Letters [May 1993]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1993:

Henry Spira
Thanks for your generous
April editorial––hope it encourages
activists to focus on results, on most
rapidly reducing the universe of ani-
mal pain and suffering.
For the record: as I’m sure
you know, everything we’ve
achieved has been the result of a
team effort, a network, a loop of
organizations and committed indi-
viduals, bringing together different
talents, resources, and
expertise––joining their energies
toward a common goal. I’d be
remiss if I didn’t say so.

Again, thanks and best
wishes to you.
––Henry Spira, New York, N.Y.
Your magazine is great. I
have especially enjoyed your editori-
als. I feel that one major problem
with the animal rights movement is
that everything is so black and
white. The movement scares many
people away––people who really
love animals, but are turned off or
overwhelmed by all the issues.
I admired your Jan-
uary/February editorial on how to
handle politicians. I agree that you
should always be nice to them, even
though they may not always vote in
favor of animals.
I also was glad to see that
Henry Spira granted an interview to
the pro-vivisection Foundation for
Biomedical Research. I would also
like to see you interview former U.S.
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. I
think it is important that both sides
Good luck in the future
with whatever you do.
––Margaret Lloyd, Melrose,
Koop, anathema to some
because of his blunt defense of the
use of animals in biomedical
research, is now teaching at
Dartmouth, and has invested a sig
nificant amount of his own money in
developing a computer-simulated
human cadaver, which could poten
tially replace thousands of animals
in surgical training. We’ve sent him
an extensive list of questions, to
which we hope he’ll respond.
Regarding the City of New
York taking over dog control, they
don’t do a good job with the home-
less people; how can they tend the
animals? I asked if the Board of
Health will be involved, and I was
told somewhat. I asked because they
have taken over the dog licenses,
and have made a mess, to put it
––Mary Bloom, New York, N.Y.
Re: Let’s have the sense to
come out of the rain (April), John
Vermeulin’s letter should not be dis-
missed because the Summit for the
Animals failed. If we are to gain any
success, it’s imperative that we form
coalitions with groups that have sim-
ilar objectives. It isn’t necessary to
nitpick on every detail. We simply
have to agree on which issues we
can cooperate.
forms us about all the injustices,
abuses, and exploitations. This
information eventually overwhelms
and disheartens many well-inten-
tioned readers unless they can expe-
rience a successful resolution of a
specific problem.
John is right. We do have
the numbers. What we need is a
grassroots response. If the national
groups have become too self-inter-
ested and myopic, perhaps A N I-
MAL PEOPLE will publish the
names of those grassroots groups
willing to form a coalition to dis-
seminate information regarding tar-
get projects.
––Jean Laurin, Philadelphia,
We do publish those
names often, as groups write to tell
us about their activities and seek
colleagues working on similar mat
ters. However, at risk of seeming
excessively cynical, the inherent
risk in coalition-building is that
often as much energy goes into that
as would be necessary to accomplish
the ends if one continued working
alone. Then, if the coalition suc
ceeds, eventually someone sees the
chance to pick up prestige and per
haps even a salary by becoming
head honcho. Ultimately coalitions
are no more effective than the indi
viduals in them, and effective indi
viduals are usually going to be effec
tive no matter what they have to
work with.
The front line vs.
the bottom line
Best of luck to you. Why is
it that so often when a group gets big
enough to make a difference, it is
gutted by cowards who don’t want to
ruffle feathers and the bottom line
becomes more important than the
front line?
Our tiny humane society
received its charter in 1989 and res-
cues over 600 domestic animals each
year, plus another 200 wild creatures.
We convinced the veterinarians in
this area to provide to low or fixed
income persons low-cost neutering
($12.50 for a cat neuter to $30.00 for
a dog spay), and we raise monies to
subsidize this even further.
The only time we will euth-
anize is when it is in the best interest
of the animal and humans, which
happens only 20-30 times a year.
We write a local column,
do radio shows, provide pet care edu-
cation in elementary schools, take
owned animals to all local nursing
homes, lobby, and rehabilitate
wildlife, all with a handful of volun-
We have those who would
like us to stay popular by not taking
stands against hunting, fur, and ani-
mal use in research. But something
a very wise man once said to me
always repeats itself loudly: “You
fail because you become so focused
on the little dog or cat at your feet,
that not looking up, you fail to see
the nation of animals who are suffer-
––Terry Stanley, President
Northwoods Humane Society
Hayward, Wisconsin
Early neutering
Three cheers for Dr. Leo
Lieberman for challenging the status
quo and for giving us all some hope.
I know he’s had a battle with the vet-
erinary community over the years
and that he has fought long and hard
over this issue. His retirement years
have been devoted to early neuter-
ing, and there are really so few like
Neutering before adoption
is the only practice that makes any
sense when we have a companion
animal overpopulation problem lead-
ing to the death of millions of dogs
and cats each year. Neutering before
adoption is the only 100% certain
means we have of guaranteeing that
a dog, cat, puppy, or kitten will
never add to that awful problem.
Deposits meet with limited success.
Contracts meet with limited success.
Animals get lost. People move.
People change their minds about
Early neutering is a god-
send and to date nothing horrific is
known to occur as a side effect. The
presence of immature genitalia and
the delayed closing of long bones
are not horrific side effects, but the
constant killing of masses of dogs
and cats year in and year out is.
Neutering, not killing, is the best
animal control.
––Petra E. Murray
New Jersey Pet
Overpopulation Solutions
Howell, N.J.
Back yard breeders
Looking to buy an American
Kennel Club-registered puppy, where do
you look? Most people go to the want ads of
their local newspaper. Lots of ads are run
advertising to sell puppies and kittens. A
prospective buyer goes to the seller’s home
and buys the puppy directly out of the sell-
er’s back yard. The seller calls this a hobby.
But in truth it is BIG MONEY! Last year
alone just in the Dallas city limits, almost
1,000 ads were placed in the D a l l a s
Morning News. The average price per ani-
mal was $150. Dogs have anywhere from
two to three litters a year. The average litter
produces six offspring. One person can eas-
ily make around $2,000 a year. Some do it
out of their homes year-round, making an
average of $20,000 a year.
Who monitors these profits? The
city of Dallas is looking into this. When
they first saw all the ads and the profit being
made, they were amazed. The back yard
breeder avoids sales tax, zoning laws, the
occasional sales ordinance (governing yard
sales), and possibly other existing ordi-
nances. These back yard breeders collect
over a million dollars a years, while the city
of Dallas spends over $1 million to eutha-
nize the unwanted dogs and cats.
How about the Internal Revenue
Service monitoring these sales? Recently I
visited the Dallas IRS office. The person I
spoke with had never seen nor thought of all
the ads and profits. I left feeling the IRS
will probably do nothing. I would be curi-
ous as to how many people paid the IRS for
selling dogs and cats. If at least a thousand
people in the Dallas area made a profit,
think of the thousands of people across the
country making millions right in their back
yards. If the cities are not monitoring sales
tax, how is the IRS keeping up with tax on
the profits of selling these dogs and cats?
Someone needs to check into the
AKC and other registries. How many dogs
and cats are being registered each year? Far
too many and far too easily. For each regis-
tered dog or cat, more offspring are pro-
duced, thus continuing the cycle of pet
overpopulation, which exists even with
It is my hope the media and gov-
ernment take a step into this issue. It is
unlawful not to pay taxes, so why are these
backyard breeders getting away with this?
Breeding and selling is a business, not a
hobby. Notice the ads that say cash. Some
of these breeders cannot even be traced
though the crisscross to find out their names.
They have a hidden tax shelter right in their
back yard. I hope a reporter is assigned to
investigate. As one of my sister’s friends
told her, “I used to sell drugs, but I
switched to selling puppies. I still make
$20,000 a year without paying taxes, but I
know the government doesn’t go after dog
breeders like drug dealers.” Something must
be done.
––Tawana Couch-Jurek
Dallas, Texas
We’re sending a copy of your letter
to the personal attention of AKC president
Wayne Cavenaugh, and would welcome
input from other people in the breed-fancy
community as well. We know a lot of
fanciers also proclaim vehement opposition
to backyard puppy mills as well as the big
commercial kind. What we don’t know is
just what any of these organizations and
individuals are doing about it. Breed rescue
helps back yard-bred animals after the fact.
What’s going to prevent their births, short
of the enforced breeding bans the fanciers
hate? Practical answers, please.
After reading your April 1993 arti-
cle “Dog and exotic pet bite statistics,” I
was enraged. Keeping statistics on bites via
press accounts is absurd and then to pass it
off as a legitimate study is outrageous. I
have worked for Minneapolis Animal
Control for over five years. This city aver-
ages 600 animal bites a year. For you to
publish a story that covers 10 years and only
involves 184 bites leads me to believe you
wanted this article to be biased against pit
Statistics kept for the City of
Minneapolis for over 10 years shows that
bites by German shepherds outnumber pit
bull bites by a 5:1 margin. Naturally with all
the public hysteria over pit bulls, any attack
by them will generate media attention.
Although they didn’t merit media attention,
the worst bites during the last two years in
Minneapolis were caused by German shep-
herds. One in particular was a woman who
received over 150 stitches in her arms,
chest, and neck from her own shepherd.
I am enclosing statistics kept by
our department to show that even with the
increased population of pit bulls in our city,
the bite ratio still overwhelmingly shows
German shepherds as the primary biters. I
would appreciate it if you would solicit sta-
tistics from other cities and publish a more
scientific report.
––Monica Fourre, Assistant Supervisor
Minneapolis Animal Control
Minneapolis, Minnesota
(1990-1991 UNAVAILABLE)
Total dogbites: 8,133
German shepherd: 1,649 20.3%
German shepherd mix: 536 6.6%
401 4.9%
Small terriers : 461 5.7%
Lab retriever: 391 4.8%
Pit bull: 350 4.3%
Poodle: 228 2.8%
Rottweiler: 77 .95%
Cat bites: 1,709
Actually, we don’t really have any argument, because your numbers were com
piled to count total bites whereas ours were compiled to count only bites by dogs kept as
pets that caused grievous harm: deaths, maimings, and prolonged hospital stays. While
it’s true that only a small percentage of dog bites make the papers, it’s also true that deaths
and maimings usually do, no matter what sort of animal is involved––and because our
newspaper accounts have come from a national network of correspondents, our survey is
relatively free of regional bias.
Of the breeds in your table, German shepherds and shepherd mixes together com
prise an estimated 14% of the U.S. dog population, and are overwhelmingly the dogs of
preference for sentry duty. Thus it isn’t at all surprising that they account for 20.9% of the
bites in any given community. What is surprising, given the frequency of German shepherd
bites, is that pet shepherds have apparently caused only two fatalities in the past decade in
the U.S. and Canada combined. Elementary knowledge of German shepherd behavior
explains it: they usually bite to hold, not to kill or injure.
Pit bulls, on the other hand, make up no more than 3.1% of the dog population
(estimating from a variety of metropolitan animal control department records), and the
most common estimate of pit bull numbers is circa 500,000––under 1%. Thus even your
numbers show that at best, pit bulls bite with about the same frequency as German shep
herds; at worst, they bite more than four times as often. Thus it is no surprise at all that
our numbers show pit bulls––pets, please note, not fighting dogs––accounted for 56% of
the total attacks causing grievous injury that we have on record, including 44% of the
attacks on children, 87% of the attacks on adults, and 56% of the fatalities.
Rottweiler statistics are equally alarming. Rottweilers account for about one third
of one percent of the U.S. dog population, but your numbers indicate that they account for
almost a full 1% of the bites, and ours show they account for nearly 10% of the attacks
causing grievous injury.
Breed rescue

Thanks to Gina Spadafori for an
inspiring article on breed rescue in the April
ANIMAL PEOPLE. Seven years ago I
adopted a purebred sheltie named Casey
from the Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society, a
Detroit inner city animal shelter. As a result
of that adoption, I became more and more
involved in volunteer work for MACS. I am
now on the MACS board of directors.
I was not looking for a sheltie
when I adopted Casey. Casey is the first
purebred animal I have ever had. He was
turned into the shelter when he was two
years old because he “barks too much.” He
was debarked when he was eight months
old. The shelter manager was very con-
cerned about Casey’s future. She wanted to
make sure that whoever adopted him under-
stood the habitual barking problem. This
was an exceptionally beautiful dog whom
anyone would be proud to have, but he
needed a special home with someone who
would be patient and work with him.
Since getting Casey, I understand
why someone would want a purebred dog.
With a little training and modifications to
my house, so he couldn’t see out the front
window onto the street, I was able to con-
trol his barking. Adopting another dog, a
quiet mixed breed, also did wonders to
focus his attention away from barking,
much of which was the result of boredom
when left alone.
Although I do not consider myself
a breed rescuer, I very much appreciate the
various breed rescue groups in the Detroit
area. Many are big supporters of MACS,
and through them we have been able to find
homes for dogs who otherwise might have
been euthanized.
––Marilyn Iskra, secretary
Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society
Detroit, Michigan
I was happy to see a page devoted
to breed rescue in your April issue. I hope
shelters who do not send purebreds to such
groups rethink their position. When a pure-
bred dog arrives at the Animal Rescue
League of Fall River, we immediately check
the breed rescue list unless we have an
adopter who is already approved and is con-
sidered a good match for that particular dog.
Often a volunteer comes right down to get
the dog and moves him or her to a foster
home. This frees up our limited space, and
when we are full, as we usually are, may
save us a decision on whom to euthanize
when the next dog comes in. We don’t use
all breed rescue groups. They must have
strict adoption and neutering standards.
Personally, as a member of a
dachscund rescue group, I usually have at
least one dog being fostered in my home. As
a former breeder and exhibitor, before I saw
the light, I feel this is one way I can give
back to the breed I have been partially
responsible for propagating. Also, I have
knowledge of the breed that no all-breed res-
cue group could ever learn, because they
don’t have the time. Finally, I can hold one
or two dogs in my home far longer than an
all-breed shelter, and the possibility of the
dogs getting adopted rather than euthanized
vastly increases.
The purists must face reality and
realize that purebreds are here to stay. They
are no less or more deserving than mongrels
of happiness in a new home. The formation
of breed rescue groups has done much to
educate breeders about the consequences of
breeding and about their responsibilities to
the puppies they bring into the world.
My one regret is that cat people do
not have the same type of rescue network.
In the past year we’ve had Siamese,
Persians, a Scottish Fold, and a Maine
Coon cat come into our shelter. It would
have been nice to send them to purebred res-
cue groups, too.
––Carolyn L. Smith
Executive Director
Animal Rescue League of Fall River,
Fall River, Massachusetts
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