DEAR DR. FOX: I commend you for writing about the media's exposure of cruelty to animals in your column, which I read in the Asbury Park Press. I agree wholeheartedly, and I want you to know that this newspaper has been publishing stories about dog abuse, neglect and cruelty with heartrending photos of the victims, as well as the photos of the felons with court judgments resulting in jail time and heavy fines.
The public in this area have responded with donations, gifts and public court appearances on behalf of dogs like Sammy, Heaven and, this week, Danny, a pit bull found in the coldest weather in decades. I hope that parents will show such photos to their children and impress on them that all animals are to be cared for with food, clean water and warm shelter. These felons obviously hadn't been sensitized by their neglectful parents. -- C.G., Asbury Park, N.J.
DEAR C.G.: I really appreciate you informing me that your local newspaper gives good coverage of animal welfare and cruelty issues.
I am glad to see more newspaper editors realizing the connections between animal cruelty and family violence, and cruel forms of animal exploitation and a dysfunctional society. Through public awareness via a responsible and responsive media, change can be accomplished. We've seen this in cruel puppy mill breeders, pit bull dog fighting and, in some medical schools, engaging in student training procedures on live animals, many being former pets.
Children who engage in animal torture, in the absence of appropriate therapeutic intervention, can become sociopaths and psychopaths. But what of children growing up in a culture that still condones widespread animal cruelty and exploitation? They see wolves being killed for sport; whales being harpooned; elephants being chained, beaten, forced to perform in the circus and slaughtered for their ivory; and tree-swinging, socially and emotionally dependent monkeys being put alone in small cages to ostensibly find cures for diseases we primarily bring upon ourselves.
Do most empathic children suffer from what psychiatrist Jonathan Shay calls "moral injury," which is part of the post-traumatic stress disorder complex seen in America's war veterans? Or, worse, do they become desensitized, indifferent to the suffering of others, human and non-human? Ignoring animal mistreatment just because they are animals and because there are more pressing community issues -- from sex crimes and homicides to drug addiction and suicides -- is ethically unacceptable and shortsighted. The plight of animals must be addressed, and state prosecutors and educators as well as newspaper editors and others in positions of responsibility should see the connections.
It is time to change how animals are regarded and treated for their good -- and for our own.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 8-month-old beagle mix and a 16-month-old shepherd mix; the dogs are both spayed females. I adopted the shepherd at 10 months old and the beagle at 13 weeks. They have peacefully co-existed for the most part for the past four months -- playing and wrestling together, sleeping together and only on occasion do I have to break up a spat over a toy.
Yesterday our shepherd mix starting mounting and humping the beagle from behind on numerous occasions. When I say "no" she stops, but then starts up again. Today it has happened again at least 10 times. The beagle does not seem to be distressed by this at all; in fact, it looks like she encourages it because she will back her rear end toward the shepherd before they do this.
I want to stop this behavior because they both go to cage-free doggie day care, and I don't want this to become a habit. Do you know why this behavior might have started all of a sudden? Is this normal? -- C.D., St. Louis
DEAR C.D.: I recall a fellow who would come to our local illegally off-leash dog park with his neutered male Sheltie with whom my neutered dog Batman was in love. Batman would periodically mount the Sheltie between chases, and they would happily engage in sex-play while the man jumped up and down in a rage. He said Batman was a pervert.
This is a normal part of the dog's behavioral repertoire and is best left alone. If you are uncomfortable, use a clicker or squeaky toy to distract and redirect their behavior.
When both dogs are consenting, there's no problem. But mounting can also be a kind of dominance display or testing, especially when the mounter is showing signs of aggressive intent and the one who is being mounted protests. If he or she does not submit but turns defensively, a fight may ensue. For more details, check my e-book, "Understanding Your Dog," available on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
RESPONSE FROM C.D.: Thank you for the response -- I am much more relaxed now regarding their behavior! After reading your email, I realize that WE are the ones who were uncomfortable with it, not the dogs, who appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves!
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