The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: The recent article by R. Scott Nolen in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association concerning the multi-state legislation prohibiting people keeping certain kinds of dogs is a clarion call to end such discriminatory, “breedist” legislation.

Many good dogs, and their caregivers and families, have suffered the consequences of this biologically and ethologically absurd legislation. Admittedly, “pit bull-type” dogs -- especially from low-income, drug- and crime-ridden rural and urban communities where dog fighting and animal cruelty are endemic -- have stigmatized dogs of that kind and their look-alikes.

Some people back away from our family dog, whom they see as part pit bull, but she is actually a shy and gentle Australian red heeler with some boxer in her lineage. She was adopted from our local shelter in Minnesota, one of few states where no such breed-specific prohibitions exist. She was brought up from a shelter in Alabama, one of several states where any dog who looks pit-bullish is either euthanized or abandoned.

DNA testing of an individual dog’s ancestry is not yet as reliable as screening for genetic disorders. One owner of a dog who plays with ours at the local dog park was rejected by a landlord after he insisted her beagle-looking dog be DNA tested for breed ancestry. The test came back positive for chow, a breed the landlord considered dangerous. Other owners of purebreds have also had false chow ancestry attributed to their dogs after receiving DNA analysis from certain companies.

All animal shelters, dog adoption centers, animal control agencies, animal protection organizations and state veterinary associations need to support the alternative to breed-specific legislation as proposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This will do much to prevent the abuse and suffering of dogs of certain kinds who invoke unwarranted prejudice and fear, and also advance societal acceptance of veterinary bioethics with regard to the application of science and reason in dealing with this kind of public issue.

DEAR DR. FOX: Greyhound racing has a drug problem. Gentle hounds are testing positive for drugs, even cocaine, at racetracks across the country. There have been 847 “drug positives” nationally over the past decade, including 71 greyhound cocaine positives. Read our new report “No Confidence: Drugs in the American Greyhound Racing Industry,” and then please sign our national petition. Your signature will generate an email to the governors of each racing state, asking them to stamp out the cruelty and corruption of dog racing for good. Visit for details. -- Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., president of GREY2K USA


“Rover: Wagmore Edition” by Andrew Grant. This is a stunning book of dog portraits -- all dogs being either homeless, in a shelter or rescued -- but it is the story behind the book that makes it so remarkable.

As a commercial photographer, Grant started photographing dogs when he discovered the astounding stats on animals in America: Approximately 4 million U.S. pets are euthanized each year. That’s one animal every eight seconds.

Grant photographs dogs in shelters, or generous donors’ rescue dogs, and he has independently produced four limited-edition books of dog portraits, each called “Rover.” For a donation, he will come and photograph your dog for the next edition of this book, and for a larger donation, he’ll put your dog’s portrait on the outside cover of a special edition. Over the past six years, Grant has been able to raise close to $2 million for shelters through this photographic project. For more info, visit


The suburban Atlanta city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, has banned pet store sales of dogs and cats from large-scale commercial breeders, but stores may offer pets from shelters and animal rescue organizations. Pet stores must document the source of all the dogs and cats they offer for sale and post the name of the source in a visible location. (The Atlanta Journal, Nov. 27)

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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