Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fraudsters Preying on Dogsters

I got two reports of something that sounds miraculoulsy implausible. The folks at Canine Chronicle report:
Escape Alert, LLC filed international patents for a revolutionary implantable GPS microchip for pets which will alert owners if their pet has escaped and enable them to track their pet’s exact location using GPS from an implanted microchip in the pet’s body. This is the first implantable chip with GPS.

While implantable microchips for pets have been around for many years they are passive until read by scanners, do not have GPS, and are not able to track a pet’s location or alert the owner that the pet has escaped. Escape Alert’s GPS microchip will not only alert pet owners if their pet gets out while they are away, but it will allow them to initiate GPS tracking of the pet’s exact location. Because the technology is permanently implanted in the animal’s body, Escape Alert’s GPS Microchip solves the typical problems associated with bulky GPS collars which are too heavy for many pets and is more reliable because it never needs recharging. “This is a game-changer and could put an end to lost pets once and for all” says Wayne Norris, Co-Founder and CEO.

The chip will be self-powered by revolutionary technology called a piezo-electrical nanogenerator which basically creates power from mechanical movement such as walking or moving your arms. Recently researchers have been able to self-power cardiac pacemakers thereby eliminating the need for surgery to replace the battery. “We have been working on this GPS microchip for years but the trick was how to power the battery of an implanted device. The technology just wasn’t there, until now. Piezo-electrical nanogerator technology is the wave of the future and may put an end to batteries as we know them. It’s the next big thing since the computer revolution” says Norris. This revolutionary microchip for pets is one of the first examples of a commercialized product using piezo-electrical nanogenerators to power the battery.

Over at Veterinary Practice News they are still touting the same thing:

Proposed Microchip Would Track Lost Pets

Escape Alert is developing a postage stage-sized pet microchip that would recharge itself.

Lost pets and drained batteries will be a thing of the past if Escape Alert gets its way.

Coming as soon as 2015, if the Los Angeles company raises enough money and perfects the technology, is a veterinarian-implanted microchip with GPS capability. Pet owners could set virtual boundaries, receive a text message or email if the cat or dog strays across the line, and follow and recover the animal.

Unlike today’s competition—battery-powered GPS collars that owners must remember to recharge—Escape Alert intends to use piezoelectrical nanogenerator technology. That means the microchip would be recharged through the pet’s body movement alone.

Anything screaming in your head yet?

It should be.

For starters, the creation of "piezoelectric nanogenerators" to drive pacemakers was only announced in Korea in June of last year, and they are sufficiently large and complex that they will never be surgically implanted in a dog as a replacement for an over-the-counter GPS collars. And the size of a postage stamp? Come on!

Second, anything implanted into the body of a dog, cat or human has to get FDA approval, which takes years, millions of dollars, and real scientists at the help.

And yet, when we use our Google-Fu we find this "creation story" over at PetGuide which sounds waaaay to folksy to be credible:

The idea for the Escape Alert GPS microchip came about after a conversation company co-founder Janice Mooneyham had with her daughter. Janice had mistakenly thought that her pet’s already-implanted RFID microchip (the standard chip you’d get at your vet’s office) could track them down if they got lost. When her daughter informed her that the microchip only worked when scanned at a shelter or clinic and couldn’t actually track a lost pet down, the idea for the Escape Alert chip was born.

At the end of this same page, we find the smoking gun tagged to the end:

Editor’s Note: The Escape Alert chip didn’t launch a Kickstarter campaign, and the site is no longer available. If we hear anymore updates about this product, we will update this post.

A Kickstarter Campaign?  For an implanted bioelectronic?  Right.

This whole thing was a Kickstarter fraud campaign, and the gullibles in the world of dogs and veterinary reporting swallowed it all hook, line, and sinker.

A little more Googling and we find that "Karen Zackton" who is "CEO" of "EscapeAlert" is actually Karen Hanover who was convinced of fraud in March of 2014 for bilked 48 people out of over $1.4 million through a series of get-rich-quick real estate seminars.

If you go to the "Escape Alert" web site you can see that the thing has now been parked.

Fraud, fraud, fraud.

It turns out that Karen Elaine Hanover is a serial liar. As the Orange County Weekly notes:

The case was marked by Hanover -- as she was being investigated -- contacting some of those who complained about her through "spoofing" software that made it sound and appear on caller I.D. that an FBI agent was on the phone with warnings to whistleblowers to back off. She got six months in jail for that before she pleaded guilty to the fraud. .

Right. Impersonating an FBI agent is a very good way of meeting a lot of FBI agents. And I bet they were not laughing, nor were the interested in investing in her real estate schemes.

Last Week Karen Hanover, age 48, was sentenced to three years in prison on top of the 6 months she got for impersonating an FBI agent.

Do you still think an implantable Escape Alert "GPS microchip" is reality-based?  I bet not!

Slightly Used Blonde Needs Home, Age 20-45

Click to enlarge. Source.
This is how the world "places" dogs, especially Pit Bulls, with the worst pictures taken at the worst day of a dog's life, with a sad story about abandonment, and with massive restrictions on adoption and a "drop dead" date on top. Any wonder why so many dogs are euthanized?

LLAP By Paying It Forward

Friday, February 27, 2015

Giving a Bad Name to Class Action Lawsuits

Purina is more than fine, but that tennis ball might end up being a problem.

Because my day job deals with the law, I am more than aware that anyone can sue anyone about anything.

This makes for a lot of tempest-in-a-teapot lawsuits:  half-crazed tenants, malevolent landlords, psychotic mental patients, and a train of Pyrrhic divorce cases.

And then there are class action lawsuits.

Class action lawsuits have their place. Sometimes a large corporation needs to "feel the heat to see the light," and there is no other way to get their attention and force change.

But too many class action lawsuits are, in fact, invented whole cloth by lawyers who manufacture claims in order to force settlements in order to gin up legal fees.

These cases -- and good people can and will disagree about how many of them there are -- are the kind of thing that gives class action lawsuits a bad name.

A classic example of a manufactured class action lawsuit is going on right now.  It seems that someone whose dogs were no doubt killed by rat poison, has decided that Purina's Beneful dog food is to blame.

Their proof?  They seem to have none. It seems that if a dog died it must be the dog food. The trolling lawyers point to "mycotoxins" and propylene glycol in the dog food.

Right. These folks seem to have NO IDEA what mycotoxins are, or what propylene glycol is.

To start with, "mycotoxins" are not part of any dry dog food manufacturing process. They are, in fact, a fungus contamination caused by poor storage of dog food.

To make it simple, kibbled dog food is treated with FIRE -- one reason I endorse it.

Kibbled dog food is cooked hot and hard and has a low water content and generally contains preservatives to reduce contamination.

That said, ANY food, from fruit to bread, and from crackers to fruit cake, can develop mycotoxins if stored long enough in the wrong circumstances -- one reason I advise folks to buy their dog good at the grocery store where turnover is FAST.

So, even if "mycotoxins" were a problem, it's not a dog food manufacturing problem -- it's the fault of the store you bought it from. Or your own. How long was this food lying around in your garage?

Now, what about "propylene glycol"?  That sure sure sounds bad. Isn't that antifreeze - the green stuff that leaks out of cars and can kill a dog dead?

Nope. You are almost certainly thinking of methanol (wood alcohol) or (even more likely) ethylene glycol, both of which are quite poisonous.

Propylene glycol, on the other hand, is quite safe.

In fact, Propylene glycol is so safe it is approved for human food consumption and is found in foods found in your kitchen and bathroom right now: Kraft salad dressings, Entenmann cakes, ice cream, and flavored iced tea, to say nothing of hand and face moisturizers, injectable medicines, and even your daily vitamin capsules.

As the folks at and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note:

As a food additive, propylene glycol is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally regarded as safe list (not to be confused with ethylene glycol, which is extremely toxic if ingested). According the FDA, as a food additive, propylene glycol is metabolized in the body and is used as a normal carbohydrate source. Long-term use and substantial quantities of propylene glycol (up to five percent of the total food intake) can be consumed without causing toxicity. There is no evidence in the available information on propylene glycol that demonstrates, or suggests a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current or might reasonably be expected in the future.

So, to recap, propylene glycol is FDA-approved and entirely safe as normally used in foods and medicines for both humans and dogs, while mycotoxins are common to ALL foods that are improperly stored.

Now, will a lawyer trolling for a legal case advertise this? Hell no! He might not even know this.

New accounts leave off another big part of the story: class action lawsuits have to get certified. To get certified, this case will have to provide some minimal level of proof that there is some evidence or science behind it and, as of right now. the lawyers in question admit they have NOT yet done the "dog work" (pun intended) to make their case.

Even if a case were certified, however (and I will bet $200 that will never happen), the only people who will ever make out like bandits are the lawyers who will try to bill their legal time at $500 an hour.

The people in the "class," who are the putative "victims" here will get nothing more than coupons or some other token award of little or no real value. Not that there are actual "victims" in this particular case.

So, to come back to it, these are the "chief beefs" with class action lawsuits:  1) they are too often manufactured by lawyers based on little evidence; 2) these lawsuits make millions of dollars for a handful of lawyers but provide no real relief to the victim (even if there is one).

In this Purina case, the lawyers have come out swinging without completing even the most cursory laboratory testing. If they think they can simply fling dirt in the air and have Purina roll over, I suspect they will find they are mistaken. Based on what the class action lawyers in this case have themselves said to the press, I think they have already violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which requires a lawyer to do due diligence and conduct a serious investigation before filing. I would not be surprised if Purina came back looking for far more than legal fees when this all goes south. A claim for defamation is more than credible, and in this matter, based on what has been said so far, I think it could end up being big bucks.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a good example of why some lawyers give class action law a bad name, you can do no better than look at current attempts to manufacture a case against Purina.

As always, feed your dog whatever you want, but remember that no dog food has EVER been shown to be better than any other. Unlike most dog food companies, however, Purina has been making bagged kibbled dog food for more than 100 years, has its own manufacturing plants and long-term suppliers, has a brand name worth defending, has its own laboratories and kennels, and funds working dog events as well as rescue. I feed my dog Purina bagged kibble, and it was not a decision taken lightly. That said, as I noted more than five years ago,

Does that mean you should feed your dog Purina? Of course not. Feed your dog any damn thing you want. I do not care.

Just be advised of the most important thing about dog food: the single greatest toxin in dog food is not salmonella. It's not aflatoxin. It's not melamine or botulism. It's not ecoli or ethoxyquin or BHA or BHT.

The single greatest toxin in dog food is YOU.

About 40 percent of all dogs are obese, and that's not the dog's fault or the dog food manufacturer's fault. That the owner's fault.

Now I know it's become somewhat politically chic these days for overweight people to say there's nothing wrong with being fat.

I get it -- let's not be rude. That said, from a health point of view, it's complete nonsense. Obesity kills, and it kills every damn day.

Fat people have wrecked knees and wrecked hips and chronic back problems. They have liver damage and they have high blood pressure and diabetes, and all of that costs this nation scores of billions of dollars a year.

And what is true for humans is also true for dogs. A fat dog will have a shorter life, more joint and back problems, more liver and other organ failure, and far more expensive veterinary bills.

And as for that ball in the picture at top -- that actually is a serious threat to the health of that dog.

And yes, I have written about that too, here and here and here.

If someone wants to gin up a class action lawsuit against Petco and PetSmart for selling dog toys that they know, or should know, will end up killing scores of thousands of dogs, I think that's a case that might have legs. But this case against Purina for Beneful dog food? Not so much.

The bagged kibble is fine; it's the squeaky toys that can kill.

A Sick System

Don't Lose Sight of the Goal

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Broken Heart, No Eyes, Please Send Money

It looks like Walter could barely see, such were the excessive folds of skin on his face.

In Billings Montana, this is the story on the local news:
The year started out as an adventure of a lifetime for Walter [the Saint Bernard] as he made his way to one of the greatest dog shows in the world: The Westminster Kennel Club show.

There, he earned an award of merit. This award is given at a judge's discretion to outstanding entries that do not place in Best of Breed or Best in Show contests.

Walter's journey came to an end Wednesday after he battled congestive heart failure, pneumonia and, eventually, organ failure. He was 7.

According to his twitter, Wally's organs began to fail and the team in New York was unable to do anything more, so his owner Mary Jo Fox decided to end his suffering.

A fundraiser is set up to help with his medical bills.

I, for one, will not be giving to that fundraiser. Neither should anyone else. These folks had the money to campaign a dog to Westminster in order to get a ribbon from a club that celebrates inbreeding and puppy mills and prohibits health checks and performance standards? But they don't have the dosh to cover their vet bills? Give me a break!

Or, as Heather H. put it:  "No one could have predicted the levies would fail"


Meanwhile, the page collecting money to pay the $10,000 vet bill (to do what?) notes:

His delighfully squishy face makes each of us forget the problems of the world and has brought so many people together in laughter & understanding. Any and all donations would be appreciated.

The administrators ask that no negativity be expressed on this page. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.

Let's not talk about canine health, human ego, or values. Let's just whistle pass the graveyard.

Whistling Past the Canine Graveyard

The Beagle "Miss P" won Westminster. Her "co-owner" is Eddie Dziuk, who is a fairly wealthy beagle aficionado who made his fortune in the IT business.  He buys into likely show dogs to fund the "syndicate" that pays the handlers, transportation, hotel, and dining bills associated with "campaigning" a dog to a Westminster win. That can be a lot of money.  

Yes, it's all pretty far from the trucks and shotguns of rabbit hunting!  

No matter. 

In the American Kennel Club work is given ZERO pointsas is temperament. 

Health too is given ZERO points.  

A beagle does not have to be a healthy worker with good temperament -- it just has to look good. And "Miss P" looks great, but apparently that was not enough, so a lot of money was paid to a "handler." Not that anyone is ever judging up the leash at an AKC dog show. No. Never that.

But no matter. What people spend their money on is entirely their business, and more power to them. Let us talk of healthy happy dogs, not of human ego. 

On the dog front, Eddie Dziuk is also Chief Operating Officer of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) which certifies hips.

On the hips front, OFA's entire plan of attack seems to have been a complete bust.  

After 50 years of OFA "scoring" of canine hips, dogs are now worse off than they ever were.  

Any why is that?  

Well, it turns out that the OFA scoring system is not very good or very accurate. 

OFA ranks hips on a seven point system after a single x-ray is taken of a live dog. Three vets then assign scores to the hips, and those scores are then averaged. 

When I went to grad school we called this the "Delphic Method" -- a reference to the Oracle at Delphi. I was always said with a wink and a tired smile. Everyone knew what it really meant: a bunch of "experts" took a guess, based on murky evidence, and then the guesses were averaged. You would be surprised how often the Delphic Method is used, especially here in Washington, D.C.!  

A newer competing system, the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP), requires the dog to be anesthetized before three x-rays are taken of the hips, and then a score is assigned based on an actual measurement of the hip’s distraction index (DI). 

With PennHIP, a DI of 0.15 means the femoral head is 15 percent out of joint (a tight hip), and a DI of 0.77 means the head is 77 percent out of joint (a very loose hip). 

The "division street" at PennHIIP is 0.30. A DI equal to or greater than or 0.30 means the dog is "osteoarthritis-susceptible," and a DI of under 0.30 as "osteoarthritis-non-susceptible."

To cut to the chase,
OFA is giving "excellent," "good," and "fair" hip scores to a LOT dogs with real hip problems. 

In fact, it appears they are doing it nearly all the time.

  • 14% of dogs had hip joints scored as excellent by OFA standards, but 52% (31/60) of those had a DI ≥0.30 (range, 0.14 to 0.61) 
  • 82% of dogs with OFA-rated good hip joints had a DI ≥0.30 (range, 0.10 to 0.77) 
  • 94% of dogs with OFA-rated fair hip joints had a DI ≥0.30 (range, 0.14 to 0.77) 
  • Of all dogs with fair to excellent hip joints by OFA standards, 80% had a DI ≥0.30. 
  • All dogs with OFA-rated borderline hip joints or mild, moderate, or severe hip dysplasia had a DI ≥0.30 (range, 0.30 to 0.83) 

Now, to be clear, Eddie Dziuk has nothing to do with the fact that the OFA hip test is (apparently) junk. The OFA test is older than he is, and Mr. Dziuk is not a osteopath, a geneticist, or a veterinarian. He's simply a guy who likes beagles, has a lot of money, and has management skills. Good enough!

That said, it's not like the world needs more measurements of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

We know why canine health is wrecked.  We know why dogs are getting sicker and not better.
  • Dogs are being bred too young, before problems self-illuminate;
  • No health or performance tests are required to win at dog shows, not even at Westminster.
  • There are no bans on inbreeding or line breeding, which means ribbon-winning dogs with bad hips (pretty much all of the dogs being screened by OFA) are seeing their genes passed on, and even doubled down on.
Which brings me to my point:  Will Eddie Dziuk use his time in the spotlight, after this second Westminster win (he was part of Team Uno as well), to talk about how the failing health of Kennel Club dogs is directly related to closed registries, contrived standards, and a prohibition on requiring health checks?  

Will he admit that the OFA hip test has been part of the problem, and not part of the solution? 

Will he talk about the collapse of AKC registrations (a 75% decline in the last 25 years), and the fact that the Kennel Club has embraced puppy mills which crank out an alarming number of dogs from his very own breed?

Don't count on it.

Eddie Dziuk has been showing dogs for over 30 years, and by now he knows the drill: whistle pass the graveyard and never park the blame on the shoulders of the AKC.

From what I can tell, Mr. 
Dziuk has positioned OFA to walk hand-in-hand with the AKC going forward, which is a bit like an organ donor registry joining hands with those who oppose motorcycle helmet laws.

Because the AKC prohibits breed clubs from requiring health tests, prohibits any restrictions on inbreeding, and allows very young dogs to be rushed to championships, dog health is in decline.

But declines in canine health drive the testing industry. More wrecked hips means more business for OFA.

And so long as OFA and the other testing entities never talk about the real problem -- and never park a large measure of the problem on the shoulders of the AKC -- the circle goes round and round, even as the dogs circle down the drain.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Concern Trolling Vet

Do you know what "concern trolling? is?

Your vet does.

In fact, perfecting the art of concern trolling is actually more lucrative for most vets than anything they actually learned in veterinary school.

It's concern trolling that gets customers to:

  • Vaccinate their adult dogs for diseases they will not get because that first-year round of distemper and parvo vaccines are actually good for life;
  • Put their dogs on heartworm medication all year long, even when it's snowing outside;
  • Buy their flea and tick medications from their vet rather than order online for half the price;
  • Run tests for parasites (worms) and diseases (Lyme) rather than simply treat for less.
  • Come in every year for a "teeth cleaning" (complete with anesthesia) and a "well dog checkup." 

The concern troll
is someone who is "concerned" that your dog is not "up to date" with yearly vaccines.  

He or she is "concerned" about your dog's weight -- and has special food to sell you. 

"It's standard practice," they will tell you, to have your dog's teeth "professionally cleaned" every year and for it to come in for a well dog "checkup" because that's what you do for yourself, right?

Can you feel the concern?

Concern trolling is such a massive part of the veterinary profit center that receptionists and vet techs are actually told that up-coding, cross-selling, and up-selling to patients is a core competency of their job.

If they fail at that, they are very likely to be shown the door.

If you are a dog owner, the proper response to being concern-trolled is to push back.

A vet pushing annual or every three-year parvo and distemper boosters should be asked if has been keeping up with any of the literature of the last 30 years. Surely he or she has read Ron Schultz, the leading expert on vaccines? Surely they know that parvo and distempter vaccines are  good for life?

Annual teeth cleaning? No, actually you do not get anesthetized every year to have your teeth cleaned, and you also do not have a full  blood workup to boot. That does not happen. And no, it's not going to happen to your dog either. Anesthesia is dangerous, dental cleaning and scaling for humans has not been show to be effective, and dogs are dead at age 15 not age 80 like people. Surely the veterinarian knows all this? And what dental school did he or she go to again?

And why would you test an asymptomatic dog for Lyme? If a dog is asymptomatic, the dog is fine. Leave it alone.

And why would you run a fecal worm test that, with the vet bill for it, is far more expensive than simply dosing the dog for worms with an over-the-counter wormer?  Surely the vet knows this too, right?  Right??

A heartworm test on a dog younger than 6 months? Surely the vet knows that dogs cannot get heart worm if they are that young? Right???

And surely they KNOW that heartworm cannot be transmitted if the temperature at night has ever fallen below 56 degrees any time in the last 30 days? No?  Then maybe the vet needs to read up on heartworm before prescribing anything?  Concern troll right back!

Now, does concern trolling work to sell nonsense?

Absolutely!  You bet!

Just listen to the concern trolling being used in this promotion for a veterinary marketing system.

Hey, Believe Me I Understand, It’s Not All About the Money!

But Without Enough Veterinary Practice Income How Long Will You Be Able To Provide The Proper Services and Products You Desire and Your Patients Need???

How Will You Pay Your Bills???

How Will You Grow Your Practice???
Yep that's how it's actually punctuated on the web site.

Dog Show Koolaid

At the risk of being seen as difficult, let me point out that the commonly repeated lines, framed above, are mostly bunk.

A pedigree is simply a piece of paper. By itself, it tells you nothing, and may not even tell you what breed the dog is.

Conformation. What does that word even mean? Conformed to what? Conformed to a "standard" that has been changed several times and remains so vague it can be nearly impossible, absent a caption line, to know what breed of dog is allegedly being described?

Performance is right -- but only for a performance breed. There is no job that a Maltese or an English Bulldog does that a Papillon or a Beagle cannot do better.

The poetry and repeated rhetoric that underpins the world of dogs tends to fall apart quickly if it is examined very hard. Look at the phrase "form follows function". Nope. That's not even true in that sentence, much less in the world of herding dogs, guard dog, or dirt dogs!


Laurel & Hardy :: Blue Ridge Mountains Of Virginia

This was 1937. 

Wonderers and Wanderers

Nearly every location in this video is a real place.  Many are based on images taken through telescopes, or probes that visited the body in question.  More here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Dark Side of the AKC

Over at the Philly Dawg Blog, Amy Worden is waiting for a rip-tide of puppy mill beagles, but she notes that if one is looking for the dark side of over-breeding by show ring rosette chasers, you do not have to look outside the ring at Westminster:

Shortly before Westminster opened, the Humane Society of the United States released its updated 2012 report which identified AKC breeders - most with them with clean inspections from the AKC and some of them top show breeders - as the subjects of animal cruelty raids and poor inspections by federal, state and local authorities.

An email request for comment from the AKC was not returned.

Among them was Blue Moon Cattle Dogs of Pearl River Miss., breeder of the champion show dog Wild Bill and awarded the status of "Breeder of Distinction" by the AKC. The kennel, owned by Lin Duhe Allen, was raided by local authorities late last year who found Wild Bill in a rusted cage, starving, along with 60 other mistreated dogs. Allen pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. The raid that saved the dogs came days after an AKC inspectorhad toured the property and given the kennel a postive review.

Another pair of AKC breeders cited in the report were James Deppen and Mimi Winkler, highly-regarded AKC breeders and judges, who together ran Judges Choice of Ironwood kennel in Lehigh County, Pa. Their license was revoked by the state in 2010 after the two were convicted of multiple counts of animal cruelty. Veterinary exams had been ordered for three Neapolitan mastiffs, but when officials returned days later two of the three were dead, including one whose body was found in a wheelbarrow.

Deppen and Winkler entered the Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition program for first time offenders and after completing probation their record was expunged.

Deppen, who has since moved to New Jersey, was back in the show ring at the Westminster show Tuesday night, trotting under the spotlight in the working group finals, his best of breed Neapolitan mastiff, GCH Ironwood's Papparazi, in tow.

Misto Loses Two Balls and I Hold on to My Wallet

The hard cone.
With two pups in the house, one male and one female, and no breeding plan on the horizon, something had to go, and in the end it was Misto's balls.

Right now, it's the morning after, and I assure you he does not miss them at all.

I traded in the hard cone they gave us at the Washington Humane Society for a soft cone that does the job equally well. A massive amount of food was wolfed down this morning, and though Misto does not look like he needs a Tramadol, I gave him one of those too, just to be sure.

As always, I called around to price vet services, starting with Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic. This is their email:

We would have to have an initial exam before we would proceed with the surgery. Our exam fee is $89.00. The microchip is $101.00 and a neuter typically runs in the range of $900.00 to $1100.00, but the doctor would write you a detailed estimate that is particular to your pet after the exam. If you would like to schedule an appointment for the initial visit, or if you have any further questions, please give us a call at 703-528-9001. We have availability as early as tomorrow afternoon.

Right. Why not just round it up to an even $10,000 and be done with it? That "initial exam" is not needed, not asked for, and is simply a way for the vet to upcode for lyme testing, heartworm testing, a heartworm pill regime, fecal tesing, and vaccines not asked for or needed.

Most folks going in for an $89 exam fee (they are going in to pay the fee not to get an exam) are going to leave after paying a $300 bill made up of entirely manufactured concerns.

The "target bill" they were trying to work up to at the Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic was clearly going to be around $1,500.

Forget that!

I got Misto and Moxie chipped at the Petco van for $15 each as compared to the $101 Cherrydale wanted to charge.

I got Misto neutered for $130, complete with Tramadol and cone, at the Washington Humane Society, as compare to the $1,100 they wanted to charge at Cherrydale.

The folks at the Washington Humane Society were wonderfully professional, no-hassle, and the work is about as neat a bit of sewing as I have seen. No reason to come back -- the stitches dissolve. No pre-operation checkup or full-court press to upcode or upsell. In short, the Washington Humane Society is everything a good veterinary service should be, and almost never is.

Is a spay or neuter done by the Washington Humane Society going to be better than the one done by your average vet? Count on it. These folks do over a hundred spays and neuters a week, which means they have serious Kung Fu in this arena.

For those who wonder how going to the veterinarian became an exercise in avoiding having your pocket picked, read this older post entitled "Veterinary Trades Say It's Time to Rip-off the Rubes".

The Dog Show Rosettes of UKIP and the BNP

Some years back
, while I was writing a magazine piece about how the Kennel Club feared foreign blood, I noted that British National Party hatemonger and racist Nick Griffin (above) was a big lover of rosettes of the kind so common at dog shows.

Then today, while I was reading an article about overt racism among UKIP members, another Kennel Club rosette pops up, this time on UKIP Councillor Trevor Shonk (see below).

What's the deal? I know the braided history of the Kennel Club and eugenics is long and clear, but do the nattering nabobs of negativism really need to pin rosettes on themselves to show the world they are "blue bloods?"

Could anything be more ridiculous?


Monday, February 23, 2015

PETA Loses, and Virginia's REAL Shelters Win

PETA has LOST in Virginia by a vote of 95-2. The era of wanton killing by the narcissistic sociopath Ingrid Newkirk is (hopefully) over.

Prior to the vote, the Richmond RSPCA web site noted:

David and Goliath scenario to protect Virginia's dogs and cats

It is a David and Goliath scenario if there ever was one. We and other folks in Virginia who are sick and tired of PETA's massive slaughter of innocent animals in Norfolk are trying to get the General Assembly to pass a very simple bill, Senate Bill 1381. It would simply say that private animals shelters in our state should have a purpose of trying to get the homeless animals in their care adopted. This would seem to be self evident to most people and certainly to most donors. In fact it would seem to be the ethical thing for shelters to be doing. But to PETA it is anathema. And PETA is a huge, rich, mean bully.

They are unwilling to have to make even the most minimal effort to get animals adopted. They take them into their facility in Norfolk by the thousands annually and kill about 90% of them. They make no effort to get them adopted, and they are wild now at the suggestion that maybe they should even try. They want no impediment to their killing. So wild in fact that, once they got the hint that we might be succeeding a bit with our little bill, they hired a very expensive and very influential lobbyist. His name is Steve Haner and he is a very well connected Republican. In fact, he is the kind of Republican who would dislike and disparage PETA if it were not for the fact that they are now paying him a lot of money. Money, I might mention that comes from the donations that people make to them.

Over at The Huffington Post
, Douglas Anthony Cooper writes:
This is a truly thrilling accomplishment. It's been a long hard road: advocates for living animals have spent a lot of time; and PETA has spent a lot of money. And, after numerous votes in the Senate and the House, we've arrived at a position of decency and sanity: a shelter in Virginia is now an actual shelter, as opposed to a cynical "shelter of last resort.

Not said: The notion that PETA was running a shelter in violation of Virginia law originated on this blog. Back in 2009 I wrote a post entitled PETA's Slaughterhouse for Dogs and Cats in which I noted:

PETA's license to handle powerful killing chemicals did not say it was running an office building, but that it was running an animal shelter or humane society.

Under Virginia law, an animal shelter means "a facility, other than a private residential dwelling and its surrounding grounds, that is used to house or contain animals and that is owned, operated, or maintained by a nongovernmental entity including, but not limited to, a humane society, animal welfare organization, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, or any other organization operating for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals."

Under Virginia law, a humane society means "any incorporated, nonprofit organization that is organized for the purposes of preventing cruelty to animals and promoting humane care and treatment or adoptions of animals."

Under Virginia law, adoption means "the transfer of ownership of a dog or a cat, or any other companion animal, from a releasing agency to an individual."

In short, PETA is not running a legal shelter or humane society (as Ms. Nachminovitch conceded in court), and therefore their licensed access to killing chemicals should be revoked by the state.

PETA can then re-apply with the Virginia Department of Agriculture to run a slaughter house if they so choose.

And no, the slaughter house designation is not hyperbole.

In 2008, PETA's shelter in Norfolk, Virginia took possession of 2,216 dogs, cats, and other “companion animals” and killed all but 7 of them -- a 95.8 percent kill rate once the transfers are accounted for.

What's that look like? Well, if the average dog/cat weighs 30 pounds, that works out to be about 30 TONS of dead animals coming out of PETA's shelter every year.
Graphically, it look a bit like this, with the white-on-black animals being those that PETA killed, and the black-on-white animals being the ones they actually found homes for and did not kill.

Who Messed Up the Labrador Retriever?

This is not hunting; this is theater.

Over at the Last Word on Nothing, they note that the Labrador Retriever on Downton Abbey is a dog out of time, and they wonder who messed up the British version of the dog,

You get one guess.

Sometime in the last couple of decades, the Labs in the show ring got fat. The Kalispell breeder’s friend, a woman whose chocolate Lab grew up too small to compete in the show ring, resented it. She’d read an article in Gun Dog magazine that described early Labs so light and compact they could ride in the bow of the boat. “These dogs here today would tip a boat over!” she said. Everyone laughed.

How this happened, and why, no one seems to know. The best answer I got at the Lab show was “judges like fat Labs.” But nobody else seems to — not my lunch companions, not the Midwestern duck hunters who prize their agile water dogs, not even the keepers of the breeding books. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., better guardians of the breed standard, apparently, than any kennel club in any country, wrote a stern letter to the American Kennel Club last April, imploring judges to remember that the Labrador retriever should possess an “athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog.”

When a Breed Club writes a scorching letter to the AKC telling them that show ring judges are failing at their basic task and ruining the breed by putting up over-large fat dogs, you would think that would be a "heads up" to review how judges are selected.

But not at the AKC. As I noted some years back, breed clubs are essentially powerless in the AKC:

The Kennel Club is a huge money-making bureaucracy dependent upon selling people on the "exclusivity" of a closed registry and a scrap of paper that says a dog is a "pure breed". So long as people are willing to buy Kennel Club registered dogs that have predictably higher chances of serious physical impairments than cross-bred dogs, the Kennel Club (and Kennel Club breeders) have little motivation to change the way they do business.

Let me hasten to say that the Kennel Club is not filled with evil people intent on doing harm to dogs. It is, in fact, filled with regular people who are different from the rest of the world only in the degree, and the way, they seek ego-gratification and are status-seeking.

This last point is import: the Kennel Club is not primarily about dogs. Dogs do not care about ribbons, pedigrees, titles, and points. These are human obsessions. The reason a human will drive several hundred miles and stand around all day waiting for 10 minutes in the ring is not because of the dog, but because the human needs that ribbon, that title, and that little bit of extra status that comes from a win.

Each to his own, but let us be honest about what dog shows are about -- they are about ribbons for people. The dogs themselves could not give a damn.

It is unfair to fault individual breeders and breed clubs for the failures of the Kennel Club, as these smaller units are powerless to change the larger whole.

Breed clubs are small and largely impotent by design. Because the Kennel Club does not require breeders, pet owners, or even show ring ribbon-chasers to join a breed club as a condition of registration, these entities remain small, underfunded, and unrepresentative.

Breed clubs, like dog shows themselves, are also steeped in internecine politics and dominated by big breeders and people who over-value "conformation."

It is only by conforming to the AKC system for decades that anyone can hope to move up in the AKC hierarchy -- a situation that guarantees intellectual and bureaucratic inbreeding.
In the end, the AKC is a closed registry in every sense of that word. It continues to embrace the failed genetic theories of Victorian England because it is incapable of serious reform within the Club itself. 

So, what to do? As always use your eyes, use common sense, and if you are serious about a working retriever of any kind, go to people who own guns and put their dogs in the field over something more than tennis balls.

The Problem Is Obedience

Matt Damon reads from a speech
given by a very young Howard Zinn back in 1970 when the left still had balls.

Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty.

Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.

And let us be clear, that no small part of our problem is with the police. The police are the instruments of obedience, racism, taxation, and theft from the poor, even as the Big Wink is extended to the rich.

It's the jackboot of the police for the poor folks struggling to make a car payment, but it's a government bail out for the rich who have summer houses and wine cellars.

More from Howard Zinn:
Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than we have with Nixon.

J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us.

It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get together -- they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sniping at the Truth While Ignoring Reality

Original article source
The headlines and opening paragraphs in The Telegraph article are fairly breathless:
Foxes are becoming such a pest for London homeowners that they have begun calling in snipers. Specialists are charging £75 for the first animal and £50 for any more foxes after that, according to the New York Times, who followed a sniper named ‘Phil’ during his working week.

It is claimed there are now more foxes in the capital than double-decker buses, with 10,000 roaming streets, gardens and wasteland in search of food. Sports clubs, urban farms and families are so fed up of the creatures, which root through bins and can kill pets, that they have begun hiring gunmen to tackle the problem.

They have even been known to attack children. Nine-month-old twins Lola and Isabella Koupparis were hospitalized with face and arm injuries after a fox had entered their North London bedroom in 2010. Last year four-week old Denny Dolan needed to have his finger reattached after he was bitten by a fox near Bromley.
Hyperventilating about foxes as dangerous strikes Americans are downright silly, as it should for any thinking person.

Pet dogs kill and maim FAR more people in the U.K. than foxes, but no one has set out "snipers" on them, much less on the cab drivers, swimming pool owners, and the doddering nincompoops with open umbrellas on crowded sidewalks who are far greater threats.

So what's going on in the U.K.? Have they all gone mad?

Not quite... but sort of.

The first thing to understand about fox is that most people have never so much as seen one. Fox are nocturnal and stealthy. The fox of London, New York, Washington, and Paris did not colonize urban spaces by being stupid or bold.

The second thing to understand about fox in the U.K. is that everything about the animal is double-dipped in myth and bunko heaped on in massive dollops by a bloviating press corps, the mounted hunts, and the local drunks down at the pub. The push on this front is for the fox to be a crazed killer. That way fox hunting can be wrapped in the mantle of protecting women and babies.

A fox bit a baby once?! When was that? Five years ago? Oh! My! God! Right. Just kidding. Babies in the U.K., and around the world, face a far greater threat every day from their mothers than they do from a fox population numbering in the millions. Do you KNOW about many babies are killed by their mothers? Sadly, we will not have to go back 5 years for an example!  Not even Jack Russell Terriers are as dangerous.

Finally, we get down to the fact that the U.K. has no wilderness or larger predators left. The mythology of the wolf has, in the absence of any other contender, been laid on the fox. As I noted on this blog some years back:

There is something vaguely ridiculous about European hunting with its dress-up clothes and potted birds.

Even some of the descriptions of terrier work can border on the absurd. Does every fox have to be described as a "lamb killer"? I suppose so in a country that has no coyote, wolf, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, alligator, or grizzly! When your biggest game animal eats worms and bulbs, and your largest predator dines on mice, you may have to dress up your rationale for the hunt every bit as much you dress up yourself. Mere sport with dogs cannot do!

In America, of course, such a claim would be met with laughter. A red fox threatens your farm? A badger? Please! We have real predators from one end of this country to another. No need for tales of Beowulf here! A country full of bears and coyotes does not need to invent dragons.

To be clear, what makes America special is not some extra gene coursing through our blood. What makes American special is the land, and the fact that, unlike Europe, we have not killed off everything big enough to kill a cat.

No one ever said it better than Aldo Leopold who, back in 1925, wrote an essay called "Wilderness As a Form of Land Use," in which he reminded us of what we were (American), and warned us of what we might become (European):
The day is almost upon us when canoe travel will consist in paddling up the noisy wake of a motor launch and portaging through the back yard of a summer cottage. When that day comes canoe travel will be dead, and dead too will be a part of our Americanism. Joliet and LaSalle will be words in a book, Champlain will be a spot on a map, and canoes will be merely things of wood and canvas, with a connotation of white duck pants and bathing "beauties."

The time is almost upon us when a pack-train must wind it’s way up a graveled highway and turn it’s bell-mare in the pasture of a summer hotel. When that day comes, the pack-train will be dead, the diamond hitch will be merely rope, and Kit Carson and Jim Bridger will be names in a history lesson. And thenceforth the march of empire will be a matter of gasoline and four wheel brakes.

European outdoor recreation is largely devoid of the thing that wilderness areas would be the means of preserving in this country. Europeans do not camp, cook or pack in the woods for pleasure. They hunt and fish when they can afford to, but their hunting and fishing is merely hunting and fishing, staged in a set of ready-made hunting lodges, elaborate fare, and hired beaters. The whole thing carries the atmosphere of a picnic, rather than that of a pack trip. The test of skill is confined almost entirely to the act of killing, itself. Its value as a human experience is reduced accordingly.

There is a strong movement in this country to preserve the distinctive democracy of our field sports by preserving free hunting and fishing, as distinguished from the European condition of commercialized hunting and fishing privileges. Public shooting grounds and organized cooperative relations between sportsmen and landowners are the means proposed for keeping these sports within reach of the American of moderate means. Free hunting and fishing is a most worthy objective, but it deals with only one of the distinctive characteristics of American sport. The other characteristic is that our test of skill is primarily the act of living in the open, and only secondarily the act of killing game. It is to preserve this primary characteristic that public wilderness playgrounds are necessary."
Read the whole essay which I have linked to here [PDF]. Are we there yet? Is our land so gut-shot with people that we have lost the wild and become European?

Not quite. The coyote population is growing, and so too is the population of mountain lion, wolf, black bear, grizzly, and alligator.

We are not yet European, thank God!

Yet we may get there if we do not do more to slow population growth, most of which is now fueled by unbridled legal and illegal immigration. We cannot take all of the world's displeased and dispossessed, and it's high time we stopped trying.

Above all, we need to remember that we need to fight to continue to preserve large blocks of wild lands, including wilderness.

Preserving wilderness and wild lands is about nothing less than preserving America's soul.

Save it now, or someday soon, it may be gone forever.

To be clear, nothing I have said here
is meant to suggest any American superiority. We are wrecking this great land of ours with population growth as fast as we can, and the only reason we have not already wrecked it beyond all understanding is that there is so much of it.

I think American wildlife management and America's land ethic is the best in the world, and I will not broach much disagreement on that front. That said, even here the real credit has to be given to the fecundity of Mother Nature and Father Time. If we will only take our boot off Mother Nature's neck, she will generally bounce up and dance a jig.  There is a place for bag limits and hunting seasons. Someone tell the British.

I am no American Pollyanna. We are a great nation, and yet we fall down in so many ways as to be a global embarrassment. As I write this, the big box office film in our theaters is called American Sniper -- a film about how we sent some kid halfway around the world, to a country that never did a damn thing to us, in order to have this kid shoot people he never met and had no quarrel with. That's not the story told, of course. Instead we get the Great American Lie in which everything is ripped clean of historical context and presented as a black-and-white, good-vs-evil fairy tale.

So London has its fairy tale, and we have ours, and snipers seem to be involved in both.

Trust me, our story is not better.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Harry Potter Dog Training

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of Dogs Today.

I feel sorry for professional dog trainers.

You see, they are hired to train a dog, but the first thing they have to tell the client is that they are not going to train the dog – they are going train the client to train the dog.

When this is said, there is always a lot of smiling and nodding by the client, but there’s no real comprehension and probably not too much acceptance either.

Even the dog trainer doubts it can really be done.

You see, people are people, and they are difficult to change. When a dog or a dog trainer shows up in a person’s life, that person already has a schedule and it probably does not include 30 minutes, twice a day, of walking the dog.

Is a dog trainer going to be able to win that kind of time and exercise commitment from his or her new client?

Probably not.

Think about how many people start with a gym membership, and how few are still going to that gym two months later. Think how many people start a diet, and how many fall off the wagon.

When a dog trainer shows up at the door of a new client, honesty may be the best policy, but telling a client “you’re fat and lazy and so is the dog, and both of you need to walk two miles a day” may not be the best way to build up a referral dog training business!

Magic Wands

When people hire a dog trainer, they are not looking for a change in lifestyle or a change in values.

They are looking for a magic wand.

And why not?

We live in an age of miracle diets, miracle bras, and five minute workouts to lift and tone the body.

We have instant answers from Google, satellite mapping systems in our cars, and one-minute rice on the stove.

Surely there’s a 10-minute cure for any and every canine problem?

Come on now: What would Hermione do?

Of course in the world of Harry Potter, it was not Hermione that had a way with creatures, it was the game keeper Hagrid, who was never seen to wave a magic wand.

Instead, Hagrid’s magic was of a more down-to-earth kind. He knew that the secret to training animals, from dogs to dragons, was exercise, consistency, earned affection, and simple corrections and rewards.

The House as Prison Planet

And what do we Muggles offer up to our canine charges instead?

Tell the truth now. What really happens when we come home from work?

Too often we are both exhausted and distracted. We plop down in front of an electronic screen of some sort – a television set, a computer, or a cell phone. It’s been a mad day, and we just want to unwind between telephone calls and emails that demand a reply.

What about the dog?

He’s fine we tell ourselves.

After all, we buy it the best dog food, we spend a tidy sum on veterinary care, and the dog has a basket full of chew toys. We even put in a flap door so the dog can exit to the yard whenever it wants – no need to even ask.

But, of course, if the dog could talk, it might tell a different story!

Imagine, for a moment, that you and your dog have exchanged roles.

Instead of a dog living in your house, you are a small child that has come to live in a cave inhabited by four or five dogs. You are an only child, and the cave is attached to a small yard. You were brought to live in this cave when you were only two years old, and ever since that time you have only been able to communicate with other humans on those brief occasions when you have been allowed out on a short leash.

Now here’s a question: Would you be happy? Would you be fit? Would you know the language of humans? Would your mind be fully developed? What kind of adult would you be if you were raised in these same conditions?

Do you see the parallel? The wonder is not that some dogs are discipline problems, but that almost all of them are not as crazy as bed bugs!

When dogs deprived of exercise, socialization and instruction act out and are brought to a trainer for remedial work, their owners are almost never looking to be part of a drawn-out process that will cost a lot of money and extend over many weeks or months. Instead, the average owner is looking for an event; a quick incantation or party trick that can be repeated in two or three sessions, after which order and calm will be restored.

The Magic Starts With You

But are there really such tricks in the world of dog training?

Yes and no.

Yes, there are specific solutions for narrow and specific problems.

That said, the most important part of dog training has never been a secret any more than eating less and exercising more has been “the secret” to losing weight.

The most important part of dog training is active, consistent and focused participation by the owner in the education of his or her own dog.

The magic does not start when you hire a trainer. The magic starts:

  • When you exercise the dog every day.
  • When you pay close attention to your dog and communicate consistently with it through well-timed rewards and signals.

This is not to say that there aren’t tools, and that many of them aren’t great.

Every dog catalog and magazine is packed with ads offering up various types of collars, halters, and leashes. Every bookstore is packed with dog training guides promoting clickers, hand signals, e-collars, food rewards, ball rewards, scent-training, and every kind of freshly-potted canine philosophy.

But no device or method matters if the owner does not have the self-discipline to show up everyday to actively work with his or her own dog.

This is Hagrid’s secret, and it’s not one you can buy in the magic shops in Diagon Alley.

Illustration by Kevin Brockbank for Dogs Today.

    The Jack Russell Clue in Harry Potter

    A few days ago I notice that the blog got a 1,000 visitors from "Buzz Feed."

    A quick check and I found we got linked to from this article on 21 Times “Harry Potter” Was The Cleverest Book Series Ever.

    It seems that one of the foreshadowing plot clues buried inside Harry Potter is the fact Ron Weasley's "patronus" is a Jack Russell terrier:

    Jack Russell terriers were bred as hunting dogs to chase vermin, such as rats, badgers, foxes, and otters. The name “terrier” means “earth dog”, as these dogs would chase badgers and foxes into their burrows, and otters across water.

    And what was Hermione Granger's "patronus"?
    None other than... an Otter!

    I am not sure that a Jack Russell terrier and an otter are destined to have a happy marriage together, but what do I know? I'm a stupid Muggle!