Archive for September, 2011

UPDATE: This essay is now available as a two-page PDF handout for easy printing and distribution.

Note: HumaneWatch’s editor recently traveled down to the Palmetto State in order to attend his first dog show. Here’s his report:

I spent this weekend at the Myrtle Beach Kennel Club’s all-breed dog show in Florence, South Carolina. The club invited me down to talk about the threats its members are facing from the Humane Society of the United States and the rest of the animal rights movement. Since I had never been to a dog show, I said yes. (I grew up thinking that “fancy” was an adjective. Silly me.)

I’m not a big fan of people who pooh-pooh things they’ve never tried or seen up-close. If one of my children says she “doesn’t like” something on the dinner table before taking even a tiny bite—well, let’s just say that doesn’t wash in my house.

And I’ve always thought the whole “dog show” community was rather mysterious, a kind of benevolent secret society with its own rules, customs, and vocabulary. Sorta like Deadheads, but with a lot better grooming and a lot less fleas.

Truth be told, the dog breeders I met this weekend do have their own peculiar ways of saying and doing things. But they’re really just ordinary people with a shared hobby. They’re really into what they do. And they taught me a lot in just a Saturday. Here’s some of what I learned.


  1. When you go to a dog show, bring your own chair. But don’t be surprised if someone offers to lend you theirs. (I’m typing this in someone else’s customized, embroidered lawn chair.)
  2. Dog shows are competitive, but the people involved are remarkably supportive of their human opponents. I heard a steady stream of “congratulations!” offered to blue-ribbon holders from handlers who were trotting away empty-handed.
  3. If you’re a first-timer who asks “what kind of dog is that?” too loudly, somebody might look at you funny.
  4. These people treat their dogs like royalty. It was 90 degrees in the shade on Saturday, and the dogs had shade, electric fans, and cold water—even if their owners didn’t.
  5. Judging from this weekend, the typical show-dog handler isn’t a stuffy Brit wearing Saville Row tweed. She—yes, she—is an energetic 40-year-old married mom whose husband packs up the kids and brings them along on the trip.
  6. Sometimes the kids strut the dogs around the ring. The under-18 handlers even have their own judging category in which their skills are being judged, not the qualities of their dogs.
  7. The name of the game is “conformation” (not “confirmation,” as I used to think). Dog show breeders are trying to breed animals that “conform” to a set ideal of how a breed can look, “gait,” and behave if they do everything right. (I read an article in Wired this week about how Cheetos in the factory are checked every 30 minutes against a “reference sample” from Frito-Lay headquarters, just to make sure the ideal color, texture, and crispiness is being matched. It’s kinda like that, but it takes years for these folks to make a single Cheeto. And Cheetos don’t pee on you.)
  8. Watch where you step in the parking lot.

If this particular dog show is any indication of what’s typical, the “dog fancy” is a lot of fun for a lot of people who contribute a lot of money to the economy—and aren’t hurting anyone. “If we’re not having fun here,” one judge told me, very much off-the-cuff, “we shouldn’t be doing this.”

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Humane Society of the United States has such a visceral hatred of everything they stand for.

I think what’s going on is that HSUS, PETA, and other animal rights groups are conflating breeders whose main goal is to sell puppies with those who just happen to really love Pomeranians, Pinschers, or Poodles. This latter clique of people (far larger than the former) shows their favorite animals because they’re proud of them, not because they believe it will make their next litter worth more money.

It’s not hard to understand HSUS’s stated motivation for attacking people who breed dogs. The group wants everyone to believe that rampant pet overpopulation in America is all their fault. But personally, I just don’t see it.

I didn’t meet “puppy millers” this weekend. I met hobbyists, just like if I were at a model railroad convention, an antique fair, or a swim meet. They ask after each others’ kids. They visit each other in the hospital. They have knitting circles where the dogs watch approvingly. They’re 50 percent garden club, 50 percent church pot-luck. Zero percent animal abusers.

I asked one breeder how much money she had spent raising her champion dog, a mammoth Anatolian shepherd. “Who knows?” she answered. “I never really added it up. If you’re pinching pennies you probably aren’t treating the dog right.” In addition to the two purebred dogs she was showing, she had “two rescue mutts at home, and they have the same food, supplements, and everything else my show dogs get.”

And when I asked one of the veteran breeders how many of her peers raise dogs so they can sell the litters commercially, she looked at me like I was from Mars. “We all sell dogs, son,” she told me. “But none of us make a cent doing it. And I know where all my dogs live. If anyone can’t provide for them, we take ‘em back.” And then, almost as an afterthought: “I sure don’t want any of mine going to the pound or a rescue.”

Everyone I asked about this had the same kind of answer. If they found out that any of their puppies wound up in a shelter, they’d sure do something about it.

So why all the hostility from the Humane Society of the United States? Why did I hear from North and South Carolinians who had beaten back attempt after attempt from HSUS to have them taxed, registered, regulated, raided, and otherwise priced out of their hobby? What is it about these men, women, and children, so passionate about running up and down a concrete floor with their pets, that demands intervention from activists who think they know better?

Maybe it’s that HSUS thinks the only way to shut down “puppy mills” is to paint every dog breeder with the same broad brush. Maybe. I haven’t yet really wrapped my mind around why HSUS is opposed to everything I saw this weekend. I just know that it is.

As with pretty much every group of ranchers, dairymen, biomedical research scientists, and chicken farmers I’ve met, the breeders I spoke with this weekend had varying levels of awareness about the looming political threat from HSUS. Some of them can’t be bothered to be bothered. Others are fired up at the mere mention of Wayne Pacelle’s name.

“Somebody has to take that guy on,” one 50-ish man barked when I brought up the name of HSUS’s CEO. “That whole movement is nuts. After I showed up to lobby against HSUS’s last North Carolina breeder tax, I started getting calls in the middle of the night, untraceable phone calls, from these people saying they were going to come on my property, take my dogs, and burn my house down. I told ‘em my new rifle has an awesome night scope. That pretty much ended it.”

I spoke to the crowd after the Best In Show was awarded, in this case to a fluffy pekingese named “Noelle.” I told them that their problem is the same as the one faced by pork producers, egg farmers, dairymen, and even cancer researchers. But it was up to them to reach beyond their circle of friends—outside their comfort zone—if their kids and grandkids were going to keep being Junior Handlers and continue to raise the dog breeds they’ve come to love.

At the end of the day, I have to be skeptical of HSUS’s blanket condemnation of pet breeders. I’m confident that there are some horrible ones out there, as there are with any group of people (including animal activists…), but any legislative or cultural movement that lumps the people I met this weekend in with the bad actors is just plain wrong-headed.

Because the dogs I met in South Carolina were among the best-cared-for animals I’ve ever seen. Anyone who’s truly interested in animal welfare would want to make sure more dogs—not fewer—are treated this way. So how ’bout it, Wayne? Why aren’t you promoting dog shows?

Probably because you’ve never been to one.

Posted on 05/24/2010 at 09:55 AM by the HumaneWatch Team

Gov’t, Lobbying, PoliticsPets • (153) Comments

Read Full Post »

Released: 10/18/2010 9:00 PM EDT
Source: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Newswise — Some of man’s best friends are wagging their tails – literally — thanks to human research on a new type of surgical imaging device being pioneered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Nine dogs that would have died of canine Cushing’s disease are alive and barking today, and even one cat has been given a new lease on one of its nine lives.

Neurosurgeon Adam N. Mamelak, M.D., had been studying the use of a scope called a VITOM™ for human surgery when he was approached by a group of veterinary endocrinologists and surgeons at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital who were interested in having him teach them to perform similar surgeries in dogs. Some pituitary tumors are extremely common in dogs, and often fatal.

After studying the problem, Mamelak, an expert in minimally invasive pituitary surgery in the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of the Pituitary Center at Cedars-Sinai, noted that the VITOM device happens to be a nearly perfect fit for use in dogs with pituitary tumors. He agreed to proctor the animal hospital veterinarians in performing potentially life-saving canine neurosurgery to remove these tumors.

This arrangement benefits both canine and human patients because after a tumor is removed, Mamelak takes tumor tissue back to Cedars-Sinai’s laboratories for study, and research teams have already begun to make important observations about treating the tumors with certain drugs.

Only one other group in the world – in the Netherlands – is known to be regularly attempting a similar procedure in dogs. Both groups use what is called a transsphenoidal approach, creating a tiny hole in the back of the mouth to enter the skull at the base of the brain and remove the tumor. But because dogs have long snouts, Mamelak says there isn’t much to see. The VITOM, which is also called an exoscope, solves this problem by providing up to 12 times magnification and projecting the operating field onto a large high-definition video monitor. This gives the surgeon a vastly larger and sharper view of the tumor and the surrounding brain structures, making removal safer and easier.

Mamelak says veterinary medicine is becoming increasingly sophisticated and is almost as technologically advanced as human medicine. The exoscope is cutting-edge human surgery technology that has made an early jump – at least in a limited way – to a veterinary application.

“I’ve been training the veterinarians to use the exoscope,” Mamelak says. “They’ve never done any significant neurosurgery, let alone through a tiny hole, but they’re getting better and better. By adopting technology developed for humans – and tested initially here at Cedars-Sinai – to veterinary medicine, we are able to provide a technological leap that makes the procedure more accessible to veterinarians and their patients.”

So far, the operation has been performed on 14 animals. Eight dogs and one cat have survived and are doing very well, according to Mamelak.

Although canine pituitary tumors are not identical to those in humans, they are very similar, making the canine disease a very good model to study for understanding human illness as well. Interestingly, the most common tumors found in dogs – those that produce too much of a hormone called ACTH and cause Cushing’s disease – are extremely rare in humans. Cushing’s disease occurs in only about one in every 1 million people, but there are more than 100,000 cases in dogs each year in the U.S. alone.

Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, diabetes, hair loss, thinning skin, increased appetite, and abdominal enlargement. Without treatment, the canine disease is fatal, and the few existing drugs for the condition are usually not curative, have serious side effects, and can be very expensive.

All of the veterinary work is done with the expressed consent and approval of the pet owners, using strict federal guidelines for humane animal care.

“This research collaboration benefits both humans and canines with these tumors. In addition to saving dogs’ lives, it provides a mechanism for early testing of drug therapies that may be useful for humans as well. As we progress with our laboratory studies we are identifying drugs that may treat the tumors. We then hope to be able to give medicines to dogs to shrink their tumors, then monitor the dogs, perform the surgery, and restudy the tissue to see how it was affected by the medicine,” says Mamelak, a dog-lover who has a 6-year-old mutt named Maya at home. “This working model really benefits dogs and veterinary medicine as much as it benefits people.”

NOTE: Additional background on Dr. Mamelak and human pituitary surgery:

Although the VITOM exoscope appears to be an excellent tool for several kinds of human surgery and canine pituitary surgery, it is not ideal for human pituitary surgery. For that, Mamelak uses an endoscope – a narrow tube with an HD camera lens at the tip. It is inserted through the nose and the back of the nasal cavity. A small burr hole through bone allows the endoscope and operating instruments to be positioned directly in the area of the pituitary gland, and the surgical site is displayed on a large HD monitor.

“There are no external cuts, bruises or tissues that need to heal, and because the endoscope provides a wide field of view, we can remove tumors deep inside the brain and we can be sure to get every little last bit of the tumor out,” Mamelak says.

Most neurosurgeons who treat pituitary tumors still use an operating microscope, which also provides HD viewing, but the equipment is large and bulky and has a fixed focal point. The deeper the tumor, the narrower the field of vision becomes – almost like tunnel vision. Mamelak trains residents in Cedars-Sinai’s neurosurgical residency program in the use of the endoscope because, while the microscope is easier for the surgeon to use, he believes the endoscope provides a much better experience for the patient.

The exoscope is something of a hybrid of the endoscope and the operating microscope. It provides image quality rivaling the microscope but is lightweight, portable and far less costly.

Click here to read the full original article

Read Full Post »

17:09 21 July 2011  

MacGregor Campbell, consultant X-Ray Video Reveals How  A Dog Moves

From Great Danes to dachshunds, dogs can have radically different body types. But now X-ray video is revealing striking similarities between the way different breeds move (see video above).

Martin Fischer and colleagues at Jena University in Germany used high-speed X-ray cameras to film hundreds of dogs representing 32 different breeds. Then they compared the footage with 3D motion-capture data to create a precise profile of how each breed walks, trots, and runs.

The team found that during most movements, a dog’s shoulder joints stay still. Their forelimbs rotate around the shoulder blade which is connected to the rest of the skeleton by muscles. Thanks to the X-ray view, they also found that the shoulder blade and forearm move in sync, as do the thigh and foot. Therefore if the shoulder blade is parallel to the ground, the forearm is too.

ScienceDaily (May 31, 2011) — Zoologists of Jena University have presented the results of an extensive study worldwide concerning the motion of dogs and offered new insights into their course of movement.

How does a dog run? Until now even experts found it nearly impossible to answer this simple sounding question. “We simply didn’t know,” says Professor Dr. Martin S. Fischer from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). A dog moves on four legs, in pacing, trotting or galloping. But so far, scientists could only guess at the exact motion sequence within the locomotor system. The reason being: “So far scientific studies were limited mostly to the movement of sick animals or to single aspects of locomotion,” says Fischer, Professor of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology. To change this, Fischer and his team started a comprehensive study about the locomotion of healthy dogs in 2006 and have now presented the results.

With enormous technical effort the scientists measured, documented and compared the motion sequences of 327 dogs from 32 different breeds. The dogs were filmed by two high speed cameras in different gaits from the front and from the side. “In addition we analysed the movements three-dimensionally,” Dr. Karin Lilje explains. For this, the zoologist glued reflecting markers on the skin of the animals and filmed their movements with infrared cameras. These sent out short flashes and registered their reflections. Up to 1.000 images per second went into these analyses. “As the reflections were being recorded from several cameras we could assess the position of the markers in the room from the data,” Dr. Lilje continues. Additionally, the movements of the dogs were recorded with a high speed X-ray video system. The University Institute for Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, which the Phyletisches Museum is also part of, owns one of the most modern and efficient systems of this type. “By combining these three methods data about the movement of dogs are available now in a precision so far unknown,” says Fischer.

Numerous displays and preparations of skeletons in today’s schoolbooks and museums show how patchy and in some aspects fundamentally incorrect the knowledge about the locomotor system was until now: The displays position the hip and shoulder joint of the animals on the same level. “However this implies that these two joints correlate with each other and that they are the centre of rotation in the movement — which is wrong as we could now prove with the help of our analyses,” Professor Fischer points out. According to this in the course of the evolution limbs with three — formerly two — segments each developed from the legs. “And so the shoulder blade is added to the forelegs as a segment close to the body while the middle foot of the hind leg is being rebuilt,” explains evolutionary biologist Fischer. Therefore it is not thigh and upper arm and lower leg and forearm that are correlated but the shoulder blade and the thigh, the upper arm and lower leg and forearm and middle foot. The centre of rotation of the front legs is the shoulder blade which is only connected to the skeleton through the musculature. The actual shoulder joint stays nearly immobile in the dogs’ process of movement.

CH Wendt Worths Beyond Boundaries Lark

CH Wendt Worths Beyond Boundaries Lark

“These findings will alter the academic teaching,” Professor Fischer is convinced. For this zoologists present comprehensive material with their scientific results: With the help of high definition X-ray and position data the scientists animated the course of motion into video sequences. Thus not only the dogs’ skeletons can be viewed from all sides, the corresponding patterns of musculature and activity can also be studied in detail according to the gait and the phase of the movement. “In contrast to previous animations our video sequences are based on exact measurements. With this we are setting new standards,” Fischer believes.

The Jena study provides another astonishing insight into the locomotion of dogs regarding the proportions of the front legs of the dog breeds examined. These were nearly identical in all dog breeds — although, according to Fischer “it is clear that the upper arm of a Schnauzer is shorter than that of a Great Dane.” Regarding the total length of a foreleg its length is always exactly 27 percent. Whereas the relative length of the shoulder blade varies between 24 and 34 percent. “The shoulder blade of short legged dogs is relatively long and that of greyhounds is relatively short. But the length of the upper arm always stays the same.”

CH Wendt Worths Meadowlark Lyric

CH Wendt Worths Meadowlark Lyric

Moreover the zoologists owe the discovery that the shoulder blade and forearm and the thigh and the middle foot are moving in matched motion — as if linked — to the X-ray view. “If the forearm is in a vertical position, then the shoulder blade will be in the same position,” the Jena scientist explains. In its motion sequence this principle of a ‘pantograph leg’ is highly dependent on the length of the segment in between. “And that is the upper arm that is exactly the same length in every dog.” From this can be concluded that all dogs run very similarly, no matter if they weigh two or eighty kilograms.

Friedrich Schiller University Jena (2011, May 31). Insights into the motion of dogs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/05/110527080325.htm 

Read Full Post »