Changing the actions, aptitudes and attitudes of dogs and their people
Dogs Must Die -
The State Of Rescue In America
There appears to be a crisis in this country regarding unwanted dogs. Americans are receiving the message, loud and clear, from a variety of sources that the only way to resolve the problem is to “rescue” all the unwanted animals. It is, after all, the noblest option. But, is it the most sensible? Will it truly resolve the problem? It doesn’t seem to be working since there is a constant source of new “rescue” dogs available.Emotion has taken over reason. Common sense has gone out the window. Natural laws of supply and demand are being ignored or corrupted. I cannot even communicate my position to certain people because they are so emotionally attached to an ideal that they believe to be the ultimate truth. My sentiments fall on deaf ears. There is a twisting of meaning as my words are filtered and flipped and I experience an immediate distain for any idea that might challenge the current status quo.This time I will be blunt enough, I hope, to at least communicate my opinion, albeit the shock-factor of my ideas may repel many who are engrossed in the current rescue “operation” in this country. Perhaps through such a blatant approach, the idea may be reasonably critiqued, mulled over, considered or challenged. That is all I ask. There are no hidden agendas in my words. There is no need to try to determine the “tone” with which my words should be interpreted. I ask that they are simply read, directly, without additional elucidation. Recently, I suggested (on a dog training discussion forum) that the reason many anti-social dogs are euthanized rather than rehabilitated is due to a shortage of resources. I was not, in any way suggesting that anyone should feel obligated to secure those resources except, perhaps, the dog’s legal owner. I happen to believe that euthanasia is recommended far more frequently than it is necessary, especially by trainers who simply do not have in their “tool kits” the capacity to rehabilitate a wayward dog. There are some very challenging cases that only those who specialize in that work are truly equipped to handle. A common approach that some dog trainers and rescue groups use when they encounter such an animal is to tell the owner something such as, “there is no chance for rehabilitation because the dog is too far gone”. I think that this is unacceptable because, in fact, many of those dogs can be rehabilitated and the owner should be informed of such an option. Whether or not it is a feasible option for the dog (and its owner) is another matter, entirely. But, to avoid presenting the whole picture, can lead to the dog's owner making the same mistake, twice, if he isn't informed that rehabilitation is possible for some of the more challenging dogs.Clearly, as the dog’s owner, it is his choice how he chooses to “disposition” his pet. It's unwise to leave a volatile dog in the hands of someone who is unable to address the dog's behavioral problems. If I believe that it is a matter of lack of resources, rather than “poor genetics”, for example, that a dog must be killed, I am not hiding words between the lines. I am not suggesting that someone else, a rescue group perhaps, has failed to accomplish their mission to "rescue" the dog. They have not, at least not in my eyes. If the owner doesn’t have the funds to pay for professional assistance, then he doesn’t have the funds. He is making a choice based on resources to terminate the dog. If the rescue doesn't have the resources to take on the dog in its current state, then they don't have the resources. It's not because the dog could not be rehabilitated that it is euthanized. It is because there were not resources available. Those are the facts and stating those facts does not imply that I feel that a rescue group failed.The owner may have failed the dog by the choices he made regarding the source from where he acquired it or not having or seeking the knowledge to either address or prevent behavioral issues from arising. People need to educate themselves on how to acquire and maintain a dog. To me, failure does not imply that someone is bad. We all fail at things. Sometimes, it's a pretty bad failure. How we choose to use that experience is what matters. Hopefully, a dog owner that makes bad choices which lead to the death of his pet receives a solid lesson to seek sound information on how to acquire and maintain a dog in the future. People need to be responsible for the ramifications of their action in order to learn life's lessons. Rescuing a person from feeling the full effect of his actions cheats him out of the education that comes from his failure. It's not prudent, in my eyes, to soften the blow of such a serious situation by placing all of the culpability for a dog's action on the dog. My experience tells me that a dog's behavior is most often a reflection of its relationship with its human. Dogs must die. The idea that every dog must be rescued, every dog must be pulled from under the needle just seconds from death, every dog must be plucked out of a puppy mill is only contributing to the crisis of unwanted animals in this country. We all need to have a come-to-Jesus-moment about the ramifications of having as a goal the rescue of every dog, regardless of from where it came. The natural laws of supply and demand must be permitted to function in order to create a healthier “dog economy” in our country because it is currently in ruins with little hope of repair. While that sounds very harsh, I believe it is the crux of the problem we face with a large unwanted dog population.Before I continue, I feel it is necessary to define a dog breeder. I have encountered people who believe that they are not a “breeder” because they just had one or two litters of puppies. A breeder, from here onwards, is the person who legally owned the bitch when she whelped. Puppy Millers are breeders. Your neighbor who produces just one litter a year “so that the kids can watch the miracle of life” is a breeder. The individual who produced a Westminster Best In Show dog and the organizations that produce Seeing-Eye-Dogs for the blind or bomb detection dogs for the Military are breeders. Breeder is not a bad word. Some people clearly take the responsibility of breeding more seriously than others. But, the level of commitment to high standards is not part of the definition of the word, in its most basic form.The current process of dealing with unwanted dogs in this country often takes most of the burden away from the true sources of unwanted dogs. When a dog is “rescued” from, say, a puppy mill breeder, it opens another spot for another puppy to fill that space. When adult breeding dogs are “rescued” from a puppy mill, it grants space for younger breeding dogs to take their place. Sometimes, rescue groups actually purchase dogs from a puppy mill source in the name of “rescue”. Not only does a space open for that breeder to establish another breeding dog, but he makes money, too, which clearly encourages his behavior, further. There is a supply and demand economy for dogs in this country, just like every other commodity. I believe that system is broken due to the efforts of some rescue groups who attempt to save dogs from such deplorable conditions. To rebalance the equation, I believe that some dogs will have to perish, and many of those will also suffer. It is an ugly and repulsive concept.Consider a fast food restaurant. When too many hamburgers are cooking on the grill versus the number of customers that arrive before those meat patties get dried out and over cooked, the restaurant must trash the overdone burgers. So, they keep track of their inventory, their customer flow, the typical ebbs and tides of supply versus demand in an attempt to trash the fewest burgers each day. Why? Because it is financially painful to deal with the ramifications of wasting inventory.It is also financially painful for a dog breeder to maintain a stock of puppies. It continues to cost money to feed and house them. Puppies do, in fact, have a “shelf life” for greatest return on investment. Many people prefer to acquire a puppy when it is young because they feel that it will bond better with them (whether that is true, or not). Baby puppies are also cuter than older puppies, which makes them easier to sell to an impulse buyer. As the puppy gets older, it becomes more of a burden on the breeder. If a rescue group removes some of that burden, the breeder is given the opportunity to breed another litter of unwanted puppies. While it seems like the only humane thing to do – to save a suffering puppy from whatever environment in which it exists – in fact, “rescuing” a puppy from some sources only exacerbates the situation of unwanted dogs in our country. My personal opinion is that, except for true sociopathic individuals, most people do have a conscience and they are capable of deductive reasoning. If an individual were held responsible for “trashing” the unwanted dogs that he produces (the way that McDonalds throws away over cooked hamburgers), I believe that it would eventually take a toll on the person. In time, if the costs begin to outweigh the benefits, both emotionally and financially, of producing unwanted puppies, securing another profession becomes the best choice. In the best of situations, law enforcement steps in first to address the problem before too many dogs suffer. I believe resources may be required to boost that system.There may be a serious gap in enforcement of current anti-cruelty laws in some States at this time. There probably isn't a need for more laws, in most States. But, the good laws on the book may not be used to their fullest extent. I sometimes wonder whether, where there is a very powerful and determined rescue force, law enforcement takes a back seat instead of driving the operation to permanently address seriously heinous crimes against animals. I, personally, would prefer my tax dollars be spent on addressing animal cruelty to the fullest extent of the law rather than permitting rescue groups to perform pseudo-law enforcement that can get in the way of a solid guilty verdict being delivered. I suspect that most people would agree that there are not enough resources (of all types) to provide appropriate homes for all the unwanted dogs in our country. Many dogs have behavioral issues that are beyond the capacity for a typical dog owner to address. Professional intervention is required to resolve some of the more challenging behavioral issues that some dogs present. Dogs that believe they can use their teeth to get their way are particularly dangerous and should not be living in homes where the owners are ill equipped to address and resolve such anti-social behavior. I believe that most of these dogs can be rehabilitated. I am less confident that there are sufficient homes into which they can be placed after rehabilitation. Just because a person is capable of rehabilitating and then maintaining the seriously anti-social dogs does not mean that he wants to keep a bunch of dogs around that cost money to feed, house and train on a daily basis. So, they are killed, not because they could not be rehabilitated, but because there are not enough resources to maintain them. That is best for society. That is what must happen. Just like McDonalds needs to throw away the product that is unwanted, surplus dogs are put to death. But, McDonalds tries very hard to prevent putting a burger on the grill if there isn’t a good chance for it to be purchased before it is over-done. In the United States, today, I believe there is very little being done to reduce the numbers of dogs produced. In fact, I believe that the extensive focus on rescuing unwanted dogs, especially from the most illicit sources, is creating a market for more and more unwanted dogs to be produced. Some of those dogs become so seriously anti-social that they are killed because there are not enough experienced people to both rehabilitate them and maintain them afterwards. What else can we do if there are not enough resources to address the seriously anti-social dogs? Here are some options: 1. Leave inferior puppies and dogs with the source that created them and expect those people to address the surplus they produced. This means that we must not rescue dogs from puppy mills or substandard breeders – even in a round-about way. This applies to both organized rescue groups and individuals. 2. Spend more resources educating people about how to acquire a dog which they have the skills to adequately maintain. 3. Refrain from “romanticizing” a dog’s history to encourage its adoption. Sadly, my experience is that many people find it very attractive to “rescue” the “worst case” dog, rather than to acquire the best dog for their lifestyle and resources. Perhaps, it makes for a good story or it makes people feel “important”. But, it is unwise for many people to acquire dogs that come from the worse environments because they are ill equipped to handle such a dog and it can contribute to the production of additional unwanted dogs. 4. Permit people the (guilt-free) choice to acquire a quality puppy from a reputable breeder if that is their choice. Remove the message "always rescue a dog" from the standard propaganda that is disseminated, and replace it with a "know your breeder" type of message. 5. Strongly suggest professional, high quality dog re-socialization / rehabilitation to folks before recommending euthanasia or before accepting a dog into a rescue as an owner-relinquishment. Turn an unwanted dog into a wanted one by utilizing all the possible options when working with an owner of a dog with behavioral issues. 6. Establish a steep relinquishment fee that will cover the cost of dogs that can be rehabilitated after relinquishment. 7. Use local laws better to address acts of neglect and anti-cruelty. Transfer resources into law enforcement so that the bad-guys are appropriately punished and are unable to set up shop, again. A shift needs to be made in the message that is presented to prospective dog owners. The idea that everyone should feel obligated to rescue a dog is a ridiculous notion and should cease, immediately. Many Americans feel “guilty” even contacting a reputable breeder because of the propaganda that is constantly spread about unwanted dogs in this country. The message that needs to be presented is: A. There are criminals in our society who are breeding dogs and not taking responsibility for their care and proper placement. B. You should not do business with these people by purchasing a puppy or dog from them, even indirectly (perhaps through a retail outlet). C. Do not rescue a dog from the criminals, even indirectly. This requires learning how to screen a breeder / source of a new dog. D. By purchasing or rescuing from these criminal breeders, you are supporting the unlawful activity by providing an opening for the villain to create and neglect another puppy.Yes, thousands of dogs will be killed if these recommendations are followed. But, in time, I believe it will rebalance the dog economy in our country. The system is broken because the natural laws of supply and demand are not being permitted to exist. While this sounds harsh because we are discussing living, breathing, loving, conscious animals, it remains a viable option to reduce the unwanted dog population in our country. I am aware of the chance for a resurgence of people "dumping" their dog on the streets because if they cannot rely on a rescue group to save them from their own mistakes. That is a crime in most locations, and there are laws that cover stray dogs and their disposition. To rebalance the dog economy in the country, resources may be required to be shifted to law enforcement. In the long run, I believe it will result in a positive effect of unwanted dogs.I have been directly involved in dog rescue for years. I participated in ground-up development of my area’s first rescue. I have personally rescued dozens of dogs, trained them, vetted/ neutered and placed them and dealt with the follow up issues that may have arisen with the new owners – all at my own expense, without donations to the cause. I have also worked with rescue groups training and rehabilitating many of their dogs. I do it because I cherish dogs. I am not opposed to the concept of rescuing dogs. I think it is a vital and important aspect of existing in a compassionate and civilized society. People get ill or die. Families encounter overwhelming trauma that results in their inability to care for their dog. There are many reasons why rescue will always be a necessary approach to cope with dogs that lose their homes. There are many people who will still want to be part of that re-homing effort of dogs that lose their homes.But, in an odd way, I believe rescue efforts have lost focus and gone too far. Much of the hard work has caused a lopsided structure that is tipping farther and farther to the point of complete collapse. It is no longer helping as much as it is hurting dogs in this country, in some very basic ways. I personally do not believe that everyone deserves to be "rescued" from their incompetence, and topping my list would be people who breed dogs that do not take ownership of that huge responsibility.Unfortunately, it is going to cause great torment and anguish, now, to realign the “dog economy” in our country. It’s like trying to balance your budget when you have accrued tens of thousands of dollars of personal debt. It seems overwhelming. It requires some level of suffering and sacrifice to regain equilibrium. That won’t happen if we are not honest about some critical concepts: 1. Breeders must be held responsible for the dogs they produce (that’s any breeder – anyone who produces a puppy). 2. Rescues will have to refrain from rescuing dogs from sources that need to be responsible for their own surplus (even if dogs are suffering). 3. Current laws need to be enforced to address neglect and cruelty. Stronger penalties may need to be imposed for these offenses. Rescue groups must not be permitted to over ride law enforcement in cases that require criminal charges and therefore seizure of evidence, even if it means that some dogs will suffer.4. People must be educated to research the source of their future puppy at least at the level they are willing to research a new large appliance that they purchase. They should be encouraged to avoid acquiring a dog from a source that (directly or indirectly) contributes to the number of unwanted dogs. The system needs to move to a state where it is not economically fruitful to produce inferior quality puppies. As a professional dog trainer, in some ways, making these recommendations I am like a dentist that pushes for a vaccine against tooth decay. Over 80% of my clients claim that their dog is a “rescue” and they are struggling with some level of anti-social behavior. But, people will always enjoy the incredible companionship that dogs offer and need some level of professional assistance to enhance that relationship. As a society, shall we have as our goal, “save unwanted dogs” or “reduce the number of unwanted dogs”? It seems to be such a subtle difference in words, but, to me, it means a world of difference for the dogs. For permission to reprint email Tammie.