By Christie Keith
January 10, 2009
And then I remember I’m supposed to be a journalist and thus, must do commentary using words instead of facial expressions and wild gesticulations.
I followed a link this evening to the blog of Karen Porreca, an editor and editorial staff manager for PETA. Porreca has a PETA logo on her blog, as well as a little disclaimer on her blog that her opinions might not match up with the organization’s. On at least one point, mentioned below, they’re marching in lockstep, but the distinction between the personal mindset of someone who “has been with PETA since the very beginning” and official PETA policy is duly noted.
First we learn the horrifying fact that guide dog and police dogs programs actually breed dogs specifically for those tasks. Yes, I know; shocking, isn’t it, that dogs who do very difficult, very specific tasks might be bred for those tasks? The next thing you know we’ll be selectively breeding dogs to herd sheep, guard livestock, and hunt.
It just boggles my mind that when millions of perfectly healthy, young, and trainable dogs are being put down every year in the U.S. (and thousands in the U.K.) for lack of good homes, these outfits think it’s just fine to churn out more puppies. Another canine assistance program,Â Dogs for the Deaf, achieves its goals exclusively with dogs rescued from animal shelters, so there’s no excuse for such irresponsibility.
Newsflash: the work done by hearing dogs is very different from the work done by guide dogs or police dogs. I absolutely support using shelter and rescue dogs for any form of work they are suited for, but I also support selective breeding for specific traits. That’s because my position is honest, consistent, and accepts that working dogs who are suited for the work they’re doing are happiest doing that work.
Or to put it another way, if you really want to try to get a Beagle to out-run my Borzoi, or my Borzoi to lead the blind, or a Golden Retriever to guard your home… well, good luck with that. And good luck, too, with convincing my Borzoi not to run or a Beagle not to follow his nose, or one of Gina’s retrievers not to chase that Kong out into the raging winter ocean waves. Do you honestly think there is anything you can do to force a greyhound to run? Do you think you can train a dog to be a guide dog if he doesn’t want to do the work? Have you people ever met a dog?
She goes on:
There are other unsavory aspects to these assistance-dog programs.
Other? So far she hasn’t even mentioned one.
Turns out that she’s objecting to not letting guide dog puppies sleep on the bed or snuggle on the sofa “so that they will be ready to work 24/7 at a job serving humans.” Straw man alert: I’ve known a number of guide dog training families and while they were very conscientious at making sure the puppies learned what they needed to learn, they had plenty of play and cuddle time.
She also says these dogs are being deprived “of some of their greatest pleasures in life,” such as the afore-mentioned bed-sleeping. If you’ve ever known a working dog, you’ll know what their greatest pleasure in life is, and it has nothing to do with sleeping on the bed.
Then we come to the most mind-blowing part of all:
Most dogs like having a job. But we humans only work an average of eight hours a dayâ€•why should dogs have to be on call 24/7 for years on end without a vacation? Why doesn’t anyone challenge the ethics of this notion?
I was at the library today, and there were two blind people with guide dogs there. The two humans were talking quietly (hey, it was a library) and their dogs were lying at their feet sleeping. Amazingly, that’s how my dogs live their lives of leisure, too: they catch catnaps and are always ready, totally of their own volition, to snap their heads up and do their self-assigned jobs whenever they need to.
Dogs aren’t like us; they don’t sit there hating their dead-end, soul-sucking jobs and hoping for the day they can retire to a condo in Florida and never work again. That’s just anthropomorphic nonsense. And it’s the whole problem with listening to people who know absolutely nothing about real dogs and only know about the imaginary dogs in their heads, who are amazingly very like them.
Why can’t these assistance dogs be replaced with humans who are paid for their services (by the government or by nonprofit organizations or by insurance companies)? We have nannies and we have in-home nursing careâ€•why don’t we have a service industry dedicated to helping blind, deaf, and otherwise disabled people get along? Surely, a human assistant would be infinitely more helpful than a dog simply because of the better communication and understanding. Oh, that’s rightâ€•a human assistant would have to be paid, whereas we can force a dog to do it for kibble, a kennel, and vet care. Yeah, anybody would be crazy to give up a deal like that.
And here’s where I will quote PETA’s official statement on guide and other service dogs, because they, too, believe disabled people should be aided by paid human helpers instead of dogs:
(H)umans should be relied upon for support of the disabled rather than working dogs and other animalsâ€”it is too common for animals to be exploited and abused.
Have you ever heard the word “independence”? That’s what assistance dogs give to humans. The dogs get work that they love and for which they were bred or are suited. It gives them a million times more mental stimulation and social interaction and purpose than most pet dogs will ever see, and allows them fulfill the mission that runs in their veins. And the humans, instead of having to have a person around and struggle with any feeling of helplessness or feeling like a child, have partners who never judge them and aren’t there to “take care of them,” but simply act as their eyes or ears.
And they’re not doing it for the kibble, either.
Read the rest here, then join me in the eternal question:
Why is anyone still listening to PETA?