Politics…The Root of All Evil
Throughout my experience in purebred dogs, I have been vexed by three issues
By politics, I am referring not to our next presidential candidate, nor to the tendencies of some judges to let the person on the end of the lead influence their selections (rather than the dog). No, by ‘politics’, I mean the gossip, peer pressures, and less-than-congenial activities demonstrated by many folks in the fancy; in ANY fancy, from what I understand. Some time ago, I had written “Politics – The Inhumane Treatment of Humans” (see site menu, left) to partially address the subject – or at least my view of it. I received a lot of responses from folks who happened to review it, most of which indicated that others were having the same experiences. Confirming…but sad, nonetheless. In analyzing the two other concepts that have troubled me over the years (technology and health), I noticed a connection between them, and those ‘politics’, and decided it might be interesting to throw out the correlation and see if the response is, again, the same.
The Inhumane Treatment of Humans
My parents and grandparents had bred dogs and shown horses long before I was even a glimmer. So, by the time I had gotten my first Siberian in 1996, along with a more formal introduction to the dog show ‘world’, I had already been exposed to many of the particulars. Subsequently, I wasn’t overly concerned by the warnings from many members of the Siberian Community saying, “You’d better have thick skin if you want to get involved!”… Well, that was an understatement! A more accurate warning would’ve been “You’d better have at least a 10 inch thick layer of callous if you want to get involved!”
“Politics” are inherent to many aspects of life beyond that of government.
Politics: The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.
Play Politics: Act for personal or political gain rather than principle, as in I don’t think this judge is fair…he’s playing politics.
With that information in mind, some ‘behind the scenes’ activity was to be expected. What I was not prepared for, however, was just how down-right MEAN some people in the Siberian Community can be!
I selected the titled above, the Inhumane Treatment of Humans, because, to this day, it still amazes me how folks who so determinedly advocate for proper treatment of four-leggeds can, at the same time, be as equally determined to undermine the same efforts of anyone who does not subscribe to their politics. I had to laugh when I looked up the definition of ‘inhumane’, as the example in the definition briefly addressed some of my amazement and ultimate discontent:
adj: lacking and reflecting lack of pity or compassion; “humans are innately inhumane; this explains much of the misery and suffering in the world”.
Before becoming frustrated and even a little bitter about the ‘politics’ associated with breeding and exhibiting dogs, I was eager, and probably a bit over-zealous, in my endeavor to learn and absorb every possible piece of information I could. The internet, and all it had to offer, was an incredible tool for allowing me to gain insight and familiarity with many aspects of breeding, exhibiting, and more. There were websites displaying top-winning dogs, club information, show entries, health and veterinary tips, and even online chat lists where people could communally address issues, provide show results, and discuss related topics. I thought, “What an excellent source of educational material for members of the fancy – both young and old!” How lucky I felt to be able to learn without the constraints of distance and time that must have plagued the more seasoned folks out there!
One thing that was particularly troubling to me, however, was that as I began to learn the differences between reputable breeding verses backyard breeders and puppy mills, I noticed that when I would perform a ‘search’ on every major search engine (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.), the results would come back displaying links to websites for breeders who did not indicate that they used all of those reputable breeding practices. The entire first page or two of results contained either ‘dog-for-sale’ sites that did not require advertisers to demonstrate reputability, or alternatively, websites for breeders who did not perform health background screenings, did not show or do anything with their dogs (other than just breed them), and often sold to potential homes on a first-come, first-served basis.
As I started researching how these ‘breeders’ were able to rank so highly in the search engine results, I found that getting the top spots was not necessarily an easy task. A website had to be optimized, utilize the correct ‘tags’, not to mention that each search engine had different criteria by which it ranked the results. I also learned that many people in the fancy were against the ‘doggie-for-sale’ sites. They did not want to support advertisers that did not require people to adhere to ethical guidelines, and in some cases, they felt that using such sites would be a bit beneath them, in an elitist sense. As an educator, every day I see first-hand how the internet is the main tool used by today’s generation to do just about anything. It’s not going to go away. So, then why didn’t these model-breeders hold the top spots? I could understand the concept of boycotting something because a person thinks the related practices should be changed (hence why I’ve refused to join certain breed clubs when the members don’t all adhere to the ethical guidelines themselves); however, I couldn’t comprehend why people in the fancy did not feel it was important for seemingly more reputable breeders to hold those top spots on the search engine results.
If people in the public are searching for a ‘husky puppy’, and their results yield only breeders that do not adhere to reputable breeding practices, they probably won’t have anything better with which to compare. Rarely does anyone go beyond the first page or two of search results! Not to mention, as I talked with other breeders – (even those who did not have puppies on the ground at all times) – I found that they were having difficulty finding GOOD homes. At the same time, those breeders demonstrating none of the reputable breeding practices who held those top search engine listings were receiving more than 30-40 inquiries per week! So, I gave search engine listings a try, and did what I could to get our site listed. After time, I did manage to get some decent site-traffic results. I wasn’t able to attain those top spots, but through the use of some of the various internet marketing tools, I was able to get a better ranking for our site. It wasn’t cheap, but did allow me a great way of having homes to choose from when I would have litters.
Thoughts on Politics & Health
When breeders encounter a health problem, why must it be kept so hush-hush?
With any activity, it is good to reflect from time to time in an attempt to organize thoughts, evaluate outcomes, and examine possible future directions. When I look back at my experiences, both positive and negative, associated with purebred dogs, three main topics come to the forefront; politics, technology, and health. All three are related for the purpose of this ‘Health’ article in that we can use technology in a positive way to outline health concerns in the breed; however, politics will undoubtedly interfere with the process in the long run. It seems that when some breeders are informed of a potential health problem in their lines, they either ignore it or down-play it. More importantly, they may try to hide it. And why wouldn’t they? The politics are cruel and cut-throat. Even on some of the email lists, which are supposed to be ‘educational’ in nature, when some potentially worthwhile discussion begins on topics such as epilepsy or eye defects, it eventually turns into to finger-pointing.
One example of a situation I have experienced:
I purchased a puppy from a breeder/judge. Some months later, I received an email from a complete stranger, a pet-owner, telling me her story about purchasing a puppy from this breeder that was diagnosed with ectopic ureter. The pet-owner had been going online, and using search engines to find anyone with dogs from this breeder, and then informing them of her situation. My luck! It just so happened that her affected dog was a littermate to mine. The pet-owner claimed that when she picked the puppy up, the breeder’s facility was filthy and smelled horribly of urine, as well. This point also goes back to the information provided to me by a veteran in the previous article (on technology – see left column) regarding the importance of actually visiting the breeder first. I hadn’t done that, so I had no way of knowing if the pet-owner’s statements were true, or if this was just an exaggeration due to her anger surrounding the whole situation.
Needless to say, I contacted the breeder, and she was in the process of threatening the pet-owner with legal action, as the pet- owner had also created a web page (again, gotta love technology) outlining her complaints. The breeder said that she had offered to take the puppy back when it was first diagnosed, but the pet-owner refused, and now wanted the breeder to pay for an expensive surgical procedure required. Why the breeder/judge had not informed me and the owners of the other four littermates that I knew had gone to show homes, I am not sure, but I would bet it had something to do with ‘politics’. And in her defense, I believe that many other people would’ve handled it the same way.