Questions and Topics

Have a question? Want to read about a certain topic? Send an e-mail to:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pitbulls...This ACO's Perspective

Pit bulls get a lot of press. Some good but mostly bad. Are they really the evil dogs that they are perceived to be? This ACO thinks not.
One of the many questions that I get asked as an ACO is, "Aren't you afraid of pit bulls?" First of all, if any dog really scared me I wouldn't be doing this job. To me that is such a silly question. You want to know what dog actually makes me grit my teeth? Pomeranians! Yes, those cute fluffy little buggers are evil! At least 90% of the ones I have come across. A very close second is the Chihuahua. These little dogs are like land piranhas! You can't catch the ones that are loose and running, and the aggressive ones are out to get you with their sharp tiny little teeth and little dog complex. To me these little dogs are a nightmare. I would rather take on two aggressive pit bulls over trying to catch one of these little buggers.
But I'm getting a little off track here.
No, I'm not afraid of pit bulls, or any of the bully breeds. As a matter of fact, most of the pitties I pick up are some of the goofiest dogs. Including the "aggressive" ones. Almost all of the "aggressive dog" calls we get are reported as being pit bulls. About one quarter of these calls turn out to be breeds other than any bully breed, one quarter are actually aggressive pit bulls or some bully breed, and the remaining half are non-aggressive pit bulls or bully breeds. These pitties are friendly, silly, affectionate attention hogs. I've gone out on calls that the cops are hiding behind their car doors, have weapons ready, or won't even get out of the car. I call "puppy puppy puppy!" and pat my leg and they come wiggle wagging over and readily accept my little blue leash around their necks. A few have come charging towards me but their body language shows me it's not aggressive, and by the time they get to me they are wiggle wagging.
Of the aggressive pit bulls, I would have to say in their defense, most are terrified and this is their only way of defending themselves. Think of it this way, he's basically saying to himself, " I'm scared but I'm not gonna show them that! I will be pretend to be strong so they won't know I'm scared and they will leave me alone!" Then we have the few that are just bad dogs. It is debatable if they are "made" this way by people, or they are just not right in the head. And it's these dogs that get all the press. I know people will argue that all pit bulls are like this, but it's just not true. I see many many MANY pit bulls daily and honestly, the majority of them are good dogs.
But why do we see so many pit bulls? Why are there so many in the shelters? And why do we hear so many news stories about them? It's a matter of population. What many people don't understand is that most dogs have an average of 3-6 puppies in a litter. A few breeds have slightly more. But pit bulls and Labradors have average litters of 10-15 puppies per litter. So if Joe-Shmoe has a intact (unaltered/unfixed) male pit bull and lets say two female pit bulls. Female dogs typically go into heat every 5-6 months and often females who live together will be on the same heat cycle or relatively close. Joe's dogs could be producing up to 20-30 puppies ever 5-6 months. And Joe thinks that he is going to make tons of money producing all these puppies to sell to all the Mr.Toughguys and little Thugs. He's not. Joe's going to get stuck caring for more puppies than he can sell and that is a burden. It also proves to hit him in the wallet. So puppies go unvaccinated, and Joe dumps the remaining ones he can't sell at a shelter or gives them away to anyone who will take them.
Pit bull puppies, like all puppies are adorable! Mr. Toughguy get one or two for himself and his girlfriend. Girlfriend oooh and awww at her new "baby". Until it gets to be about 4 months old and is chewing her Ghettorific designer shoes and anything else it can get it's teeth on. And it keeps pottying in the house! So her "baby" get the boot outside. Oh they occasionally play with him, but that gets fewer and further between. They have lives to live and things to do and well puppy is just so hyper and jumps all over them, starved for attention and interaction. Play time gets less and less, until finally the only time puppy sees them is when they throw him his food.
By now puppy, who has never been to a vet and still has all his male parts is becoming a young testosterone building Male Dog. He's stuck in his backyard, but he smells things and hears things on the outside. In his boredom he has tore up just about everything he can in the backyard, now he's working on the fence boards.
By the way, pit bulls are intelligent dogs. And being stuck in a yard for months and months with nothing to do will make any dog nuts! Imagine being locked in a room for months with nothing to do.
Now Male Dog is about 8 months to 12 months old. He's bored, he's lonely and he hears and smells so much on the outside world. He finally breaks free of his prison and is FREE FREE FREE!!! He can run with wild abandonment! He sees cats for the first time other that on the top of the fence looking down on him. The chase is on. Or he sees people, big or little he doesn't care and in his excitement he is perceived as being aggressive. Someone calls the cops or animal control. Aggressive pit bull chasing cats and trying to attack people.
He ends up at the shelter.
This is the story a thousand times over all over the country.
Female Dog has it no better. Little Thugs think they are gonna make some money themselves by breeding their girl dog. As soon as she is 6 months, still a baby herself, they find the biggest baddest Male Dog to breed her. They are going to make Bad Puppies and Mad Money. Of coarse when Baby Girl produces her 10-12 puppies all their thuggy friends buy them up. So wow they made some money. Six months later they do it again, but now everyone they know already has dogs so they are harder to sell, and some of their thuggy friends are breeding their 6 month old baby girls.
Baby Girl by 2 years old has produced 4 litters of 10-15 puppies. She's thin, tired and used up. If she doesn't escape her life of mass production, she is dumped somewhere.
Trying to do the math on this will make your head explode.
I'm not making this up.  This is what I see every day. Shelter workers all over see this every day. And these are just three examples of many of how pit bulls end up at the shelter.
The typical age of a pit bull at the shelter is from 6 months to 2 years old. Most hit by car dogs are intact males. I don't need to look up statistics. I get a up close personal view every day.
The most truly aggressive pit bulls that I have come across have been taught to be that way by their owners. Encouraged to be aggressive to other animals. Their owners think it's funny to make people jump by "pretending" to sic their dog on them. The dog doesn't know any better he just wants to please his owner and thinks that this is acceptable behavior.  The other truly aggressive ones are not right in the head, bad breeding perhaps. A intact male or female puppy that reaches maturity and is still around intact mom or dad can do bad genetic things. And if there is two or more of these young bored pit bulls, yes you are going to have that deep recessed "pack" mentality surface. And that definitely will be on the news.
There is some good news. Many pitbulls and bully breeds are adopted out of shelters and from rescues. In our area there are no breed restrictions, and pitties are just like every other dog.  Almost all of them go on to lead wonderful adventure filled lives with loving families that they are actually a part of.
The bad news is, we still cannot keep up with the Joe-Shmoes, Mr. Toughguys, Girlfriends and little Thugs. Until we do, there will always be Bad News For Pitbulls.

Want to learn more about Pitbulls, Bully Breeds and ways to help them?

Please check out this wonderful Pitbull Rescue and Advocacy in our Area

And please, come visit some of the wonderful Pitties in our shelter,  or your local shelter.
Maybe YOU can be thier happy ending?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Little Thing Called A Microchip

With all the technological advances in the past decade along came a little thing in the pet world called the Microchip or "chip". This little device is only about the size of a grain of rice, yet it could mean the difference between having your lost pet returned safely to your home or never seeing you pet again.
Despite what rumors and myths say about a microchip, it cannot "track" your pet. It does not have GPS or any type of remote locating/tracking system. It does not send out radio waves, signals or frequencies to remote locations.  And, no, it doesn't store you or your pets personal information. So your identity cannot be stolen from it. Nor can your information be changed on the chip itself. The only information that is on the chip is an individual single code or number. The only way to get that number is by scanning it with a special hand held scanning device or "scanner". These devices are very expensive and not readily available to the general public. However just about every Veterinary hospital and shelter has them. The scanner has to be waved over the pet less than an inch from the body in order for the scanner to "read" the number stored on the chip. Once the chip number comes up onto the scanner, the person has to copy down the number, then the search begins.

Chips are harmless to the pet once they are properly inserted. How they are inserted depends on the brand, but most come installed in a sterile needle and inserted under the skin in between the shoulder blades of the pet. This is done quickly and relatively painlessly, depending on the animal. Just like people, some animals are more sensitive than others. Chips can be tricky little buggers and on occasion will "travel" to another location under the skin. that is why when we scan an animal we do a full body sweep to try to locate a chip. Usually when they travel it has moves to the side of the shoulder or down the back a little ways. This doesn't hurt the animal. Aside from the initial insertion, the chip has not been known to cause any pain. The chip also cannot be felt except by some dogs or cats with thin skin and very little body fat. Chips also cannot be easily removed. A Veterinarian would have to do the procedure as a surgery and I don't know of any who would unless it was endangering the animal's life.
So how does the microchip work in returning a pet to it's owner? In the field, we usually have scanners on our trucks. So we can scan animals at the time we pick them up. Once we get the number we call the microchip company. This is where we have our fingers crossed. Is the chip registered and is the owner information current. This is the biggest problem we have with chips. The owners get the animal microchip but fail to register thier information with the company or verify that thier information is current. Or they have moved or changed thier number, failing to update the information. If this happens we are at a dead end. The animal will be impounded.
Now if the chip information is correct we will try to make contact with you by phone first. And if your address is close to the found location we will try to return your dog to your house. If the pet cannot be returned to the owner in the field, we will leave a notice or a phone message telling you where your pet can be located.
If you find a pet, you can take it to a Veterinary hospital or shelter and have the pet scanned. The vet hospital can call the chip company and obtain the owner information. They then will also call the owner and try to get the pet back home. The goal is to return the pet to it's owner.
Microchips are available through your vet, through various mobile clinics and at all animal shelters. Animal Shelters are actually required to microchip any pet that is adopted from them.
When you get your pet microchipped, make sure you understand about registering your pet. Often times people automatically assume that the registration is done for them at the time of the microchipping. This is not always the case and this often leads those of us trying to locate owners to deadends.
If your pet is microchipped please make sure that the information is correctly registered with the microchip company. If your unsure what company handles your pet's registration, or you don't have the registration information any long let alone know your pet's chip number, you can visit your vet or local shelter for a quick scan. They can let you know what company your pet's chip is registered to. You can find most of the companies online and often you can update your information online.
Recently a cat was returned to it's owner, after being missing 8 years! Another story was a local dog was brought to a shelter two states away and re-united with it's owner. Microchips work, especially if they always have current information.  

Just a few of the Microchip Companies and registries: 

Freepetchip: (this is a new FREE chip registry)