What They Tell the Public vs. What They Tell New Holding Facilities
Described as "loving, gentle," but has dog, stranger and handler aggression.
DogsBite.org - In September 2016, we published an expose about what lies behind the web advertisements of aggressive shelter dogs available for adoption today. We determined that many shelters candy-coat dogs with aggressive behaviors in their zeal to increase "live release rate." Animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova provided a detailed analysis of the 34 case files we obtained from a county shelter, along with a special report about behavior testing shelter dogs.
Which brings us to today. We have another example. These advertisements aimed at the public are often deliberately fraudulent. However, there is a willingness on the part of shelters to disclose the dog's true nature when the intention is to obtain a different holding place for the dog. One of these facilities provided this recent example to us; primarily due to the many requests they receive for unadoptable dogs with "serial" aggression issues that will never find a "forever" home.
The fraudulence is driven by the holy grail of boasting a high "save rate" at any cost, including over the welfare of high-risk dogs and public safety.
First, we invite you to read the fraudulent advertisement of a dog named Hershey located on the Cherryland Humane Society's Facebook page (accessed May 4, 2018). Note, "I can be kind of anxious," decoded translates into "extreme anxiety" even after "medication and behavior modification." Also, "I am continuing to work on my self-confidence," decoded translates into "stranger aggression as well as dog aggression" and "aggression towards his person/handler."
Cherryland Humane Society
February 25, 2018
I'm ready for you.....are you ready for me? So questions HERSHEY! I'm a youngish (2 1/2 years old) lab mix and I am looking for a kind of calm, laid back home and best friend I can really connect with. So, I know most of the basic commands and like interacting with people but can be kind of anxious so that's why I am looking for someone to compliment my loving, gentle personality and who would love to have me as their only pet. I am continuing to work on my self-confidence and perhaps could use your help! Let's get together!1
Now, we invite you to read the letter sent to a potential holding facility. Ask yourself, "Why are the two so different? Why do they have to 'encode' for the public? Why would they create such false hope?" This dog was returned at least three times and has a multiple bite history. No-kill devotees will bend the truth or conceal it to place a high-risk dog like this into a home with an unsuspecting family with children, but they are factual when the intent is to unload the dog on a sanctuary.
My name is , I am the Animal Behaviorist at the Cherryland Humane Society in Traverse City, Michigan. Best Friends, recommended that we reach out to you regarding a dog we currently have, Hershey, we are running out of options for him.
Hershey has extreme anxiety and with medication and behavior modification, it does not seem to help. We have had him for 7 months. He is very protective of his people to the point of stranger aggression as well as dog aggression. Hershey has a few bites on his record towards people and dogs. In Hershey's calm state he is affectionate, playful, loving, and kind of a goofball. Hershey can redirect his anxiety into aggression towards his person/handler. He has been returned twice and returned by a foster, which did not work out after almost a month.
We would appreciate any advice or assistance in finding Hershey an alternate place to live, as we are unable to adopt him out. Thank you, Animal Behaviorist / Enrichment Coordinator Cherryland Humane Society...
In a desperate attempt to "save them all," shelters, humane groups and rescues try to place unadoptable and dangerous dogs at sanctuaries across the country. Entities that claim to accept numerous dogs like Hershey often become hoarding operations, such as Spindletop and Olympic Sanctuary. A dog like Hershey, who can't be handled safely and has both human and animal aggression, could only co-exist at a sanctuary by living in total isolation with no quality of life at all.
The very inventor of the term, "save them all," Utah-based fighting dog advocates Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS), is also mentioned in the correspondence. With an excess of $80 million dollars in donations in 2016, and adoption facilities in four cities, BFAS recommends referring this unplaceable dog to smaller, under financed sanctuaries that are already stretched thin. BFAS, apparently, did not even welcome this problematic dog into its own five square mile sanctuary.
The Dichotomy of Disclosure
The case of Hershey shows the dichotomy of disclosure. What is shared about the dog's true nature depends upon the intention of the shelter. If the intention is get the dog into the home of a gullible family, they encode and conceal the dog's aggression into a "baby talk" style adoption listing. If the intention is to obtain a different holding place for the dog, they are pragmatic: "stranger aggression as well as dog aggression" and "aggression towards his person/handler."
Due to the prevalence of fraudulent adoption advertisements, we remind the public to always request the uncensored behavioral and medical files prior to adoption. As noted in our earlier piece, it is critically important to understand that "disclosure" is not the same as "full disclosure." In order to gain full disclosure, you need to see the complete case file. Otherwise, you may wind up with a Hershey -- a dog disposed to mauling or killing a beloved pet or seriously injuring a person.
When Adopting From a Shelter
- Do your research
- Go in with questions
- Bring a trainer with you to the shelter to evaluate for signs of aggression2
- Request all behavior records for the dog
- Request all medical records for the dog
- Request all "outcomes" for the dog (if the dog was returned to shelter)
Animal behaviorist and author Alexandra Semyonova provides analysis and a special report: Behavior Testing Shelter Dogs -- A Summary of Where We Are Now
"Save them all" is a myth with real life consequences. People pay. Beloved pets pay. The unplaceable dog pays and hearts are broken. There is no such thing as a "forever home" for dogs like Hershey. Not even reputable sanctuaries want dogs that cannot be safely handled and require a "prison-like" existence. We first obtained a copy of the letter to the sanctuary in late April. It is unknown what the final outcome was for this dog. Humane euthanasia would have been kind.
2Preferably a trainer who is not a fan of any breed in particular. The idea is to eliminate bias.
09/20/16: What's Behind the Clickbait Web Advertisements of Aggressive Shelter Dogs Available for Adoption Today?
Just when I begin to think DogsBite could not outdo its self-there you go with another well written piece. I always find the "baby talk" intresting. While they may be problem dogs, the Pit Bull has an incredible command of the English language.
This should be in every newspaper.
I can't understand why there would even be "sanctuaries" for dogs like this. How do they get business owner's insurance with such dangerous animals? They can't possible ensure that their volunteers/employees won't get bit. You are right when you say these sanctuaries are inhumane and these dogs will likely live terrible lives of solitude, but hey, they will be alive so I guess that counts for something in their mind.
On another note, about a year ago a family in my are was trying to rehome their young adult, blue-nose pitbull on Craigslist. Despite the ad claiming how fanatstic the pit is (not to mention that this particular color is very desirable in these dogs). To make the dog look more acceptable, they posted beautifully done family photos. The photos were very telling. The dog is on the end and in front with the muscular father crotched down, holding the leash/harness and with control of the dog. The dog is seated but clearly leerching forward. You can see all the muscles flexing in the dad's forearms and upper arms. The wife is next to him and on the other side is the two small children. Mother and children are beside and behind dad and dad is beside and behind the pit. The kids are smiling but standing very stiff and they look scared. The mother has her arm stretched out in a protective way.
"If the intention is get the dog into the home of a gullible family, they encode and conceal the dog's aggression into a "baby talk" style adoption listing."
You do realize why the different approaches, right? Because when the dog shows aggression in a new adopter's home, the shelter's fuzzywuzzy lies act as a denial of the pre-existing issues with the dog. They can and will blame the adopter, claiming they did something heinous to him like brush him, walk him, or take him to a friend's house to show off the new pet. Like they did with that poor kid who was mauled by a newly adopted shelter pit from Louisiana last year. Shelters have traditionally not been held accountable for violent behavior from their dogs toward adopters, so lying to adopters has no consequences and no drawbacks. Meanwhile, they CAN'T lie to their rescue 'partners' because THOSE people are the key to their ongoing no-kill efforts. If the shelter adopts out a violent dog without mentioning its history and troubling behaviors, and gets an adopter or the adopter's kid or adopter's neighbor's dog mauled, that's not going to hurt the shelter at all. It probably helps them as all their volunteers rush to their side to defend them against criticism. But if the shelter sends a dog over to a fellow rescue without disclosing information, they are burned in the community. Rescue people are vicious toward each other, given the slightest excuse.
"Due to the prevalence of fraudulent adoption advertisements, we remind the public to always request the uncensored behavioral and medical files prior to adoption"
Hah. Good luck with that. I was sitting across from an 'adoption counselor' last week at a shelter, discussing a dog that seemed possible. She had his file open, and was glancing down it. I asked if I could see it, and she recoiled and demanded to know why. I backed off, but wish I'd asked why not. She was basically reading off bits of what was in there, so why the secrecy? It was a transport dog, so it's not the previous owner's info was in there.
I have adopted two dogs from a shelter (a Maltese and a Cairn Terrier mix) and was given copies of their behaviour evaluations. I suppose that could be due to the fact that neither dog has any dangerous tendencies. Maybe things would have been different if I had picked different dogs.
So, Best Friends is raising big bucks. I'm here to tell you where a lot of that money is coming from: the elderly.
I manage my 90-something mother's affairs, and one of my biggest challenges has been getting her off the mailing lists of "humane" groups like Best Friends. According to Mom, she has only given money to her local SPCA (a pit bull-pushing outfit if there ever was one), but the bank records tell a different story. She has donated to dozens of organizations.
What do you do if you find yourself in a similar situation? Well, you take those solicitations and send them right back with a form letter demanding that your loved one be removed from any mailing list that the group uses, sells, or shares with other organizations. If there's a phone number on the solicitation, call it. That may also help you reduce the mail load.
In our case, it took six months for the mail flow to be reduced. I didn't tell my mother what I was doing, but I've heard her express relief over the fact that she isn't getting so many "gimme-gimme" letters in the mail.
Some other tricks the rescues pull is to mask a pitbull mix as a "boxer mix" or "lab mix". They also put a goofy hat on a pitbull and a bow around the neck and state that Bitey is a goofy lovebug. The code talk is amazing. "Can be food aggressive". They'd stop this nonsense if courts started fining them huge amounts.
I had a look at the humane society for a city I used to live in. Both pit bulls cannot go to homes with children or other dogs, and both have long lists of behavioral issues, including some that look dangerous. One has a list of rules on how to approach it.
I don't understand why someone would want a large, powerful, potentially dangerous dog. I generally enjoy dogs and have two, but what people did with pit bulls (breed them for fighting) is sick. And while I like dogs, people matter too and I don't understand why anyone would risk taking on a dog that might seriously hurt a person. I think it has to do with some sort of "lion tamer" complex, where someone feels tough and skilled for being able to handle a difficult animal.
I love the suggestions above about shopping for a dog at the shelter, a better idea would be don't get the kind of dog that is physically capable of killing someone from a shelter. Don't get the kind of dog know for the frequency and severity of its attacks from a shelter. Of course, at many shelters these days that's all they've got.
This is one of the reasons I left my local shelter. As a canine behavior consultant and trainer with 30+ years of experience and continuing education in canine genetics I was first asked to modify my evaluation findings to make them sound more palatable. I refused and continued to put the truth on the behavior sheets. Someone else then started putting the "flowery" language on the items that the public sees. If a dog was considered too dangerous for the public then all effort was put into that dog to send it somewhere else. On several occasions I wrote how uncomfortable I was with this and documented it in triplicate. Many of the employees have been indoctrinated by BF and there is no end to what they will do. Any other breed than those under the heading of bully breed were not allowed the same reprieves. When I started in this field 99% of the time dog "issues" were from how a dog was treated. Now, not so much.
Thank you for all you do.
I don’t understand why anyone would adopt a dog that clearly doesn’t belong to companion breeds. You want a pet, right? Well, dog breeds have been developed and refined for hundreds of years, and they are clearly divided into working breeds, fighting breeds, and companion breeds. Unless you’re a hunter or a farmer, you don’t need a working dog. Dog fighting has been long prohibited, so you definitely don’t need a fighting dog. So just choose a companion dog, right? They’ve been warming people’s lap for a thousand years and are inherently docile. But no, that’s not what people do. Instead, they 1) consider all breeds as pets, which is pretty much insane. Seriously, people who developed German shepherd breed to help them manage their cattle, would think you’re certifiably insane if they saw you cuddling with a German shepherd on your couch. 2) Humanize dogs, treat them like family members, insist that dogs have rights, think it’s a tragedy if a dog gets euthanized. When they get to the point of insisting on rescuing and rehoming a dog that has hurt someone before, then it’s not just insane, it’s extremely immoral and criminal. That’s choosing a dog’s life over human life, and that is as insane and evil as you can possibly get.
80 million dollars? For just one rescue devoted to dogs too aggressive to live amongst humans?!?!
What blows my mind is the “every life is sacred” creed these groups will espouse for violent dogs. Meanwhile, thousands of wild Mustangs are rounded up every year to be ground up into dog food to feed them. So, we kill other animals wantonly to feed these animals that are protected by life’s inherent sanctity? What?
We have an implicit pact with dogs. They do something for us (herd, hunt, control vermin, keep us company) and in return, we give them a guaranteed food supply, which is the peak animal experience on earth. If they break this contract, they are no longer allowed safe harbor and free lunch.
Whenever I read stats like this, 80 million dollars, I can’t help but think about all the human problems that could be addressed. Childhood poverty, food insecurity, underfunded schools, safer roads, solar panels for public buildings, more animal control officers, raises for policeman, the list is endless for where these funds could be applied to eliminate human suffering.