Thursday, June 18, 2009

On culling and confiscating

Two stories I wanted to blog a bit about.

First up, Floyd County, GA and it's killing of 16 pit bulls confiscated from an alleged dog fighting operation. Why are the dogs dead? It isn't because they are particularly vicious (the shelter placed seven in rescue groups). Floyd County doesn't have space AND Floyd County prohibits the adoption of pit bulls.

Here's what Floyd County animal care and control director has to say about the law:

The number one reason we can’t adopt them out to citizens of the county is that it s a policy not to adopt out a vicious dog.

People, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot state a certain type of dog is "vicious" and then allow for the "extradition" of said dogs to rescue organizations. That isn't logical. It is one of the many reasons BSL is irksome: Lawmakers come up with an inane law based on a red herring (phenotype) as far as viciousness is concerned, then turn around and say you can make exceptions so long as x, y and z is followed. In Floyd County's case, the exception was that pit bulls could be placed in rescue, just not adopted to the public. They missed the memo on how rescue agencies adopt to the public. Either these dogs, based on their breed (according to the county) are dangerous or they are not (and can be placed). And if they are not, then there is a significant flaw in the county's designation of a phenotype as dangerous.

The killing of adoptable, healthy animals is always tragic. Which leads me to the next story in a tangential sort of way - the mass cull of 37,000+ dogs in Hanzhong, China since May 23. I would prefer slaughter as it is a much more provocative word than "cull". The dogs were clubbed to death or buried alive - pets and strays were included, no exceptions.

This type of knee-jerk reaction, while unlikely to be seen in the same scope or degree in the United States is no different than breed bans based on alleged dangerousness. Even though there are 370,000 dogs and 90% have been vaccinated, a spike of rabies infections inspired the clubbing massacre. From March until June 9, 12 people have died and 6,000 people have been "scratched or bitten". The 6,000 number is only meaningful if any of those bites/scratches develop into rabies, which we'll only find out after the incubation period.

The truth is that Hanzhong had a good deal going - they were vaccinating dogs, going door-to-door and enforcing the vaccination. They had an unprecedented 90% compliance rate and that would have gone higher with some more vaccination programmes (including rounding up and vaccinating/neutering if feasible stray dogs). Now they are killing dogs, many who may be vaccinated already, leaving open room and space for an influx of new, unvaccinated animals. Ignoring the cruelty of the clubbings and live burials, this just isn't an effective, logical or sound way to reduce the rate of rabies and may, in fact, increase the likelihood of rabies outbreaks.

I'm a fan of public safety, really I am. BSL and dog culls do not improve public safety - they create a false sense of security while killing perfectly healthy, nice animals (and criminalizing perfectly nice, law-abiding humans). That there are people who can't see that, can't see the stupidity of such laws and actions, well that is beyond me.

Now, go and hug your companion dogs and cats and whatevers. Keep them safe and protect your rights as a dog guardian/owner and their rights to be alive and treated with respect.

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