Friday, May 22, 2015

They're Here – Freedom Golden Retrievers and Other Doggy Immigrants

Do we really need to import rescue dogs to the U.S.?

As I see it, one of my jobs in life is to wander around social media and burst people's illusions about animals. Most of the time this occurs when I find articles online about animal rights topics, especially if they relate to dogs. If there is an article about dog breeders, for example, you can always find animal rights people making nasty comments and telling lies, so it's a pleasure to jump in and start correcting them. If you just stick to the facts it's enough to drive most of them crazy.
On the other hand, sometimes I have friends who post stories that seem to need some comments. These situations require more delicacy because I would like to keep my friends.

For example, last week I had an old college friend post a story about 36 Golden Retrievers rescued from Turkey and brought to Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia. I am quite certain that my reaction to this story was different than hers. My friend is a kind-hearted person who likes animals in a general way and has a couple of mixed breed dogs. She supports HSUS without thinking much about it. I re-posted the story on Facebook knowing full well that it would unleash a firestorm of disapproval from just about every dog person I know. And it did. People pointed out that we already have dogs suffering from canine influenza, especially in the Chicago area, that was likely brought in from dogs from Asia. Many people believe this new strain of canine influenza probably came in with dogs rescued from Korea, with the aid of the Humane Society of the United States. What diseases might rescue dogs from Turkey bring with them?

People also pointed out that shelters in Georgia routinely ship dogs north so they can be adopted. So, how can a group justify bringing in more dogs – dogs from outside the country? Are they just bringing in these purebred dogs so they can sell them for more money? Aren't they simply acting like a pet store? But pet stores are under fire these days, while shelters and rescues are usually exempt from many of the laws that regulate pet stores or seek to ban them. Isn't this just the worst kind of retail rescue?

Not only was this story all over the media, but it was put out in an official press release on PRNewswire. How's that for maximum exposure for these “Freedom Golden Retrievers”? Nothing like a catchy patriotic name to make the public want them even more, right? (Why does that name make me think of Freedom Fries?)

It's kind of amazing that the National Rescue Committee chair of the Golden Retriever Club of America supports this rescue action, saying, "We support Adopt a Golden Atlanta for helping these Golden Retrievers who will now have a second chance in life. Among the 95 rescue programs for Golden Retrievers in our network, it is well understood that each meets the local need before accepting a dog from another area – including dogs from abroad. I can assure you that no Golden Retriever is at risk due to rescuing Goldens internationally.” If Golden Retrievers have no problem being adopted in this country, perhaps Golden Retriever rescue might consider encouraging people to actually buy a Golden Retriever from a breeder? What a novel idea: buying a purebred dog. I'm surprised the AKC or the Golden Retriever Club of America didn't think of it.

It truly is wonderful to have a waiting list for every rescue dog in your breed, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we need more than rescue dogs if purebred dogs are going to survive. We need to be supporting breeders instead of bringing in rescue dogs from outside the country. We have people in the United States still complaining about pet overpopulation and blaming breeders for dogs in shelters. How long do you think it will be before there is some animal rights-themed article attacking Golden Retriever breeders for having too many dogs in rescue or shelters?

By the way, a search on Petfinder for Golden Retrievers nationwide found 1586 Goldens or Golden mixes and 11 dogs listed with Adopt A Golden Atlanta, contrary to their statements in the news release. So, it seems there are actually quite a few Goldens in the United States in search of homes without bringing in “Freedom Golden Retrievers” from Turkey. Even if many of the Golden Retrievers on Petfinder aren't purebreds, it doesn't explain the discrepancy in the statement from Adopt A Golden Atlanta. Most of the dogs waiting to be adopted on their site look like purebreds to me, though I am not an expert on Golden Retrievers and I don't know the history of the dogs.

Please don't think that I don't like Golden Retrievers (I do); or that I am opposed to rescue (I'm not). But I am opposed to importing rescue dogs to the United States from around the world, especially when breeders in the United States are under attack. ARs and some rescue people blame breeders for dog overpopulation which, frankly, doesn't exist anymore. I'm also opposed to the very real likelihood of dogs from other countries, imported in large numbers, bringing in diseases to the United States, especially when those dogs have risky backgrounds. We've already seen it with the dogs “rescued” from the Korean meat markets and there is every chance it will happen again.

All of this is happening just a few months after many people were disturbed by online articles written by animal rights people wondering where they were going to get rescue/shelter dogs after all the dogs in the U.S. were spayed/neutered:

Where are the puppies going to come from? I have been waking up night after night lately in a panic thinking about this question...
Really – where will the puppies come from?! In many communities around the country we are reaching a crisis point … the crisis is that we are running out of puppies! There are many communities that simply do not have juvenile dogs entering their sheltering system and, in many cases, the adult dog population entering the shelters has significantly decreased – and significantly changed. What those in this field have laid the foundation for and have worked so hard for is happening! … At HSUS Expo this year, I heard a few people mention the next step for some shelters may be to find ways in which we become the source for puppies for folks.

And then there was this jaw-dropping blog earlier this year:

The ideal thing would be for No Kill to find some way to co-opt the industry – to make sure there is a big enough supply of shelter dogs for community No Kill shelters to be able to maximize their market share. The most obvious way to do this would be to start importing homeless dogs from overseas. [Emphasis mine.] This would not be a permanent solution, because foreign countries are beginning to use TNR for street dogs, which will eventually drop their populations to sustainable levels. But until that happens, foreign countries would be a good source of supply for shelter dogs. We would be helping the shelter system in the United States while saving huge numbers of street dogs overseas.
Another way to tackle the problem would be for volunteers to breed litters which would then be donated to their local shelter for placement. This would have many advantages …

And, voila! Just like that we see some of these things start to happen with shelters and rescues. More dogs from overseas are being imported to the U.S. for resale – adoption. Meanwhile, animal rights groups continue to pursue their agenda against American breeders, making it harder to breed with more and more breeding regulations.

The words on the Statue of Liberty say, “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …. “ They don't say, “Send me your street dogs for dog flipping and retail rescue.”

We need to decide right now what we want to support – rescue dogs from overseas with no particular background, no health guarantees, no socialization, and every possibility of bringing new diseases into the U.S. If we go down this path there is no end to it. The U.S. can become the repository of dogs rescued from countries all over the world because we all know there are enough people with big hearts – and lots of money – to keep bringing in more rescue dogs. Or, we can support American dog breeders and purebred dogs with known backgrounds from breeders who try to breed healthy, well-socialized dogs. The truth is that dogs are in competition for homes and if you are supporting “Freedom Golden Retrievers” instead of well-bred puppies from a good breeder, you are hurting the future of your breed.

-- Carlotta Cooper


  1. Good essay, Carlotta! And to update the Dog Flu story, as of this week, dog flu has reached the East Coast. A dog living in New Jersey was treated at a New York veterinary clinic for the disease. Thank you, "meat dog" rescuers, for bringing in this strain of influenza from Korea!

  2. We should not forget that at least one of the street dogs imported from Puerto Rico had rabies. Veterinarians are worried also about importing screwworm from PR and other countries. It is amazing that more thought is not given to the problem of bringing in diseases.