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Spaying pets, spraying cats, straying cougars get notice
To: newsroom @ [I recently read]...about a family that had sixteen Dalmatian pups that they were going to exploit as a result of all the hype surrounding the release of "101 Dalmatians." Responsible Dalmatian owners and Dalmatian clubs all over the country are doing all they can to put out the word that Dalmatians are not for everyone and to provide the pros and cons of Dalmatian ownership. Many newspapers (including the Washington Post) have done articles about how important it is to get the facts before getting a puppy. Many irresponsible breeders will be trying to cash in on the movie. The article indicated the puppies might sell for $1000. I can just see the dollar signs dancing in the eyes of backyard breeders everywhere. Please consider running a follow-up article to tell the facts of Dalmatian ownership. Help us prevent more Dalmatians from ending up in shelters or rescue. A factual article in your paper could help prevent the untimely deaths of innocent puppies. I would be glad to provide you with any material you need. I work with a rescue group in VA but we have had calls for rescue from shelters in DE. Kathy McCoubrey Virginia Dalmatian Assistance League
Kathy... Thanks for writing in. Dalmatians are believed to have originated in Yugoslavia where the earliest records of the breed's existence have been found, in the town of Dalmatia (from which the breed gets its name). Long before Dalmatians ever rode in a fire engine, these dogs were used most commonly as carriage dogs. They would run ahead of and beside horse-drawn carriages on long treks to protect travelers from highwaymen. This dates back to the middle ages. As a result of this use, Dals are a breed that have great endurance. They have a lot of energy and they often take on the role of family/household protector. Their energy can easily channel itself into a variety of inappropriate outlets (chewing, digging, barking, etc.). And without effective guidance from owners, that protective instinct can get seriously out of control. I have seen a number of Dals with the problem of attacking/biting visitors to its home environment. When Dalmatians bite it is often sudden and intense. They want that person to go away, and if these aggressive tendencies once or twice serve to remove that person from the premises, their actions have served their desires (that is... they have completed their desired objective... and so the behavior has reinforced itself). Don't allow your dog to think that this is their job. They like to work, and acting aggressively is not work you want your dog becoming proud of. If your dog ever does anything like this, as much as you want to help the victim, 1st correct the dog (this is assuming, of course, that the bite victim is not dying). [How best to discipline in a given situation varies with individual dogs/owners/and their existing relationships.] It is inevitable that with the popularity of 101 Dalmatians, people will be making impulse puppy purchases. But let this be a warning. When a breed is "hot" and breeders have an opportunity to cash in, sound breeding practices go out the window, and more genetically linked physiologic and behavioral problems arise in these animals. A small percentage of Dalmatians are born permanently deaf, and many face problems with crystal and stone formation in their urinary tract. Dalmatians, and any other breed of dog, cannot be looked at as a novelty. They are not toys. They are not designed or genetically engineered to bring us popularity and attention. They live about 12-14 years and require large expenditures of time, money, love, supervision and training. If you allow yourself to become swept away in the fantasy world perpetuated by the film industry, you are inviting troubles into your home. The novelty of these speckled hounds will wear off quickly, and you will be left with all the chores faced by all other dog owners. Moreover, buying a "pop" breed, in general, is not well advised. Intelligent breeding decisions are largely forgotten when dancing dollar signs take precedence. And this means the genetic quality of the animal you're purchasing is significantly inferior. This translates into a greater likelihood of future medical and behavioral problems that you will have to face and take responsibility for. Don't allow yourself to become a part of the vicious consumer cycle that puts live animals out into the marketplace as though they were toys. Such practices benefit only those intent on profiting from the whim of the moment.
Dear Dr. Spiegel, A big thank you from the bottom of mine and the White One's heart. The "leukemia cat" has a new home because you found the space in your column for her. God bless you and all your furry little ones. Love, T.S.