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”.
If that example is indeed true -humans are innately inhumane- then, I suppose simply accepting the malicious, vindictive tendencies of many people in the fancy would suffice. However, when so often we read and hear statements from our more experienced predecessors in the breed about how the ‘newbies’, ‘novice’, and ‘newcomers’ lack respect, think they know-it-all, and are systematically dismantling the breed; while at the same time reading and hearing statements from new folks about how the veterans are too controlling, provide poor, if any, mentorship, and have unrealistic expectations,… I cannot help but wonder if some of the conflict isn’t more so related to a lack of common courtesy and basic ‘people’ skills (not dog skills). That would be a pretty simplistic theory, but it seems to include some possible contributing factors, nonetheless.
Other factors could include competition and money. Since there are varying degrees of competition associated with showing and breeding dogs, it’s understandable (though not professional) that some people would be ‘out to get’ one another. And along with showing and breeding, and ultimately selling dogs, there is a money component. No matter how much people would like to romanticize the whole process, there’s business involved. Is that reason enough for people to, in turn, being to act comparably to a pack of wolves- growling, hair-raising, posturing, asserting, all trying to be ‘top-dog’?
So, what becomes the ‘fuel’ for all of the cruel and cutthroat exchanges that occur in the Siberian Community? People would never admit that it is because they want to win, be the best vicariously through their dogs, or make money, (assuming that is truly part of the problem), but they use other tools such as slander, lying, speculating, and bashing other people and their dogs, irregardless.
My nickname for the Siberian Community is ‘The Mob’. Not the organized crime outfit ‘mob’, but ‘a large disorderly crowd’. Many mob judgments of other breeders are based on the gossip that circulates, and ultimately the crowd becomes an ‘angry mob’. I believe that Siberian Community (Mob) is disorderly because although there are guidelines for ethical breeding standards, they are not clearly defined, and they are not monitored in a concise manner.
The Siberian Husky Club of America outlines their breeding standards and Code of Ethics here.
With all that technology has to offer, we can check for hip screenings and eye screenings online. However, there are many other aspects of what the fancy seems to consider to be reputable breeding practices that are not fully addressed there in the SHCA guidelines, and it is within those vague areas, and even some of the more apparent areas, that members find additional ‘fuel’ for the fires created.
For example, the SHCA does not outline how many dogs a person can own to be considered reputable or not reputable. There is no specific criteria on what constitutes having too many litters in any given year, or any given time span, for that matter. At the same time, Breeder Awards are given for those who produce the most champions. Although that may not necessarily require that a person has to produce more puppies in order to increase the odds of producing more champions, statistically speaking, it sure helps. Many people will argue that if a person has been involved in the breed for less than 10 years, then they have no business actually having a litter. But, there are no time frames delineated that outline when someone is ‘worthy’ of producing puppies, nor what steps they must have gone through in order to learn how to do so correctly and safely.
As a result, the Mob (and its batch of rumors and gossip) become the ‘police force’ for determining whether or not someone’s actions are acceptable. A sense of fear is generated by this system, and causes people to be unwilling to discuss the important issues in the breed, such as the health and backgrounds of their dogs! How many breeders, in addition to posting their wins, also provide information on dogs that don’t pass their eye or thyroid exams? Very few! Because the moment you do, someone will generalize that and turn it into ‘all of so-n-so’s dogs are affected’!
I can go on… but the point is that although some of these issues would be difficult to define based on the large number of variables that come into play, without a more specific guideline, the door is open for a wide range of interpretations, and ultimately an avenue for people to point fingers, and a double standard.
By a double standard, I mean that, many people will accept certain behaviors from some breeders and not others, based upon their length of time in the breed, or number of champions bred. For example, in some people’s eyes, it’s okay for a breeder to personally maintain 50-100 adults, have 5 litters on the ground at all times, and sell dogs to people with little or no screening because they’ve been doing it for 20-30 years, and have produced 100’s of champions. On the other hand, in some people’s eyes, it’s not okay for a breeder to maintain, for example, 18 adults, and have 5 litters on the ground one time, in an effort to pay for good quality dog food, health screenings and veterinary care, etc. but they would still buy a dog from the first breeder – for the name maybe, or maybe for the 100’s of champions produced – who knows. The point is, you can have someone criticize one breeder, but overlook it with another.
Other people are far more conservative and believe that no breeder should have more than 1-2 litters per year; whereas other breeders may think it’s okay to test breed a dog at a young age to see if they can produce well before spending a lot of money to finish him/her. And, I know but one or two breeders who claim to have never had an accidental breeding.
The bottom line is that there are many different breeders who have very different practices. Either the ‘Mob’ needs to understand these differences, or the overseeing bodies need to more clearly define the acceptability of the differences. There isn’t much consistency with respect to what the ‘police force’ will and will not tolerate, and from whom, but one thing is certain, and that is that the Mob loves to find a ‘flavor of the week’ – someone that they can all target.
I have personally been chastised and called a ‘puppy mill’ by a breeder who, during my last visit to his/her kennel, was busy selling a dog for $14,000, had 5-6 litters in their puppy room in crates with the mothers, and 3 litters in the indoor/outdoor runs outside. Granted, the 50 some adults they had were well maintained compared to many of the other breeders I had visited. And that works for that person. But, I guess that’s where the different interpretations of what constitutes a reputable breeder vs. a puppy mill become more influential. So, it happens… And, it is really tiring to follow the Mob, and whatever ‘bandwagon of the month’ it is on. It is even more disheartening when people will pass judgement on another without researching the facts, and looking at the humane side of what happens in the lives of people from time to time.
If I ever get the opportunity, I’d like to research other breeds to see if they have as much going on with the politics. I’d also like to research books on dog buying and see if any outline a scoring rubric that can be adapted for Siberians. For example, 0 points if no OFA is done, 3 points if an OFA is done, and 5 points if an OFA is completed on a permanently identified dog (microchip or tattoo). If anyone reading this can direct me to such resources, I would be obliged!
At one point, some years ago, I had tried to shed some light on the differences, and developed an educational website called www.SiberianHuskyPups.com… But it didn’t delve into the topic as thoroughly as I would’ve liked, simply because people don’t want to read lengthy, verbose text.
With that in mind, I will close with both warnings and hopes for any ‘newcomer’ to the breed:
Be prepared to encounter people who will …
- Tell you that their dogs are the only ‘good’ dogs (kennel blindness)
- Stand next to you ringside and make negative comments about your most prized puppy
- Tell you not to talk to someone else if you expect to be on good terms with them
- Expect you to be independently wealthy and campaign/show dogs not ready to win
- Judge you before they know you
My hope is that after reading this, …
- You will personally visit someone’s home and their kennel before passing a judgment.
- Then, visit at least 5 other breeders, and see if your judgment changes.
- If you must speak about another breeder, make your statements objective, not subjective.
- Just because you hear something from 5 other breeders, do not automatically assume it is true.
- You will become a positive influence to the Siberian Community and not just another member of the Mob.
The views that are expressed above are based upon my experiences, and are simply my opinions. The intent is to outline some of the negative experiences I’ve had associated with involvement in dog showing and breeding, and begin to evaluate possible solutions. Since I stongly believe that being actively involved in some activity with your dogs (other than just breeding) is an essential component of reputable breeding practices, I’m not suggesting that people should avoid getting involved in showing; however, I am attempting to give readers a general idea of what they may encounter or experience in the dog show scene. Again, I don’t want to discourage anyone from canine exhibition, moreso provide realistic expectations about what may occur so that nobody ends up being as surprised as I was.