The Animal Doctor

DEAR DR. FOX: I liked your article on the Westminster AKC dog show. I no longer watch it.

The ignorance of the general public never ceases to amaze me. They see a dog on a commercial or in a movie and have to run out and buy one, never checking on what the dog was originally bred for -- Dalmatians bred to run alongside of coaches; beagles bred to chase and bay at prey, etc. Then they get the dog home and are annoyed at the very characteristics the dog was bred for.

You wouldn’t buy a Mack truck to use for grocery shopping, so don’t buy an English mastiff for your 2-year-old so they can “grow up together.”

I did a paper in school on genetic defects in dogs. It was an eye-opening experience: breeding the heads of Irish setters so narrow that their brains were squeezed. Breeding dogs with their own dog-grandfathers to enhance certain characteristics. It is horrible. People need to realize that this interbreeding enhances not only the good features, but the bad ones too: hip dysphasia, collapsed tracheas ... it goes on and on.

Hopefully, we’ll see a trend toward more mixed breeds in commercial venues. And people will realize that instead of paying $2,500 for that cute King Charles spaniel, they can get a mixed breed with its shots, neutered, and a box of goodies for about $150. Then donate the rest of that money to the Humane Society. You’ll make a whole lot of needy dogs happy, and I bet you’ll feel better yourself. -- L.D., Naples, Florida

DEAR L.D.: I hope readers of my column will take your letter to heart and think twice about purchasing a purebred or “designer” first-generation crossbreed deliberately produced for profit.

My article entitled “Recovering Canine Health” (on my website) points to the problems many breeds face and what can be done to rectify them. I advise people never to purchase a pup online, and if one decides on a particular breed, read up on the breed’s health issues and special care needs ahead of time. See the parents of the pup to see how they behave and are being cared for.

Kim Kavin, in her excellent book “The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores and Rescuers,” has documented how some local dog “rescue” and adoption organizations are getting their animals from commercial puppy mill breeders.

Our wonderful adopted dog (part Australian red heeler and a little part boxer) came up here to Minneapolis from Alabama, one of several states where there are too many overfilled shelters, which kill any dogs that look like pit bulls.

I hope readers will not be discouraged from adopting if they encounter fees higher than the one you cite. With neutering, tests for parasites, worming and vaccinating costs to cover, coupled with quarantine care and prior transportation from other states, some legitimate shelters charge $300-$400 per dog, which is not unreasonable.


A Venezuelan veterinarian accused of surgically implanting liquid heroin into puppies’ stomachs to smuggle the drug from Colombia to the U.S. was extradited to New York City to face charges in federal court. (New York’s WNBC-TV, April 30)

I found this news posting further affirmation of the need for a spiritual renewal and moral inventory of society today. This reported animal cruelty by drug traffickers is nothing new; it simply confirms how degenerate our species has become.

(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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