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Law of Unintended Consequences


It’s possible to make anything into a metaphor, of course, but the Obama family dog show–no ponies–is too glaringly apt to leave alone. The elder daughter has allergies, so the family needs a hypoallergenic dog. The president wants something not too cute and femmy, for the usual reasons of masculine projection. OK–easy enough. When I posted the same basic requirements (absent the male ego) several readers steered me in the direction of Portuguese Water Dogs–which I’d never so much as heard of previously. They happen to be adorable, intelligent, good with children, and very energetic. Labradoodles are the president’s other stated option. Also a wonderful breed. Can’t go wrong there. But the president has added the Politically Correct imperative: the dog must come from a shelter. They need to feel good about rescuing a dog. That is laudable, when it works, but it isn’t going to happen for the Obamas.

Portuguese Water Dogs range from $1500 to $2500–and you have to get on a breeder’s list early because litters sell out very quickly. Labradoodles, the favorite designer dog of the era, are more common and somewhat less expensive–but not cheap. Partly, it’s supply and demand. Most breeders require that owners agree to neuter the dogs that will be family pets, which keeps up the breed standards, and the price. So, these are not dogs that people tend to abandon. Shelters are not filled with them. So the PC charade is going to have to end–on this tiny, little matter.

But even if the Obama girls werent allergic, how easy is it to find a family friendly shelter dog? This interesting piece argues that, for an unexpected reason, many shelter dogs in much of the country are not really suitable for families. The astonishing success of the ASPCA’s spay and neuter campaign over the last 35 years has reduced the number of dogs and cats being put to death in shelters from 24 million in 1970 to 4 million in 2007.    

Hal Herzog writes:

But the rush to pluck the reproductive organs from every household pet in America has been so successful that we may be running out of dogs . . . There is distinct geographic disparity in the distribution of adoptable pets because spay-and-neuter campaigns have been much less successful in Southern states than in other parts of the country. … the per capita rate of unwanted pet euthanasia is 40 times higher in my home state of North Carolina than in Connecticut. It seems a lot of people in the South don’t like restrictions on the sex lives of their pets any more than they like zoning laws or gun control.

There is, however, an upside to my region’s historic resistance to animal birth control. It is that, on the whole, our shelter dogs make better pets than the shelter dogs in other parts of the country….animal shelters in the urban North are “overrun with pit bulls.” And because a higher proportion of dogs in Northern shelters have been neglected or abused, many of them suffer the canine equivalent of post-traumatic stress syndrome. That means that they are not good candidates for adoption into the average home. The bottom line is that most of the people who want to adopt a dog are up north, while most of the dogs in need of good homes are down south.

Not sure what to make of this cultural disparity in general, but one does feel a twinge of empathy for those southerners who don’t want to radically alter their animal’s nature.


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