Monday, January 5, 2009

Grim Outlook for '09?

Pete the Vet shares his predictions for 2009:

Bizarre pets will become more popular. In the past year, I have come across people keeping sugar gliders, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and Pacman frogs. In 2009, there will be more of these weird and wonderful pets. I've no doubt that they're often bought to impress, yet I also know that their owners become very fond of them and are generally in complete denial about any other pet-keeping motive than affection.

MoT: Bemusingly, true. We've been seeing this for a number of years now. When I was younger my family had a pet hedgehog (we were trend-setters, presumably). I've seen sugar gliders and degus for sale at the pet store I used to buy from, and heard of the sale of prairie dogs. Which makes no sense to me, since if you want a cuddly rodent companion who is longer-lived than a hamster and when put in your lap will lie there and make adorable noises, you cannot go wrong with a guinea pig. People are breeding Fennec foxes as pets, and even more bizarrely, in North America, we're seeing people buy red foxes (which reek and are anti-social - that site's a doozy, by the way), domestic skunks (which ... well), and even capybaras (which are 120lb guinea pigs, a prospect that delights and terrifies me equally. Also they require a pool to defecate in).

These animals as pets is a little weird, I must say. Even weirder are the people who want them. But people will always be weird.

Pedigree animals will continue to decline in popularity. The trend started by the BBC programme "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" shows no signs of abating. Many animal charities now actively discourage owners from buying pedigree dogs, as this over-the-top video from the USA demonstrates.

Noooo! No! It isn't too late to save our purebreds, people! Quit abandoning ship and start bailing out the water! Besides, just look at that video. It's from PETA. 'Nuff said, amiright?

Designer dogs are not the answer. We can save our purebreds. I liked Pedigree Dogs Exposed, but it's whipping up an awful lot of insecurity, and there are plenty of irresponsible muttpuppy breeders who'll take advantage of that. Bailing on your breed doesn't fix a thing - educating yourself on it does.

Animal rights will continue to move up the political agenda. Despite the recent conviction of animal rights activists for conspiracy to blackmail, there is a continuing surge of interest in the ideas that are typified by the concept that animals should be called "non-human persons". Pete Singer's book Animal Liberation was published in 1975, and since then, there has been a continual growth of interest in treating animals as sentient beings rather than as "dumb creatures" to be used as objects for use and abuse by humans.

We like animal welfare - which did gain a lot of momentum in 2008 - not animal rights. Dogs are dogs - not "persons".

Legislation to control pet ownership will increase. In 2008, Switzerland enacted legislation that means that prospective dog owners need to pass theoretical and practical tests (even vets aren't exempt from this ruling). The new Swiss laws also take a firm line on animal welfare in other ways, insisting that "social species", including guinea pigs and budgerigars, must be kept in groups of two or more because of the suffering induced by solitude. In the same way as smoking bans have become a worldwide phenomenon, the Swiss example could be part of a new trend.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up a minute. You want me to do what now?

I'm not saying education isn't important in dog ownership, but is this taking it a little too far? Will it really deter irresponsible owners, or will they slip through the cracks while better owners become reluctant? Why does this have to hit every dog breed, from Yorkie to Great Dane, all at once? Are things really this bad??

I feel a bit muddled on this one. I was in favour of breed-specific legislation in Ontario initially, because I expected it to weed out all the irresponsible owners of pit bull type dogs, but later changed my stance to: Screen the prospective owners! In fact, screen prospective owners of all "high-risk" breeds. I don't mean at risk of biting people - I mean at risk of developing a bad temperament due to poor ownership. Though it sounds cold, a Golden retriever will generally respond to abuse more passively than a bully breed. Why not check out which breeds are most likely to end up in rescues, and target those owners? I'm invested enough in the welfare of Border collies that I wouldn't mind writing some kind of test, but who's the government to say I can't adopt a family dog from a shelter without some kind of permit? More horrifying, what if I somehow fail the test? What does the practical test entail anyway? Going into a room with the dog and not beating it with a leash? (Actually, you have to walk a dog and react to certain situations that may arise. What situations? Because I'm five foot even, and when my dog gets it into his mind to say hi to another, well... He's stronger than he looks. Thank goodness for clickers.)

I don't know. I'm not sold. Though I like my government in many ways (when we actually have one [shakes a fist in Harper's direction]), I can be a bit of a libertarian when it comes to some issues. I don't like the idea of the government making me take the time to enroll in classes and write some test in order to adopt a dog. How much would the test tell you, really, anyway? And for that matter, while I implore prospective guinea pig buyers to invest in a pair, I also resent the Swiss government telling me that my Angry Pig is suffering - that she's being abused! - because she's alone. The government doesn't know that the AP fits the criteria for clinical sociopathy, nor that I tried when she was young to socialize and house her with another pig until I determined that the Elder Pig was in imminent danger of being strangled with piano wire and dumped in Lake Ontario. The government doesn't know that I keep the AP in my bedroom, where my desk and computer are, because I know it's where I spend most of my time, or that she gets "out-of-cage time" at least once or twice every day. And at the other end of the spectrum, I met a pair of guinea pigs who lived in their owner's basement, were taken out of the cage once a month, and fed whenever their dish was empty. Of course this isn't usually the case, but I'm just saying, it's not as cut-and-dry as forcing people to adopt in pairs. This won't tell you anything about the buyer or how the rest of the animals' lives are going to go. The AP is a cranky little snot, but she is very content, thankyouverymuch. The reason most people adopt a single pig is because A) they don't know how social guinea pigs are, and B) they don't realize that two pigs' upkeep is virtually the same as one. What we need is education over legislation here.

But mostly, I gotta say, I find it astounding that people would introduce a theoretical and practical test to screen prospective dog owners, and let any two human psychos breed willy-nilly without requiring any kind of parenting courses. Make that mandatory, and then talk to me about the dogs.

Switzerland, I think I may want a divorce.


starrypawz said...

That PETA video made me rather angry, it's a big pile of hypocritical BS. It's really rich how they come across with the whole 'adopt a dog or you'll kill one' when I think most people know about the whole 'PETA kills their shelter animals' thing.

I've heard rumors of them wanting to bring back dog licenses around the UK (where I live) and in a way I wish they would at least do this for some of the 'aggressive' breeds and maybe have some sort of assessment so that before someone can own a 'dangerous' breed such as a Rottweiler or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier for example that it actually shows that they are a competent dog owner, that can actually handle the dog, knows how to care for it ect.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Frankly the video was so absurd that the message was kind of lost on me, as I got hung up on how hilariously into their roles the actors were instead. "I don't wanna kill a dog!" "Too late! :)"

I can't make up my mind on the dog permits thing, but I definitely agree with you, starrypawz: If we're gonna have them, make them mandatory for the asshole magnets. You know the breeds!

megan colleen said...

Re: Animal Rights Movement.

I don't like the animal rights movement. I like the Animal Welfare movement far better since that's actually not as steeped in politics and more in common sense. I'd far prefer to support the ASPCA over HSUS or PETA... since the ASPCA actually helps animals not just try to educate 5 year olds about slaughter.

Personally if there is to be dog licensing tests I'd rather there be license tests for ALL breeds not just specific ones. Why should I be penalized and have to take a test because I LIKE Pit bulls? Why does the abusive person down the street who wants a poodle instead get to get whatever dog they want, because they arent' choosing a Pit Bull? If we are going to make one sector of people test to have a dog -- ie pit bulls then you better make it for everyone just in case.

Why? Because like as all BSL has shown if you just choose to target a certain breed or breed type then people will either move onto another breed or they will just move even deeper beyond the "system."

But hey that's just me - I don't even have my dog registered for a license despite it being law. Why? Because after what has happened in Denver with pit bulls out there where after the BSL was enacted they went to all the homes that had a pit bull registered and confiscated the dogs with no more reason than it's breed type... well, not going to set my own dog up for that.

Hurray for breaking the law.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Good point, Megan. As for animal rights/welfare - I didn't even think to make the distinction. You're right, welfare has much less of a political agenda. I'm all for animals having rights, but at the end of the day a dog is still a dog, not a person. There's got to be a line somewhere that we don't need to cross.

I can say that if Border collies became a breed that required a license test, I'd suck it up and take the test, because I know that many Borders end up in BC rescues and it would hopefully help to eliminate that. Might make prospective buyers take Borders as a difficult dog seriously, too. My hope is that if license tests ever became mandatory for pit bull types, we'd see an improvement in the breed, because the devotees and responsible owners would stick around while the irresponsible ones would take their business elsewhere. But it is true that they might also just target another breed or get their pits illegally. I assume they'd want to spare themselves such hassle, but...

It would seem rough to be 'penalized' for sticking by your breed, but if we can see for ourselves the amount of pit bulls that end up in shelters, is there a better solution? Hardly any whippets end up in rescue: should they be weighted alongside the 'aggressive' breeds when somebody simply wants a naturally sweet-tempered family dog?

megan colleen said...

"It would seem rough to be 'penalized' for sticking by your breed, but if we can see for ourselves the amount of pit bulls that end up in shelters, is there a better solution? Hardly any whippets end up in rescue: should they be weighted alongside the 'aggressive' breeds when somebody simply wants a naturally sweet-tempered family dog?"

Y'know... I've been a dog nut for 24 years now. I got my first AKC breed book when I was 8. Would you like to know the difference between pit bulls and whippets from my experience in the last 24 years?

Whippets are AKC recognized but are STILL not a well known breed of dog to keep as a pet. I didn't even add them as a possibility of breeds to own until I started looking for a dog 6 years ago. I think they have been saved from the shelter systems because they have a good strong parent breed club. And they aren't THAT easy to get since I dont' see them in a lot of pet stores either.

Now American Pit Bull Terriers? Not recognized by the AKC. Does not have a parent breed club here in the united states unless you count one of the "registeries" that have only sprung up in the last two decades. Easy to get for this very same reason, at least in my opinion.

Comparing the two breeds is rather like apples and oranges. You have one breed with strong protection in place and are still rather rare to see on the streets (yes I've lived in the country as well as in Chicago... still didn't see a lot compared to a lot of breeds). I mean I live in a small city now and I take my dog to a University Teaching Hospital - I have seen more king charles cavalier spaniels (another relatively rare breed) than I have seen whippets in the past 5 years!

Is there a better solution?

Somedays that seems rather like asking "How do we end all abuse for all species in this world?" If you were to believe Ingrid Newkirk the founder of PETA it would be to eliminate the dependancy on all animals in human life. So no more pets, farm animals, draft animals, zoos etc. I don't think that's the answer myself.. and I think Good Ol' Ingrid is the nut to end all nuts.

But she does have a point - the abuse of animals especially our dogs begins and starts with the most common denominator - Humans. We through our ignorance, fear, and need for power to feel good about ourselves abuse animals not to mention other humans. But well meaning people have been trying to eliminate these tendacies for at least a thousand years (i'm thinking of the Buddhist belief system). Yet, how do you irradicate now in this age what no one has been able to irradicate for a thousand years?

My family is well educated, compassionate and liberal people - BUT - they still fear that which they do not have experience with. They still buy into stereotypes, despite all evidence contradicting those stereotypes, so thus my mom thought that when I lived in a black neighborhood I would be less safe than the white neighborhood even though it was in a white neighborhood where my dog and I got jumped by 3 off leash pet dogs.

I don't know what a better solution is - I do know by EXPERIENCE of owning a pit bull - that if you target one group of people (known as racial profiling or breed specific legislation) then you are setting yourself up for failure. It's far better to regulate for all, rather than only for a few.

But again this is jsut my opinion based on my experiences in life. :)

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Very interesting Megan! As I said, I'm still not sure what to make of the idea, so I appreciate the discussion. :)

That the two breeds can't really be compared was kind of my point. Whippets have got a strong support system, pit bulls need some kind of protection too. If it's not licences to own, I don't know what to do for them. Perhaps permits to breed them - but then we'd go back to the debate over BSL vs all breeders requiring permits regardless of breed. Which maybe wouldn't be such a bad thing, if we - HSUS, SPCA and AKC included - could only all agree on what makes a responsible breeder!

Quick question; are you for license tests (for all breeds) then, or against? I'm still on the fence, but then, nobody ever said owning pets was a right ...

megan colleen said...

My apologies on missing your point. ;) I kind of got into my chain of thought and realized after posting how many run-on sentence I utilized. I swear I'm going back to school for a reason! And that's one of them?

Owning any kind of pet is definitely not a privledge in this society. We're facing a problem with overpopulation not only in our pet animals - horses, dogs, cats, etc. - but also in our human population that is far outstripping the resources available to us as a society.

That being said if there were to be testing to be done to own an animal I'd be more for it if it were for everyone. HOWEVER, it's another of those propostions that look GREAT on paper (rather like dog parks and the notion of "for the people by the people.") but sucks in reality of today's ideals.

I don't really think that any of these sorts of propositions would pass in a country as big as the United States. I applaud the Swiss for at least trying to think of solutions to the problems facing our society today, but as long as humans are humans with all of our insecurities, faults, and prejudices I think the problems that the "PIT BULL PROBLEM" represents will always be inherent to our society.

Rhyadawn said...

I have issues with breed specific legislation.

I live in Ontario, I have 2 Australian Shepherds, both of which came from less than happy homes. Everyday is a new day with them, some are better than others.

If their previous owners had had breed knowledge these 2 beautiful dogs wouldn't have had to be rehomed.

If people adopted dogs from knowledgable caring breeders who took the time to interview and get to know prospective parents their dogs would not end up in such precarious situations.

If shelters took the time and effort to perform proper temperment testing and not just let dogs to to the first person in the door maybe the dogs wouldn't end up back as many times as they do. (I worked in a shelter for 3 years, just couldn't take it anymore)

I love many of the "high risk" breeds. Rotties and dobermans especially, but I KNOW that they are not a breed for me at this time in my life. I was ready to get a rottie, had talked to a breeder, spent time at her home with her dogs, loved them. But they weren't going to work in my home situation.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

To clarify my stance on BSL, I'm for it only when it protects the breed. Because I think we can all agree that in 99 cases out of 100, the problem is the owner, not the dog. There's got to be a way to keep these dogs out of the hands of people who can't handle them, or want them because they're known to be aggressive, and make sure they end up with people who know how to raise a "high-risk" dog like you guys. But if you guys are the ones opposing the legislation, there's obviously got to be another way.

megan colleen said...

I think so many of the responsible dog owners and rescues oppose any kind of BSL is because so many of us have seen where it looks great on paper but in reality it is being used to target people unfairly.

I forget if it was someone from PETA or someone from HSUS but someone high up in one of those organizations had the gall to say that the only people who'd want to own a pit bull are poor, uneducated, drug dealers from the projects. Now to me that sounds like a whole lotta prejudice rolling around someone's mind to lead them to say somthing like that. Most of the pit bull owners I know are white, educated, middle class, and DO NOT sell drugs.

So if the mindset is that we're targeting the drug dealers with these laws, then why is it that the majority of the people who HAVE the dogs aren't dealing drugs?

So who are you really protecting?

BSL is meant to get people to the polls. Plain and simple. It brings money into the coffers of the city or town it exists in. And it keeps politicians in power.

Which is why I think that BSL stands for BullShit Legislation now.