Thursday, February 5, 2009

Holding Shelters to Higher Standards

I would like to propose that NAIA (or anyone else) find a lawmaker who will support this bill idea.
Holding Shelters to Higher StandardsBy Cadie Pruss

Bringing home a new pet is exciting, but excitement can turn to grief if that pet requires expensive veterinary care. Animal shelters claim to “rescue unwanted animals”, but should they also “rescue new pet owners” by testing the animals that come in for adoption for certain medical conditions? I think so. Although health testing is expensive, people who are “adopting” an animal are often not looking for a “cheap” animal; they are looking to provide a service to the community by providing a home to a dog in need. If there is a shortage of good homes (which is the logical conclusion to the idea there is a pet overpopulation problem) , then consumers should be informed of which dogs are “healthy” and which are not.
Some states have “puppy lemon laws”, which only apply to breeders. This law should apply to anyone selling a puppy or adult dog. New dog owners don’t want to be burdened with high medical bills regardless of whether the dog came from a shelter or a breeder. Medical researchers have long known that dogs, purebred or not, get very similar diseases to humans. Just like people, dogs carry genes for cancer, allergies, and eye diseases just to name a few. Thanks to the effort of purebred dog breeders, there are now tests for some of the medical conditions that affect dogs. While purebred dog breeders use this information to help eliminate those genes from a breeding pool, individual dogs still “inherited” the conditions or not. Dogs don’t need to be purebred to be affected, so lets hold shelters to the same high standards that “puppy lemon laws” hold breeders to.
Common conditions such as Thyroid (hypo or hyper-thyroid) disease can be checked with a blood sample. It is true, testing a dog one time may not give “life-time” results, but testing at Michigan State University is very complete and can indicate if problems may occur in the future. Hip x-rays should be taken to determine if long term disabilities may occur. These x-rays should be sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for evaluation because x-rays are evaluated by a group of trained veterinarians who see a broad spectrum of hips and have the expertise to do a true evaluation. While this is particularly true of large breed dogs, hip x-rays should be taken of all dogs because hip problems are too costly and all dogs can have the potential to have hip problems.
All dogs should have their eyes examined by a Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) certified veterinarian. Eyes do change over time, and so an eye check one time is not a guarantee that the dog will not suffer some future eye ailment, but it is a good starting point. A dog or puppy that shows clinical signs of impairment may be detected long before they show physical signs of impairment. High cholesterol levels also manifest themselves as eye “spots” occasionally and a CERF certified veterinarian can be the first to observe this condition that requires treatment.
Certain breeds suffer from serious diseases which can be life threatening, such as von Willebrand’s disease (vWD). This disease is the most common of the bleeding disorders. It affects many popular breeds such as poodles, shelties, Doberman pinschers, and Papillion’s just to name a few of the breeds. Because of the prevalence of mixes with these breeds (particularly poodles), and the severity of this disease, it should be an important test.

If you were buying a dog from a breeder, would you expect that dog to have some type of health guarantee? Reputable breeders often test the dogs they are breeding for genetic aliments. There are still far more aliments than there are tests, for example, there is currently no health test for epilepsy, but breeders do the best they can to avoid such a disease as that one, and test for the diseases for which there are tests. It is in the best interest of not just that breeder, but the breed as a whole to eliminate such problems.

Why are shelters and human societies not testing the dogs that come to them and only adopting out healthy dogs? Why are breeders held to a higher standard then those who are “rescuing” dogs. No new dog owner wants to spend thousands of dollars on veterinary care. Shelters will claim foul, but if we truly have an “overpopulation problem” – then good homes are in short supply and Shelters owe it to the adopting public to adopt out healthy dogs.

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