This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here: BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)
The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.
You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid. Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.
None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.
When foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?
All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.
As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.
Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.
Having a pet become lost can be so devastating. Whether it be a cat or a dog or a bird, the loss is still the same. The fear and the pain one feels is overpowering. Sometimes it can be difficult to act because we are so immobilized with fear.
There are so many things that can stand in the way of being reunited with a pet, but among them are:
- Not having your pet microchipped.
- Waiting to spread the word. Hoping that he/she will come back in an hour or two.
- Driving around the neighborhood instead of handing out flyers and getting the word out.
- Not calling the police, shelters and vet clinics in the area to alert them that your dog is missing.
If you live in St Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and you do not do any of the above, you STILL might be lucky enough to be reunited with your pet. Why? Because Minnesota has a five-day stray hold that requires pets be held at the animal shelter for at least five days to allow an owner to claim them.
And even if you don’t get them after the five-day hold, your pet may still survive because a rescue was able to take him in or the shelter was able to put him up for adoption.
But if you live in Chicago and your pet goes missing, you better hope and pray you have a lot of luck on your side. Why? Because Mayor Rahm Emanual, and the City Council did something pretty low down and dirty. They introduced, and passed, an ordinance to reduce the stray hold in Chicago from five days to three for dogs and zero days for cats.
YES, I said ZERO DAYS for CATS.
Not only did they reduce the stray hold time for dogs and cats, but they also reneged on their promise to do an information campaign to inform Chicagoans about the change. Thus, most Chicago pet owners have no idea that their lost pets could be killed before they even have a chance to find them.
And, if you have a cat? Good luck. Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) will most likely have killed it by the time you start looking. Remember, cats have ZERO days to be saved.
So unless your pet is microchipped and you spread the word immediately that he or she is lost, you may never see your lost pet again. Ever.
Feeling a little pissed off? Good. Because I need you to let the mayor and his friends on the council know how you feel about them choosing to reduce the chances of an owner and their pet being reunited.
There is a petition posted on Change.Org demanding that the Mayor, the City Council and CACC revisit this resolution and reconsider the reduction in stray hold (Thank you Lost Dogs Illinois for the heads up!). They also demand the Mayor and City Council inform the citizens of Chicago about the change.
Let’s tell Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council what we think about them killing lost pets.
- Please sign the petition: Revisit the resolution reducing the stray hold for dogs and cats in the City of Chicago.
- Tweet the Mayor (@ChicagosMayor) and let him know what you think of his decision to sneak this ordinance change through the Budget Committee without informing the public of the change.
- Post your concern on Facebook on the Mayor’s home page.
- Spread the word so more people sign the petition and tweet the mayor. Share! Share! Share!
And one more thing, get you pet microchipped. NOW.
Don’t wait for CACC to tell you it’s too late and they already killed him.
Millennials, the group that is expected to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest generation this year.
And it’s not just the pet industry that is taking notice. Almost every major company inside and outside of the United States is doing the same thing. Why? Because unlike generations past, millennials have influence. It’s not just their sheer size (in numbers) that is powerful, but also their reach. Millennials are more socially connected and more socially influential than any other generation. They are also ethnically and racially diverse, well-connected, technically proficient, and early adopters. They are unlike any other generation that has preceded it. They are the movers and shakers who will be impacting our world for many years to come, much like the Baby Boomers did in previous years.
With a generation this large and influential, it only makes sense that they would impact the pet world as well.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently published a report on how millennials will change the way veterinarians do business. In “The Generation Factor: How the rise of the millennial generation could mean changes in the way veterinarians do business”, they laid out the differences between Baby Boomers, Gen Xer’s and Millenials, not only as clients but also as employees. The differences are quite distinct. For instance, the work ethic for Baby Boomers has to do with how many hours worked, while Gen Xer’s are about working smarter (not harder), and millennials are all about tasks completed and getting feedback and gaining consensus.
I am sure many animal welfare groups are taking notice, but I wonder if smaller, local shelters and rescues are as well? I hope they are because there is another reason that the pet industry is taking notice of the millennial generation – they think pet ownership is going to decline with them.
This means more competition between those who are selling pets and those who are adopting them out, and the adoption side may be facing an uphill battle.
Why? Because millennials are more likely to:
- Rent than to buy a home – This means more apartment and condo dwellers, the residences least likely to allow a pet.
- Move frequently – More than any other generation, which makes it harder to care for a pet long-term.
- Stay in college longer – Millennials have had a tough time in the job market due to the poor economy, so more are choosing to stay in college longer and get their masters degree or a doctorate. Owning a pet and going to college is also a possible deterrent.
- Be impulse buyers – They are less likely to wait and go through an extensive adoption process to get a pet.
- Purchase a pet from a pet store or breeder (including online) rather than adopt a pet from a rescue or a shelter – According to a recent survey by Best Friends Animal Society, by almost 50%.
- Believe that animals can safely stay in shelters until they are adopted – 38% of millennials vs. 28% of the total population.
No wonder the pet industry is worried.
All hope is not lost however, millennials are also more likely to get a pet earlier in their lives compared to boomers (21 years old vs. 29 years old), be single longer (and thus, may seek a pet for companionship), and are more civic-minded and more likely to get involved tomato a difference..
Rescue groups have an opportunity to make a difference now. If they are not doing so, they should start working to build a relationship with millennials in their community. Organizations need to be inclusionary and seek their input. They should also be open to new and innovative ideas on how to improve the organization, increase adoptions and connect with other millennials.
Other ways rescue groups and shelters can connect with millennials:
- Have a strong social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc.) and be actively engaged with followers.
- Make your website and social media platforms a place where millennials can get information and learn something new that can help both them and their pet. You need to be the online expert they go to when they want advice and support.
- Connect on a person-to-person basis. Two-way communication is important to them.
- Be open to texting and responding via social media platforms. Millennials are less likely to use email.
- Make what you provide, and what they are getting from you, is distinct and different. You want it to be share-worthy.
- Be more customer-service oriented. Millennials are individual social media companies of their own, so what they experience with you will be shared with their network of friends and family.
- Recognize their efforts frequently. Acknowledge the work done and the benefits experienced by the organization.
- Appeal to their desire to make a difference. Adopting a pet needs to be less a sob story and more of a motivator to do good.
Despite some of the concerns about pet adoption declining, rescue groups and shelters should be very excited about the impacts millennials can bring to the rescue community. Their innovative and creative ideas, combined with a dedication and desire to help, has the potential to make a real difference in animal rescue.
I know one millennial animal rescuer who is making a difference on a daily basis here in Minnesota. I am often in awe of her ability to motivate people and get them involved in rescue. She is well-connected, uses social media extensively and has saved more dogs and cats than anyone I know. She is a force to be reckoned with. Just imagine what could happen if we had 100 more people like her.
- Ad Campaigns Depicting Shelter Pets as “Damaged Goods” Are Misleading, healthypets.ricola.com, January 15, 2015.
- Best Friends Inaugural Pet Adoption Survey, Best Friends Animal Society, Nov 2012.
- Getting Some ‘Me’ Time: Why Millennials Are So Individualistic, npr.org, October 14, 2014.
- Half (47%) of US pet owners believe owning a pet is better for your social life than social networking sites, reports Mintel, PR Newswire, June 17, 2013.
- Many life milestones are out of millennials’ reach by Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post, Sept. 15, 2014.
- Millennials and Holiday Shopping, qSample Blog, Nov. 25, 2014.
- Most in U.S. Want Marriage, but Its Importance Has Dropped, Gallup.com, June 2013.
- Nearly Half Of Young Adults Prefer To Buy Pet Rather Than Adopt, Veterinary Practice News, April 26, 2013.
- Please Do Not Leave A Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail, npr.org, Nov. 2014.
- The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015, Deloitte.com, 2015.
- The Generation Factor: How the rise of the millennial generation could mean changes in the way veterinarians do business, AVMA, Nov. 1, 2014.
- The Millennial Pet Owner, PIJAC, by Nathan Richter, Wakefield Research.
- US Attitudes Toward Animals: HRC’s Animal Tracker- Year 7, Rump Dog Blog, August 4, 2014.
- Young Adults After the Recession: Fewer Homes, Fewer Cars, Less Debt, Pew Research Center, February 21, 2013.
These is the question I have been asking myself for a few days now, ever since I first read the article in The Princeton Union-Eagle (Warning: It is not for the faint of heart) detailing the beating, torture and killing of a dog named Draco by a man named Anthony (Tony) Sather.
I have always assumed that someone who kills or mutilates animals is a serial killer in the making. They have been linked in my mind for as long as I can remember. Killing animals = serial killer. But is it really the case?
- Someone who commits an act like this is a serial killer in the making and they will progress to killing a human being down the road.
- A person who does this is not normal and never will be.
- There is just something wrong in the brain of someone who kills animals and they will always want to kill.
- He will do this again and next time it might be a child.
But is it true? Or, are we just assuming it is because of something we saw on T.V.?
I had to find out if what I thought I knew was accurate. So, I decided to do a little digging.
The first piece I found was about children and animal cruelty (written by Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D, in Psychology Today). It turns out that cruelty against an animal can be caused by more than just a bad person or someone who is evil. In fact, according to Dr. Johnston, there is a common thread between children who abuse animals and those who have “witnessed or experienced abuse themselves.” Children who experience or witness abuse are more likely to reenact that violence on animal or pet either as post-traumatic play or in imitation of something they witnessed or experienced.
Dr Johnston shared 13 possible motives for child or teen violence against animals, including post-traumatic play and imitation, but also curiosity. She also wrote:
Every act of violence committed against an animal is not a sign that a person is going to turn out to be a homicidal maniac. Particularly with young children, whose natural exuberance and curiosity can lead to some unpleasant experiences for their pets, it is fine to shrug off an occasional lapse in judgment while continuing to educate the child about humane animal treatment.
However, locking a pet inside a closed space, violently lashing out at a pet after getting in trouble with a parent, or taking pleasure in watching an animal in pain are all “red flags” that signal the need for professional intervention. This is particularly true when the child has the cognitive maturity to understand that what s/he is doing is wrong – and repeatedly does it anyway. “Children Who are Cruel to Animals: When to Worry”, Psychology Today, Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D,
So, not every child who abuses an animal is necessarily a serial killer in the making. That is reassuring.
So, what about adults who were cruel to animals in childhood and continued on into adolescence, as it has been alleged in Anthony Sather’s case? Are they serial killers in the making? In another piece from Psychology Today, “Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?,”, Dr Gail F. Melson (Ph.D.) shares some concerning information.
Like Dr. Johnston mentioned in the above referenced piece, Dr Melson acknowledges that children who experience abuse are more likely to abuse animals, but she also shares some additional data:
“In an assessment of 1433 children ages 6 to 12, Ascione found that among abused children, 60% had abused animals.” “Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?,”, Psychology Today, Gail F. Melson (Ph.D.)
She goes further and writes that animal abuse is usually the first tell-tale sign of trouble in “adolescent and adult killers.” Even more disturbing, evaluations conducted at state penitentiaries show that “70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories.” In other words, our most violent criminals started first with animals.
However, Dr. Melson also cautions us against assuming a single act is a predictor of someone who will kill in the future and to instead consider a “red flag” that should be examined further. Then there was this piece in Psychology today, which completely contradicted what I had read (and assumed) about animal cruelty and serial killers. According to Hal Herzog, Ph.D., our assumptions about animal cruelty and serial killers are incorrect
“… contrary to popular opinion, most serial killers and school shooters do not have documented history of animal abuse.” “Animal Cruelty and the Sadism of Everyday Life”, Psychology Today, Hal Herzog, Ph.D.
So, being a psychopath (which is often associated with serial killers) does not necessarily indicate prior animal abuse or acts of animal cruelty, but according to a study mentioned by Dr. Herzog, something else does, sadism.
noun \ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm, ˈsa-\
: enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain; especially : sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone
Sadists gain enjoyment from causing pain, but they are not necessarily always a serial killer or vice versa.
So where does this leave us? Does this mean serial killers are out? Does this mean killing an animal does not create a serial killer? Or, that someone who commits a cruel act against an animal is unlikely to do it again? Not necessarily, as discussed in “What Makes Serial Killers Tick?”, there are a variety of factors at play, including: early development experiences, genetics, and a combination of other personality traits like anti-social behavior. Not every serial killer started with animals and not every sadist ends up becoming a serial killer.
However, one thing seems to be certain, someone who has killed and tortured animals as a child, and continues to do so into adulthood, will continue to do so until he/she is stopped. Whether or not that person goes on to kill people is uncertain, and dependent on a wide variety of factors.
However, sadistic serial killers do exist, so the possibility exists that someone who kills animals could become a serial killer is there. Whether or not that person will be one can only be determined by those who have an expertise in psychological personality disorders.
In October of last year, a very ugly man did a very ugly thing. He killed the dog belonging to his girlfriend. But it was what he did before killing him that is so very ugly. He tortured and beat him. Three different times. And, he videotaped it. You can read the gory details in the story that first appeared in his Minnesota home town (Sheriff: Baldwin man tortured, killed family dog), but I will warn you that I could not read the full story myself. It’s bad. Really bad.
The sad thing is that Draco was originally listed as a lost dog. His owner did not know what had happened to him when she posted that he was missing. She was hoping that he would come home safely. Her boyfriend knew what he had done, but he played along. If not for him videotaping his acts, he might never have been caught. I am so glad he was because I suspect this is not the first time he has engaged in cruelty or abuse.
I have no words for what this man did. I cannot even imagine someone so evil living on this planet. But what I do know is that the group that fought for Justice 4 Millie, will be doing the same for Draco. He did not deserve this. Neither did the young woman who loved and cared for him.
If you would like to join us in this fight for justice, you can follow the progress of the court case on the Facebook page Justice for Draco. We will need your support and voice when the time comes for Anthony Sather to face judge and jury and account for his behavior. PLEASE ALSO SIGN THE PETITION (this will be given to the prosecutor on the case).
If you want to know a little more about Draco and how much he was loved you can watch the video his owner put together of him.
Godspeed Draco. May the pain you suffered now be forgotten. We will not forget. We will seek justice for you.
Animals do have a voice.
If you ignore their suffering, I will remind you of it.
If you don’t understand them, I will translate.
If you don’t hear them, I will be their voice.
You may silence them, but you can not silence me as long as I live. :
Long ago and far away, when crop yields were low and the American farmer was struggling to make ends meet, a government organization looked for a way to help them out. The government agency was the USDA. Their solution? Encourage farmers to raise a variety of livestock that could then be turned into a cash crop and allow them to thrive.
The “livestock” the USDA encouraged them to sell were dogs, cute and cuddly, little purebred puppies that could be sold to an ever-growing American middle class, who had begun to see the dog as a part of the American dream (a house, a fence, two kids and a dog).
What we couldn’t know then, but know now, is that this industry would grow and spread across the United States, and it would increase in scope and size and numbers. It would become a burgeoning industry that made farmers money and would feed an ever-growing American need for a dog – a purebred dog, a designer dog, an -orki and an -oodle, and every other kind of combination of dog possible.
Farmers, including the Amish, benefitted from this cash crop in tough times. They found this type of farming appealing and one that could supplement their incomes and help their families. To them, dogs really were livestock. They were just like cattle or sheep, only smaller and cheaper to raise. They could be kept in cages and bred and their offspring could be sold to pet stores across the country. The adults could be harvested for their pups, and when too old to produce, could be sent off to the slaughterhouse, much like a dairy cow, only in their case the slaughterhouse was out back of the mill, the one in which they had lived for their whole life.
For years, the argument has been made that dogs raised in puppy mills are livestock, not pets. They are bred for one purpose, profit, and thus should not be afforded the same kind of care as a dog raised in home. Viewing puppy mill dogs as livestock and not as companion animals, allowed farmers (a.k.a. puppy millers) to argue that they should be treated the same as a farmer raising beef cattle. It allowed them to argue that additional regulations should not apply to them since it did not apply to farmers who raised cows and sheep.
And this argument has worked, for a very long time (and continues to do so, if you live in Missouri).
But in Minnesota, there is reason for hope. There is reason to believe that this argument (that puppy mill dogs are livestock) may be changing.
Recently, a dog breeder, Dayna Bell, was convicted for animal cruelty. And this year, she tried to make the argument that her breeding stock of dogs were not companion animals or pets, but in essence “livestock,” and thus she was not subject to the state statutes that were used to convict her of felony animal cruelty.
Unfortunately for her, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals disagreed.
You can read the full background and history on the case against and the conviction of Dayna Bell and the recent Minnesota State Court of Appeals opinion on the Animal Folks MN site, but here is an excerpt from the court papers.
“….Under Bell’s interpretation, so long as her subjective “enjoyment” of a dog at her kennel amounts to use of the animal as a vessel for conceiving, birthing, and rearing puppies that would be sold as pets, the breeding dog would not qualify as a “pet or companion animal” under Minn. Stat. Sec. 343.20. We presume that the legislature does not intend results that are a “absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable.” Minn. Stat. 645.17(1)(2012). Just as a farm cat that is kept in a barn to kill mice or a hunting dog that is used to retrieve game can still be a pet, some of Bell’s dogs may have served incidental roles that imparted some economic benefit. But these animals continue to qualify as pet or companion animals under Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd. 6. In every objective sense, the dogs and puppies that Bell “enjoyed” at her kennel were small-breed, household dogs raised to be and treated as domesticated pets, and Bell sold many of them as pets. Each of these dogs, colloquially referred to as “man’s best friend,” qualifies as a pet or companion animal under the non-exhaustive definition of Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd.6, which is sufficiently definite such that “ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited.” State v. Newstrom, 371 N. W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1985) (quotation omitted).”
Puppy mill dogs are not livestock. They are pets and companion animals, and yes, man’s (and woman’s) best friend.
Do they look like livestock to you?