Friday, August 7, 2009

Confessions of a Dog Abuser

Some people might consider me guilty of cruelty if they knew only a few facts about me. I would hope, if they knew the full story about how I take care of my dogs, they would think I'm not at all abusive or cruel and in fact a responsible owner. But taken out of context - for example, if I got written up for some sort of violation, these things might sound really awful:

  • Sometimes I find mats on the dogs, especially in those oh-so-mattable tufts that fluff out the ears, and I don't take them out immediately.
  • I don't always scoop the yard as often as I should, especially in the Summer.
  • I rarely bathe my dogs. They roll in dirt and mud, lay in puddles, and do other dogly things. And still, they don't seem to need a bath to me.
  • I don't follow every single recommendation my Vet makes. I love her and I value her advice but I don't comply with every recommended vaccine, treatment, etc. (The same goes for my own Doctor, but that's another story!)
  • I don't take a bitch and her newborn litter of pups in to the Vet unless there is a serious problem.

So let's say someone showed up for a surprise "inspection" at my house when I hadn't recently scooped the yard because I was staying up around the clock to care for a large, healthy, newborn litter of pups who needed supplemental feedings. Maybe some of the dogs had found a mud puddle to play in and another dog had ear mats.

Here is my write-up of my abusive self, again taken out of context of the big picture:

The breeder had a litter of newborn pups lacking veterinary care, other dogs who were dirty and matted, the yard was unsanitary, and some of the dogs had been denied treatment recommended by a Vet.

Sounds pretty bad, no? And without the full context of how I care for my dogs, it might be easy for some to condemn me. But let me offer an alternate write-up:

The breeder had a large, healthy litter of newborn pups for whom she was preparing homemade puppy formula for supplemental feedings in order to reduce the drain on the bitch. This was a time consuming task, in addition to preparing homemade food for the adults, the whelping box cleaning and daily puppy care the breeder provided. Understandably, she hadn't scooped the yard recently although it was obvious the yard was generally in good condition. While some dogs had mud on them from a puddle they had been playing in, they appeared to be happy, healthy and in very good condition. The breeder explained that dematting the ears of one of the dogs was on her to-do list as soon as the pups were off bottle feedings. Daily records kept on each of the pups showed they were thriving and not in need of any veterinary care. The breeder explained she does not vaccinate her dogs yearly, even though her Vet recommends it, based upon the recommendations of other Vets who have published alternate vaccine schedules. She is highly concerned for the health and welfare of her dogs and utilizes many resources in determining how best to care for them.

Sort of paints a different picture, doesn't it?

I guess my point is that, although we know there are truly cruel and abusive dog owners in the world, I assume most owners are good people, doing what they think is best. We don't usually get to hear all the facts surrounding any particular case and therefore we are only getting a partial picture. If I can do a mock cruelty indictment on myself (when I actually believe I'm a good owner), it seems reasonable to me to think there may well be more to actual cruelty stories reported in the media. Unfortunately, we rarely get to hear both sides.

As an exercise, try indicting yourself on a cruelty complaint. It's interesting, rather humbling, and more than a little scary when you realize the implications.


Jan said...

I am reminded of the unfortunate breeder who sold VP Biden a GSD. A swat team of inspectors descended on her and found stuff on her floor, etc.

cinci_celine said...

Thank you for blog - this is exactly what I mean trying to express to people.

Jess said...

Excellent post. Thank you.

Heather Houlahan said...

Investigators found three collie-type dogs roaming at-large on the unfenced property, and mingling with cats, poultry and goats, whose feces investigators observed them consuming. One dog was also observed consuming the carcass of some unknown animal. Owner breeds these dogs and sells the offspring, although she could not provide AKC registration papers for any of them.

Kennel surfaces include carpet and wallboard not easily sanitized. Dogs' bedding cannot be sanitized. Areas of the kennel are untidy, containing bones, debris, unwashed laundry, and stacks of dishes.

Confined in a dark box stall in the lower level of a barn, investigators discovered a German shepherd bitch, undersized and underweight, with an unkempt coat. This dog was not given access to an outside run that is attached to the box stall, and appeared extremely anxious.

Owner could not show investigators any dog food.


Which is to say that my trained farm dogs have the run of my property, guard the livestock, perform varmint control, sleep on my bed, and live in a house no cleaner than it has to be.

Our GSD, who is a working dog of proper size and in a lean and hard condition, is on enforced rest after an acute illness, and has to be kept out of the sun while she recovers and is on antibiotics. The illness has caused her to blow coat, so she looks quite unkempt despite several brush-outs. She is not enjoying the recovery ward at all, and is not shy about mentioning it. We decided that the box stall off the kennel run was a better option than constant crating, plus it's cooler in there.

I feed my dogs a homemade diet.

sp said...

"owns a pitbull."

that's about the only "crime" i could really be cited on. well, sometimes i let her lick up beer spills. which is bad since she's the designated driver. ..

Anonymous said...


"the owner admits to breeding dogs, dogs were dirty and some were confined with no access to food. Feces were visible in various place on the property and many of the surfaces were porous and impossible to sanitize. A smell of urine was present in some places.

Several dogs were supposedly "rescues" Both had significant skin and eye problems, one was noticably thin and became aggressive when approached.

there were also several incidences of broken wire on runs and crates, cobwebs and wear and tear on beds and bedding"

OK, my version

I have three licensed intact males and two intact females, one of whom is a puppy. I had a litter of three last year and kept one. I have several indoor/outdoor runs which open to gravel which in turn open to grass runs with oak and ash trees. Hard to sterilize grass. Gravel is scooped daily, hosed as needed. Grass is scooped most days, but not everyday.

Two dogs are on diets and when in the house or in a run would NEVER have free access to food. My intact males and even the girls will occasionally decide to mark beds or the outside runs. I do not consider a little pee on a post to need bleaching down, so sometimes you get a wiff of old male dog pee here or there. They are very good in the house, but every once in a while some one needs a refresher course on not marking in the house.

I always have fosters now a days. Currently I have Otis who is on vet prescribed crate rest and who arrived with lice, walking dandruff, a severe skin staph infection and heartworm.
Kahlua came with castration responsive dermatosis/ alopecia X. Emaciated and untouched for years and scared out of his wits. He still gets spooked by strangers and will bark.

My last rescue had seizures and would shred chain link when coming out of them. And I have a tolerance policy towards harmless house and wolf spiders as they help me by eating whatever else comes sneaking in.

And I have several dogs who will chew anything, beds, cushions, does not matter. If it does not present a risk, they get cleaned and reused.


SchoolPsyc said...

Great great post. Had to tweet it!

Jen said...


Inspection Report:
Officials found dogs on property, running wild and barking frantically. One dog savagely attacked investigator while it was not possible to approach the other due to aggressive barking. Dog A had red marks and missing fur. Dog B had a sickly thin, patchy coat. Dogs found eating carcasses of unknown origin and a putrid smell came from the property. Owner was then found running mad with a rope tied and unknown, deceased object attached to it.

My version:
My dogs are not crated during the day with free run of the house (I love adult dogs!). They bark when people come to the door, until Tsuki has the chance to jump and lick, while Kitsu is reserved and huffs a bark under his breath.
Tsuki has a skin allergy (reaction to mold/mildew this summer).
Kitsu just finished blowing his coat.
Dogs were eating raw green tripe tonight, which undoubtedly makes our house smell less than pleasant!
After their meal settles, we do some prey-drive games which involves me running around crazily with a defluffed rabbit decoy tied to a rope.

Pai said...

If you breed, get cameras installed. Take timestamped pictures of everything regularly. So if some bogus AC report makes the accusation that your dogs are living in neglect and squalor, you have evidence to refute it.

It's sad that things have come to that, but I can't think of any other way.

Retrieverman said...

BTW, one thing I hate about coated retrievers is the mats that appear behind them. I hate them. It's one thing that tells me retrievers are a very poor example for the intelligent design loons to use as an example for their crackpot theory.

That's why my dogs don't have long hair behind their ears, and why they look over-trimmed for the show ring (not that they were ever going to enter the show ring.) Those ear mats are a pain in the neck.

Usually what makes them so bad is that ear cleaning solution and undercoat get hung up together with ear wax. And they form hard mats that are as hard as concrete, and what's worse, they lie very close to the skin, making them very hard to remove.

You have to have a coated retriever to know what I'm talking about, and they usually form whether you brush them or not. I'll do a post on this in the future.

Anonymous said...

OMFG I plum forgot to mention I have a treadmill on my property.

Forget the fact that my kids use it to train for karate when it's 108 degrees out and my husband is under orders to use it half an hour everyday he can't get to the gym or work out outside, it's a treadmill and I have bully breed dogs and terriers, clearly up to no good.

And syringes and needles which I use to give adequan to the rescue dog with arthritic knees and hocks.

Might as well just lock me up now.....


Anonymous said...

When authorities arrived they observed twelve dogs off leash in the unfenced front yard. The fenced rear yard appeared to be in use as a poultry run. Syringes, a treadmill and several muzzles were found on the premises and more than one pitbull-type dog was present at the site. There was no dog food at this home and the property owner's dogs were not up to date on shots. Dog, chicken, rabbit, deer, turkey, horse other types of feces were clearly visible on the ground.

*If* I was raided during a class where we were working on off-leash exercises, there could easily be a dozen or more off leash dogs in my large, unfenced front yard. It would not be uncommon to see more than one 'pitbull-type' dog here then as the "definition" is so ridiculously broad. My dogs run loose with the flock in the backyard. And between the dogs, chickens, wildlife - and the manure I spread as fertilizer for my gardens - there is no time you could come here and *not* see poop on the ground. Of course I have muzzles - I work with aggressive dogs! Its husband's treadmill and the syringes are left over from treating my Addisonian dog.

I feed my crew raw and do titers instead of vaccines. Both these things make my vet hyperventilate - but she sucks it up and deals with me in polite disagreement.

Thanks for posting this. I've been buried in stuff for a day or so and need to link this and take the ball another step.

Unknown said...

Gaud... I'd be REALLY doomed. Multiple pit bulls found on property. Car axles with tethers but only one dog house. Fighting paraphenalia was found like treadmill, breaking sticks, books on game dogs and pedigree information, boomer ball {yes, they are now being mentioned as paraphenalia!}, flirt/spring poles and wide collars on all the dogs. Some of the dogs had scars, the yard was scattered with car tires and the shed was packed with dog crates.

The reality is two of my dogs had previous owners that didn't know how to responsibley manage them and they got into scuffles hence the scars. My dogs are all high drive dogs that LOVE treadmillin', flirt/spring polin', chewin' on car tires, ya... all the usual ''pit bull games'' and they are also my kids best friends, my special needs daughters ''therapy team'', spoiled house dogs {hence the one dog house as they never use it and are generally lounging around the house! lol}, they love sun bathing but I'm responsible enough to know they need the proper confinement of a tether. I've been a student of the breed for 18 years and have been researching their history, hence the books/pedigree info. I used to be involved in rescue until my daughters health required us to retire, which explains all the crates. Ya... I'm sure they could put a really good spin on my place...

Anonymous said...

You forgot the part where they put in the papers "Dogs rescued from house of filth!" "Deplorable conditions!" "Worst we've EVER seen" (really!?! Worse than Michael Vick!?) Then you lose your job and are unable to hire an attorney. Then you sign a plea deal because you can't hire an attorney and that's all your public defender is willing to do for you and everyone says "A-ha! We KNEW he was guilty all along! Otherwise why would he sign a plea deal? We'd NEVER sign a plea deal if we weren't guilty of something". Then people you've known for years stop speaking to you. You can't find another job because you have to put down on the application you are guilty of animal cruelty and who's going to hire you? They put a map to your house on so everyone in town can come by and do whatever they want to the dog abuser and the dog abuser's house and car. People spit on you in Wal-Mart. And that's your life for as long as you choose to keep living it.

Heather Houlahan said...

I might mention that a picture is worth a thousand words.

I saw some of the photo evidence for the cruelty case I'm currently involved with. Not the worst of it, I'm told.

There is no reasonable being who would be in doubt about the difference between genuinely depraved cruelty to animals and some trumped-up shit, after viewing those photos.

Kelley said...


I would certainly say that both genuine cruelty to animals (Michael Vick) and trumped up shit (google Bob Attleson, for just one of many examples) exist. I've not seen any compelling evidence that the average person can tell the two apart - the accusation seems to be enough in and of itself.

Pai said...

Kind of like how the old witch trials worked, eh.

The Dog House said...

I worry about this ALL the time, with AC breathing down my neck about limit laws (we're at a limit of TWO pets here - which means total number of dogs+cats+rabbits= less than two).

It was worse when I had my Golden boy, who suffered from a myriad of diseases, including idiopathic alopecia and was mostly bald for the majority of his life, with large scaly, oily brown spots all over like a giant retriever/dalmation. What little hair was left matted in about a second, so while he was brushed daily and bathed twice a week, he stunk and was knotty pretty much all the time.

Even now, with the foster dogs we have on site 365 days a year, I've taken to knocking on my neighbour's door every time a new one arrives. We go over all the details about the new dog so that she can act as a witness should I ever need to prove that the dogs came in that state.

Did I mention I run my dogs lean? As in "Boy, that's a skinny dog!" lean. They're all healthy, happy, minimally vaccinated and partially homefed. Oh, and intact.

Lastly, of course, my house is a damn dirty mess unless company is coming over (in which case it's just a damn mess and we pick up all the dirty) and my yard - while hopefully scooped daily - fills up pretty fast with poop. If the AC officer were to show up late in the day but before the hubby had cleaned things, I'm sure there would be comments.

Anything else? Yeah, don't forget the numerous muzzles, prong collars, e-collars and other such "equipment." No treadmill here, but only because I don't have the money/space, not because I don't covet one.

Lastly, my herding dogs will give you proper hell if you come in my home as an unknown entity. Once they know you they're lovers to the core, but upon first entrance they would surely be described as "aggressive" or "menacing" - the new AC buzzword for wewantareasontokillyourdog.

Thanks for the post... brilliant topic.

Viatecio said...

Wow, these are amazing! Great post and crazy comments.

There's not much AC would get on my parent's dog. "A small, underfed mixed-breed was running in an unfenced yard. At random observations the dog was seen to have been wearing a cruel type of collar that has been known to inflict pain and cause aggression. When observed doing an obedience exercise, the dog was not rewarded with treats."

Eh, I got nothing...the dog is kept lean-fed, would rather beat someone to death with her tail than ever lay teeth on human skin, and really doesn't care about goodies in training as long as someone gives her some love.

I'm going to guess what my report will be for my future dog, whenever I get him as well as my future career: "An intact male Rottweiler/Doberman/Malinois was seen on the unfenced property, in which feces were readily visible. Barked viciously upon investigator's approach. Dog was found to be behind on vaccinations and no dog food was able to be produced by the owner. Upon questioning, owner admits to having trained dog in bitework and personal protection routines. Inspecting the barn, padded sleeves, sticks, and heavy collars were found."

I am AWFUL at writing these! I'm sure it's easier when the situation is real rather than hypothetical. Yes, I do want to do bitework with a dog, and of COURSE all the breeds that participate are going to seem "vicious" no matter what. And I'm sure the tools used in training working dogs would send a dyed-in-the-wool clicker-trainer into a tailspin, so of COURSE I'm a cruel person by default! My dogs will all be lean-fed with raw and titered every year. As for breeding, I'll leave it to y'all who know what you're doing!