Sunday, November 15, 2009

"SAFER?" Or, Mostly Lethal (for dogs)? -- Reply

(Picture Left: Chance (i.e. "Puppy Boy"). One of my two personal dogs, Chance was rescued from shelter Euthanasia list last year after displaying "extremely aggressive" ("severe") behavior in shelter. And yet, relatives who turned Chance into shelter when owner became ill, indicated Chance to be "protective, loving, good with children." Which description was ultimately correct? Information from past home was totally accurate -- as it is in most cases. Who knows the animals best? Past owners, NOT artificial "tests.")

Crazy Runner Writes: I hate the SAFER test. The first time I saw it, I knew what a crock it was and how dangerous it was. So many wonderful dogs have been killed because they reacted poorly to a fake hand constantly poking them while they're trying to eat. After reading this, I will never give another dime to the ASPCA. It never ceases to amaze me to hear the insane expectations people put on animals. They're supposed to take horrific abuse and still be happy. They're supposed to instantly heal from a horrible life with no help or reassurance because heaven forbid a person has to take time and effort into training and helping their new pet. Animals have to be more saintly and patient than Mother Teresa to please many people.

Reply: Very well said.

The ASPCA rarely suggest that it is human behavior that needs to change.

Instead, it is the animals who need to change for us.

I have had dogs for all my life. Never in more than 50 years of having dogs have I had reason or occasion to put my hand in the dog's food bowl and shove his/her face out of it.

Nor, do I pinch my dogs' feet or sides.

What is the ASPCA's justification for these "tests" on dogs?

"We have to know if a small child does these things to a dog or steps on the dog's foot, the dog won't bite."

By that logic, we should also be able to guarantee a dog won't bite, when hit in the face with newspapers if peeing on the floor or kicked by their human owners. What about those people who have burned dogs with cigarette butts? Should we not also burn dogs to "test" their reactions? Should we not yell, scream or hit at dogs as many human owners do?

Reality is, that it is almost impossible to "predict" how any dog is going to behave in any home or under any and all circumstances. As Cesar Millan says, almost everything depends upon the owners. "Every home has its own energy and vibe," says Millan. He is right.

The best predictors of future behavior is past behavior.

When the subject is dogs, if we want to have a sense of the dog's general temperament and/or past history, the people who best know this are the past owners.

But, what if past owners aren't available to question? Such as in cases of arrest, eviction, abandonment, death or hospitalization of owner?

What if the dog was picked up as a stray?

In those cases, it is important to gather as much information as possible concerning the circumstances of the dog arriving at the shelter. When a dog is picked up from a location, it is often possible to get information from neighbors, landlords and area residents. They can often indicate whether a dog lived with children or other pets. They often have information regarding the dog's general temperament. If the dog was a stray, was it friendly to strangers or shy, for example?

There is in fact, much information that can be gathered when either questioning past owners or investigating the circumstances from which a dog was picked up from.

That information is far more "predictive" of a dog's general demeanor and behavior than artificial "tests" done on dogs, usually under very stressful and unnatural shelter conditions.

In saying all this, it is not to totally poo poo any evaluations at all on shelter dogs.

Sure, we want to have a sense of how a dog may be around other animals or if s/he has particular "issues" with food, toys or bones.

Walking a dog on the street or in a yard near other dogs gives a sense of animal to animal "reactions." Observing a dog when s/he eats or attempting to walk close to the dog's food bowl can usually show if a dog has particular "guarding" issues with food, bones or toys.

In my opinion, there is no justification for plastic hands shoved in a dog's face while the animal is attempting to eat. I think it safe to say most humans would "bite" or at least become very pissed, were someone to shove a hand in our dinner plates while we're eating.

Nor, do I see justification for pinching a dog's feet or sides -- or "tag" games for that matter. I think it reasonable to assume many if not in fact, most dogs being dumped in shelters have probably never engaged in a game of "tag."

As currently conducted, it seems the SAFER temperament tests as developed and promoted by the ASPCA have been designed to cause many, if not in fact, most dogs "tested" to fail one or more parts of it.

They therefore serve mostly has justification for euthanasia, rather than any true barometer or "predictor" of animal behavior. -- PCA



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