Friday, September 15, 2006

Unwanted Dogs : Blame Game

A controversy has erupted in Ottawa this last week over a Lhasa Apso dog that was found by a local couple, taken to the Ottawa Humane Society and subsequently euthanised because it failed temperament testing. The couple who found the dog had wanted to adopt it, and went to the media with their story after the Humane Society had put the dog to sleep.

The Ottawa Citizen agreed with the couple in this editorial, arguing that the testing process and subsequent euthanasia protects only the Humane Society. The Humane Society argues that adopting out aggressive dogs doesn't help anyone - there is a danger of someone being hurt and in the end the dogs typically get returned, sometimes multiple times.

The Citizen has been full of letters on the subject, mostly siding with the aggrieved finders of the Lhasa Apso. Most of these letters seem to come from folks who don't know too much about dogs and who haven't thought too much about the issue. The dog in question failed multiple parts of the 14-point aggression test. Yet the public instinct is to blame the Humane Society for the dog's death.

In reality of course, the blame lies with the backyard breeder who bred the dog, and gave it its first socialization in the world, with the owners who abused and mistreated the dog so as to turn it into a fearful and aggressive creature - or at least failed to address those traits when they observed them. And it lies with whoever dumped the dog on Ottawa's streets as a stray.

The blame also lies with those who support this way of producing and raising dogs. Those people who buy dogs at pet stores, or from newspaper ads. People who don't educate themselves before they buy a dog. People who treat dogs as something to be bought and dumped on a whim. Probably some of those same letter writers.

The problem of unwanted dogs will always be with us. The Humane Society does the best they can do with the hard realities of the dumped, the stray and the unmanageable dogs that arrive at their doors every day. Until people wake up and become responsible pet buyers and owners, there will always be dangerous dogs on our streets. In the end, letting the most dangerous of those unwanted animals go is a service to the public and the animals themselves, much as it may be unpopular with the fluffy bunny brigade of letter writers.