Despite "dog overpopulation," there's a puppy shortage

Before I revisit an unfashionable topic, I want to urge everyone to read what I think is the best discussion I've ever seen on the phenomenon of moral fashion.

Excerpt:

....there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

[...]

It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.

Is our time any different? To anyone who has read any amount of history, the answer is almost certainly no.

(Via The Right Coast, via Glenn Reynolds.) Read it all. No seriously; you owe it to yourself.

To me, the single most irritating aspect of anthropogenic global warming theory is not whether it is right or wrong, but the promotion of the quasi-religious notion that if you are a disbeliever in the theory you are a bad person. Immoral. Yet whether CO2 is in fact raising the earth's temperatures is a scientific, not a moral issue. Thus, I have repeatedly complained that the anthropogenic global warming debate consists of heavy-handed manufactured morality. While I hadn't used the term "moral fashion," (although I have complained of "thought fashion") I can't think of a better example than the unquestioning manner in which people mutilate ("fix" is the word) the working genitals of perfectly normal dogs because they are told that their failure to do so causes "dog overpopulation."

I'm coming to my topic, but I want to explain why I so loved the moral fashion essay. It touches on what is probably my biggest pet peeve of all, which has bothered me for many years:

the tendency of people not to think their own thoughts, but simply adopt uncritically the thoughts of other people.

I have tried to distinguish between adopting the thoughts of others and actually believing them (or trying to believe in them), and pretending to adopt the thoughts of others. The latter, while seeming more "corrupt," nonetheless allows for a smidgen of mental integrity, if not moral honesty:

there is a distinction between someone who thinks and says something in order to be considered "cool" and someone who regurgitates thoughts a person in authority wants to hear in order to get a good grade. There is something about the latter which strikes me as less intellectually dishonest, because the thought isn't internalized.

Saying that socialism is great in order to get an "A" from a socialist professor is of course dishonest, but if the student knows that this is wrong and says it anyway, he is less dishonest than if he meekly submits to the will of his professor and internalizes the authority figure's "truth" as his own -- especially if he has to suppress critical thinking in order to do the latter.

However, the one who thinks what he is told to think is in a better position to have a happy life, so even if I am on the right side ethically, I may be on the wrong side socially. Is the unexamined life a happier life? Considering that the pursuit of truth will get you into more trouble than obediently accepting authority, I'd have to say yes. (But there's that troublesome issue of what it is that constitutes happiness; some unhappy fools actually consider true knowledge to be a worthwhile pursuit -- as if that might bring happiness!)

This problem of social pressure is further compounded by laundry list groupthink -- which attempts to use social pressure to do things like make gays hate guns and love abortion (and pro-gun and anti-abortion people to be anti-gay) even though these issues have no logical relation to each other. In theory, a thinking person should make up his mind on each issue based on what he thinks. But in reality, if you agree with some people on some issues, you'll end up catching hell from the laundry list, thought coalition people:
While there's no logical reason why it isn't perfectly consistent to be just as opposed to gun control as penis control, the emotion-driven "bases" of the two major political camps don't see it that way. Only recently has the label of "gay gun nut" emerged, but even that makes light of a more serious problem: the constantly increasing ideological rigidity which attempts to hound people into compliance by means of exclusionary threats. Typically, these threats take the form of conservatives calling people "liberal" if they don't toe the line, and liberals calling people "conservative." Ordinary people don't want to lose their "friends," and they defend themselves by (lamely and ineffectively, in my opinion) explaining "Hey, I'm no liberal! I support the war!" or "I'm no conservative! I support gay rights!"

Eventually, I hope, people will realize that there is no need to defend against these labels, because there is a right to think what you want to think on each and every issue. When someone refuses to address your argument and instead resorts to labeling, that ought to be a clue that he is threatened by it, or is unable to address it on the merits. The resort to labeling is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate, to bully, and it indicates either a small mind, or massive insecurity. In any event, the problem is in the minds of the bullies, and not in the minds of those attempting to think freely.

Phew!

I'm already exhausted, and I haven't even begun to make my point. Which had nothing to do with guns or gays, and which fortunately doesn't involve disrupting anyone's partisan laundry list, because it's such a "settled" moral issue.

So settled, in fact, that I am a crank for voicing it. Yes, I admit, I'm human, and I don't especially like to disrupt nice people's cocktail parties by opposing conventional wisdom. Truth be told, it's why I have this blog, because it allows me to say things without being smacked down by the petty tyrants who routinely jump on you if you say something that's morally unfashionable.

I've learned that it is highly unfashionable to take issue with the prevailing wisdom that we have a dog overpopulation crisis. That therefore dogs should not be bred, that all male dogs should be castrated, and all female dogs should have their ovaries removed. I've written about this before, but because the evidence on the unfashionable side is accumulating, I thought I should look at it again.

As to the moral fashion, it has not changed. Dogs are still routinely said to be seriously overpopulated, but if you read the articles closely, you'll usually see that they're lumped together with cats, including feral cats. While there are no reliable statistics, a good indicator that dogs are not overpopulated is that there's an undeniable body of evidence of a severe puppy shortage.

While to some people it is not news that unwanted dogs do not result from overpopulation, but "lifestyle changes, such as moving and divorce, and behavioral problems," and dog breeding that mandatory spay and neuter laws have nothing to do with it, only recently has it become apparent that more and more animal workers are daring to publicy admit that there is actually a puppy shortage -- especially in the Northeast, to which puppies must be trucked in from animal shelters in the South:

On the increase, however, are transport programs that are literally cleaning out shelters in one part of the country and bringing dogs en masse for placement in another. This practice began about 10 years ago when New York's North Shore Animal League began retrieving mixed breed puppies from rural shelters in southern states and bringing them north for placement. There was, the shelter alleged, a shortage of puppies in New York thanks to aggressive spay/neuter programs and reduced breeding. NSAL provided financial grants in exchange for puppies so the shelters could establish their own spay/neuter programs. This philosophy soon spread to other large shelters in the northeast that began making treks down south to relieve their own shortages.
The author (an animal welfarist) warns that the puppy shortage is turning shelters into suppliers:
Seeking out and importing shelter dogs to fill regional demands suggests that we may be changing our focus from finding homes for dogs to finding dogs for homes. We may be on our way to becoming suppliers, rather than saviors. Is this really what we want to do? In the effort to help less advanced shelters by importing their dogs into our own states, we must be very careful not to turn them into the new American puppy mills.
God forbid that anyone might allow a market approach. People want more puppies than there are, yet it is considered a serious moral offense (in many instances a criminal offense) to breed them.

Veterinarians have noticed:

Where are the Puppies?

Shelters place puppies in homes easily. Some have such demand for puppies that they transport them from other states and even from other countries in order to have puppies on hand for adoption.

The shortage finds confirmation here:
I live in the Northeast, and (as you know) there's a real puppy shortage due to the high spay/neuter rates. A couple of my neighbors foster dogs here on the final step of their journey from the South to new homes, and it's cool to hear from someone on an earlier leg of the trip.
Not to make light of something so serious, but the puppy shortage is said to be so severe that even Glenn Reynolds might be affected:
What with the national puppy shortage, I figured even Evil Glenn is living lean nowadays.
This trend may worsen, for I also read that Knoxville, Tennessee is exporting what few puppies it has to Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
The spay/neuter program in Milwaukee has been so successful, says Darnell, that the city is experiencing a puppy shortage. The center has responded to this need by sending puppies north, which will help more of Knox County's puppies find homes.
The same phenomenon is reported happening in Virginia:
The county I live in puts excess puppies and younger dogs on trucks going North to where there is a puppy shortage.
Hey, Virginia is where Coco came from! (I guess if I'd had the right connections, I could have had her trucked up here to me instead of having to drive down there.)

And in Denver, Colorado, they don't want to admit to a puppy shortage, but they claim they need puppies in the shelters lest their clientele buy their puppies from (gasp!) private dog breeders:

While none of the Colorado groups would say there is a puppy shortage here, they do concede there is an advantage in having puppies available at shelters.

"If we don't have them, (people) will go to a pet store or a back- door breeder," said Voreaux, of the Denver Dumb Friends League.

"We want to make sure that we, the public, don't support the puppy mill industry. By having puppies here, it drives traffic. Someone may come looking for a puppy, but may go home with an older dog."

Actually, considering that Denver passed a draconian "pit bill genocide" law, they can probably get away with saying that they are "forced" to euthanize "unadoptable puppies" -- for illegal breeds are by definition unadoptable, and thus can be expected to inflate the euthanasia stats. (Especially considering the proliferation of the breed in urban areas.)

But here's the kicker for me. The situation has become severe enough that puppies (and even small dogs) are being smuggled into the United States from Mexico

Why are puppies suddenly the hottest animal commodity crossing the Mexican border, supplanting the traffic in parrots?

After a decade of rumors about an impending puppy shortage, mostly disregarded by animal advocates as breeder propaganda, the U.S. and western Europe are experiencing a puppie scarcity so severe that even some young dogs considered utterly unadoptable just a few years ago are quickly finding homes.

Breeders and brokers, like the notorious O'Neill, are finding profit in strategies that formerly would have looked like economic suicide, including deliberately breeding small mongrels and importing dogs from overseas.

With the penalty for smuggling a puppy much lower than the penalty for smuggling a parrot, while the rewards may be comparable, street dog pups in Mexican border towns are, if not scarce, at least fewer than at any time anyone remembers. As well as seeking a human "coyote" [people-smuggler] to take them into the U.S., would-be migrant workers are seeking non-human peros to sell as their grubstake for getting started in the U.S.

For two weeks preceding Christmas 2005 the Border Puppy Task Force, formed by 14 Calif-ornia animal welfare and law enforcement agencies, tried to get a sense of the size of the puppy traffic.

"Agents at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings" in southern California "ordered vehicles carrying anything with 'feathers, fleas, fur or fangs' to a separate area for more thorough inspections," reported Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat. "The searches turned up 362 puppies under 3 months old, 155 between three and six months, and 1,061 adult dogs," for a total of 1,579 animals in 1,157 vehicles.

"It's unclear exactly how many of those dogs were smuggled," Spagat continued. "It's legal to ferry dogs if they are declared at the border and they have rabies shots and health records--but Captain Aaron Reyes, director of operations at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Los Angeles County, said the 'vast majority' of those under three months were probably contraband. About half the puppies between three and six months old were likely smuggled, he said.

"Typically small breeds like poodles and Chihuahuas," Spagat wrote, "the puppies are believed to be purchased in Mexico for between $50 and $150, then sold at street corners, parking lots and flea markets in Southern California for between $300 and $1,000 each."

Puppy smuggling? From Mexico?

And we are still scolded about a dog overpopulation crisis and forced to cut our dog's nuts off or face criminal penalties in many communities?

Yes, I'm sorry, I do hold a grudge. I really do. I can't tell you the number of times I was scolded by moral fashionistas who were offended by my old dog Puff's swinging testicles. Never mind that he was never bred, and never let to roam. I was held morally responsible -- in the most irrational manner -- for the fact that "irresponsible" people allowed their dogs to breed with other dogs.

And now it turns out that not enough of them actually did breed, or else there wouldn't be a puppy shortage.

Does this puppy shortage mean that dog breeders will stop being hounded as never before and rapidly being transformed into a criminal underclass?

I think not. That's because the moral fashionistas are stronger than ever, and want to pass more ordinances like this one in Camden, New Jersey is typical:

It is illegal to possess any dog or cat older than 6 months that is not spayed or neutered.

If breeding occurs, the entire litter may be seized by animal control after weaning. The mother animal must be spayed within 10 weeks after birth of the litter.

I think it's obvious why they want to seize the litter, and I think it's related to the maintenance of the myth of "dog overpopulation." The animal bureaucrats simply want power over all animals.

The animal rights activists, though (the real driving force behind this nonsense) are a different story. Ordinary people tend to forget that their ultimate goal is the eradication of pets, including dogs and cats. The criminalization of breeding is just a step in that direction.

It must be remembered that animal rights activists do not use the term "dog overpopulation" in the same way as ordinary people might. As long as a single domesticated dog is living with a human, that is one dog too many. To them, "dog overpopulation" would mean the existence of any dogs at all except naturally wild dogs. Likewise, the elephant activists think one elephant in a zoo is one too many.

But try going to a fashionable cocktail party and pointing that there is no dog overpopulation problem and that hence you refuse to "fix" your dog. I can't think of a better example of "What You Can't Say":

When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.

The prohibition will be strongest when the group is nervous.

I can hardly blame this group for being nervous. Who wants to be told they've cut their best friend's nuts off because of a fashionable canard?

(Fortunately for me, Coco's ovaries don't dangle when she walks down the street. But when she was in heat last month, she caused me to commit thought crimes.)

posted by Eric on 03.26.07 at 05:38 PM










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