Guide dogs for the blind? PETA staffer says forget it

January 10, 2009

Sometimes I read something so absolutely insane that I just want to post the whole thing and point and say see? Do you see what I see?

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,  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 day―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.

Then this:

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 care―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 right―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 animals—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?

Filed under: pets, connected — Christie Keith @ 5:00 am

50 Comments »

  1. It seems to me that if PeTA were actually interested in training shelter dogs for assistance work, instead of relying on breeders, that they might, oh, I dunno, actually try to get some of the dogs in their own shelter into those programs. Instead of killing them. I know that’s a crazy concept, but it wouldn’t hurt them to give it a try.

    (You can find PeTA euthanization stats here.)

    Remember, small “e” for “ethical”!

    Comment by Shell — January 10, 2009 @ 6:21 am

  2. As a guide dog user myself, I can honestly say that my dog, dogs now as my “wize” guy has just retired, live lives that most pet dogs would be envious of.

    Lars, my new lab, http://www.dogflu.ca/images/lars.jpg gets to see the world with me, gets aboundless amounts of exercise “off the job,” eats a diet that is fit for a king, and is not happy unless he is pulling like a mad man in harness.

    I do think that in some cases, the public just get it in their heads that working dogs are just that, working dogs. They work all day and live lives of utter bordum.
    For example, those people at the mall who see Lars and I working together do not see him when we are home and he is off duty so to speak, tearing around my back yard with his buddies.

    I sometimes, take out my recently retired dog on a route that we are both very familiar with, just so he can feel like he is still important. I wish those “critics” could see him go crazy when i bring his harness down from the wall where it hangs!

    Comment by Dogs — January 10, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  3. GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    If PeTA is so all-fired up that the disabled should have personal human assistants, I’d like to see them in Harrisburg, DC, etc lobbyin as strongly for decent pay and benefits for these individuals as they are picketing KFC and killing pet in their “shelters.”

    There are those disabilities (especially injury-related) where human assistants are invaluable and I see those issues raised in my disability e-mail lists all the time. HOWEVER, the pay and lack of benefits for these individuals is such that even though strong personal relationships are formed, the assistant often has to move on after a year or so becuase they can’t make a living wage — or get health care benefits for themselves (and lifting another person on a regular basis really means you need good back care).

    There are HUNDREDS of disability groups around the country, not to mention PA, that would LOVE to have PeTA join them in petitioning states (usually where the money comes from) or the feds to ensure that personal assistants can receive living wages and more important — health care for the invaluable services they provide. (I’m sure they would be quite taken aback by PeTA folks once they got to know them, but at this point, the situation, especially with the economy going south, is so dire that these folks will take anyone at this point to get media/officials attention, and unfortunately, considering how bad the situation is, I really can’t blame them.)

    PeTA: Get off your @@&%!! duffs and DO something if you want to start pontificating on aid to the disabled — or else shut the *&%$!!! up! The disabled don’t need your words — we need your “boots on the ground” lobbying!

    (Yeah, I’m mad — sorry, but this affects people I know and like Harrison, I ain’t going to be “used” for their agenda!)

    Comment by Dorene — January 10, 2009 @ 8:03 am

  4. Comment by Shell — January 10, 2009 @ 6:21 am

    “It seems to me that if PeTA were actually interested in training shelter dogs for assistance work, instead of relying on breeders, that they might, oh, I dunno, actually try to get some of the dogs in their own shelter into those programs.”

    What shelters? From http://www.petakillsanimals.com/Trial_Day7.cfm :

    “PETA does not maintain an animal shelter. PETA has a couple — we call them ‘quarantine rooms’ — which are used to house animals that are held for one reason or another. And animals who are, who have a chance for adoption, are usually fostered in private homes. We do not have a public facility that’s open to the public where people can stroll through and pick an animal. That’s not a service that we are able to provide. We’re an office building.”

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — January 10, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  5. To see where the overwhelming majority of animals placed in PeTA’s “care” end up, look at the line highlighted in yellow:

    http://www.petakillsanimals.com/images/PetaFreezerPKA.gif

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — January 10, 2009 @ 8:14 am

  6. huh? So this Porreca woman feels that shelter dogs are the best choice for what she describes as cruel exploitative assistance programs?

    huh?

    Is it that assistance dogs suffer or is it that only purpose-bred assistance dogs suffer?

    I’m so confused.

    If a person believes an act is cruel, how can they claim it would somehow be LESS cruel depending on from where the dog was sourced?

    wouldn’t that be like saying …umm…let’s say….laboratory experimentation is cruel but there’s “no excuse for such irresponsibility” as doing it to a purpose-bred dog instead of a shelter dog?

    I think Karen Porreca is confused. Either that or I haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning.

    Comment by Joy — January 10, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  7. The OTHER Pat,

    I know they don’t operate what most people would call a shelter. My point was that they *do* take in animals, and those animals–unless reclaimed by their owners–almost invariably are killed by PeTA. If they’re so concerned about assistance animal providers getting their animals from shelters, shouldn’t PeTA be practicing what they preach? Shouldn’t they be partnering with assistance animal providers? Obviously, they aren’t concerned about that, because their goal is to kill animals, not save them.

    Comment by Shelly — January 10, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  8. The Stockholm Syndrome could as easily have been called the Canine Syndrome. Because I have seen beaten and abused dogs gently lick the hand of their abusers, I am no longer certain that their enthusiasm at seeing their harnesses, whether as a service animal, a sled dog or a pet, always means what it appears to. I think that it takes a lot of training, much of it contrary to a dog’s natural instincts, to get him to refuse treats, to ignore what is going on around him, in order to guide a human. Porreca, or PETA’s, idea that this is not in the animal’s best interest is something that should be considered.

    A wealthy man in Bangladesh explained to me once that it was in the best interests of his cook and servants to work for him without pay. Without his generosity they might starve, he told me. That man’s expressed concern for his unpaid workers seemed to me to ignore the fact that he benefited from their unpaid labor. Certainly service dogs are helpful to those who use them, but their utility should not come at their expense.

    Comment by Bob — January 10, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  9. Well, I better get my money back from the breeder that’s selling me a dog to train for service work. Poor Viola, she’ll get regular vet care, exercise and anything else her heart desires.

    I’ll be sure to tell my puppy how abused she is, what with being trained to help me be independent and all that jazz.

    Comment by Keldrena — January 10, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  10. Bob, have you actually known any working dogs? Or any dogs at all, for that matter?

    Because I tell you, I’ve been around thousands of dogs as a pet-care columnist, breed rescuer and dog-sports competitor, and the herding, hunting, sledding, police and service dogs are not “licking the hands of their abusers” but happily working with all the joy in their honest hearts. That also includes the dogs whose “work” is recreational, such as agility dogs, lure-coursing dogs and so on.

    Maybe you like sitting on your ass anonymously spouting obvious nonsense, but I guarantee you that’s not how a dog would choose to spent life. Dogs are never happier than when we move away from our keyboards and pick up a leash. And in fact, those abused dogs you worry so much about are rehabbed through training, which builds trust and gives a dog a sense of place, self and purpose.

    The most neglected dogs in this country are not those who are working, but those who are not, in some way or another. (Even if the work is just learning trick to show off!)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — January 10, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  11. I do not have a service dog, but my dog is trained to not take food off the ground and not to accept treats without permission because that is in the best interest of her health and safety. It took a couple of minutes to teach it and a week or two to proof it. The reward for not grazing – a very tasty treat from me.

    Comment by Dutch — January 10, 2009 @ 10:40 am

  12. Bottom line for me: PETA wants all dogs – shelter dogs, working dogs, dog who get to sleep on the bed, etc – D.E.A.D. And they work hard toward their goal. So their opinions on what kind of lives this or that dog is entitled to fall rather flat with me.

    Comment by slt — January 10, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  13. Paws with a Cause did a study on shelter dogs as service dogs and discovered that the numbers for the more physically demanding jobs (mobility, wheelchair assist, and guide) just didn’t make it worth it- too many dogs in that size range washed out for health problems (particularly HD.) Purpose-bred dogs, carefully raised, were by far the most successful.

    My current SD was donated by her breeder.

    As for the rest? Bah. Like you say – WIASLTP?

    Comment by Cait — January 10, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  14. Great discussion. I can not understand how anybody in their right mind could even think of siding with PETA on this one.

    Comment by Dogs — January 10, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  15. Not letting a dog on the bed of sofa is not cruel. For a dominant dog, that bed/sofa can be the worst place as it elevates their status. My dogs do not get on the sofa or bed with me. It is because I am the leader and they respect that. They still get soft places to sleep as well as love and attention. Sometimes not letting a dog on the bed/sofa can be a size issue. I am not sure if I really want a 125lbs Newfie on the bed with me, especially if it comes between me and my SO.

    Does PeTA actually think that those poor service dogs who get to go everywhere with their owner are abused? I would love to be able to take my dogs with me where ever I go, but I can’t, they are not service dogs. I bet lots of service dog love to go to new and interesting places, even if it is just a store or work place.

    No well trained dog, service dog or not, should eat food off of the ground. All dogs should be trained to leave food alone unless told they can have it. It’s just good manners. You wouldn’t want you kid to eat food off the ground to from a stranger.

    Comment by Kate M — January 10, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  16. I confess. I abuse my dog. She is not allowed to sleep on my bed . . . the cats were there first!

    I must say, Ms Porreca, has rendered me pretty much speechless, lol!~ Who knew we were supposed to be giving service dogs paid vacations and overtime . . . ? Do they need retirement packages also?

    Comment by straybaby — January 10, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  17. Bob, the hand licking is more likely a sign of submission, as in “You’ve beaten me enough, I submit, you win.” I doubt, as you assume, that it is a sign of affection or identification with the abuser (a la the Stockholm Syndrome).

    Beware the temptation to confute human and animal behavior or assume that the same behavior means the same thing across species. And frankly, I wouldn’t take you licking my hand as a sign of affection either. Yuk.

    As I learned rather quickly, you better know your stuff if you’re going to dive in on this blog. Lots of scary smart people in the neighborhood who have probably forgotten more about dogs than I’ll ever know.

    PeTA has nothing to contribute to the discussion as long as they kill 97% of the animals which fall into their clutches.

    Comment by Susan Fox — January 10, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  18. I really find extremists of any cause to
    be beyond the pale. PeTA is an excellent example of fanaticism out of control.
    I do have to wonder though how many people at PeTA have actually spent time training their dogs ( if they own any), have multiple dogs and observed their behavior, and spent any time researching articles about dogs, dog training, dog health, dog genetics and dog origins? Their conclusions about dogs and dog behavior is so contrary to the species, one has to wonder where and how they draw their farcical conclusions?
    In any given purposely bred litter whether it be for conformation, herding, field work, agility or whatever the criteria is, the genetic role of the dice will produce a mix regarding the desired end. At best, there will be one ( or perhaps more if one is lucky) suited to the purpose for which they were bred, whatever that may be, in spite of their parents’ successes in that field. Why is that wrong? Those pups will be placed. They will not deprive a shelter mixed breed dog of a home, because those of us who love our breed aren’t looking to shelters in the first place for our next dog. We are looking to responsible, ethical breeders or a Breed sponsored Rescue.
    I don’t want the fanatics of PeTA to deny me that choice. Were my lower back issues to render me with real immobility, I would do what a friend does: she has a certified big dog to help her and her wheelchair navigate the unfriendly world of the disabled, and several toy dogs in various stages of training to serve as in house helpmates. BTW, she earned her disability in law enforcement, when she and her K9 police dog were involved in a nasty contretemps.
    She values the freedom and independence her trained dogs give her. PeTA has no right to deny her or any disabled person that option!

    Comment by Anne T — January 10, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  19. Oh so PETA is at it again with the idea about assistant dogs. They were at it in 1990′s too. I remember one PETA Member grabbing a guide dog whom was with his partner in NYC. The team was waiting for the subway train when all of a sudden both the dog and blind individual fell on the tracks.

    All because the PETA Member had their head in the sand like an ostrich. PETA obviously do not comprehend dog behaviour at all. Because if they did they could see that service dogs are quite happy helping their human partners. Not every dog can be a service dog.

    Would human assistant not abuse the person with a disability. Look at all these nursing homes PETA! Their patient may eat too slow so bam human helper takes food away. I will show you. SLAP SLAP SLAP! Oh your relative fall or bang into a door, having an episode! Just an example of how humans abuse people with disibilities and the elders.

    PETA Members should take time and really get to see first hand service dogs working, playing, exercising, proper nutrition and how happy they are. But then they would have to take their blinders off to see the facts and not what they just want to see.

    If PETA Members want humans to be assistance then why don’t they volunteer to assist. Hmmm! Oh that is right they are too busy changing names such as now saying Sea Kittens!

    Comment by letRVoiceBHeard — January 10, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  20. My dogs abused me today. I let them romp freely at the beach and they came back to me over and over again to rub the smell of the dead fish they found all over me! :-)

    Comment by Joy — January 10, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  21. It would be impossible to believe a human being could be so stupid, except for the evidence Christie has placed before our eyes.

    Comment by EmilyS — January 10, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  22. I just wanted to write you about this entry and
    thank you. I love your writing style *tell it like it is* As an individual with multiple disabilities including multiple chemical sensitivities, my life would be so dark (and me so much more ill having to deal with human help) if it was not for Thane at my side. The independence I have gained through Met and now Thane is awesome!
    We were snow bound here in the pacific Northwest last month. It was one of the hardest things to sit indoors day in and day out for weeks on end. For Thane, his life had been turned upside down. We have finally got out this past week and I have never experienced Thane so enthused to get into his harness and *take on the town* doing the job he has been trained to do for me.
    I have always made it a point with him to let him have fun, be young, have snuggle time, and yes guess what, he sleeps on the bed. In fact, many people I know allow their service, hearing, or guide dogs to sleep right there with them. It does make me wonder right now if PETA was involved in voicing their opinions with the DOJ with the definition of the service animal. Lots of folks with disabilities out there who have gained independence are being set back because of some of the changes about to take place. Some of them people I have learned a lot from and greatly admire.
    I’m just one of those people that despite my limitations, I want to do everything I can independently and who better to make that happen, but my wonderful Thane. Smile

    Comment by Karyn — January 10, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  23. My poor Trooper, and poor, poor Mica. Trooper has been slaving his paws to the bone these last 4 years as my hearing dog and my late Mica worked the 10 years before that. Yep their lives have been rough. Never left at home by themselves. Having to jump up and say “hey someones at the door.” or “Patty wants you…” Yep such a rough life.

    I will admit that Trooper finds trips to the mall less amusing than say a trip to the park but…

    Comment by schnauzer — January 10, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  24. Just wanted to point out two quick things: One, this was posted about a year ago and the blog’s author has moved to PETA’s main blog, I think. (Just in case anyone was thinking of commenting there and forgot it was 2009 not 2008 still – something I usually do until about March!)

    Second, she had a follow-up to the original post here: http://blog.helpinganimals.com/2008/02/to_serve_man.php
    (I found it at the end of the looong string of comments on the original.)

    The follow-up isn’t anything terribly amazing – it basically just points out how everyone who has a guide dog is selfish and mean and how she’ll never ever change her mind no matter what you say, so there.

    And people still listen to PETA because they’re so visible and because they’ve convinced the public that they really care for animals (even though all they really seem to care about is their ideology.)

    Comment by Tara — January 10, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

  25. There is more PeTA nonsense in a Los Angeles Times story here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/comments_blog/2009/01/everybody-hates.html PeTA must have rallied the troops to get all the positive comments.

    Comment by Dutch — January 11, 2009 @ 1:12 am

  26. Her follow-uppost can be summed up thusly:

    “I don’t agree with any of you, therefore I am right and all of you are wrong.”

    For a librarian, she certainly shows an amazing lack of understanding of the meaning of the word “anthropomorphism”!

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — January 11, 2009 @ 8:09 am

  27. A line from the LA Times article Dutch linked to reads:

    “Recently, the group (PeTA) was able to persuade the BBC to refrain from airing the Crufts Dog Show.”

    Wow! Jemima Harrison should be really interested to learn that . . . . . .

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — January 11, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  28. Having a service animal is in no way like having a 24/7 slave as PETA implies. No peron with a disabilities can force their service dog to do anything. Instead the service dog partnership is one of mutual care, response, understanding and respect. If either member of the team decides not to do their part, for whatever reason, the whole thing can fall apart. Unlike like human attendants, service dogs empower their human partners not only through the tasks that provide greater independance, but though the ability to provide care, love, continued learning, and more for their canine. Human attendants often fcorce their charges to live by their rules and time tables, fail to show up, have been known to abuse and take advantage of their charges, withhold care as a means of control, leave with no notice, and many more unseemly things. Finding a skilled, caring, consistant, respectful human attendant is like finding a needle in a haystack.

    Comment by Melissa Mitchell — January 11, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  29. PETA claims that the relationship between dog and human should be one of mutual respect, and my relationship with my Guide Dog is exactly that. We share a partnership, working and feeding off of the other. I work with her and she works with me; I make mistakes and she makes mistakes; I have bad days, she has bad days, and We have bad days simultaneously; I have my faults and she has her faults; however the love and respect that I have for her and the love and respect that she has for me are the recipe for the partnership that we have. The success that enables us to be the team that we are.
    PETA states that humans should replace animals that assist people with disabilities, but what PETA does not understand is that people with disabilities do not want to have to rely on other people to be able to live their lives. People with disabilities are people 1st. The disability is a characteristic. A characteristic that can certainly present challenges to work through, but people with disabilities work through the challenges that their disabilities present day by day.
    PETA is opposed to the transitions that the Guide Dog goes through. The Guide Dog goes from its canine mother to its puppy raiser, from its puppy raiser to its trainer, from its trainer to its blind handler, and from its blind handler to its retirement. PETA feels that the transitions that Guide Dogs go through are difficult on the dog, and this statement holds part truth. What PETA does not understand is that every person who is involved in the life of every Guide Dog makes sure that the transitions are as easy as possible for the dog
    PETA states that blind people cannot care for their Guide Dogs because they cannot tell when the dog is ill or hurt due to not being able to see the dog. Because blind people and their Guide Dogs are together 24/7, they are very aware of even the smallest change in the behavior of their dog. Their senses of hearing, smell, and touch are very acute.
    PETA claims that Guide Dogs are kept in harness nearly 24/7, but this claim is false. The Guide Dog is only in harness when it is working. When the Guide Dog is not working it is free to be a dog.
    PETA says that people are prohibited from interacting with the Guide Dog while it is working. The reason for this is that the Guide Dog must concentrate on its work, and any distraction can be a danger to the dog and the handler.
    PETA wants Guide Dogs to interact with other dogs. Blind people make sure that their dogs are able to interact with people and dogs if applicable. Some Guide Dog handlers do not want their dogs to interact with other dogs, and some Guide Dog handlers want their dogs to interact with other dogs. The decision is a personal preference.
    I am a totally blind College student, working with my 1st Guide Dog Sunny. She is a 5 year old female Golden Retriever, and she has without a doubt changed my life for the better. Her love for her work and for me shows when I pick up her leash or her harness, evident by her dancing paws and wagging tail. She is ready to go anywhere and do anything at anytime. The independence, confidence, and grace that I feel while traveling with my Guide Dog at my side is difficult to describe in words, though I have been told that you will understand if you see my face. When we are not out and about, you can find me playing with her and loving on her. Other people also play with her and love on her, and other dogs play with her when opportunities arise. We share a bond that knows no boundaries. I do not let people interact with her when she is working, because interaction even be it with the best intentions can place Sunny and myself in danger. I care for Sunny to the best of my ability, and I am fortunate that I have sighted people around of whom I can ask questions if I feel that something is off kilter with her. I feed her a good quality dog food, groom her and play with her every day, and she goes everywhere with me unless I feel that where it is that I am going is not suitable for her to accompany me. She interacts with people and dogs, she is healthy and she loves life, and her energy and enthusiasm are endless. I will not ever use the cane as my primary mobility aid again, because partnering with Guide Dogs is 100% for me!
    Thank You,
    Kolby

    Comment by Kolby — January 12, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  30. There’s a more recent LA Times post here. I continue to be amazed by PETA’s willful blindness where guide dogs are concerned.

    Comment by Angela Matney — January 12, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  31. Hey, i’m not going to get in a huge long discussion here, but in fact, many vegans/animal rights people don’t like PETA for reasons just like this. I myself do a lot of rescue work and while I’m not vegan yet, i hope to be soon, however, I seriously dislike animal breeding in most cases. Breeding of working dogs, I find, is an exception for the reasons stated in your article. You may also want to say something about how dogs are pack animals and they are most satisfied having a ‘job’ in their pack and being led by their alpha. Or something like that but I’m sure you get my point and can probably articulate it better. Well I just wanted to say my bit; most animal rights people aren’t crazy PETA people, we are simply people dedicated to helping make the world a place with less suffering in any way we can. Sorry if I confused anyone though, it’s actually really late and it was a long drive to my parents house for the holidays so I’m not too articulate right now.

    Comment by Lucky — November 24, 2009 @ 12:26 am

  32. Guide dogs are a) bred – the failing ones just take potential homes from other shelter animals.

    b) Not as good as a human carer. You can spout independence all you want but no dog can do what a fully healthy human can do for a blind person. These people will have to have carers anyway for shopping and what not because a dog is hardly gonna be able to pick out specific items in a shop are they? Plus it’ll make more jobs for humans when jobs are scarce as it is.

    c) It’s using an animal for personal gain = that’s exploitation.

    Comment by Meh — March 6, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  33. Hi:) This was THE best article on guide dogs vs. crazy animal rights people that I have ever read. don`t get me wrong, I`m for animal rights, too (I`m also a vegetarian), but I have also trained guide dogs for a few years now. I really don`t know how it is in other countries, but I`m from a small country in Europe and I can really honestly say that our guide dogs are the best buddies and assistants for blind and partially sighted people. The dogs LOVE it, they can`t sleep in bed, or eat human food or ay of the other things people do to their dogs, but all of them are like a million times more happy than the average family dog – they have a sense of responsibility and they are even proud of what they do. It`s true that we aren`t a big training school, so we train every dog very carefuly and pay a lot of attention to picking out the best person for him or her:) but even the “worst” puppy which is still in his first year of guide dog training -fostering- has a better sense of discipline, communicates better with people and really is sooo happy to have some purpose in life, you really can`t compare it with other dogs. they`re very obedient – but we don`t train with treats, but only using motivation, the dogs actually want to do it (for the person they love so much in the world). And as to other people being better assistants for blind people than dogs – I think that a lot of blind people would feel very unindependent and would also feel ashamed that someone has to take care of them – we have a lot of clients who don`t even know how to take out the garbage. with a dog this all changes- you`re independent, you don`t have to rely on anyone, and a guide dog doesn`t judge you. And about dogs that can`t, for some reason, go through training and are sold into normal families – a lot of our dogs then also do work that an animal shelter dog usually can`t do – they go to people who are epileptic or to people on wheelchairs who don`t want a normal trained assistance dog but a friend who can do a few things:) and we`re quite a small school, the few dogs a year won`t make a difference to the overpopulation of dogs. I really think that guide dogs make the world MUCH BETTER:)

    Comment by Lucia — March 12, 2010 @ 11:15 am

  34. I am a guide-dog user and I whole heartedly agree with your words. Another argument to tack against PETA is that to be a guide dog, a dog must be certified by the state. Those formerly training the guide dog must be in line or have state certification to do so. Furthermore, humans don’t love you unconditionally like a dog does. And for the record, once the dog is yours, you can let it sleep with you, just be prepared for the consequences :P Also, I make sure that my dog gets plenty of play time with other dogs, and with his own toys. He gets more play time than I do!

    Kitty

    Comment by Kitty — March 31, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  35. Guide dogs are a) bred – the failing ones just take potential homes from other shelter animals.

    You’re assuming that someone who wants a well-bred Lab, Golden, or GSD from health-tested and temperamentally stable parents, who got an excellent start in life, and is already house-trained and basic obedience trained (potential guide dogs don’t generally get washed out until returned to the school for assessment after being raised by a puppy raiser), will happily take whatever dog is most urgently in need of adoption at the local shelter.

    Many people will find excellent pets at shelters. Many won’t, depending on their own needs and what dogs are typically available in shelters within reasonable travel distance of them. And well-bred dogs from responsible sources don’t add to the shelter population.

    b) Not as good as a human carer. You can spout independence all you want but no dog can do what a fully healthy human can do for a blind person. These people will have to have carers anyway for shopping and what not because a dog is hardly gonna be able to pick out specific items in a shop are they? Plus it’ll make more jobs for humans when jobs are scarce as it is.

    No blind person with a guide dog that I know or have ever met has needed a human carer to do these things for them. They get by just fine with minimal extra assistance from store staff or fellow shoppers. Plus, they have much greater personal independence (which most of us value, even if you do not) to travel, work, and go about their own daily activities without needing to coordinate with another person not specifically relevant to those activities.

    Whereas the people I’ve known who were sufficiently handicapped that they did need human carers have suffered significantly from the need to depend on another human being who maybe late, ill, grumpy–and not entirely honest. The pay for personal care attendants is quite low, and doesn’t always attract those who are dedicated to helping their fellow human beings live comfortable lives as independently as possible.

    c) It’s using an animal for personal gain = that’s exploitation.

    Dogs love being with humans, and they love doing things that use their abilities. PETA’s desire to kill off all of these wonderful animals is not shared by most emotionally healthy human beings.

    Comment by Lis — April 1, 2010 @ 7:22 am

  36. I will agree that while it make seem cruel to both the person and the dog, sometimes it is necessary to find the dog a new home after they retire so the new team can bond. Some dogs have trouble accepting retirement and it is more cruel to let them sit at home while another dog takes over their job. The retired dog can start acting out and jealousy issues occur. I was lucky that my dog accepted retirement easily. She still lives with me but is now bonded to another family member and sleeps with her. My current dog has been a bit unhappy about being left behind when I’ve had to leave her. However she does get a day off from time to time when she goes to daycare and there is another service dog that gets time off there once and a while. At home she is allowed to run and play in my yard with my other dogs and we do have play dates with other dogs we know. She isn’t expected to work constantly 24/7 like PETA claims. She gets lots of time off to be a dog at home. Most people, even blind do not always need their dog to guide them in their home. Even guide dogs get time off. Also many people I know allow their service dogs to sleep with them on their bed, including me. So take that PETA we do care about our dogs and give them plenty of cuddles and time off when they are home. Saying they are working 24/7 is inaccurate, people do sleep you know. As for using rescue dogs, my first dog was a rescue but she had some issues which resulted in early retirement. The best rescue I’ve worked with was rescued at 10 months old backyard dog and was a golden mix. My current dog is from a breeder and is from working bloodlines. Breeding dogs allows you to be able to predict size and temperament.

    Comment by Kat — April 5, 2010 @ 1:12 am

  37. Also some guide dog programs will transfer their flunked guide dogs that might have flunked for a minor reason to other programs that train dogs for other purposes. Sometimes something that would fail a guide dog isn’t something that would for another type of assistance job for a different disability. These are called career change dogs. Some even become therapy dogs comforting those in nursing homes and hospitals.

    Comment by Kat — April 5, 2010 @ 1:18 am

  38. I want to tread very carefully here, because I support guide dog programs and in no way agree with PETA’s reasoning. However, I’m curious about equating guide dog work with other forms of work for dogs (such as hunting, herding, search and rescue and perhaps even dog sports).

    Specifically, I recall that when I was reading the Coppingers’ book “Dogs” they objected to guide dog work because they felt that, unlike traditional forms of work for dogs, it DOES NOT fulfill any of the dogs basic drives or co-opt portions of the traditional prey capture sequence (hunt, stalk, point, chase etc.) and therefore, unlike hunting, herding, SAR etc. they believed it was not enjoyable or fulfilling to the dogs, and that it was standard for a very harsh and punitive approach to be used in training the dogs to do the work (after the puppy stage), since they were not inherently driven to do so, and could not be induced to stay “on” for such long hours otherwise.

    This was already several years ago, but at the time I was very struck by this part of the book, and wasn’t sure what to think of these claims. I feel very strongly that guide dog work is important, but can anyone here speak to whether they are in fact “driven” to do this sort of work in the same way that say a Border Collie is driven to herd? I am very much outside of this community so I’d be love to hear what those more involved have experienced in terms of the training process used, dog’s drive for different aspects of the work etc.

    (I also don’t necessarily think that guide dog programs have to be inhumane even if the dogs *aren’t* inherently driven to guide – we train dogs to enjoy doing lots of things, and to do lots of things they don’t necessarily enjoy in order to better exist in our world – but since the discussion has mentioned the inherent rewards that work frequently provides for dogs, it reminded me of this question that’s been in the back of my mind since reading that book)

    Comment by monkeypedia — April 5, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  39. Monkeypedia, it’s true that some guide programs still use slip collars, but that’s the harshest thing I’ve heard of. A lot of the programs have now switched over to clicker training and the ones that haven’t seem to only use punitive methods for life of death tasks, which while I don’t necessarily agree with it, isn’t horrible.

    I’m not blind, but I have a service dog in training who has brought nothing but joy to my life. I don’t think someone can understand what the bond between a SD and handler is like. Figaro is my everything, which I guess is a bit, weird, but he’s given me back so many things in such a short time. He loves going new places with me and I like all handlers I know make sure to give him tons of time to just be a dog.

    Comment by thetroubleis — April 9, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  40. Monkeypedia, the Coppingers think that pet ownership wastes resources that should properly be spent on children, too. (This ignores, of course, the immense health benefits to children of growing up in a household with dogs, not to mention the physical and emotional health benefits for adults of having regular interaction with pets.

    The Coppingers are overlooking a few rather important points.

    Dogs are wolves (yeah, I know what they say, but even they admit that the genetic distance is tiny) that have been selected, both naturally and artificially, for 14,000 years or more for one set of traits above all: the ability and desire to bond with and cooperate with humans in order to get Good Stuff For Dogs. This is why even puppy mill rescues who have never had positive contact with human beings in their lives will often bond fairly quickly with one or two humans even while they still have multiple huge issues to work through, including fear of human beings other than the ones they’ve bonded with. To suggest that this is not a basic need of dogs is to willfully ignore a vast body of evidence.

    There are a wide range of work and tasks performed by service dogs. Medical alert dogs are usually “just pets” who started alerting to their owners’ health issues on their own, and were then trained to signal the problem and respond to it in useful ways. Aside from the fact that the most essential skill is self-taught and voluntarily performed, as a result of learning the basic skill and associated tasks, these dogs then get to spend lots more time with the most important human in their lives.

    Guide dogs and other assistance dogs doing complex tasks are chosen from among highly intelligent breeds and mixes that enjoy learning things and enjoy working with people.

    And do I have to point out the (perhaps unconscious) hypocrisy of claiming that sled dogs feel a “pleasurable ache” from pulling, but a service dog pulling a a wheelchair “hurts from the outside in” ? And honestly, I’d love to know what part of the “traditional prey capture sequence” pulling a sled uses.

    The Coppingers have not bothered to keep current on training methods used for service dogs, which are now almost entirely positive methods. Any arguments depending on the “fact” that guide dogs and other service dogs are trained using harsh and punitive methods need to be tossed out for lack of connection to the real world.

    Comment by Lis — April 9, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

  41. Hello. there are a couple of points I’d like to make as a guide handler on my third dog. Firstly, even though my current dog is developing arthritis in both his hips and spine — and is on a two week vacation — by the way to try to rest, He still loves to work. A couple of days ago before he had his x-rays to determine the extent of his problem, he stopped at a particular down-curb and when I praised him, he wagged his tail vigorously. He loves to work and I’m going to be really sad if I have to retire him early.

    Comment by Tim Kilgore — June 7, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  42. PETA SHOULD BACKOFF SERVICE DOGS ARE WONDERFUL SO THEY BETTER GET THEIR FACTS RIGHT

    Comment by BARBARA GODDING — August 2, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  43. Wonderful article! You DO know dogs. Working dogs, on the whole, are probably happier than those that are just pets. The psychology of the dog is that he lives to please his alpha. As long as alpha is kind to him, his life is better than most humans’.

    Comment by Sarah — March 7, 2011 @ 5:38 am

  44. This article was very well written. I am a guide dog puppy raiser and my guide puppy gets plenty of time to just be a dog. In addition, he gets attention and praise everywhere he goes. In addition to breeding for certain traits, breeding also assures that a dog will have a chance at a long life which can’t always be so with a shelter dog. When I guide dog does get matched with a person they often are allowed to sleep on the bed and the couch. This is the preference of the new owner. I can say most certainly though that either way these dogs are VERY happy! Just ask Moxie.

    Comment by Alexis — March 10, 2011 @ 8:51 am

  45. Comment by Sarah — March 7, 2011 @ 5:38 am

    “Working dogs, on the whole, are probably happier than those that are just pets.”

    No judgmental generalizations THERE!

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — March 10, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  46. apparently those advocating using people as “assistance people” for the disabled have never bothered to read “First Lady of the Seeing Eye” where Frank clearly described the significant problems with doing that. Do dogs sometimes act lovingly to those who abuse them? certainly. So do some people. Of course, plenty of dogs (and people) act lovingly towards those who do NOT abuse them. Do dogs that fail to make it as service dogs go into pet homes? yes, they do. Do they “take away from shelter dogs”? NO they do not. What makes anyone think a “shelter dog” has a greater right to a loving home than a bred dog? What makes anyone think that somehow having puppies that are the result of lack of planning, care, selection or placement are “better” than puppies that are the careful result of selection for health, trainability, soundness, and who have been carefully raised in loving homes and provided some training as to behavior? Yes, some organizations use shelter dogs for some service roles. But they nowhere come close to the numbers of dogs that are NEEDED for these roles. Maybe PETA ought to get their members to go to shelters and start trying to train some of those dogs they think can fill the service roles. I’d bet that those disabled people who need service dogs and are still waiting for one would be happy to take one.

    Comment by Lowell — March 18, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  47. I had a Bouver Bernois (berner) for 5 years… The dogs are bread for the Blind..

    The was MY BEST BUD IN THE CRUEL WORLD. It is very sad to see that the animals are bread for these humans, ears, eyes etc.. When these people need help, and shoud get human help, but unfortunatley, these HUMANS do not eat kibble, and expect to have A HUGE PAY at the end of the week or month. Not to mention, these humans abusing of the people whom are in real need… YOUR BEST BUD IN LIFE, WILL NEVER ASK NOR ABUSE YOU… THEY WILL GIVE YOU UNCONDIONAL LOVE AND HELP…. NO MONEY REQUIRED…. Human beings should take a lesson from animals…

    To my best friend and king of my home in the world, Whisky, you are and always be my best friend in the cruel world.

    Thks for all you done for us… RIP MY MAN…

    ROXANNE

    Comment by roxanne — March 18, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

  48. Roxanne, I’d love to know exactly what is “sad” about seeing a dog in loving, happy partnership with a human being who loves the dog and values the partnership.

    Service dogs give their humans something another human never can: the ability to live and act independently, the ability to be functional adults in relation to other humans rather than functional dependent children.

    PETA regards that as an outrage, because humans are among the tame animals that PETA would like to see go extinct.

    Comment by Lis — March 18, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  49. why doesn’t PETA leave the disabled alone
    Service dogs are a good thing PETA can go to hell all I care

    Comment by barbara Godding — May 6, 2011 @ 7:09 am

  50. PETA is totaly uneducated about service dogs…worse yet the idea of having a human assistant is uncomprehendable…what about those of us that have Psychiatric Service Dogs? What? Are you going to poke someone while they are having an anxiety attack? Are you going to try to hug and soothe someone while they are having PTSD flashbacks and make it worse by doing that? Are you going to tell someone not to self injure or wake up whem someone has hypersomnia as part of their mental illness? and expect them to listen to you? and expect that it’s that easy to do so? No. You can’t even compare human assistance to Service Dogs, the amount of work that is put into finding the perfect match, giving them the upmost quality care and training is nothing like what you would imagine…it’s a long and detailed process..but if done correctly really benefits both the dog and person. Afterall, if the disabled people took such bad care and mistreated their dogs…how would the service dog be around longer to help? No, the disabled take excellent care of their dogs…not only because of how appreciated and priceless their jobs are but also because if they didn’t take good care of them, they wouldn’t have a service dog around to help them down the road….and all those years of bonding and training would have been down the drain.

    PETA is the last and most uneducated org to be trying to tell people about service dogs because the reality is…some people actually listen to them and they are spreading nothing but nonesense. The real people who know are the people who puppy raise and those who need a service dog

    Comment by anon — August 23, 2011 @ 1:16 am

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