Friday, January 17, 2014

BUYER BEWARE
or The Perils of Shopping for Your Lap Dog on Your Laptop
By Luan Egan

In the past few years, in an effort to curb puppy mills, Cities like Toronto have enacted laws prohibiting the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores, with the exception of adoptions through local Humane Societies, Rescues, and Animal Shelters. While this may reduce the number of impulse purchases by pet owners, it does not address the other routes that mills use to sell to the unsuspecting public.

Internet sales are rapidly becoming the tool of choice for both sellers and buyers, and you can be assured that the buyers get no closer to the real source of their purchase through a slick website than they did at the pet stores. Mills and brokers have simply changed their game, and in many cases use deception and falsehoods to create the impression that the buyer is purchasing a quality puppy born and raised in a loving home, one where the true parents are nowhere to be found.

What is of more concern to the Mills are tightening and enforcement of Kennel Licensing Regulations. For far too long, rural puppy mills have been treated as similar to agricultural farm producers, and there has been strong opposition to changes that would reflect the fact that the majority of dogs being produced in the mills are marketed as and intended to be family pets, not family dinner (don't get me started on the ongoing deterioration of humane food production). Proper nutrition, medical care, environment, critical socialization with mother and littermates until 8-9 weeks of age, a clean and comfortable temperature controlled living environment, all of this is of far more importance than current regulations address, and those who are pushing for improvements get labeled and scorned as "Animal Rights Activists", as was evidenced in 2013 in Stratford, Ontario when Amish Bishop Menno Streicher and his wife Viola ended up before the Courts when their farm’s commercial dog breeding operation was found to fail inspection or meet minimum standards. Dogs were kept in unheated, poorly ventilated conditions, regardless of breed. Injuries were not properly treated. When they were unable to remedy the issues, their kennel license was revoked and they were ordered to remove the dogs. Charges were laid by both the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement and the OSPCA. In a plea bargain, Viola Streicher pled guilty to the charges, in exchange for withdrawal of charges against her husband the Bishop.

Quaint as it may be, the Amish and Mennonite lifestyle simply is not able to support large scale farming of dogs in a humane and responsible manner that meets the complex emotional and physical needs of animals destined to be furry family members. No electricity, no heat or fans, limited natural light, minimal veterinary care {usually only addressing legal requirement for the pups to be sold). Sick or injured animals are killed rather than incurring the costs of proper Veterinary care. Yet the practice continues, and these proponents of a simpler life employ “outsiders” to take care of the advertising and sales of their merchandise, using the modern and up to date methods that they themselves shun.

Farming of dogs is not just a practice of Amish and Mennonite communities. The City of Vaughan just above Toronto is currently being asked to enact their own law banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores. There is concern about the growing number of commercial breeding operations in and around the GTA.

 As a licensed (boarding) kennel owner in the region I can tell you that Georgina, at the north end of York Region, is in the process of making substantial changes to their Kennel Licensing Regulations, including proposing a limit to the number of dogs a breeding kennel is allowed to have on each licensed premises. There are some in our community who are not at all happy about that. People with money, people with influence, people who are making big bucks breeding dogs. People who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. The proposed changes should be coming before Georgina Town Council very soon to be reviewed and voted on.

The Canadian Kennel Club cannot be relied on to inspect and investigate all their members. Even if a breeder you contact is a registered member, they simply do not have the staff to effectively inspect and enforce their code of conduct. There is no effective self-policing of the industry, much of which remains deeply hidden from public view.

Effective regulations must be in place through government, starting at the Municipal level for business inspections and licensing, moving to the Provincial and Federal levels for Animal Welfare and Health and Safety. The levels must work together to be effective.

There are some who will argue that dogs do not feel pain, do not have complex emotions, can handle living in extreme conditions. The more dogs are studied and their behaviour researched, the more people are coming to realize that these claims simply are not true, and dogs forced to live such lives are pretty miserable. Living in misery is very stressful. Living in such stressful conditions for prolonged periods affects health, compromises immune systems, and can literally make genetic changes that can affect offspring.

But calling for improvements in animal welfare regulations, demanding changes in licensing requirements to improve living conditions and provide better inspection and enforcement, is to risk being labeled an Activist, or a bunch of crazy loons who call their pets Furkids, and treat them like children or relationship substitutes. Not one who should be taken seriously. Quite frankly, this tactic is getting old.

As Arlo Guthrie said back in the days of the peace, love and anti-war Sixties, if you speak out alone (or sing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant) they say you are crazy. But when people start speaking out in groups with the same message, and those groups become movements, they get noticed. When those movements demand change, they will attract attention. When they attract attention, they will be ridiculed and discredited. When they persist, they start to change perceptions. Years later, when what they were calling for is considered acceptable, people will wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.

This is an election year. A good time to start letting your elected officials know that this is an issue that voters care about. If you care about where you get your next pet, you need to care about having regulations in place to govern the breeding industry properly. As a consumer, you can’t get enforced what they don’t regulate. So don’t be afraid to be called an Activist!

Friday, April 19, 2013

It is mid-April 2013 at Roverdale and while the temperatures are fluctuating wildly, one things is constant - mud! I am not a great fan of the season of snow and ice, but one thing I do like about Winter weather, and I mean REAL Winter weather, is hard, frozen ground. Summer is fine, as rain sinks into the earth sooner or later, the sun reappears, and with it warmth. But Spring is still cold, the earth is not yet so thirsty, and muddy puddles are everywhere. Times like this I feel that I should call the place Camp-Mop-A-Lot. People look at me askance at the supermarket checkout aisle at I purchase multiple large packages of jumbo paper towels and stock up on Sunlight laundry soap. The resident ducks however, are in heaven. They are showing their appreciation by laying lots of eggs. The Soup Sisters are just a prolific, and I am collecting on average five eggs a day, both green (duck) and brown (hen). That adds up over a week! So if I ask you if you would like some eggs to take home with you, I am not just being nice, you are doing me a big favor! I have a cool Rooster. Banty is a pretty even-tempered sort of guy, who watches over his girls. But he shows his true worth when a threat presents itself! Three time now he has risked his life to keep his girls safe from predators, and once got his butt chewed off (literally) by the neighbour's adolescent Saint Bernard when his girls led him astray through the fence. City Raccoons are fat and move fairly slowly, and their hunting is generally limited to working the lids off garbage cans. Rural Raccoons are a completely different species. Lean and predatory, they can run like greyhounds when the need arises. They kill poultry. Also in the neighborhood are Weasels, Fox, Coyote, even Cougar, Wolves and Black Bear. They are all hungry! Now that the weather is improving I let the poultry out for a day of wandering the front of the property, foraging, sunning themselves, enjoying nature and a natural life. But the natural life also includes being seen as a snack, and they all know enough to troop back into the poultry pen when the sun sets, and await my arrival to close the gate. It's a busy upcoming week at Roverdale - visitors include 2 Great Danes, Two Mastiffs, Two Golden Retrievers, a Collie, an English Bulldog, a Newfoundland mix, and Tim, a former foster dog returning for a few days boarding. Next weekend includes a trip to Toronto on Saturday for the Nicole Wild Seminar on fearful and fear-aggressive dogs. For more information on Nicole and the topics being addressed on both Saturday and Sunday, visit the website at www.speakingofdogs.com and click on Seminars. There are still a few seats available!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Dog Blog

A Story of Rescue, in Rhyme Six little Border Collies, needing a home.
Lived for a year in a pen on their own.
Six little Border Collies, none had a name
Scared of strange people, shy and untamed

Six little Border Collies, gosh what a change!
Learning to trust, and to know their new names
Six little Border Collies, now there are five
One has a home and a fresh start on life (yay!)

Five little Border Collies, dancing and gay
Happy to greet me at the start of each day
Five little Border Collies now sleep in the house
Each has a crate but all love the couch!

Five little Border Collies, start life anew
Can one of these Border Collies share it with you?

MORE INFORMATION:

All dogs are very sweet and affectionate but shy of strangers and new situations. They need patient homes who will understand that they need to go through puppy training and socialization before they can be expected to become dogs. All are sleeping in their crates and are partially housebroken. So much is new for them, but they are adapting wonderfully. None of them display any herding behaviour or strong chase drive.

MALES: NOP, DELL and MOSS
The males are 14 month all have been neutered. Nop and Dell are red tri smooth (short) coats; Moss is a black and white rough coat

FEMALES: SASS and CADY
The females are 15 month and have been spayed. Sass and Cady are black/white with rough (longer) coats

ALL DOGS have had their veterinary check up, are fully vaccinated and it should be noted that are much smaller than an average border collie as none of them weigh over 28 pounds

For more information on these needy dogs please contact Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue at website www.bcrescue.info or call 905 473-9050.

The Dog Blog

Welcome to my dog blog. I operate Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue from my home and dog boarding business, Roverdale.

My first post is a tribute to Molly the Collie, the dog who put me on this path.
Molly came to me in the Spring of 1996. She was a 5.5 month old Border Collie pup, who had been left with my Vet by her elderly owner. She had been given to understand that Border Collies and Shelties were the same breed and could not handle her needs and her energy. I took her home for the weekend as I hated to see her in a cage at the Vet. I lived on the Boardwalk in the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood so I envisioned long rambling walks and meeting new doggy friends, with worries no greater than making sure I had enough poop bags in my pocket. But I quickly learned that Molly had a lot of issues - she was touch-sensitive, noise sensitive, fear-aggressive, and chased everything that moved. Cars, joggers, roller bladers, she choked herself constantly flinging herself at them. I knew nothing about the breed and their herding instincts. But I was about to learn! What I saw an intense little dog that had been let down by everyone in her life up to that point.

Come Monday morning I took her back to my Vet - to ask if I could keep her.

The first two years were exhausting. We were both on such a huge learning curve. I met with her original owner. The "breeder" had only cared about the exchange of money. Molly was a basket case. She had never been walked on leash, and was not let out into the back yard because of fears she would wreck the garden. She was kept in a crate in the kitchen, and allowed out to eliminate on newspaper. For exercise the old lady bounced a ball off the fridge for her to play with. Every so often the grandchildren came by and dragged her out of her crate to "play". By the time she came to me she thought all children were spawn of the devil.
I tracked down her "breeder" and was appalled. I contacted Border Collie Rescue as I wanted to know what could be done about such people. The reply was disheartening - our weak Municipal regulations and Animal Welfare laws allow people like her to use dogs as non-stop commercial breeding machines. But I saw that there were ways that I could help the Rescue and other misunderstood dogs like Molly and I started to get involved. Initially I ensured that all the foster dogs were altered prior to adoption. I booked the foster dogs into the Municipal low cost Spay/Neuter Clinic and cared for them until they could be returned to their foster homes. My first stab at fostering a dog was highly successful - she was with me for only five days before I found her a home. "Piece of cake" I thought smugly. I was soon humbled.
In the meantime, Molly and I were a work in progress. She was a handful in obedience class. For a while I had to muzzle her due to concerns she would escalate into a fear-biter (she had torn clothes). I took her with me just about everywhere I went, which included downtown office buildings. I encouraged my clients to give her treats and instructed them on how to pet her under the chin so she would not be intimidated. She was still fear aggressive with strangers. The kid issue was my biggest concern. I contacted Dr. Pamela Reid for help with behavioural problems. She was great. She would call me to say "I'm meeting a client from 3 - 4pm, meet me afterwards and we'll work with Molly". Her initial consultation fee was high, but she gave us a lot of her time and wisdom over the next six months and never asked for another cent. She encouraged us to enroll in Flyball Classes with the team she was racing with. Everyone had been informed and did as asked, and Molly started to relax and enjoy it. We eventually joined a Flyball Team and started learning Agility. I also took her out to one of my new Rescue friend's farm and we got to learn about sheep herding.
Eventually, two more dogs joined my household; Christie, a dumped mixed breed dog, and Meg, another misunderstood Border Collie pup. I worked at training them while still fostering rescued Border Collies. I sold my Beaches apartment and bought a detached house with a yard. I started to look longingly at out of town real estate listings and explore zoning and things foreign to a life-long City Dweller, like wells and septic systems. As my focus changed, so did my employment. Eventually I gave up my Process Serving business and started a new one as a Professional Dog Walker. Four years later I found a run down property for sale zoned as a licensed dog boarding kennel. It was a reasonable commute from Toronto and promised to be more accessible once Hwy 404 was extended further north. In 2008, I bought it and started fixing it up, and Roverdale Doggie B&B was born.

Molly was my copilot through all these changes. She had overcome her bad beginnings and had transformed into an awesome little Border Collie. We were even able to create positive associations that got her past her initial dislike of children, and she became a Therapy Dog at age 8.

But the trouble with loving dogs is that you start off caring and nurturing a childlike creature, and end up being caregiver to an elderly, querulous companion, one who often as not doesn't even recognize you. I could not imagine life without Molly. But at age 12 her cataracts put a stop to even fun agility - her depth perception was affected. At age 14 she was exhibiting neurological symptoms that affected her balance. The Vet diagnosed Canine Vestibular Syndrome, and I would find her spreadeagled on the floor having attacks of vertigo. I often had to carry her outside. I didn't mind cleaning her up after accidents, and she would recover and didn't seem to be in pain. She was just quietly fading away. She went for regular Vet checkups and bloodwork came back normal each time. I was not going to let her go until she decided it was time.

That time came in October 2010, just shy of Molly's 15th birthday. At the start of the Thanksgiving weekend she stopped eating and drinking. After five days I was certain that her time had come. Then we had a late bout of mild sunny weather and she perked right up. She started eating and drinking and spent the days wandering about on the grass out front, and sleeping in sunny spots. Then the weather turned and became cloudy and cold, and the oncoming Winter made it's presence known. As it did, she died.

During that last sunny period, I wrote the tribute below to the dog who changed my life in so many ways. Molly, you will be with me in my heart, in my soul, forever.

TWILIGHT
by Luan Egan

Fall is upon us. Leaves flash crimson, then drop to nourish new life.
In the twilight of an old dog’s day, I sit beside her feeble form.
I watch her dream of balls and sheep.
I reflect on what has gone before, how lucky I was that she found me.
She changed my life.
The start of this journey, full of vibrant energy and enthusiasm.
Exploring life and new adventures, all the things we worked through, together.

Soon, too soon she will be lost to my touch, as she moves beyond my existence,
forever into the realm of dreams.
Soon, too soon I will have only my memories, to comfort me, to remind me of how special she is, what she means to me.

The time is approaching, dear friend, to say goodbye. That’ll Do, one last time.

Until we meet again in that realm of dreams, Dog of my heart,
Watch for me.