Biden in the Doghouse

BlogHer Original Post

When frankly-speaking Joe Biden first entered the political race, there were bets about his first gaffe. Well, it's finally here - though much cuter and fuzzier than expected. Jill Biden made good on an election promise and got her husband a long-desired dog, thereby, beating Obama to the puppy finish line. However, Biden's choice of a pure-bred German shepherd puppy from a breeder has upset a number of animal lovers, including PETA. (Hey, "Gaffe" is kind of a cute name for a dog ...)

Said PETA:

"By paying money to a dog breeder, the Bidens have in effect signed a death warrant for a loving dog at an animal shelter who would have been thrilled to go home with them. Mr. Biden ran for office on a promise of change, but he’s missed the boat by ignoring this country’s animal overpopulation crisis.”

--PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch

Never one to lay down and roll over, PETA is also airing its controversial 'Buy One, Get One Killed' ad on TV stations serving the Wilmington area; Biden’s hometown. The ad clearly blames the deaths of “pound pups” on those who patronize pet shops, puppy mills and breeders.

As with most problems recently, it comes down to numbers. As the thinking goes, when a person pays for a dog, they are supporting a strictly for-profit system that has little regard for animal well-being. Not only that, but with an estimated 9.6 million animals euthanized in the United States every year (according to the American Humane Association), its counter-intuitive and horribly ironic. Why encourage new litters when there are already so many loving animals that need homes?

Two reasons:
#1) Breed favoritism
#2) Money (See Reason #1)

There's a similar problem in the horse world. A few years ago, I was interviewing Monty Roberts (known as "The Horse Whisperer" and author of the book, "The Man Who Listens to Horses") and I asked him about breed favoritism in the equine world. He was standing in the middle of a pen, working a troubled mare, and he spun around quickly and pointed his finger at me: "Breedism is RACISM! Pure and simple!" Though I shared his viewpoint, I was still surprised to hear him say it. (Much like the dogs, there are thousands of homeless and neglected horses of mixed breeds – another post entirely.)

Then, a few months ago, I was hanging out at the horse barn grooming my Arab friend, Mister Dude, when the issue arose again.  Jessie, the young ranch hand, walked by followed by a Irish setter puppy My horse teacher, Beanie, (also a vet tech) asked him where he got it. The young man said he'd bought it from a breeder up the road, "I always wanted an Irish Setter."

Beanie really tore into him: "You PAID for a dog???? Don't you know what that means????" She stopped herself short, knowing she was about to unleash one of her classic rants, and opted instead to shake her head in disgust. I felt bad for the guy. And the puppy - who was licking my face - didn't seem to know the difference about where he'd come from.

As an adopted mutt myself, (when asked my ancestry, my firm response: "AMERICAN"), I can appreciate the pros and cons of both planned and accidental births. The horrible puppy mills and the pet stores, I get that logic. But breeders? If we lose breeders, wouldn't we eventually lose entire breeds as they became absorbed into the general dog population? I'm not so sure that's a good thing for the dog world or the human world, especially when we go out of our way to make sure the spotted owls have trees. If I'm off on this, I welcome enlightenment 'cause I sure don't want to live in a world without Pugs or Boxers.  

Meanwhile, when my magical day comes to get my own dog, I will surely head down to the pound and adopt some pup who just needs a chance. I can't help but feel I was given that chance once and though I'm no purebred, I am (mostly) house trained.

As the nation’s second highest public servant, I do agree that Biden could have easily set a better example on this issue. I’d like to think they’ll get another dog from the pound as a companion.  Meanwhile, let's just cross our fingers that Obama’s girls get some scrappy pup from the local shelter (Disney movie to follow).

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Some links and thoughts from the blogosphere:

There are a few websites that have a countdown clock next to dogs or cats in need of adoption. The clock shows what day that animal will be put to death if it's not adopted in time. Morbid? Extreme? Maybe, but it sure brings puts the urgency of the situation in perspective. Check out Dogs in Danger and Needful Souls.

Cheri Shankar posted some wonderfully even-keeled insight on HuffPo:

"Some may wonder what the big deal is. This is just one family and one dog. But what high profile people do in this country matters to the rest of us. By purchasing a puppy instead of adopting, Mr. Biden is setting a poor example and is unwittingly promoting breeders and puppy mills. There are millions of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens who, through no fault of their own, end up in shelters and abandoned by owners who weren't prepared to take on the responsibility of a pet. Because not enough people are adopting homeless animals, over 65% of healthy, adoptable, loving and lovable pets are being killed every day for lack of homes. It's appalling and tragic and cruel to keep popping out pups on the one hand while killing so many on the other."

Vaishali's anger was more direct on Holy Cow!:

"If I sound really disappointed, Mr. Biden, it is because I am: I had much higher hopes of you. Animal rights might seem like the obsession of just a few, but compassion ought to be part of all of our hearts. One of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi goes something like this: 'A nation's progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.'"

Meanwhile, over at Tattle Tails, there's concern around Biden’s breeder:

"According to an article on Philly.com, the owner of the kennel in Chester County where he purchased the puppy was issued citations by the state Department of Agriculture ... Linda Brown, owner of Wolf Den kennel, was cited for “failing to provide records for dogs purchased or sold and failing to produce complete rabies vaccination records for her adult dogs.”

And now, let the Obama Puppy countdown begin!

(A final doggie-related note: I only wish the Iraqi shoe-thrower had also yelled, "Fetch!" when he chucked his footwear at W.)

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Holiday Charities to consider:

International Fund for Animal Welfare: Established in the 1970s, IFAW is one of the world's leading animal welfare organizations, working tirelessly towards achieving lasting solutions to animal welfare and conservation challenges that benefit both animals and people. IFAW has more than 200 experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and scientists working from offices in 15 countries around the world.

Also, check out Animal Gift: Did you know $50 can clean and treat a penguin after an oil spill? Gifts $50 and over will receive an IFAW stainless steel water bottle. And for a limited time, the first 100 orders over $75 will receive a canvas tote bag bearing the IFAW logo. Every gift comes with a special package containing a distinctive gift card, and a full-color pamphlet telling the story behind the animal that gift saved.  Gifts must be purchased by December 17 (Hey! That's today!) to guarantee arrival by Christmas.

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