DEAR DR. FOX: I've been a dog training and behavior consultant for 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in animal protection for 20 years at the Marin Humane Society.
I want to commend you on your stance on so-called no-kill shelters. No-kill is a lovely myth, but the reality is that there are still far more dogs and cats than there are homes for them, and the promotion of "no-kill" has only resulted in more animal suffering -- not less.
There are things far worse than a humane death for an animal who has no home. Extended incarceration in a no-kill kennel is cruelty, and adopting animals to the public who are badly behaviorally damaged is unethical and immoral. And how many other truly adoptable animals' lives could have been saved during the years that one dog occupied that kennel?
The public doesn't understand that "no-kill" doesn't mean the shelter doesn't euthanize animals, or that it sometimes means dumping cats willy-nilly in the community (under the banner of TNR -- trap, neuter, release) as done by a recent shelter director here in Washington County, Maryland.
I often say so-called no-kill is the worst thing to happen to the animal protection movement in my lifetime. It's deceptive and divisive, and it doesn't help animals in the long run. -- P.M., Fairplay, Maryland
DEAR P.M.: I really appreciate your informed response.
There is a real connection with no-kill and TNR that people do not yet understand. An abhorrence of euthanasia of unadopted animals is conflated by feel-good saving-a-life and pro-life sentiments, which can mean unadopted cats are dumped back into the outdoors to fend for themselves and dogs spend their entire lives in small shelter cages and go nuts.
Some shelters do need to do a better job of adopting out animals, but in many areas, there are simply too many cats and dogs and insufficient homes to receive them or provide foster care. There is a feral cat issue in Hawaii that is a serious wildlife conservation problem, and outdoor feeding on public lands will only help increase their numbers without clear identification of vaccinated, neutered and released cats in designated colony sites -- ideally enclosed sanctuaries. Cat lovers should think twice about donating to TNR organizations that should either evolve or perish.
DEAR DR. FOX: Your commentary regarding purebred dogs is offensive to me.
I've been preparing for years to find breed-standard, healthy, health-tested purebred corgis to breed and carry on the lines. I have spent thousands of dollars in emergency health-related vet bills for the rescue mixed-breed dogs that are part of my family, and very little in emergency health-related vet bills for my purebred dogs. Please reconsider your statements. -- M.R., Ignacio, Colorado
DEAR M.R.: I am glad to hear that you are such a conscientious breeder of corgis, a pure breed not yet ruined by popularity and commercial exploitation. As a Brit, I was always amused when one of the Queen's beloved corgis was reported in the media as nipping the heels of visiting dignitaries, a trait of this hard-working Welsh cattle dog.
Certainly with careful progeny testing and good nutrition for both parents, healthier litters of purebred dogs can eventually be produced, as you have experienced. The epigenetic effects of poor nutrition during pregnancy and subsequent traumatic experiences, especially during early puppyhood, can mean that rescued dogs develop various health problems later in life, as my wife and I have documented working with "natural" pariah dogs in India. But because of the documented accumulation of deleterious genes in many pure breeds, the evidence points to supporting the theory of hybrid vigor. Mixed breeds have fewer health problems than the more inbred pure breeds -- with one exception: Some "designer" breeds that are crosses of two pure-breeds both carrying deleterious recessive genes.
Those wishing to check on the prevalence of developmental and inherited disorders in various pure breeds should visit hsvma.org/assets/pdfs/guide-to-congenital-and-heritable-disorders.pdf. See also vet.cam.ac.uk/idid, the Inherited Diseases in Dogs Database.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)