10.15.2011

Study Conducted by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Explains Why They Failed to Rehabilitate Vick Dogs and Why Fighting Dogs Will Never Make Good Pets



There has been a lot of press surrounding the new large-scale study conducted by Best Friends Animal Society and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine; in a nut shell, this study found that puppy mills inflict irremediable damage to pet dogs. It found that dogs used as breeders in puppy mills had long term psychological damage, regardless of how clean and well run it was. Here is an excerpt:
The results of the study indicate it really doesn’t matter if the breeding operation claims to be shiny and clean, abiding by the laws, or even whether or not they are licensed by the USDA,” McMillan said. “This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large scale breeding facilities don’t just suffer while they’re confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years even when they’re placed in loving homes. Many of the dogs show difficulty in simply coping successfully with normal day-to-day life.
There is no precise, legal definition of a puppy mill. It is generally accepted though, that they are large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities that operate for profit. It is generally understood that they will sacrifice animal welfare to maximize profits. In Defense of Animals notes that any breeder with 4 breeding animals that sells to wholesalers must obtain a USDA license, but that average puppy mills house 65 to 75 animals, though some house thousands.

The main contributing factor to the damage done to these dogs is poor breeding (inbreeding and over breeding), the isolation and lack of "normal" exposure to people, places, noise, etc. Even a small facility that keeps dogs in cages, inbreeds, over breeds, and limits stimulation and socialization can be damaging. The study admits that these dogs will often never be "normal".

So how is this different from what the Vick dogs experienced? The Vick dogs were kept like puppy mill dogs and in addition many suffered the added abuse associated with dogfighting. Federal officers reportedly removed about 54 apbts from Vick's property according to a transcript of his indictment. Of the 54 apbts, about 30 were found on chains in a yard.

Examples of dogfighter's yards show these are large scale
puppy mills designed to produce mentally damaged dogs

The Virginia Beach SPCA reportedly took Vick's 9 beagles, two rottweilers, and a cane corso according to other sources. The beagles had been kept in cages and reportedly had been used both as bait dogs and as blood sources for blood transfusions for the fighting dogs.

Note that JR suffers from the exact
behavioral issues described in the BR study

Do you see any irony here? In fact, how is this different from what LOTS of pit bull breeders are doing with their "yards"? Vicks pit bulls were not pets, they were kept in isolated kennels, yet the public was told they all went on to assimilate easily and become normal pets! We all know that, in reality, thats not true. Read about Best Friend's Vick dogs: Shaky Mel, Handsome Dan, and the saga of Tug, Denzel and their victim, Beans). Then there is Sweet Jasmine, Sweet Pea and a third, nameless pit bull. Read their accounts and notice that these dogs were suffering in just the way the new BF study describes puppy mill dogs always suffer.

A perpetually terrified Sweet Jasmine bolted
Stirling, was struck by a car and died.

The HSUS, ASPCA, Best Friends, and other humane groups have previously been VERY careful when discussing commercial breeding operations, for good reason. MANY working dogs are raised in conditions that may constitute commercial breeding operations. Hunting dogs bred and raised on hunting plantations down south are very typically raised in outdoor kennels, whelped outside, and not treated or handled as pets. Some detection dogs used for security are kennel raised dogs...Some trainers stopped placing bomb sniffing dogs in homes, in part because they were using play drive for training, and the toy had to become a high value resource; in a family home, they were playing a lot, and lost motivation. Kenneling them allowed the rewards to be more controlled.


There is a very real distinction between working dogs, being used for a specific purpose, and pets, whose role is that of a companion animal. Working dogs who are kenneled and bred in commercial breeding operations are NOT pets, but they ARE afforded an opportunity to regularly engage in the type of meaningful "work" which they are genetically motivated to do. In doing this "work", they get companionship from their handler, appropriate exercise, and rewards, which may consist of food, playtime, affection, etc. Because of their innate drive and desire to perform the "work" which they were bred for, and the fact that this work allows them to form a close partnership with their handler, the quality of life these dogs have is often as good as, if not better than, many pet dogs.

On the other hand, the "job" of a pet dog is to be a healthy, friendly, biddable companion who can assimilate easily into our home and community. That is the "work" of a pet dog. The study makes it clear that commercial breeding operations do NOT produce dogs that are suitable for this "work".

One working dog that must also be highly companionable is the Seeing Eye dog. Long ago, The Seeing Eye recognized that they needed to raise their own dogs to develop dogs that have the best innate temperaments and that were physically very healthy. They also recognized that the had to raise the young puppies in families in order to produce mentally healthy, sociable, companionable and biddable dogs that were suitable for their work.

Companionable, biddable, working Lab puppy being
raised with a foster family as part of the Seeing Eye's

Dusty, a Seeing Eye dog in training, was living
with a foster family as part of the puppy raiser
program when a pit bull attacked him and he had
to be washed out of the program

So any kennel that claims to breed dogs as companions, yet houses them like livestock, can be labeled a puppy mill. Which begs the question....which type of breeder are these APBT breeders who run large "yards"? If both common sense and science show us that raising dogs on chains and in kennels does NOT produce a dog that makes a good pet, can we then assume these are "working dogs"? If they are "working dogs", what kind of "work" do they do? If you have 50 pit bulls on your property, on chains and in kennels outside, and are selling their puppies for huge sums of money, what kind of people are buying them? Since anyone looking for a pet pit bull can find literally hundreds of them in local shelters, with incentives thrown in such as reduced adoption fees, free or low cost training, s/n, shots, etc, why would someone buy one from a breeder? If pit bulls in pet homes are being abandoned by the tens of thousands and ending up in shelters, doesn't that mean they are failing at their "job" as pets? Doesn't it indicate that there is NO pet market for these dogs? So what is the real market for large scale pit bull breeders?

Why is it not OK for a pug to be raised in a kennel, but it IS OK for a pit bull to be raised in a "yard"? Why are the Vick dogs held up as success stories, when they show all the same symptoms as the permanently damaged puppy mill dogs? And if all these large scale breeders of fighting dogs are truly selling them as pets, why isn't Best Friends publicly condemning them for the damage done to these dogs?

So is Best Friends willing to take on the dogmen now? The Best Friends study concludes that dogs raised in large scale breeding operations will never be what our society considers "normal". We have no complaint with that conclusion. But at the same time that BF is paying for and promoting this survey, they also advocate for the placement of pit bulls found during dog fighting investigations. These pitiful victims of the dog fighting culture have been raised in isolation, have not been socialized, bred for an activity so violent that it is a felony in all 50 states, and they are inbred to an extreme. BF has successfully championed changes in state law to allow these most dangerous damaged dogs to be adopted into our communities.

Why isn't BF concerned with the breeding and husbandry practices of pit bull breeders? Why isn't BF concerned with the safety of the humans, pets, and livestock that will come into contact with the dogs bred and trained for dogfighting that they have placed in your neighborhood? Can Best Friends explain how dogs of a hundred different breeds are damaged by commercial breeders to the point where many never become normal pets, but pit bulls can be raised in yards, rescued from fighting rings by amateurs and, with hugs and kisses, become normal pets?

Can we ask Best Friends to publicly condemn dog fighters' commercial breeding operations? Who do you think is buying these old time dogfighter's dogs, and for what purpose? Can we conclude that dogs not bred by responsible breeders and raised and housed as pets will not be "normal"? Shouldn't that mean we should be looking at regulating large scale pit bull breeding operations? Shouldn't we demand that BF look at their own research and condemn the practice of attempting to rehabilitate fighting bred dogs from dogfighting busts? After all, they have just proven that these dogs can never become normal and safe companions in homes.

Authors: Branwyne, april29, snacksizeddog

9 comments:

xtina said...

>>Federal officers reportedly removed about 54 apbts from Vick's property according to a transcript of his indictment. Of the 54 apbts, about 30 were found on chains in a yard.<<

And...where is the rest of the information about the Vick dogs? Where is the reportage about where they are now? Where are the facts regarding the adoptions of Audie, Harriet, Lucas, Ginger, Gracie (who works with children in schools, teaching them about dogs in general and pits in particular), Iggy, Frodo, Ernie, Teddles, Halle, Mel, Handsome Dan and Jhumpa Jones (a therapy dog). Why isn't there a note about the fact that so many of these dogs have passed their Canine Good citizen certification? I find it *fascinating* that the qualifier above states one "must provide objective, verifiable evidence" to participate in this discussion, but fails to state that the blogger won't be playing by the same rules. And, as documentation, I'll submit the photo of Sweet Jasmine, pictured with the woman described as responsible enclosed in quotations to assure those reading it that it's meant sarcastically. Factually speaking, Ms. Stirling wasn't even in the country when Jasmine was lost. Further, she didn't "bolt" away from anyone, but wandered away when her temporary guardian stopped to address a problem with his own dog.

And *we're* the ones called nuts. Go figure. ;)

snack sized dog said...

This article shows with documentation that very many of the Vick dogs are FUBAR, and further that their documented behavior issues line up perfectly with irremediable behavior problems BFAS associated with large scale breeding operations.

You provide no such documentation. You seem to wish we wrote an article that you'd like to write if you had the capacity. Why don't you try to do that?

You want to provide info about the Vick dogs you think are doing well? Well, by all means, do so. You haven't. You've just listed names of Vick dogs, some of which we know to be FUBAR from documented descriptions of their behavior.

So, you propose that Ms. Stirling is a responsible owner because she left her FUBAR dog in the care of someone who was irresponsible and/or incapable of taking care of the dog.

And you think "wandering away" rather than "bolting away," implying that there was ample time to get the dog back if it had been attended to, demonstrates that the dog was adequately cared for.

Yes. You are the ones called nuts. And for good reason.

dawn james said...

FACTUALLY speaking, Ms Sterling had an obligation to select a RESPONSIBLE caretaker for her dog.

BTW, just off the top of my head, Lucas is still a resident of Best Friends and Mel is a freaking mess. Handsome Dan is not much better.

xtina said...

>>BTW, just off the top of my head, Lucas is still a resident of Best Friends and Mel is a freaking mess. Handsome Dan is not much better.<<

I don't recall asserting that every rescued pit bull will emerge unscathed. But, again, this site is promoting misinformation; whether intentional or by mistake (and lord knows it's been made clear that *that's* unacceptable!). According to the Best Friends website and independent Google searches (http://news.bestfriends.org/index.cfm?page=news&mode=entry&entry=D62B765F-EFB7-123C-BCD3827739E2D35B and http://obhounds.com/Dansome.aspx), Handsome Dan is doing just *fine. Lucas? As of April of this year, Best Friends had this to say: "Lucas, the consummate optimist, hit the ground running. He’s done so well, in fact, that he spends part of his time in the offices hanging out with executive assistant Brenda Escher and chief executive officer Gregory Castle. At the end of the workday visits, he returns to Dogtown." In May of this year, there was a report about Mel, described as now living in a private home, when he received an edible key to the city of Dallas (http://www.ohmidog.com/2011/05/12/former-vick-dog-gets-key-to-the-city-of-dallas/). That sounds desperately different than "freaking mess," but maybe it's just me.

I'm still confused about your point, though. It bothers you that dogs are allowed to live out their lives in sanctuary if they cannot be adopted? You don't want any pits adopted? You don't want pits? Help me -- where are you going with this?

And, really, "objective" and "cravendesires.blogspot.com" really do *not* live together well.

dawn james said...

yesterday, you stated Where are the facts regarding the adoptions of Audie, Harriet, Lucas...

i was simply rubbing your nose in the FACT that Lucas has not been adopted. you can't even follow along with what you write let alone what i write. to be a good liar, you need to remember your lies.

as for mel, that was not MY evaluation of him, that was the reporter. please pay attention or i will not publish anymore of your comments.

as for craven desires being objective, i never made that claim. however, it is far more truthful than any pit bull advocacy blog or website.

snack sized dog said...

"I don't recall asserting that every rescued pit bull will emerge unscathed."

No, you just provided a list of names IMPLYING that all those dogs had been successfully rehabilitated and adopted. Nice try. Pit bull apologists are masters of the lie by omission or implication.

Doesn't work here.

dawn james said...

xtina: please reread the comment rules.

Comments must be on topic or they will not be published. Challengers are not only welcome, they are encouraged. If you wish to dispute any positions in this blog, you must provide objective, verifiable evidence.
These rules will be strictly enforced.

xtina: YOUR COMMENTS HAVE STRAYED OFF TOPIC.
you can ramble off topic at craven desires.

dawn james said...

hmch, the purpose of this blog is not to further the factually challenged information about pit bulldogs. i am not an expert on the vick dogs but i do know that two of them (handsome dan and mel) are freaking train wrecks. you have included links to their stories that ignore their issues. given the propensity for some nutters to exaggerate about pit bulls and other nutters to spread the exaggerations. the other links you provided are also suspect. therefore, i am not publishing your comment.

dawn james said...

xtina, i read the first sentence of your latest off topic tome. i think your time would be better spent either exercising/socializing/supervising your high maintenance dog or commenting on one of my other blogs that will allow off topic comments.