DEAR DR. FOX: The American Kennel Club inspection program of breeders' kennels is a sham. Their standards of care are bare minimum and can best be described as "survival standards" and certainly not humane standards of care. For example, the dog's primary enclosure needs to be only large enough so the dog "can sit, stand, lie down or turn around." This tiny space is the required living space for a breeding dog for her entire existence. Most troubling, there is no enforcement of the standards of care. According to the AKC, the breeder is given at least one week's notice before the inspection. One need only review the paltry number of suspensions handed out by the AKC based on the findings of their inspectors to recognize the lack of enforcement. The vast majority of suspensions that are handed down are the result of investigations by federal and state inspectors or local humane agents. Interestingly, many dogs rescued from puppy mills are AKC-registered, and the facilities previously inspected by the AKC.
Shockingly, while the AKC promotes the fact that it has promulgated "standards of care" for AKC breeders, when legislation was introduced in North Carolina to codify similar basic standards of care, the AKC actively worked in opposition to the legislation. The AKC is OK with standards of care as long as they are never enforced or codified into law.
The entry fees for dog shows do not cover AKC expenses for sponsoring the shows; thus, registration fees subsidize AKC dog shows. The next time you watch a dog show on television, be aware that it is being supported on the backs of puppy mill dogs. -- Bob Baker, executive director, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (maal.org), St. Louis
DEAR B.B.: It is my understanding that you are with an organization that has inspected puppy mills, rescued puppies and adult breeding stock and sought to improve their care for several years and met resistance at every turn. In some states, local legislators and the oversight of agricultural and other official bodies still generally perceive these commercial dog farms as producing mere commodities, much like a poultry or pig factory farm. Such livestock producers see any legislation to improve dogs' welfare in these puppy factories as a potential threat to their own inhumane business practices.
I was one of the first in the United States to document these inhumane systems of food-animal production, and with the late Herm David, the first to blow the whistle on puppy mills in the 1970s. We shared our concerns with the American Kennel Club and the dog breeding community at large. The AKC's new voluntary Breed With H.E.A.R.T. program, which ostensibly addresses this issue, may be too little, too late.
Every purebred and "designer" puppy sold should come with a purchase agreement that includes the known list of genetic and related health problems that the particular breed and lineage may carry, the estimated veterinary costs for treating each condition and the probability of developing, plus an objective quality of life assessment score from zero to 5 stars. For more details, see my report "Recovering Canine Health," posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net.
TO HUG OR NOT TO HUG?
An April Psychology Today blog post has the misleading title "The Data Says 'Don't Hug the Dog!': New data shows that hugging your dog raises its stress and anxiety levels."
Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, argues that hugging a dog may induce anxiety in the pet because it is wired to run and may feel trapped by a hug. Coren evaluated 250 photos of dogs being hugged by humans and noted stress signs, but he said his observations do not constitute a peer-reviewed study. Many have taken issue with how his article was interpreted by some media outlets.
My advice is to get puppies and kittens used to being held, cradled or gently restrained as soon as they are weaned so that they will be easier to handle and restrain -- especially for veterinary examinations and grooming later in life. Learn how to properly hold and hug, and prevent children from rushing to grab and seize any animal. Animals should never be treated like stuffed toys, because when scared, they will bite and scratch.
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