From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1999:

Straw Bale Dog House
DELTA Rescue
(POB 9, Glendale, CA 91209)
$6.00 requested for copying and postage.

Perhaps the most obvious yet least
remarked of all the changes that humans have
imposed on the canine lifestyle is that dogs in
the wild never choose to live in anything that
resembles the quarters we tend to give them.
Throughout the world, given their choice,
dogs live in dugouts. Fox, wolf, dingo, jackal,
coyote, African wild dog or Carolina dog,
they all either enlarge the burrows of prey or
dig their own.
The first virtue of Leo Grillo’s Straw
Bale Dog House technique is not that it provides
cheap and durable shelter, though
DELTA Rescue builds each house for $400
including stucco finish. Nor is it that straw
bale building is quick, though with practice
each house can be made it less time than it
takes to watch the video. Nor is it that straw
bale dog houses save space: the roof of each
house becomes a patio/balcony as big as the
area the house occupies.

Most important, from a humane
point of view, is that straw bale dog houses
built by the Grillo formula put the resident
dogs back into the kind of home they would
choose if they couldn’t share a human home
with their favorite people. Inside, they look
and feel very much like a dugout.
The materials and design insure a
fairly stable interior temperature for most of
the year, at approximately the level dogs prefer.
Even at temperatures below freezing, the
Grillo design would provide better housing
than many conventional dog pounds. The
straw bale dog houses at DELTA Rescue have
already withstood the torrential El Nino r a i n s
of 1997, with almost no damage, and minor
modifications such as use of a vapor barrier
and resting the support boards on bricks could
help the design withstand even upstate New
York winter snows and humid summers.
If your shelter has expansion space
but no construction budget, this is an inexpensive
way to house more dogs almost immediately.
A municipal pound could add a row of
straw bale dog houses using nothing more than
leftover materials from the road crew.
It won’t look conventional, but it is
long past time to rethink conventional in shelter
design. When humane organizations began
sheltering large numbers of dogs, approximately
a century ago, they emulated the only
models available to them: the kennels built for
hunting dogs. Hunting dog kennels, in turn,
originated as an adaptation of extra stalls in
horse stables. They were, at best, a handy
place for a pack hunter to keep the pack
between frequent rides with the hounds. No
one ever designed them with the psychological
well-being of dogs in mind. Even after 100
years of humane improvement, kennel-style
shelters are still atrocious places to keep dogs
for any length of time. They look and feel like
maximum security prisons for dogs, and that’s
what most dogs seem to think of them, too.
Scrap convention. Build a Maddie’s
Adoption Center, after the model of the San
Francisco SPCA, if you’re able: it cuts the
waiting-for-adoption interval so much that it
really costs little more than conventional kennels
handling comparable numbers of animals
over a year’s time. If you can’t emulate
Maddie’s, or are doing care-for-life instead of
adoption placement, build straw bale dog
houses. Your dogs will thank you.


The Ultimate Guide:
The Discovery Channel
Wild Things
(episode #33)
Paramount TV/Pryor Productions

The November 30 premiere of T h e
Ultimate Guide: Horses, from the Discovery
Channel, and the premiere exactly one month
earlier of Wild Things episode #33 offered a
juxtaposition of the best and worst in TV animal
documentaries which is even more obvious
from watching the two back-to-back.
Neither, to our knowledge, has
been released yet for general acquisition. But
both, we understand, are likely to be released
for sale in video stores soon.
The Ultimate Guide: Horses is first
of a series of four documentaries, to be followed
by presentations on crocodiles (premiering
March22), ants (premiering April 5), and
dolphins (premiering July 19). It covers
chiefly horses in the wild, including breathtaking
footage from Mongolia, the American
west, and elsewhere, with emphasis on the
intelligence of horses and the differences
between them and cattle.
Most notably, horses graze less
heavily, graze on plants which cattle can’t
digest, and accordingly thrive on range
already overgrazed for bovine purposes.
When ranchers accuse wild horses of depleting
grasslands at the expense of livestock, it’s
actually the other way around.
Except for one ill-informed passage
about rodeo, humane activists will find little
of the Ultimate Guide presentation objectionable,
and will find much of it praiseworthy,
particularly a segment denouncing wild horse
roundups for removal.
Wild Things episode #33 is another
matter. Publicist Laura Gelhaar called us often
to insure that we viewed and reviewed it, but
did not respond after we pointed out on
November 17 that segments on cobras and
crocodiles demonstrated some very poor animal
handling technique; that mere macho
stunts of clearly recent origin were misdescribed
as indigenous “tradition”; and that several
portions appeared to be of questionable
Most offensive were several shots
pertaining to a caiman and piranhas killing and
eating a capybara. Similar shots––if not the
same ones––appeared in the Word Doctor
Productions series Secret World, episode #44,
entitled Amazon: The Forest of Fear. When
aired on a New York City noncommercial station
in July 1990, local activist Dean Hannotte
identified the Secret World capybara killings
as having been staged, organized protest, and
sent us a list of clues to the staging, all of
which we noted in the Wild Things material.
We inquired of Gelhaar as to the
standards and ethics of the Wild Things p r oducers.
“What requirements,” we asked,
“were made of the videographers to verify the
originality and authenticity of their footage?”
If the capybara scenes were staged,
and we suspect they were, they also involved
repeated blatant cruelty.

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