Friday, July 13, 2012


After reading my Google alerts for Animal Law Issues today, I decided to write this week’s blog on the Consequences of Kneejerk Reactions to animals or their protectors behavior.  I am only covering three here today. (I could cover ten!)

They are:

In Northern Ireland yesterday, a pit bull type dog, Lennox, lost his life after a two-year court battle between his owners and the Belfast City Council.  It seems the Belfast City Council collected Lennox from his home, where he had lived for all his 7 years, because of how he looked.   He looked like a pit bull dog, which violated a city ordinance prohibiting pit bull dogs.  Lennox was held by BCC for 2 years.  Upon the loss of his last appeal, July 10th, he was euthanized or as they put it, ’destroyed’, around noon eastern daylight time yesterday.

This has been a hotly contested case.  Several high profile people offered to re home Lennox, including Caesar Milan, but all offers to re-home him out of the district or country fell on deaf ears in the BCC.  I hope the Council did not forgo a viable option to prove a point.  Yes, I get it; if a dog is vicious, passing it off to another party may incur liability to the original party.  Yet…. this dog had never bitten anyone and was simply a look-alike for a breed specific ordinance that wasn’t in effect when he was born. 

Lennox is in a better place now, yet what about the BCC?  Their kneejerk reaction to this case and its aftermath may have consequences for years to come.

Dogs can no longer be tethered outside in Hampton Rd. Virginia.  This seemingly good law does not account for people who cannot have fencing on their property, cannot afford fencing, the neighbors of unfenced dogs or the tragic end for dogs let out to roam since they can no longer be ‘tethered’.

It is a good thing people are no longer permitted to tie out their dogs for hours, days, weeks, months or years.  Yet, this kneejerk reaction toward people who tether their dogs may not impact the offenders the drafters of the law were seeking to reach.  The people who unsafely tie their pets outside now will not build a fence or leash walk their dogs because of this new law…. their solution may more closely align with leaving them out all day to roam and if they come back great if not, there are more where that one came from.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not an advocate of tethering!  Yet, with the prohibition of ‘all’ tethering comes the inability for a good dog to hang around outside on a beautiful day with or without their owner, on their owners porch or under a shade tree.  I know we are correcting a greater ill by outlawing tethering, yet, the common owner who just wants to maintain their pet’s safely while allowing them outside time, without disrupting their neighbors or having their dog hit by a car, is now penalized. 

This is a kneejerk reaction at its best.  The proverbial ‘killing an ant with an elephant gun.’  The education of new owners on how to treat their dogs and keep them safe, before they take a pet, is key; also greater checks by the adoptive purveyor serves the dual role of assuring the pet is being well cared for while also responding to the needs of the new owner and the dog.  A well intended owner might want to let his dog sit outside for an outdoor respite or sit with his dog while his dog is on a long line.  That is no longer available to the pet owners of Hampton Rd. Va.

Finally, the AKC, vilified by every pet protection organization on the planet, has again be the single source of evil in the latest Animal Welfare Act petition.  I am surprised the UKC and the NKC are not included in this article; they register pure breed dogs as well. 

In our companion animal ownership world, there are some pet owners who want pure breed dogs.  They never ‘breed’ these dogs; they simply want to have an idea of the gene pool or a personality they are getting.  The problem of perpetuating puppy mills actually arises when the pet buying public wants a puppy immediately and none is available.  Especially if you want a less popular breed, you could wait months or years, pay a premium and only own on a co-ownership basis.

These controls, put in place by reputable breeders, cause pet owners to shy away from this long-term connection and commitment.  New owner opt for the quick fix, the Internet or pet store version of the breed. All cleaned up and ready to go as needed, expensive but free and clear of any lingering connection or commitment to the breeder going forward.

They have AKC papers after all.  Aren’t they all the same?  I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.  While AKC papers may all seem the same they are not.

The pre-breeding tests are not the same; the guarantees, accessibility and follow up are not the same.  The AKC attempts to check on their breeders, yet the AKC is a private entity; there is just so much money they can spend on monitoring a broken system and unscrupulous people. 

It is easy to point at the AKC, your kneejerk reaction to pet overpopulation.  They are the keepers of the records.  It is in their best interest to have people register litters with them, gain legitimacy and have unsuspecting owners pick a dog from a pet store or over the Internet because it is touted as an AKC animal.

To paint the AKC with this HSUS brush, that they single handedly are responsible for irresponsible breeding because they register these dogs, is another kneejerk reaction to an awful dilemma with tragic consequences for the innocent.  Maybe a better article for the HSUS would be “How do we educate animal owners not to breed their dogs unless they take on future responsibility for the dogs produced?”  Or “How to Buy a Pet with Strings Attached?”   If we require follow up and education on each level of pet creation and ownership we might be able to have those, using this as a cash crop, find another line of work.

It is only a thought.  The AKC is not a perfect organization, but the kneejerk reaction of holding it singularly responsible for all the pet ills of the world is ludicrous.

And what about the non-AKC breeds? Why do people seek out and pay top dollar to puggle, dachshire, golden-doodle and labradoodle breeders.  These people live virtually unscathed and unaffected by the government or AKC.  Go figure!  People pay thousands of dollars for a dog that has no genetic track record.  Is the AKC responsible for this too?

AKC is changing with the times, instituting “Meet the Breeds” events all over the country.  At these events pet owners and prospective owners can come to talk and exchange ideas and advice with pure breed breeders and pure breed pet owners.  They are attended voluntarily by members of pure breed dog clubs, who may or may not breed and who may own a rescue or help coordinate the breed specific rescue group, for the education of the general public, all over the country. Recently the AKC instituted a registration process for mix breed dogs so they and their owners can participate in performance event offered by the AKC.

I hope you get the point of my blog today.  There is no one right answer.  Acting in a kneejerk manner creates a whole different set of problems and consequences never envisioned by the ‘CURE’. 

Remember, when you read posts that purport to serve the common good and where you write answers with such conviction, there is always a ying to the yang.  If we try to discuss and not blame, consider and not kneejerk, we may make more headway to a positive solution that over time will work better then the kneejerk quick fix offered in these three examples today.

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