Dog Breeder: The New Mental Disorder

by Susi on September 16, 2013

in Affordable Care Act, Animal Rights, APHIS, Breeders, Department of Agriculture, HSUS, Katherine Sebelius, PETA

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When I had a traditional 9-5 job, I found it tough to keep up with all but the most significant of current events.  I worked all day, battled traffic to get home at night, threw together something to eat, then fell into bed watching just enough TV to dull my brain so I could fall asleep. The next day, I did it all over again.

Every day, I trusted the world not to blow itself up, and that was the extent of my political involvement: Trust.

These days, times are tough and people seem more tired to me than ever before. Those who are engaged in current events are getting numb from the seemingly daily deluge of revelations about government leaks, scandals or impasses, so I “get” why the headline below didn’t garner more attention.

It should have. In my view, the story behind the headline should be water-cooler material because it’s important. Really important. It should chill the blood of every American with a pulse, but because dog fanciers have been the proverbial canaries in the coal mine for years, I suspect we should take special notice.

In a nutshell, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants to require health care providers to include “social and behavioral” data in Electronic Health Records and link them to a patient’s records to public health departments. According to a solicitation posted by the Department of Health and Human Services headed by Katherine Sebelius, the National Academy of Sciences has been commissioned to study how best to add these factors to electronic health record reporting.

The CMS, by the way, covers 100 million people through Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Hospital Insurance Program and is tasked with running the Affordable Care Act, euphemistically called “Obamacare.”

The article falls in line with today’s New York Post article reporting that in addition to questions about behavior, health care providers are instructed to inquire about a patient’s sexual activity.  Doctors and hospitals that don’t comply with the government’s electronic-health-records requirements forgo incentive payments, but starting in 2015, they’ll face financial penalties from Medicare and Medicaid if they don’t comply.

The agency believes that, “adding social and behavioral data to patients’ online records will improve health care.” 

Let’s put aside the obvious intrusion into our privacy. Put aside, too, that these requirements force a doctor to violate his or her Hippocratic oath to keep their patients’ records confidential.

Focus, instead, on the scores of things you do in a week that could be reported as a “behavior.” We know it can’t be ownership of a firearm. Section 2716 of the Affordable Care Act law bars the federal government from compelling doctors and hospitals to ask if you own a gun because the NRA saw to this.  Everything else is fair game: Knitting, rock climbing, collecting buttons, showing your dog…..

And once “behaviors” have been identified, what determines if they’re normal or aberrant?  If “normal” is defined by behavior of the majority of the population, dog fanciers are already in trouble just by doing the math since what proportion of the population, do you suppose, defines itself as a “dog fancier,” let alone “dog breeder?”

What if it’s an individual or committee that determines “normal?”  What if they determine that your chosen hobby or sport is “abnormal?” Would insurance cost you more? Would you be singled out for home visits by social services? Could you be denied health care?

Would it be a stretch to imagine the day when breeding a dog is deemed a mental condition?

While it’s true that I have a vivid imagination, I don’t see purple wombats climbing the walls. The voices in my head tell me I don’t.  Still, the distance between being regarded merely cruel and immoral for having multiple dogs or breeding them, and being regarded as emotionally disturbed for the same thing is shrinking, thanks to animal rights groups and the shrillest of shelter and rescue advocates.

As John Yates of the American Sporting Dog Alliance pointed out, “…when we call ourselves ‘responsible breeders,’ responsible to whom? Who defines ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible?’ Some bureaucrat? A politician? Animal rights cretins who say there is no such thing as a responsible breeder? If we say we are not breeders, it makes us ‘pet hoarders.’ We are tarred as mentally ill people in need of psychotherapy.”

The drip drip drip of persuading the hearts and minds to conclude as much has been steady:

  • Nightly, gut wrenching images of sad-eyed cats and dogs flash on television screens as the Humane Society of the United States begs for donations to save them from certain death. It works. Over $130,000,000 has been donated to the HSUS but less than 1% is actually seen by animal shelters. In 2012, a Center for Consumer Freedom polls conducted by Opinion Research Corporation found that 71% of Americans believe that HSUS is a pet-shelter umbrella group while 68% believe that HSUS gives most of its money to pet shelters – both incorrect. Only 3 of the 28 ads that HSUS ran on television contained a disclaimer that HSUS is independent from local humane societies, and ads that did have a disclaimer didn’t air very often: Less than 100 airings, compared to more than 20,000 airings of ads with no disclaimer;
  • PETA’s website:  “Dogs across the country are dying because people choose to purchase animals from pet shops or breeders instead of adopting from animal shelters.”

Note that they don’t distinguish substandard breeders from ethical, caring and responsible ones;

  • From the Dog Breeders are Evil Facebook page: “Every breeder is condemning a shelter dog to death for each puppy or kitten that you produce. Adopt, don’t Shop!”

 

In addition to messaging that ranges from the subliminal to the outright, legislative laws with “teeth” are attempting to put a bite into breeding whether the breeder has integrity or not. In 2009, the author of A Bitter Cynoanarchist wrote, “There are a disturbing number of laws putting limits on the numbers of intact dogs a breeder can own, wending their way through state legislatures right now. They are billed as ‘puppy mill’ laws, but what they really are is ‘make dog breeding so expensive and troublesome that no one will do it’ laws.”

She had it right. Three years later – this week, in fact – the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) released the finalized version of new federal regulations. Intended to bring internet-based breeders and sellers under the regulation of the Animal Welfare Act, the rule expands the USDA’s oversight of pet breeders to include people who have more than four “breeding females” and sell even one pet “sight unseen.” This last part is problematic to caring, responsible breeders who want to sell a puppy to a loving home which has had the breeder’s dogs in the past but live out of town.

Despite thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls expressing concern over flaws with the rule, APHIS largely ignored them by adopting the rule in much the same form it was originally proposed.  In the war with dog breeders, the Department of Agriculture won a significant battle, and the animal rights faction helped.

How?

According to its own tax returns, HSUS spent $17.3 million to lobby candidates, legislators and governments between 2005 and 2009. As if that wasn’t enough, it helps to have friends in high places. Former HSUS litigation attorney, Sarah Conant, is now employed by the Department of Agriculture, while Deborah Dubow Press, a known animal rights activist, was hired by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as an enforcement specialist (and parenthetically, Mr.Vilsack has a very different spin on the importance of agriculture which should frighten the bejeebers out of farmers and ranchers).  Let me put it more plainly: Known animal rights members were hired to work for the same department that crafted the language and now enforces a regulation that impacts every responsible breeder in the country.

It’s a little like a vegan planning the menu for a cattlemen’s banquet.

It doesn’t end there.

According to her biography, Lois Lerner, the embattled official of the Internal Revenue Service who apologized for improperly scrutinizing conservative groups, is also an active member of the Humane Society of the United States.

By wondering out loud what other government agency has among its employees active members of radical animal rights groups, I come full circle.  What political animal wouldn’t salivate over having social and behavioral data about an electorate?  What animal rights advocate wouldn’t love to have the power to declare dog breeding a mental illness?

What if the person in charge of assessing behavior for the Affordable Care Act is an animal rights advocate?

What if you got a letter one day informing you that because of your dog activities, you’ve been determined to be unstable?

What if the month after that, everyone who purchased a pack of cigarettes got the same letter?

And what if the month after that, every Facebook subscriber who has ever expressed dissent with the government or a politician gets the same letter?

If you’re a dog fancier, you already know what it’s like out there. If you’re not, give it time. At some point, you will probably and unwittingly break a law or regulation you never knew existed. At some point, a benign activity that you like to do right now will be deemed immoral, indecent, insane or illegal by powerful people you don’t know because they disagree with you. It is elitism at its worst. Where does it end?

I have no answers on how we come back from this point, but I am certain of this: “Trust” is no longer an adequate means of engagement with current events.

I conclude with the “Tin Hat Song,” a charming little ditty for all us future crazies. Sing it with me, now.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

CathyM September 16, 2013 at 7:17 pm

As usual you have hit the nail on the head!

I miss John Yates…Thanks goodness some have stepped in to fill his shoes…You being on of them.

This week has been very sad indeed…

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Susi September 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I’m afraid to ask. Mr. Yates passed on?

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Cindy Cooke September 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Sadly, the government took no interest in my sex life when I had GREAT stories to tell. Now all the sex in my life is dog sex–for which, I might add, I occasionally take money. Maybe my sex life ISN’T that dull after all…

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Susi September 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I am fond of all my readers, but never as much as the ones who make me laugh. Thanks for this!

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Beth September 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I am starting to think we should unwind all the legislation, including all definitions of abuse and neglect (in keeping with the theory that one should be responsible to only their own personal standards) and just let the chips fall where they may. I’ve never seen laissez faire work, but maybe it will make everyone happy.

Guess I’m just too cynical about the intrinsic nature of humanity.

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Susi September 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I’m not sure that’s the answer, either, Beth. Clearly, there has to be a standard of care for animals, but why must it be a “one size fits all” regulation? There’s no way I can steam clean my walls, couchs, pillows, bed, furniture, rugs and carpeting to comply with standards of hygiene for a commercial facility made of tile and stainless steel. And how am I to place a pet with a long-distance family who’s had my puppies since the late 1970s, people I know to be loving and responsible but to whom I can no longer ship a puppy since they’ve not been in the same room with it prior to purchase? I bristle at a cookie cutter approach to dog breeders. I know something needs to be done, I’ve seen the horrors of a dog that’s never touched grass, known a hug or felt the sun on its back. I’m just thinking this regulation isn’t the be all, end all answer.

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Brigitte Stern September 17, 2013 at 8:01 am

Get informed and get some compassion!!! I’m sure you can find forum somewhere with others backyard breeders supporters, who wants to smack talk the people who actually care about ANIMALS, and want to educate why they should or shouldn’t choose certain breeders. Tens of thousands of dogs suffering in substandard, filthy, and overcrowded cages for years on end will finally get the protection they deserve as a result of a rule the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted few days ago, and you’re giving me sad story about the future of the small/hobby breeders who will be force to close their doors because the new regulations………
Finally a small victory for the Animals!!! So don’t you dare take away from their hope for the better future!

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Susi September 17, 2013 at 10:49 am

Brigitte,sadly it is you who is misinformed if you regard all breeders alike and I’m just not sure if there’s any point in educating you as to the differences between a 40 year breed fancier (the one who studies pedigrees, runs DNA and standard health checks on his or her dogs, sleeps in the whelping box in the early days of a new litter, lovingly and carefully raises those pups in a home environment, and carefully places the pups with families s/he is sure is the right fit for the breed, and the dog the right fit for them) and a “breeder” cranking out puppies from sad dogs stuffed into wire cages year after year after year with an eye to supplement their income. If you can’t see the difference here, I cannot reach you.

Furthermore, if you honestly think that the new APHIS ruling will deter a substandard breeder from continuing business as usual, you are naive. Crummy breeders will simply find ways to skirt or subvert these regulations as they always have and I doubt it will put a major dent in the substandard breeder business. What it WILL do is impact the ethical, caring breed fancier dedicated to preserving the legacy of their breed and seeking to improve or maintain it.

The pity in this dialogue is that I “hear” you and share your disgust with unethical, insensitive and ignorant “breeders,” but you’re painting all breeders with a very broad brush. You may think this is a victory for dogs. What it really is is a defeat for the people who’ve been doing it right. For the rest, the lousy breeders, it’ll be a hiccup.

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TracyR September 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm

It’s universal. Criminals are criminals, and law-abiding are law-abiding. Ban guns….good guys will give them up while bad guys have a field day. “Ban” breeding (or make it so difficult as to effectively ban it) you are left with the scumbags who don’t care about the law OR the dogs. People who purport to love dogs and support such rulemaking have low IQs, or are liars. Pick one.

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chienblanc4csi September 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Oh my dear Brigette . . . I think you can use a little time out. Ignorance and hate = miserable misanthrope, and I believe your heart is cold and black. If the people in your life have always let you down, it makes sense that you would find animals to be more trustworthy, but your comment is very wrong on many levels. You really don’t know the person you are addressing, so you should expect the same treatment.

Susi is right, you are very much misinformed. It sounds like you are repeating things you have been told. I know that there are very many rescue volunteers who start out filled with compassion, but find themselves burned out emotionally when faced with the reality of their shelter situation and their own inherent powerlessness. I’ve had more than 40 years in every aspect of dogs – EXCEPT breeding, and I have seen this phenomenon over and over again. Many people are actually encouraged by the culture they operate in to blame others for something that they are powerless to fix. This is a shame, but is no excuse to project their personal frustrations on the wrong target. The fact is, breeders like Susi and many, many kind, compassionate, caring dog breeders are actually the best hope that exists for a better future for dogs. Dogs who are raised by breeders like Susi are not casually dumped at shelters, they tend to stay with their original owners until they die of old age, stay healthy, are easily trained, and if the owner should fall on hard times, or maybe even turn out to be not the right owner for the dog, its breeder will take it back. For the few well bred dogs who do end up in rescue, there is a breed club with a rescue committee to pluck that dog out of harms way before it ever spends more than a day in a shelter. This is exactly why you aren’t aware of these dogs, honey.

Somehow it escaped your attention that animals in America today are better off today than any time in history, the reduction in shelter intake nationwide is astonishing, if there were any other social problem in America today that had experienced the same dramatic improvements, we would be shouting it from the rooftops. But instead, the ‘rabid rescue fanatics’ have only drawn into themselves (a common reaction to a threat) and doubled down on their blame game. Why? Because there is a lot of emotional satisfaction that comes from being involved in “rescue”, and for many people, a lot of money as well! Back about 25 years ago, when the movement to do something about abandoned and homeless dogs began in earnest, every shelter worker jumped on the bandwagon, and we heard “we want to work ourselves out of a job” statements every day. Well, guess what! In many parts of the country, this became true. Your rather hysterical statement with overblown and wildly exaggerated numbers and shouts with caps lock on, rings hollow. You would do well

You seem to think that this new APHIS rule is going to make things better for dogs. Well, Brigette, I wish you were correct, but sadly, you are very wrong. And just so you don’t fall asleep at the wheel, you need to look at a few key points in the APHIS rule. For one, there is no difference in the law between an “adoption” and a “sale”. So even though shelters are exempt, the same rules will apply about the pet store definition. My local shelter long ago gave up the business of animal welfare and animal control, in favor of becoming a sort of “used car lot” for dogs, a non-profit pet store. They will be exempt, but the suppliers of their merchandise, various rescue groups who truck in dogs from god knows where will likely now be considered “dealers” and will need to be licensed and inspected. I think this is only fair. A couple of years ago one of the shipments to this humane society brought along a strain of distemper that hadn’t been seen in our area before. The shelter was shut down for two months, and in the end, between 70 and upwards of 100 dogs died. So don’t buy the champagne yet, Brigette – you will find that using the law to settle grudges or destroy other people you don’t approve of can backfire, especially when the law is fairly enforced.

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Susi September 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I appreciate the comment, chienblanc4csi, and can’t add one thing to it. I intend to study the new APHIS regulation more carefully to see if there is ANY ray of light to be wrought from it and I’ll certainly report back. How nice it would have been, however, if a panel of voices representing the shelter world AND the dog fancy would have been part of the process from the very beginning. I know there are some who feel the new regulation could have been a lot worse, and, in fact, isn’t as awful as we had feared. Because they are people I respect, it bears closer examination to see what the heck they’re talking about -

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Jean C September 17, 2013 at 10:12 am

I’ve got a couple of procedural questions in terms of commenting on this blog. Some of your posts IMHO are pretty political lately, not just dog-politics/AKC/animal rights/welfare sort of poltical. Do you allow commenters to respond to the overall political questions/opinions that you have raised? Are they allowed to disagree with you? (FYI, I once tried to comment on a vet blog that argued in favor of spay/neuter with some questions as to why that didn’t make sense for all dogs, and my comment got deleted or never got posted). I have no issues in not taking on the substance of your blog and reading or not reading at my discretion, but I would like to know in advance of researching legislation/scientific research whether those comments will be allowed to stand or not. I tried to find FAQs, etc on your blog relating to this but was unable to do so. My apologies if you have posted this already.

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Susi September 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

Sure, people disagree with me, Jean. You need only see the comments section under some of the articles that start out with, “You are an awful person.” That said, I sense from you a serious dissent ahead that I suspect may have more to do with politics than dogs. For this kind of site, I’m not sure discussing the merits or pitfalls of, say, health care or foreign policy gets us anywhere. We’re unlikely to persuade each other to change our political stripes. For the life of this site, however, I doubt I’ve ever censored anyone for content unless it was spam or an address change and I won’t start with you. I appreciate the civility you’ve shown me by asking first, I really do. I ask that you keep your comments more brief than not, we’ll go from there.

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Jean C September 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

FYI, I prefer communication to controntation but am really bad on taking on other philosophies wholesale — whether the libetarian or animal rights or AKC agenda. I do not do personal attacks.

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chienblanc4csi September 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Scary, Susi. But not too much of a stretch. There is a ‘rescue’ blog out there called “Bailing out Benji” that had a spectacularly popular post about sexual deviance in dog breeders. Of course she suffers from a mental illness herself, or else she is just a creep. Check it out, Google the title, and check the archives, it isn’t very old. Warning – stomach churning and dangerously high blood pressure could be a consequence of reading it. I sent it to my OB-GYN to get her take on it. She asked if it was real, she thought it was a hoax. Of course we dog folks know exactly how real these ideas are. The author infers that some of our most respected medical professionals are sex offenders at heart. Of the same ilk that believes that people get into animal professions so that they can abuse animals “to their hearts’ content”.

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Susi September 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I’ll brace myself, Char, and check it out – but I’ve not heard before the “understanding” that our medical professionals are “sickos.” What a barren heart this person must have to assume the very worst in everyone. You and I, I’m pretty sure, don’t burp daisies nor frolic among them, but neither are we so stone hearted or cynical as to think as the Bailing out Benji author does. How very sad.

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Pe Wa September 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I’m sorry for you Bridgette. I’m sorry you don’t know what a responsible, caring breeder is. I’m sorry that you think the only way a dog should come into this world is to be so neglected that it ends up in rescue as a placement. I’m sorry you think that holding good breeder responsible for ALL bad owners (who are, after all, the majority of who turns animals into shelters). I’m sorry you’ve never seen a well cared for, healthy mother dog caring for her babies in a wonderful environment. I’m sorry you’ve never seen a breeder rigorously screen potential new homes so that they completely understand what they are getting into, and are often turned down for a pup, because they just are not the right home. I’m sorry you’ve never had the support of your dog’s breeder when you had a health or training question about your dog – you didn’t have someone to call who had MANY years of experience and knew the “family” of dogs your pet came from.
What I am really sorry for is the fact that you are missing out on a tremendous knowledge base of wise and caring people who could really help you optimize your relationship with your pet.
I guess you’d rather your pet have been carelessly bred, with no health screenings, no caring, no healthcare, be placed to whomever came along, dumped at a shelter, rescued by a group, and then end up with you. For me, I want BETTER for my pet. I never want him to go through what you think is the “only way to get a pet”. And before you beat me up, I want you to know that I started with rescue, continue to rescue, and currently live with 2 rescue dogs.

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Susi September 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Well said, Pe Wa. Thank you for responding!

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TracyR September 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm

You’re awesome, Pe Wa!

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DC September 17, 2013 at 6:27 pm

There is already a database of our health information. It doesn’t make any difference if they add things….no one should have access to any of it. But they already do. Doctors already type your ICD codes in every time you see them. These codes already include many DSM codes.

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DC September 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Pe Wa. I’ve never once thought about it that way– you are right If rescue dogs are the best than you have to accept that dogs will be mistreated or left behind to end up in one.

I work in a shelter and can tell that we are less and less necessary every year. Just like orphanages, we will go by the wayside. With over 250 million pets in the US and less than 8 million ever seeing the inside of a shelter or rescue (and many of those are counted twice in a year when they are returned or run loose) and over half of those are saved….Far and away humans with pets are doing right by their charges.

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Jean C September 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

DC, Susi,
Just want to point out that legislation mandates that insurance now has to cover mental health issues the same as physical health issues and this is boon to those needing that coverage. To the extent that mental health issues impact public health issues — such as mass shootings of which the US appears to have a disproportionate number — noting behavioral issues such as isolation from peers, etcl might be useful. .
I just really don’t see that dog breeding will be considered a mental or behavioral issue, though animal hoarding might. Given the documented impacts of pets, including dogs, in reducing blood pressure and a willingness among the medical community to acknowledge the need for emotional support service animals, I can also see a positive outcome in allowing medical professionals to suggest that the acquisition of a pet might improve the quality of life for people struggling with certain mental/emotional/behavioral issues. My dogs do a lot a lot to keep me sane…..

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Susi September 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Interpretation is highly subjective, Jean; not being able to imagine something today doesn’t mean it will never happen. There was a time not so long ago when the notion of requiring anyone who breeds a dog to be registered with their local authority, be given a registration number AND give their address and details to their veterinary practice was unimaginable, and yet that’s exactly what happened recently in the UK when the Dog Advisory Council made its recommendations. I make a case for the slippery slope you seem to doubt will happen here: http://dogknobit.com/2013/08/20/the-kudzu-of-the-dog-fancy/

By inches, we can effect a population’s perception of what’s acceptable. Too many dogs in shelters? Who on EARTH would think to breed more? You must be crazy to breed more. You must be crazy to breed, period. While I hope you’re right, I, for one, can easily envision this in our future.

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