Public Policy and Pet Overpopulation.

This is a Whippet. Chances are very slim you will find them  in a shelter, but they do get loose.  Most likely, you will either have to be on a waiting list  (WRAP---Whippet Rescue and Placement) or network to find breeders.  Whippet breeders are NOT the cause of pet over population.

This is a Whippet. Chances are very slim you will find them in a shelter, but they do get loose. Most likely, you will either have to be on a waiting list (WRAP—Whippet Rescue and Placement) or network to find breeders. Whippet breeders are NOT the cause of pet over population.

I’ve been getting a lot of responses recently to several blogs;  One  blog on being libeled ( Yelp! and  the damages) that  some unscrupulous people working in the pet industry do, and one on  fake animal rescues.   Seems  people have had very bad dealings with Christine Poyner of Clifton, Illinois, and Wright-Way Rescue in Niles (soon Morton Grove).

When I was a teenager, I briefly worked for Fredric Mark Alderman, who owned Dynasty Afghan Hounds.  He was pretty well known in the  Chicago area, and  even if you didn’t like the dogs he bred, one thing you  knew was that you did NOT get a Dynasty dog until you spent a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to hear that you  had no idea what equipment you would need, how long it would take, how often it needed to be done, or what was involved.  If you decided, after spending a day grooming, that you really didn’t want an Afghan Hound,  there were no hard feelings.  He didn’t want his dogs resold  to  low life scum who thought they would make a killing from his bloodlines (as people have from the Gotti & Razor’s Edge Pit Bulls…).  To me, Fred was the epitome of a good hobby breeder.

A lot of business owners have had issues with the social media review websites.  You have to take them with a grain of salt.  I have reviewed businesses on them.  When people are anonymous, they are hiding.  Move on.

We are not all on the same page  about what to do about pet over population, and who is responsible for it.  Not all breeders are the same, and there  seems to be some statistical evidence that  most dogs ending up in shelters  were bred by what we call the ‘backyard breeders’:  people who breed their pets, or allow their pets to breed.  Very few, statistically come from hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of their breeds, though a fair per centage do seem to come from pet shops.  It depends on the economy of the area the shelter is a catchment for.

Currently, many  involved in profiting off pets in the pet industry are defending the commercial breeders—addressing the issue that the problem is that they are breeding genetically unsound dogs, and that soon their dogs will be more sound than those of the backyard breeders.  That is NOT the issue, however. The issue is that the bad breeders do not screen buyers  to make sure the buyers understand the responsibilities and commitment needed to a pet, or even if the pet is right for them.  if they  did, we wouldn’t see so many young dogs posted on Craigslist for the myriad BS reasons (moving,  kids won’t take care of it, too busy, etc.). They just assume that if you pay for a pet, you will appropriately care for it. This is just not true.  I see it every day that I groom dogs.    In fact, for every  Shiba Inu, jack russell Terrier, and Basenji that is  AKC registered, statistically, about  one of  each of these breeds winds up in rescue. As the Shibas and Basenjis are really not that popular, that means that even the  hobby breeders are not doing such a great job screening.  It’s the ‘culture’ in those breeds.  Don’t get me started on Pit Bulls. Clearly, paying any amount of money for anything does NOT mean you will care for what you paid for.

Many of  the  ‘no-kill’ rescues are just as bad as the pet shops.  They  may screen people, but when it comes to insisting  that the ‘adoptor’  attend obedience classes with the dog, or  learn basic  brushing and buy proper tools, they are no better than the pet shops.

Chicago Animal Care and Control—our city dog pound,  asks to meet everyone in the household,  and usually will not adopt  a pet to people with toddlers.  They also demand to see either proof of home ownership or a signed lease that allows (pets)—& then call the landlord.  This is our city pound.   These are public employees that care!  I’d say they do a pretty good job of screening. So do many of the breed specific rescues.  The only problem with Chicago Animal Care  and Control is  that they allow a ‘transfer team’ to select out the most adoptable dogs and make them only available to other rescues—not to the public.  I don’t understand the logic, unless, statistically, it gives them more of a chance  to find a home in a timely fashion.

That said, we have too many rescues whose volunteers  don’t ask the right questions, don’t say anything about the care or training involved,  and hope for the best.

Two businesses that  people have asked for ‘clarification’ on  are Christine Poyner and Wright-Way rescue.   Christine Poyner runs a livestock breeding business. Whether she is currently breeding or brokering dogs this day is not the issue.  She is licensed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture to do so.  She  calls (or did call) her business Steppingstones for Pets, and told me she gets most of her dogs from local farmers’ wives.  Some of them are puppy mills. All of them are irresponsible breeders.  This is America, and she is in rural America, and in rural America, people generally don’t have pets as  urban Americans  do:   they are not pet parents. They do not  go to veterinarians for shots, don’t worm their animals or  deal with fleas—and the last thing they would spend money on is spaying/neutering. If they have  livestock they breed for food, chances are  they are ‘inspected’ by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which has only  6 inspectors for the whole state—poorly trained ones at that.  There is no legal way to stop Ms. Poyner, nor the people she gets animals from.

Similarly, the many  nonprofits that ‘rescue’ animals from rural pounds, such as Wright-Way (a pound is not a shelter or a rescue—it is a holding facility to protect the public health from disease vectors) are not solving the  pet over population problem—-particularly if they  don’t follow through on  being sure the  animals they adopt out are not spayed/neutered.  They could ask for a surplus deposit ($300 or so seems  to make an impact on most adoptors to be returned upon proof of spay/neuter)…but  that won’t solve the problem, as many  people who don’t want to  spay/neuter  will not adopt from a shelter.  They will go  to  Craigslist or Kijiji, or even a local flea market, or buy from an ad in the paper or on their veterinarian’s bulletin board.  It is those people who  are about 90% of the problem, and we are not going to  stop them.  The big issue we have with Wright Way is that over  95% of the dogs they offer are puppies, and they do not take dogs back once adopted out.  I have been told if they don’t have the room, that would be the reason…but that is no excuse.  Don’t  take more puppies than you can keep indefinitely.  How is it rescue when you  don’t take back animals YOU  ‘adopted’ out? that’s selling….and even ethical hobby breeders will often  pay to get dogs back rather than them be abandoned at  shelters.  I got a dog this way this year.

I  went to college to find a more sophisticated way to address the issue of irresponsible pet ownership.  I learned that academia is  not the place to look. Two really good books on  getting a message out are Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, and The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (who also wrote the phenomenal essay, Troublemakers, which can  be found online and in his  fantastic book, What the Dog Saw ). The gist is that we need more influential  people who really love pets to be more visible.  We need more veterinarians and  celebrities to talk about all this, not just spay/neuter.  How ironic that the producers of the talk shows pander to their hosts interests rather than real issues.

I volunteer as an advocate for animals in the court system.  Many are  owned by  dog fighters, some by  people charged with other crimes, and many are abused or neglected by psychopaths or hoarders.  One blogger recently  wrote about Pratt puppy mill in Iowa:

For some reason, the USDA inspectors will not bring this case to the regional  federal district attornies to prosecute.  If more of us would put pressure on, we might possibly make a dent, as would people flagging puppy sellers on Craigslist (in  : pet section, events, farm & garden, general for sale, household goods, and pet services).  If you are going to be involved in rescue, please try to make a dent.

When people tell me they want to help animals, but can’t adopt or foster, I know they want to help, and I am dismayed at the number of  nonprofits  that  state on their web sited that they need help with fund raising or  marketing, but do not respond to  inquiries.  So, for those of you who want to  really help… get informed about the issues, and  gain credibility.    Safe Humane Chicago  trains  volunteers to train dogs and work with dogs housed at Chicago animal Care and Control, and many other  shelters  (meaning those that have facilities0 need dog trainers, too.  it’s a good way to gain credibility as a dog trainer.  learn to be a court advocate, and band with others.  Court is usually in the morning.  If you can’t get to court, or  get a shelter or rescue to work with you on this, you might possibly be able to find prosecuting attornies than might help out.  You can post  to attract like minded people on Craigslist.  You can flag people  posting baby animals on Craigslist.  they sell in the pet section, farm & garden, and in general for sale.  sometimes they sell  in the pet services section as well.  You can review your state’s animal welfare laws, and  make sure they are enforced.  it is a violation of CALIFORNIA LAW to sell animals on the internes, but  for some reason, CALIFORNIA is not  enforcing the law and  collecting fines. Why not?

In the  mid 1980’s. I  helped Margaret Asproyerakas, as the time a volunteer for Fund for Animals,  produce a brochure for Armchair Activists (that any group could republish) that  said what you  could do  to help animals.  Some actions included making sure  any place that sold animals (pet shops)  took car of their animals  properly, not buying fur, recycling and composting,  not attending circuses and rodeos that exploited animals,  choosing a vegetarian diet, working to outlaw steel leg-hold traps and sticky  mousetraps, and many other actions.  We were the the forerunner of books like, “50 Things You can do to Save the Earth.”

I used to  go with a friend into pet shops and fur salons, and have a loud conversation  about the pros and cons of buying (whatever) & alternatives.  It works.   As an aside, I am a Jew.  Jews don’t proselytize.  We’re not  out to tell you that what you believe is wrong.  however…what if you don’t have a belief?  What if what you know isn’t true?  These are the people we have to get to.


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