Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Truth About Canine Devocalization

An Open Letter to New York State Legislators

Re: A1204 (Zebrowski)/S2271(Grisanti) “restricts the performance of devocalization procedures on dogs and cats”


Dear Members of the New York State Legislature:

The Dog Federation of New York is a not-for-profit coalition of individual dog owners and dog-related organizations committed to responsible ownership, with a membership that spans the State of New York. Our members are animal shelter volunteers, dog trainers, pet owners, purebred dog breeders and exhibitors, animal control officers, and animal lovers. We are committed to helping public officials respond appropriately to the concerns we all share, including providing for the public’s health and safety while addressing concerns on animal welfare issues.

We write to express our strong opposition to the above-captioned proposal and our grave concerns regarding the damage enactment could do to the lives of caring dog owners and their pets.

The people of the State of New York deserve laws based on facts, and legislative proposals should correct shortfalls in existing law in order to safeguard public safety. Sadly, A1204 appears to be based on internet rumor and would subject both dog owner and licensed veterinarian to severe sanctions and penalties for a simple, humane and even life-saving procedure.

Contrary to the tall tales circulated by individuals who choose not to understand, bark softening or canine devocalization is a minor, humane procedure accomplished by licensed veterinarians. It is an unusual measure occasionally used as a last resort by dog owners desperate to prevent uncontrollable, loud and frequent barking which has become an issue with their neighbors and within their communities.

We note that the published policies of the American Veterinary Medicine Association do not support regulatory meddling in responsible veterinary care decisions such as the measures proposed by A1204.

The Dog Federation of New York always encourages dog owners to be sensitive to the concerns of their neighbors and community. When all other measures have failed, "bark softening" may be the last option for dog owners struggling to keep a beloved pet in their home, and out of over-burdened shelters which may have no choice but to kill a dog that simply barks too much.

Thank you for your consideration.


Note to concerned dog owners:  We encourage you to immediately contact your New York State Assemblymember and Senator to express your opposition to the above proposal.  We are happy to make this flyer available to assist you in your discussions.

Text of the proposal:  click here

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Will the Animal Rescue Community Step Up?

"Duke" needs help now

[following written by DFNY member Susan Beals]

I volunteer at a small shelter in a small city in upstate NY.  I am very lucky in that it is a VERY good shelter.  They consider themselves to be no-kill, and they do not euthanize for space, or convenience or just because they can.  But they also consider that they have a duty to the public to make sure the dogs they adopt out are truly adoptable – safe to be in the community.

Now,  this is a small shelter in a small city in a largely rural area.  They are not tied in to the rescue communities active in the large cities.  As a no-kill shelter, they have a small network of local volunteers and foster homes.  And they have good volunteers and good foster homes, but they don’t have anyone with the skills to handle the doofus in the picture above.  Their volunteers and foster homes work with dogs that have medical issues, or puppies and kittens found abandoned and too young to wean, or animals that need to learn how to live in a home with a family.  They don’t work with 100 pounds of untrained, mannerless, anxious adolescent.  30 pounds – sure, 60 pounds – maybe, but 100? 

So where does this shelter, with its limited contacts and its limited resources, find a rescue or a volunteer rehabber for this dog?  According to last year’s version of CAARA it is up to the shelter to make that happen.  Who knows what this year’s version will say?  But in any case, it is not a do-able thing for this shelter.  I sent an email a couple of days ago to a man who writes a blog talking about his rescue activities in and around New York City, asking for suggestions.  Maybe he doesn’t check his email very often, but I haven’t heard back yet.  What else, Rescue Community, do you suggest I do on behalf of this dog.  Where do I find him the placement he needs before the shelter director has to decide that he has been given all the time and resources they have for him?

I do believe this dog is savable.  He came in as a stray, so we have no idea of his story, but based on working with him over the past several weeks I can come up with a scenario that describes how to get a dog with the behaviors he exhibits.  Imagine, if you will, a college student with his first off-campus apartment who goes to visit his girlfriend’s parents.  Their dog has a litter of 5 week old puppies and he takes one back to his new apartment – an apartment with 4 other 19 or 20 year old phys ed major boys.  The puppy is cute and they have a lot of fun with him.  They like it when he wrestles and they never teach him to keep his teeth off the humans.  They play with him, and they wrestle with him, and they never calm him down – always escalate.  No one trains him, or teaches him how to behave or how to be calm when people are around.  No one pets him – any touch leads to a physical game.  They play stupid college jokes on him.  And then one day they realize he is 100 pounds and completely unmanageable so they drive him somewhere and dump him out of the car.

I’ve been working with him for 3 weeks, and there is a good dog in there.  But an hour once a week is not going to bring that good dog out.  He needs a foster situation with daily skilled interaction and clear, consistent rules and expectations.  I can’t do it.  The shelter can’t do it.  The volunteers and fosterers for the shelter can’t do it.  The shelter is deciding his fate next Thursday and right now it’s not looking good. 

This is exactly the situation that CAARA is supposed to be there for.  So come on, Rescue Community, put your money where your mouths are and help THIS dog.