the number of Elkhounds being posted on our “main”, privately administered, FB rescue page.  And the numbers are, indeed, alarming.  In my breed, after having been “in” the breed for nearly 2 decades, my experience is that we take back what can’t be kept.  Regardless of circumstances.  No questions asked.

Yet there are nearly daily postings of elkhounds needing homes.  One breeder has posited that it is because of “commercial breeders”.   Yet when I research, when data is available, MOST of these adult rehomes come from someone who has a “breeding pair” or two.   And just to add fuel to the fire, we need to rethink the term “commercial breeder” as our laws become more restrictive.

A recent post on an elkhound rescue page presented a litter of 7 “purebred” puppies.  No papers.  The puppies were surrendered because it was an “unplanned litter”, mom and dad worked cattle, and humans couldn’t be bothered to find homes for the resulting puppies.  This shelter is now charging $500 for each puppy.  On further investigation, this “shelter” indicates that it takes in “retired breeder” dogs in exchange for “donation of a litter” to fund its expenses.  I’ve included a (public facebook post) that to me, clearly shows a puppy room.  Why would a shelter have such a room?  And why would they be baking 7-week-old pups with a brooder light?

 

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Other “Craigslist” ads post dogs for SALE…not rescues…and yet they appear on a rescue page.

I’ve been personally taken to task about some of these listings.  I know I am preaching to the choir here, but NO puppy (or adult dog) EVER needs to go into rescue.  I have multiple inquiries for retired dogs.  I have multiple inquiries for puppies.  I have multiple inquiries about rescue dogs.  Again, RESPONSIBLY handled, NO dog or puppy should ever end up in rescue.  My dream.  Pipe dream!

It’s getting harder and harder to get a nice, well-bred pup from a responsible breeder.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so restrictive on “show potential.”  The average dog owner just wants a nice companion.

BUT, on the other hand, it is ENTIRELY up to the buyer to research not only the breed, but the breeder.  Dump a litter of pups on a shelter just because you don’t want to find homes for them?  Speuter the parents!  Operate as a not-for-profit shelter while accepting a donated litter as a price for rehoming retired breeding dogs?  Ummm..   there are better ways to retire a breeding dog.  If rescuing a dog from a supposed “shelter,” please check things out.

Dogs are not disposable items.  Your RESPONSIBLE breeder will take the dog back, for its lifetime.  $Retail Rescue$ is having a heyday with being a largely unregulated industry, charging a hefty amount for pups, with no or very little guarantees.

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Rescue Responsibility

Rescue Responsibility

By Amy Peterson

When obtaining a dog, the words “responsible breeder” are often used.  But many people choose to obtain a dog via adoption through a shelter or rescue organization.  Some individuals may not be able to adopt, but wish to assist with rescues via donations.  But just as there are differences between responsible and irresponsible breeders, there are also differences between responsible and irresponsible shelter and rescue organizations.

Although most rescue and foster care organizations have the best interests of the animals in mind and at heart, traditionally, there has been a lack of regulation and supervision in monitoring these groups. Many such groups or shelters are not subject to inspections nor do they have a mandated minimum set of standards of care for the animals. Some localities specifically exempt shelters and rescues from regulations.  This means that the rescues and fosters are functioning on an honor system. A few bad rescues that are unregulated can give all rescues and fosters a bad reputation.  But how do we know the difference?

While many people choose to adopt a dog from a local shelter, this article will focus on breed-specific or type-specific rescue groups.  These groups typically focus on being a resource for rescue for a specific breed, or possibly a specific type (northern dogs, sporting dogs, bully breeds). elka

Providing assistance to or adopting from a rescue engaging in questionable rescue practices should be avoided.  Assisting such rescues only enables them to continue to engage in those questionable practices. 

Here are some basic guidelines to consider before assisting a rescue organization or adopting from them:

  • Is the rescue organization established and experienced?
  • Does the rescue organization plan ahead, have a robust network of volunteers, and a good reputation amongst its community (i.e., specific breeds or types)?
  • Does the rescue organization have an amiable working relationship with shelters?
  • Does the rescue organization have an established network of experienced foster homes? Many dogs that are pulled from shelters carry a lot of emotional baggage and require experienced foster care before being placed. 
  • Are foster homes approved by a verifiable process to ensure their experience and ability to foster?
  • Does the rescue organization keep a detailed and accurate record or paper trail of every dog it claims to be rescuing or fostering, including location obtained from, foster home, medical records, and final home?
  • Does the rescue take in or offer to assist more dogs than it can financially and practically handle?
  • Does the rescue organization provide complete and timely medical care to the dogs it takes in?
  • If the rescue organization provides fostering “on grounds”, are the facilities adequate? Are dogs quarantined upon arrival?  Is the facility clean and sanitary?  Are the dogs appropriately segregated as needed (adequate, clean, safe, size-appropriate kennels or crates)?  Is there a veterinarian working with the “on grounds” foster facility?
  • Does the rescue have the ability to cooperate with other rescues and shelters to provide for the best interests of the dogs being rescued?
  • Is the rescue organization organized as a 501C3 organization complete with a Board of Directors?

Some “red flags” to watch for when deciding to donate or adopt from a rescue organization:

  • Lack of 501C3 status.
  • Unsanitary, unorganized, or overcrowded home facility.
  • Lack of immediate veterinary care.
  • The organization imports strays from other countries in order to fill a “demand”.
  • Lack of documentation for every dog it claims to be rescuing or fostering.
  • Inadequate volunteer base.
  • Lack of verifiable experience as a rescue organization or foster home; lack of verifiable, long-term experience in the breed or type of dog.
  • Operates in competition with other rescues.
  • While many responsible breeders are the backbone of breed- or type-specific rescues, a rescue that is also producing irresponsibly-bred puppies should be avoided.

Generally speaking, what’s needed in breed-specific or type-specific rescue is more volunteers and more funding for established organizations, not more rescue organizations!  Research your chosen organization, and if it is truly a rescue organization dedicated to rescue, support that organization, or volunteer to be a foster or transport if you can.  Rescue organizations are in need of cooperation…not competition. 

 

 

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Puppies and Purchasing and Bears, OH MY!

For the second time in just a couple of weeks, I’ve gotten into a near-argument with people seeking a puppy (to the tune that I should not be “holding myself out” as a breeder if I have no puppies available and cannot give them a timeframe in which puppies would be available).  So I want to visit some things of which to be aware when seeking a pup!

First, most reputable breeders don’t have puppies just waiting around for homes.  Breeding is time, finance, energy, and emotionally draining!  Sometimes we need a break between litters.  Sometimes real life gets in the way (jobs, family, health issues, family illnesses).

Second, although we can look at trends, we cannot guarantee that one of our bitches will come in season precisely on schedule.  As breeders, we can read all the books we want that tell us when a girl *should* come in season, but regrettably, dogs don’t read the same books we do.

Third, we cannot guarantee a pregnancy, nor can we predict litter size (much less gender).

Fourth, you can and should expect to be placed on a waiting list!  See above!  If we can, we will refer you to another breeder who may or may not have a litter or be planning one.  But all of the above will apply as well.  Once in awhile, you may get lucky…someone on a waiting list backed out for various reasons (family situation changed; they were on multiple waiting lists, etc.) and a puppy might become available.

Now, what to look for?  Keep in mind that in the United States, there is no such thing as a “registered breeder.”  DOGS are registered.  Breeders are not.   And there are good registries and bad registries.  AKC and UKC (and for those contemplating Canadian dogs, the CKC (CANADIAN Kennel Club) are good.  In the US, APRI and CKC (CONTINENTAL Kennel Club) are not.  But even AKC and UKC are not breeder registries, they are registries for purebred dogs.  A great place to start, but not a guarantee of quality or health.

Look for a breeder who is a member of the parent club, or a regional club.  These breeders agree to abide by a breeder’s code of ethics.  Again, no guarantees, but a great place to continue your search.

Don’t be fooled by flashy websites.  A web presence is a great thing, but it must be substantive.   Flashy web pages that seem knowledgeable yet talk about breeding “the biggest boy ever” or fail to mention any form of health testing should be avoided.  Of particular concern is a situation in the north that freely advertised the crossbreeding of Jamthunds to Elkhounds and calling them elkhounds.  They are not.  They are two different breeds, bred for similar but slightly different purposes. They are not registerable in the US or Canada.  Also, best not to rely on a breeder who lists dogs as having “show potential” who has never stepped foot (or had a dog step foot) in the show ring.  Comments like “ours look like champions we see in books” show a lack of understanding about the breed in general.  “Champion bloodlines” could mean there were champions in the pedigree many, many generations ago.

Expect the breeder to ask you many questions.  You may be given a questionnaire.  This isn’t to pry into your private life.  It’s to suit you up with the puppy that best fits your lifestyle.

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Look for health testing.  This isn’t a vet check that says the dogs are healthy.  This is eyes (CERF), hips (OFA or PennHip), as well as DNA testing for the recent genetic markers for some serious health problems.  If your breeder doesn’t have a clue, run away.  If your breeder says genetic testing is evil and breeding should be in a Higher Power’s hands, run away.

Ask about socialization.  Has the pup been exposed to new noises, surfaces, people, car rides?

Expect to sign a contract.  Thoroughly read the contract.  It should be written to protect the PUPPY, the BUYER, and the SELLER.  It shouldn’t be a list of the seller’s rights!

Ask for references.  Not just former buyers!  Ask for veterinary references as well!

But you don’t want a show dog, just a pet?  ALL of the above still applies.  First, in THIS breeder’s opinion, the further we stray away from the standard, the less “elkhoundish” our dogs become.  Genes and how they combine are very elusive, and though we do have some genetic markers, how do we know that correct structure doesn’t go hand-in-hand with correct temperament?  And if we have not-so-reputable breeders breeding dogs that are NOT within the breed standard, we certainly will get the drag-of-the-mean, which can mean more and more mediocre dogs that continue to stray away from what the Elkhound was meant to be.  Second, why should a “pet” puppy not be subjected to the same rigorous health testing as a “show” puppy?  A “pet” puppy deserves a long, healthy, happy life!  Cutting a few corners by not health testing the parents can doom a pet puppy to a life of discomfort or worse.

I can’t fathom why anyone buying a puppy would think a breeder to be at fault for not having pups available at all times.   I don’t understand why people are willing to purchase a puppy that’s not had its parents tested just because it’s a couple hundred bucks cheaper than a well-bred puppy.  Those couple hundred bucks saved could turn into thousands of dollars if the puppy develops a genetic problem (needing a full hip replacement, losing eyes to glaucoma, dying on the operating table during a routine spay because of VonWillebrand’s disease).

Adding a puppy to your home is a 15-year commitment.  Conscientious breeders spend a fanatical amount of time with each litter to assure it is well-socialized and health test the parents to mitigate and minimize the potential for genetic diseases. Anyone in the US has the “right” to breed a dog.  But there are choices available to the ultimate consumer, the pet owner.   Unfortunately, we are subject to Mother Nature as to their availability!  Sometimes, the “right” puppy isn’t going to be the first puppy available!

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Why Mentors Sometimes Say “NO”

Why Mentors Sometimes Say “No”

I get a lot of questions from people who would like to breed their dog.   And I get it, I really do.  I wanted to breed my first pet elkhound.  Luckily, I had someone who led me in a better direction.

But I want to absolutely make it clear.  Our breed needs responsible breeders.  Our breeders are literally “graying” and we need responsible young people in our ranks!  And those of us who are “graying” really are willing to help and mentor new breeders.  But sometimes, we are going to say something that’s not popular with the person being mentored.  That’s part of learning.  That’s part of mentoring.

Most of the time, people say “I love Girlie so much and I want puppies just like her for other people to enjoy.”  And that’s understandable.  Hey, I’ve been there.  But not every dog with intact reproductive organs should be used for breeding.

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First, remember high school genetics.  Girlie will have to be bred to Boy in order to produce puppies.  By the laws of genetics, the puppies will receive ½ of their chromosomes from Girlie and ½ from Boy.  So they won’t be genetic duplicates of the favored pet.  (Same goes in reverse – if you have a male that you really want to duplicate, remember the puppies will receive ½ of its chromosomes from the mother, AND will be raised by the mother, so her temperament will have a huge effect on the puppies.)

Second, duplication of the exact environment in which Girlie was raised is virtually impossible.  There will be differences no matter how hard you try to duplicate it.  Environment does play a role in temperament.

Now, have the male and female been health tested?  This doesn’t mean your veterinarian declaring them healthy.  This means hips, eyes, DNA, and any other tests as put forth by the parent club for any breed.  Testing both the potential sire and dam for brucellosis, which is an STD (in the US) is an absolute must, as brucellosis will kill an entire litter, is considered a lifelong disease, and can be transmitted by both males and females.

Is your dog a good representative of the breed?  There are many traits that are polygenic – and as such, in Elkhounds, for example, this breeder is concerned that if we lose one trait, it could eventually lead to the loss of an additional trait (or bring in an undesirable trait) – thereby losing the very essence of being an elkhound.

Size IS important.  When the Vikings developed the elkhounds it was for a purpose.  Dogs that failed in that purpose were not used for breeding.  If we want a larger dog with a curly tail, we can turn to Akitas or Malamutes.  If we want a smaller dog, there are a host of spitz breeds that fit the bill.  In order to preserve the elkhound as a breed, it’s important to stay within the standard.

Who do you plan to breed your dog to?  Dogs that are being bred should not share the same faults, and as we all know, there’s no such thing as a perfect dog.  So we need to be aware of our own dog’s faults and find a suitable match that doesn’t share those faults.  Chances are, that dog isn’t in your backyard, around the corner, or possibly even in your own state!  Absolutely some breeders do use their own dogs in a breeding, but these are generally carefully considered, and the responsible breeders doing so have the knowledge of the dogs several generations behind the prospective parents.  But for the most part, you might find yourself driving several states away to find the dog that best complements your own.

After all this, I generally hear “but I just want to breed inexpensive pets that everyone can afford, so all this doesn’t matter.”  That one really throws me.  That “inexpensive” puppy might end up being REALLY expensive to its new owner if it develops hip dysplasia, PRA, glaucoma, or a host of other things that can be mitigated through testing and careful selection of sires and dams.  For some diseases, we cannot predict 100% that a puppy will not develop them – such as hip dysplasia – but with familial testing, we can decrease the occurrence.  For autosomal recessive diseases such as vonWillebrand’s and glaucoma, we absolutely CAN ensure, through testing, that no puppy will develop these debilitating diseases.  The cost is minimal compared to the health and happiness of resulting puppies.

And there are a myriad of things that could go wrong that for which a breeder must be prepared.  Pyometra, prenatal loss of the litter, an emergency c-section are costly and emotionally draining.  It’s possible the female could lose her life during a c-section or a natural whelping.  Having the kids witness the “miracle of birth” could turn into a house of horrors if a mummified puppy is presented.  Raising an orphan litter of 8 puppies is not a task for the faint of heart.

What about local laws and ordinances?  Some municipalities require a license to breed a single litter.  Some prohibit breeding based on zoning.  Failure to comply can result in hefty fines and seizure of your dogs and puppies.  Puppy lemon laws?  It could be really uncomfortable to be on the wrong side of a court case if a puppy develops a genetic disease.

Nobody wants to “prevent” people from breeding dogs.  Of more concern is that this is a task that should not be taken lightly.  The health and temperament of both sire and dam are of utmost importance.  The dogs should be excellent representatives of the breed in order to maintain the uniqueness of that breed.  If we stray away from that standard, our dogs begin to resemble GSD’s, Akitas, or on the small end of the scale, Valhunds.  Knowing what can (and probably will!) go wrong helps to prepare for all contingencies.  And with increasing anti-dog legislation, it is important to know your local laws and ordinances.

Dog breeding is coming under increasing scrutiny and breeders, despite their best intentions, are under fire.  We need to make sure that we are breeding responsibly and with the best interests of any resulting puppies at heart.  So sometimes, mentors say “no.”

 

 

 

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Breeder’s Electronic Presence

Elkhounds and Electronic Presence

By Amy Peterson (www.elvbendelkhounds.com)

(this article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of the NEAA newsletter)

Last issue I wrote an article expressing my opinion that an electronic presence as a breeder of purebred dogs is not only desirable, but almost a necessity.  I’d like to expand this notion to include that it becomes almost a social responsibility!

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What happens if we as responsible breeders don’t make ourselves readily available in today’s electronic world?  BAD things happen!  Just scrolling through some of the posts on some of the elkhound social media sites elicits a sickening emotion – rescues that have no safety net, puppies and dogs that are supposedly Norwegian Elkhounds but barely resemble the breed, dogs with massive health problems that could have been prevented, and more.  Where are these dogs coming from?

Just visit the Lancaster puppies website and search for elkhounds.  This site ALWAYS has elkhound puppies available.  Greenfield Puppies and PuppyFind are other sites that also ALWAYS have elkhound puppies available.   These are the images that the public believesare good examples of a purebred Norwegian Elkhound puppy (no wonder the breeders across the pond think we’re breeding GSD’s), for the “bargain” backyard breeder price of $795.  Why are these puppies selling well?  Because they are readily available and easy to find.

What happens with these puppies?  Sometimes they get great homes, no doubt about it.  Sometimes their homes fail them, but they have no responsible breeder to fall back on, and they end up in rescue or shelters.  Sometimes they have horrendous health problems and lead short, painful lives.  Sometimes they end up like Molly or Judy (see below) – success stories as rescues, but stories that should never have to be told.

A lot of us can place puppies from a litter with ease and without advertising – and that speaks volumes for our success as breeders.  Word-of-mouth within our community is a wonderful thing.  But we as breeders need to be looking outside of our community, to the new owners, to the young owners, to people who don’t have a clue that an organization such as a “parent club” even exists!  Shouldn’t it be our job, as responsible breeders, to aid the public in becoming responsible owners?  To provide healthy, sound pups that will be lifelong companions?

We need to shed the elitist attitude that “no good breeder needs to advertise”.  Let’s replace that word “advertise” with “be available.”  “No good breeder needs to be available.”  That doesn’t sound very inviting to the public.

Certainly, we’d all like to see our puppies in show homes, if possible.  But as we all know, the show world is graying.  Showing is expensive, and the public perception of show dogs has taken an animal-rights turn for the worse.  The process of buying a puppy is evolving.  Responsible breeders need to embrace these changes and become available.

Quite frankly, I recently tried to refer a puppy inquiry to a great breeder who doesn’t have a website.  The potential owners did not want to be referred to a breeder that they couldn’t “see.”  That social media/electronic presence is essential, since we now live in a point-and-click society.  Gone are the days of asking around, attending shows, phoning breeders, and visiting kennels.  It’s a shame, but it’s reality – researching a purchase, be it a puppy or a car, has changed, and responsible breeders need to embrace that evolution and step into the present.

A Tale of Two Curly Tails (whose story could be prevented if responsible breeders are readily available!)

Molly

A rescuer found out about “Molly” via a Facebook post on Elkhound Rescue & Rehoming.  A Kentucky animal shelter listed Molly as a female Elkhound, 32 lbs, 8 years old. She was taken to shelter by a family who said that their elderly father passed and they didn’t want her, and asked the shelter to euthanize her.  The shelter talked them into surrendering her to try for adoption.  The rescuer resided in SE Michigan and was searching for a female Elkhound.  Social media made this adopter aware of this dog.

According to the adopter, when she saw Molly’s picture, she had a “gut feeling.”  That gut feeling led the rescue to driving to Kentucky.  In the rescuer’s words, “We journeyed our way to KY and arrived Saturday at noon.  They brought her out and my husband and I were shocked!  Never in my life have I seen a dog in her shape.  She was skin and bones, bleeding sores all over her body, red inflamed skin, no hair on her underside, looked like she had a few litters of pups already, smelled horrible and her fur was beige with a hard crust covering her entire body… I crouched down and she wobbled her way over to me and licked my cheek.  Looked me in the eye and said “Get me out of here!””

Molly at the emergency vet, left, and 1 month after treatment, right.

molly before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly’s story continues, in her rescuer’s words:  “I looked at my husband and he nodded.  I told the shelter that she needed a bath. They obliged us and I kind of forced my way back with her saying I would help them bathe her.  The shelter was clean and the people were doing their best and seemed to really care for the animals.  While we were bathing her I asked more questions, she was not spayed, she was not heartworm checked (they are not funded for that he said they only dewormed her), not UTD on shots and then I asked what that crust was on her ears.  Mind you I was ignorant about that then.  He said dirt and wax.  I figured it was something more than dirt, but ok.  In the car on our way back to Michigan (8 hours drive) she started itching and scratching and biting herself, blood flew when she shook her head.  She was in agony.  She was so good in the car btw.  Such a sweetheart.
Anyway, I started googling and oh boy it sounded like mange.  I WAS IN A PANIC!!! Yikes!!!!!  What about our other animals!!!!!  OMG!!! Never seen it, never dealt with it, never crossed my mind.  I called our ER vet right by our house and told them our situation and they said bring her in. ER vet got a room ready and we did the weigh in, 27lbs, checked her teeth and guessed her age as 4 yrs old not 8.  Has had a few litters of pups, did blood work, heartworm check, lyme test, stool test all came back good.  Vet did 3 scrapings from her bloody bare spots and took swab from inside her ears.  From the scrape the vet found one mite, so he could guarantee it was sarcoptic mange.  Her ear canal swipe test came back as yeast.  Side note, her urine reeked and we suspected a UTI because I believe she was trying to hold it and not go in her kennel.” (Again, this is a direct quote from the adopter.)

Molly underwent treatment for mange, at the adopter’s expense, which included Revolution every 2 weeks for 3 treatments, medicated shampoo, prednisone, cephalexin, and treatment for her ears.  Their existing dog was preemptively treated as well.  Molly was quarantined for a month away from the adopter’s existing dog and cats, but rebounded and is doing well.  But her story need not ever have occurred!  Molly’s adopter is an angel, but through education by and availability of responsible breeders, we can help to prevent dogs from entering the rescue system in the first place!

Judy

“Big Booty Judy’s” story is still unfolding.  Judy was listed as a senior unclaimed stray, urgent, at a Nebraska shelter (she must’ve found a fantastic food source while “straying”).  A rescue angel in New Mexico (who has rescued many special-needs elkhounds and is also an emergency clinic veterinarian) pulled her from the shelter.  Judy’s 40-lb frame was carrying a whopping 69 pounds (earning her the nickname of “Pig”).  She was found to be hypothyroid, has luxating patellas, is arthritic, and has chronic rhinitis.  She’s also endearingly a bit cross-eyed.

Although exceedingly fond of humans, Judy was severely lacking in dog-to-dog social skills, and was unable to integrate with the other special-needs rescues in her foster home.  A forever home for this special-needs girl was found halfway across the country.  This author is fostering her for a week and by the time this article appears in print, Judy will be in a single-dog home in Michigan, again through the miracle of social media and people willing to transport.  Judy’s foster veterinarian made a marathon trip to Milan, IL, and from Milan, additional transport “legs” were filled.  Judy shed more than 10 pounds under the care of her veterinarian foster home and had her various illnesses and problems diagnosed.

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Judy at 69 lb (left) and at 58 lb (right)

 

 

 

 

But her story begs many questions.  Was she really a stray?  Or was she simply released by owners unable to cope with her ailments?  Why was this dog produced in the first place?

The internet was essential in getting these two special-needs dogs new homes.  Thoughtful use of the internet by responsible breeders can help reduce the number of special-needs or poorly-bred dogs by availability of responsibly-bred, healthy, sound dogs!

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The Breeder Safety Net – A Year Later

The massive breeder-assist effort initiated by AKC was an impressive success.  A tragedy was averted, a breeder received assistance, and a large number of dogs were placed in loving and caring homes.

The aftermath has been … interesting.

A very select few of the dogs were placed with responsible breeders.  These dogs are completely faultless.  They are dogs.  They were in a situation over which they had no control.  Yet they are good examples of the breed.

Absolutely, not every dog from this situation was worthy of being bred.  An experienced breeder did make the effort to choose a very few dogs who appeared to be excellent representatives of the breed and move them along to approved responsible breeders.  The remainder were spayed/neutered and placed, with great effort and unbelievably committed volunteers, in loving adoptive homes.

The intact dogs should not be shunned.  I will repeat that.  The intact dogs who were evaluated as excellent representatives of the breed, should not be shunned based on their circumstances.  Absolutely, every one of those very few dogs selected MUST pass their health tests.  Absolutely, every one of those very few dogs should prove to be temperamentally sound.

Absolutely, the breeder community should NOT shun the dogs based upon circumstances under which the dogs had no control.

It was never the intent of AKC to put an end to a line of dogs that had, up until a few years ago, been very successful.  It was never the intent to eliminate a “line” from a breed that has a relatively small gene pool.

Those very few dogs that were left intact and place with good, reliable breeders should not be shunned by the community.  They have diversity to offer our slowly diminishing gene pool.

Some of those very few dogs still have yet to prove themselves.  Those who have taken that task upon them should, similarly, not be shunned.

And those that have taken on the monumental task of adopting and rehabilitating those dogs who were sent out spayed and neutered need to be acclaimed and congratulated.

A year later, it has still not been an easy task.  Some dogs habituated to their new owners easily.  Some did not.  A support group on Facebook was created to provide mutual support.

But it is NOT the dogs’ fault.  The breeding community absolutely needs to get past the politics of the situation and embrace the good things this breeder has produced over the last 40 years.  This author is admittedly not happy with the situation and has been involved since Day 1.  But there are good dogs out there that resulted from this situation and those new owners, or those who want to bring the qualities offered by these very few dogs into their line, should not have to worry about being shunned or labeled an irresponsible breeder.  The (very few) responsible breeders who agreed to take these dogs in deserve the same.

The dog I have?  The jury is still out!  So I am not posting this blog based on my experience with “Christian.”

My breed is not considered a rare breed, but we dip into the low-numbers breed on a regular basis.  I can count on one hand the number of breeders under the age of 40.  So why are we as a community so eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

In the words of our AKC rep, “If people applied themselves to helping as much as they do   gossip…..the world would be a much better place.”

****UPDATE****  September 15, 2o16

This photo is of one of the dogs who was assisted in this effort, “Christian”, who was mentioned above.  In two show weekends under his new management at my home, but after a year of rehabilitation, he garnered 12 points including two 5-point majors and a Best of Breed from the classes.  While it is absolutely true that a year ago, he skulked around the ring terrified, this photo shows that he is still an excellent example of the breed once he was placed in a situation where he could be socialized.  This is not a dog that should be discarded from the gene pool due to politics or gossip.

 

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Peter Goodbreeder and Retail Re$cue

Increasingly, municipalities throughout the US are proposing (and passing) laws coinregulating the source of puppies that can be sold via a “commercial establishment.”  Many of these laws are prohibiting the sale of puppies that come from a “commercial breeder” and limit those sales to puppies or dogs that are “rescues” or “shelter” dogs.   An example of such a recently-enacted law may be found at this link:  http://catingtonpost.com/los-angeles-permanently-bans-the-sale-of-non-rescue-cats-dogs/

I sometimes have difficulty explaining to people why this is not a good thing.  None of us want to see puppies from that horrible “puppy mill” word sold in pet stores, right?  So it’s a good thing!

Not.

Not only does this eliminate freedom of choice for the consumer, limit selection of a dog or puppy to that of a dog of unknown origin, health, or temperament, it also has the potential to steepen the already slippery slope we breeders find ourselves skiing down.

Let’s imagine Peter Goodbreeder.  He’s just that.  He’s a Good Breeder.  He has perhaps 3 intact females and one intact male.  He Specials the male, with some success, at dog shows.  He occasionally breeds a litter here and there, perhaps one in a year, or two, and sometimes none.  He’s got a great reputation and repeat buyers.  His dogs are in excellent condition, are health-tested, are raised in the finest conditions in his home, and he stands behind his dogs for life.  Suddenly, a new law such as that proposed above is enacted.  So what?  It doesn’t affect him, right?

Wrong.

Just imagine that his municipality deems a “commercial breeding establishment” as one who has four or more intact animals of either sex combined (there is a state that defines a commercial breeding establishment this way, regardless of number of litters produced).   So now Peter Goodbreeder has to purchase a commercial permit.  Ok, no problem.  But now what?  As a commercial establishment, the ramifications, should the municipality choose to enforce them, could actually make it illegal to sell his own puppies.  Now he is a commercial establishment and can no longer sell anything but dogs from rescues or shelters.  Hmm.

It gets worse.  The municipality in which Peter lives determines that since he is a commercial establishment, he now must purchase a business permit.  So Peter Goodbreeder dutifully attempts to purchase the permit, only to find out that zoning restrictions prevent him from operating a “business” from his residential district.

Now Peter has been deemed a business, but can’t get a permit, and can’t continue breeding his lovely, temperamentally and physically sound puppies.  Peter makes the decision to stop breeding, speuters his animals, and yet another source of well-bred puppies has disappeared.

Some municipalities do provide exemptions for hobby breeders; for most, those thresholds are unrealistic for those who are dedicated to their breed and wish to see it continue.  In other cases, the cost of the permits is excruciatingly high and in purchasing the permits, it often means opening up the private home to unannounced inspections and heightened scrutiny by the Animal Rights faction that wishes to end pet ownership.

Too often, we either look away or cheer on a “feel good” bill or ordinance without examining its unintended consequences.  We need to examine every piece of legislation thoroughly and not jump on the feel-good bandwagon.

The purchase of a dog or a puppy should be, in these United States, a personal choice, not to be governed by Animal Rights or those legislators who are under their influence.  For those who want to rescue an animal, by golly, please do so!  Rescued animals can be wonderful pets and there is certainly a need for qualified homes for them.  But not every home is suited to a rescue nor to the baggage that they often carry.  Not every pet owner WANTS a rescued animal.  It’s far past time to stop the Animal Rights Activists from governing our choice of pet.

For those Peter Goodbreeders like me and most of my fellow breeders, the noose continues to tighten.  We will, if we do not voice our opinions, be choked out of existence.

 

 

Posted in Animal Activists, Animal Ownership, elkhounds, On the National Front, Pet Laws, Pet Owner Bill of Rights, Right to Own Animals, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Genetic Testing vs Eugenics?

New genetic markers have been found in my breed (Norwegian Elkhounds).  I am embracing this new technology!  Responsible NE breeders have long been doing CERF and OFA, and the results obtained from this testing have been of great benefit to the health of the breed.

I was a bit reticent when the new tests came out.  I started to think maybe we were testing our breeding stock out of existence.  If you test enough, you will find a flaw, right?

But then it hit me.  That’s what we are SUPPOSED to be doing!

Anthropomorphic puppy producers have outright accused me of eugenics, to the point of calling responsible breeders (me included) the equivalent of Hitler.  These same puppy producers often claim that we don’t have the right to interfere with (insert your choice here – God’s, Gaia’s or Nature’s) plan.  I thought about that for awhile.

But I think we do.  A lot of people are gonna hate what I am going to say right now.  But as responsible breeders, we are PRODUCING a PRODUCT.  Yes, it is a living being.  But we are producing a marketable product FOR SALE.  It should be our expectation that our product be viable and healthy, and that it should last for 12-15 years or more.

Manufacturers of virtually every product undergo extensive testing to ensure that their products will meet consumer expectations.  We, as breeders, should feel the need to do the same with the products that are a result of our careful breeding.  We cannot be responsible for genetic testing that didn’t exist years ago, but we CAN embrace the new technology as it becomes available!

That said, breeders should absolutely have a thorough understanding of genetics.  Any dog tested as a positive for an autosomal recessive abnormality SHOULD NOT BE DISCARDED from a comprehensive breeding program, since recessive traits can be well-handled in a good breeding program.

We owe it to our dogs, and ultimately to the new owners, to produce sound, healthy puppies.  Genetic testing is not “eugenics”.  It is part and and parcel of being a responsible breeder.  And a “carrier” result is just that.  A carrier, well-handled by breeding to a “clear” dog, is a viable breeding dog.  Common sense and a decent grasp of genetics is essential.

Genetic testing, be it hips, CERF, glaucoma, or other, only contributes to the overall health of any breed.  It allows breeders to produce a better product!  If a breeder (regardless of breed) says they don’t believe in testing, ask yourself this:  “Would I drive a brand of car, or take a brand of aspirin, that has never been tested?

Breeders:  embrace the technology!  Buyers:  appreciate the effort by these responsible breeders!

 

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Merry Christmas!

christmas

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The Breeder Safety Net

The Breeder Safety Net

Preface:  I write this knowing that it will be a highly unpopular piece and may well cost me friendships that have spanned 15 years, and may eventually cost me in the eyes of political powers and AKC.  However, I feel honesty is essential.

AKC has initiated a new Breeder Safety Net, in which breeders who are experiencing difficulties with their kennels are contacted, counseled, and assisted with their problems.  Not well-known amongst the dog fancy, this pilot program was launched in early September in response to a phone call from a breeder who needed such assistance.  There is no need to identify the breeder; this information is readily available on the internet despite AKC’s attempts to ensure privacy for the party involved.

There are a lot of misconceptions about exactly what happened, and as someone who was on the frontlines of this situation, I feel the need to clarify those misunderstandings.

First and foremost, NO dogs were euthanized on site.  There were NO feral puppies.  NO dogs of any age or sex were distributed to any commercial breeders.

So, what did happen?  A fine breeder with 40 years of experience fell onto hard times.  Admittedly this breeder has held onto a number of dogs, but when her health fell to the wayside, along with a personal tragedy, things spiraled.  An AKC inspection resulted in a fail, and in stepped Stacy Mason, Senior Field Representative for AKC. Ms. Mason was very concerned that an Animal Rights raid was in the works for labor day weekend, and this information appears to have been very credible.  Such a raid would have had devastating effects on our breed and the entire AKC dog fancy.

Ms. Mason, a high-powered, high-energy, highly-driven, and highly-personable individual convinced this breeder to request assistance, and then attacked the situation head-on.  Starting on the Wednesday before Labor Day of 2015, she enlisted the help of NEINEA members, the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs members, and members of the Indiana Council of Dog Breeders.   A number of NEINEA members responded that very same evening, as well as several IFDCO members and surprisingly, a number of the Amish commercial breeders community, all of whom assisted with transport and initial first response duties.  Within just a few short hours, 57 dogs were removed from the premises and transported to three separate boarding kennels in Illinois and Wisconsin, those of Kent Meyers, Marcy Bancus, and Jackie Fogel.  By the following Saturday, the entire property had been cleaned, structures repaired and reorganized.  Having witnessed the Amish commercial breeders working in this situation, one can only be in awe of the amount of work they accomplished and the absolute workmanship they utilized. 

Once the dogs were in place at the boarding kennels, a new task surfaced:  the breeder was only going to be allowed to have personal dogs in small numbers, and there were 40+ dogs to be placed.  Most needed spay/neuter.  Some needed vet care. The boarding kennels needed to be reimbursed.  Funding was needed.  The kennels charged various rates, and WILL BE REIMBURSED for their efforts.  Much conversation ensued, and various alternatives were discussed.  At the end, it was determined that KeepYourPets, Inc., administered by Ms. Fogel, would be in charge of accepting donations.  These donations were needed and greatly appreciated.

However, at some point, lines of communication were crossed.  Ms. Fogel was generally accepted as being in charge of placing these 40+ dogs, and that information is completely inaccurate.  The breeder herself placed over a dozen dogs in former puppy homes, with the regional club of a former co-owner or with friends.  Ms. Mason, the AKC rep, placed two of these dogs in a veteran’s program.  Margaret Williamson, NEAA rescue coordinator, placed two dogs, assisted in coordinating transportation, successfully marketed (yes, “marketed”) these dogs, and has, to date, spent nearly 300 hours in this effort.  Amy Peterson interviewed 43 applicants and placed 21 of these dogs, resulting in nearly 1100 volunteer miles personally traveled and over 400 hours of effort in arranging additional transport miles that have, to date, totaled over 10,000 volunteer, unpaid miles.  The volunteer effort for this endeavor has not been recognized on the “glossy print” pages of magazines, nor by the AKC, nor by any breed club.  In addition to Margaret’s and Amy’s efforts, there are upwards of 40 individuals who have donated time, mileage, overnighting, and adoption, and these efforts have gone largely unrecognized by the dog fancy.

“Marketing” an animal needing to be rehomed involves more than listing a name, age, sex, and microchip number.  Potential adopters WANT to see candids of the dog available.  When this author approached the person “in charge” of the dogs, she was told that the kennel operators were far too busy to take time to take photos of the dogs for which they “had not yet been paid”, and was further advised to tell potential adoptees to “look up the AKC standard – they are Norwegian Elkhounds – that’s what they look like.”

A massive marketing campaign was undertaken with the entirely volunteer help of the administrators of the Elkhound Rescue & Rehoming Facebook page.  These volunteers relentlessly posted and cross-posted these available dogs.  Under the guidance of Ms. Williamson and Ms. Peterson, they updated photos and status of each dog.  Ms. Williamson campaigned several of them on the Rescueme! page.  This marketing resulted in a number of applications, all of which had to be scrutinized, interviewed, and references checked.  Skill levels of potential adopters had to be assessed since some of the dogs were undersocialized and needed rehabilitation.  Most were not housebroken.  Most needed a home possessing skill sets that many potential adopters simply did not have at their disposal, despite willingness of heart.  Hundreds of hours were spent on this, and the individual claiming credit for placing these dogs did not review or interview a single applicant, and in fact informed us that she did not care to see the adoption applications.  She just wanted to know what dog was leaving on what day. 

Two dog’s placements were endangered and potential homes lost when the “person in charge” failed to have them spayed in time to travel on a previously scheduled transport to the Philadelphia area that was graciously provided by Kent Meyer, who was bringing client dogs to the Philadelphia area for Morris and Essex and Montgomery weekend.  Additionally, a further dog, under contract by its breeder to be returned to the breeder, was slated to be placed in this “junior” program despite objections of its breeder that its temperament was not suitable, and that there was a contract in place that the dog be returned to the breeder in the event that it could not be kept.  Fortunately, this breeder prevailed and the dog, per contract, was returned to her, after much unneeded discussion.

Elkhound Rescue & Rehoming Facebook page further became involved as the vehicle of choice for gathering transport volunteers and coordinating those efforts.  Dogs were transported from Northern IL and Wisconsin to final destinations as far as Washington state, Texas, Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Virginia – to name just a few.  Volunteers graciously took transport “legs” of various lengths ranging from 4 hours round-trip to 16 hours round-trip.  Some volunteers willingly overnighted one or more of these dogs as they were enroute to their new homes.  One volunteer donated new leashes and collars for every dog he transported.

No contingencies were implemented in the event that an adoptive home would fail; there were no provisions for return of a dog to any of the boarding facilities nor was there any individual charged with addressing issues that invariably arise with under-socialized dogs.  There were no contingencies to follow up with the new owners.  Lacking the normal safety net that comes with purchasing a dog from a breeder who stands by for the life of the dogs, this monumental task has fallen on the volunteer individuals who actively placed these dogs. The NEAA Regional Clubs do not have any contingencies in place to deal with these dogs and their issues. Attempts by a regional club to assist the second dog co- owned by a deceased member were thwarted when a senior dog was placed in a junior home, despite the club expressing concerns shared by members who had handled the dog, regarding the appropriateness of the placement in view of the temperament they had experienced in and around the ring. Between the atypical temperaments and health issues there have been myriad issues in these placements and they beg the question of whether an operation of this type, without proper breed specific management, benefits any breed, or does it feed into the AR claims against purebred dogs.

No contingencies were in place to address the health issues that many of these dogs have faced, including dental issues, systemic infections, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues; further, no funding has been offered to assist these new adoptive owners in financing these issues.  The dogs were advertised as being “happy and healthy” but regrettably, do suffer from various health issues.  Quite frankly, those who have actually been actively placing these dogs were unaware of these conditions until the adoptive owners made them known.

Those of us involved were pressured to move the dogs as quickly as possible.  While those efforts were often thwarted, we did attempt to interview, check references, and arrange transport as quickly as possible.  What was lacking was a breed-specific, honest assessment of the dogs that needed to be rehomed.  Some were very appropriate to be rehomed.  Some would have greatly benefitted from being placed in a breed-specific foster home.  This was not an option, as we were told that the goal was permanent homes, and not fosters. 

The volunteers who agreed to be point of contact for intake and interview of adopters, and more importantly, the transport volunteers, and MOST importantly, the adopters, are the real heroes that need to be recognized in this effort.  The kennel operators were gracious in providing months-long space for these dogs, risking bringing diseases into their own populations due to infestation and parasites, but those efforts are also being reimbursed.  While this is a worthwhile program and is needed by the dog fancy as we age, it was far from easy and consumed the efforts of not just Ms. Mason, Ms. Fogel, and the other kennel operators, but also the massive effort put forth by the community of volunteers.

This effort was well-intentioned and, as the dog fancy ages, much needed.  Many of us are just an illness or a lost paycheck away from these same circumstances.  In this case, the situation became very political and this should not have happened.  Most (and I apologize to those of you within the fancy and breed club who donated untold hours) of these volunteers came from outside the AKC or the breed club community.  Dollars were donated, and much appreciated, but the nitty-gritty hands-on work came from the relentless efforts of volunteers.  If this program is to continue, politics must NOT come into play.  Honest assessment of the dogs at hand is essential.  Breed-specific evaluation of each dog is essential.  An honest assessment of health is required.  Rapid, accurate, non-judgmental dissemination of information is essential.  And lastly, efforts of that village that was required to move these dogs and get them into homes should be applauded, and not ignored.

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