A dogs life

What does owning a dog mean to you? Are they a companion or an accessory? A jogging buddy or security? Or is it a status symbol you are after?

And what does its owner mean to a dog?
That’s simple – a dog’s owner is their world.

So, with that in mind, if you are still in the market for one of the above how about thinking about what a dog is going to need from you rather then what you need from the dog.

First and I think most importantly  – time. This dog is going to need your time and a lot of it, he not only needs it, he deserves it, so if you are going to be out of the house for 10 plus hours a day you should re-evaluate “your” need for a dog. (Or else be prepared to pay a lot of money for doggy day care).

Exercise – Dogs need a lot of it, some breeds more then others. Be realistic about how much you are going to want to walk a dog (potentially in the dark, wind and rain) and factor this into the breed you choose. Believe the breed descriptions, if it says the breed needs a lot of exercise then it’s going to need a lot of exercise. They don’t just tell you that for fun.

Training – a well-trained dog is a joy to have around, and if your dog isn’t trained and does things you consider naughty then it’s not the dogs fault, it’s yours. Even if you don’t think it is, it still is.
Dogs are intelligent animals who like the stimulation of being trained in a kind and patient way, plus they get to spend time with the person they love the most.

Inside dogs – I have never understood why someone would bother to have a non working dog stay outside all the time. Why own a dog at all? They are obviously not part of the family. To be honest I think that a dog would be better off dead then chained to a kennel all day. If your property isn’t fenced and you plan to keep it outside then DON’T GET A DOG.

De-sexing (Yes I am thinking about the dog here.). I know you wouldn’t want your male dog to roam; it is dangerous for them and potentially others so its best to get them neutered around 6 months old. This is before they are an adult and want to go looking for girlfriends. It is hard to stop a dog roaming who has developed the habit, plus the incidence of testicular cancer is higher in dogs with balls (obviously).
While I don’t think there are any negative effects of not spaying a bitch (to her), I don’t think the risk of accidental pregnancy is worth it, and would also recommend spaying at 6 months.

And finally tails, (again thinking of the dog and not ourselves). If you are getting a dog that has traditionally had its tail docked then ask yourself why? You will find that there really is no valid reason to cut off a puppies tail. It really is the most painful, awful thing, and for what?

So when considering owning a dog, examine your motives, and think about what the dogs life will be like from the dogs perspective, not yours.

Walkies anyone?


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So now I know.

In my early teens I was lucky enough to own a horse, I learnt to ride at a riding school and attended my local pony club. I would say my tutelage was pretty standard and I didn’t question the way I was taught to ride or care for my horse.

I saw a recent episode of Country Calendar that challenged what I had been taught and it all seems so obvious now. I only wish I had known.

The program visited a riding school in Keri Keri which takes a holistic approach to horsemanship. The idea behind this is to develop a culture in which horse and rider build a relationship based on trust and utilises the natural instincts of the horse.

This natural approach includes

  • Teaching and competing using bit-less bridles (although competing in dressage without a bit is against the rules, eventing and showjumping is allowed)
  • Giving the horse a longer rein during competition to allow freer natural movement
  • No shoeing even while competing
  • No covers, using a cover inhibits the growth of natural coat protection.
  • Starting a horse (breaking in) using holistic methods.
  • The 80 horses on the farm are kept in herds as they would be in the wild and are also exercised together in a herd. This improves the relationship between the horses resulting in less fighting.

I have noticed there are a lot of sites promoting natural horsemanship these days which is fantastic. It has been a real revelation for me – I was one of those who was taught I had to make my horse do what I wanted, and I regret that I didn’t have the understanding or knowledge to be able to develop a better relationship with him using natural horsemanship.

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It’s not just about the meat

I am what they call an Ovo-Lacto vegetarian, apparently the most common type of vegetarian in the western world. I eat eggs (free range) and dairy products.

I decided to stop eating meat about 7 years ago now. I wanted to make the change because  I wasn’t comfortable eating animals in a time where we don’t need to kill to survive,  it isn’t even good for us, and it’s cruel.

Its not an easy road to animal salvation though. There is so much to avoid, so much to think about.  If its not cheese made with rennet (cow stomachs) then its yummy lollies made with gelatin (boiled animal bones and cartilage), and now palm oil is in everything- including chocolate (the habitats of the Orangutan and Sumatran tigers are being destroyed to plant palm plantations).

Its tough, and now after years of feeling OK about my food choices, I am forcing myself to look at my Ovo-Lacto label and question if I am taking the easy way out on the lacto side of things. I have ignored this for years because as we all know, dairy is used so much in everyday life. Cutting it out isn’t going to be easy.

Even though I drink milk in my tea, and eat cheese, yogurt and ice cream I have always felt that there is something not quite right about cows milk, to the extent that my children drink soy. I admit I have turned a blind eye to it, much like many have about sow stalls, but after looking into a dairy cows life, the facts are hard to ignore.

Have you ever thought about what a dairy cows life is like, or what has to happen to get milk into the bottle at the supermarket?

Well as with all other species, a cow has to give birth to start producing milk, but unfortunately the dairy cow doesn’t get to keep her calf and feed it.

A dairy cow will give birth for the first time at about 2 years of age. The calf is taken from the cow after about 24 hours and the milking starts there, she will be artificially inseminated soon after giving birth and will continue to be milked while pregnant. The cow is milked for 10 out of 12 months, including 7 months of her pregnancy. She will be allowed to have a rest for a couple of months prior to the birth of her calf and then the cycle starts again. A cow will give birth between 4 and 10 times and are then slaughtered at around 8 – 10  years, even though naturally they could live till 20.

At the height of milk production a cow can produce 10 times the amount of milk she would usually produce to feed her calf, so the stress on her  body is tremendous.

Surplus male calves (bobby calves) will be slaughtered at around four days old for veal. Some calves will be kept and hand reared until weaned, then either used for milk, beef, or breeding.

Not only that but

  • Cows are also put through painful procedures such as castration, de horning and tail docking.
  • 6 % of New Zealand 4 million plus dairy cows will suffer lameness at any one time due to poor tracks to and from the milking sheds, and poor quality races.
  • Many cows are left in exposed paddocks without shelter
  • Most cows suffer mastitis at least once in their lives

As a woman who has been pregnant and breastfed both my children, it is probably easier for me to relate to these animals. I know the strain breastfeeding puts on a body, and to think of having to do that for almost my entire life is unimaginable, not to mention having a baby then immediately having it taken away. Sure I am putting human emotions into a cows situation, but you can’t tell me a cow wouldn’t suffer having her calf taken away. It is natural instinct for a mother to bond with her offspring.

In the end its about personal values and responsibility. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and become food intelligent.  Next time an animal cruelty story breaks about intensive farming practices will you take responsibility for what you are choosing to eat and be able to say ‘I am doing what I think is right and I feel good about it?’

I will eventually become an Ovo Vegetarian, it may be done in baby steps, but for me personally it is the right thing to do –  unless of course I decide to get a pet cow. Sounds crazy but anyone who knows me will know I may just do it.

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Good on ya Mike

Comedian Mike King surprised me last night.

I had written him off as a pork advertising, unfunny, arse, but thanks to his courage in speaking out,  he has gone up in my estimation (but he is still not very funny).

It takes guts to go out there and say “I was wrong”. Good on him.

In case you missed it, TVNZ’s Sunday program ran a story on intensive pig farming in NZ, in which Mike and a animal Welfare group called Open Cruelty entered a farm under the cover of darkness and filmed the disgusting conditions inside.

It was a pretty horrendous scene – check out the SAFE website for a rundown of the story or watch it here.

There have been some positives come out of the story. Chris Tengrove, the chairman of the NZ Pork board has agreed to an invitation by Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury to accompany the program, and Mike, on random checks of other pig farms on Tuesday.

Apparently Chris Tengrove was appalled at the footage but thinks that the farm in question is not typical of the industry. This is disputed by Hans Kriek from SAFE who says the practice of intensive farming using sow crates is widespread.

The Agriculture Minister David Carter was also interviewed on Sunday and disappointingly doesn’t seem to know anything at all about the pork industry, or their practices.

What hope do we have of changing the laws that currently allow these practices to continue when Dr Peter O’Hara of the National Animal Welfare Committee who advises the minister on how pigs should be treated is “okay” with what he saw on Sunday. He says pigs need to be contained for their own safety.

What an appalling statement, and this from someone who will be advising the Minister on the Animal Welfare code review later this year.

It reminds me of the battery hen farmers who say that chickens will attack each other if left to range free in groups. If you want to see some happy free range chickens check out country calendar a few weeks ago.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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Lawyers 1, Government 0

It was great to read a story on stuff yesterday that 20 top Auckland lawyers are going to work for the SPCA on a pro bono basis. Good on them for doing the right thing.

In saying that, it is a sad state of affairs when a group of lawyers have to offer their services for free to make sure animals in New Zealand get the justice they deserve.

It should be the New Zealand Government not only paying for  lawyers but also providing an animal welfare agency to protect animals. Instead they show they really don’t give a toss by allowing a charity to do what they should be doing – protecting the animals of New Zealand.

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Animal Welfare Act

Earlier this month Kathryn Ryan did a really interesting interview with Peter Sankoff on the National program’s Nine to Noon show.  Peter Sankoff is a senior lecturer at  the Auckland University Faculty of Law. Peter  researches and teaches in the areas of Evidence, Criminal Law, the trial process and the relationship between animals and the law. 

I found it interesting because while I knew the Animal Welfare Act wasn’t great (purely by the pathetic sentences given to those found guilty of animal cruelty) I didn’t know how lacking it really is.

During the interview Peter highlighted the shortcomings of the Act and disputes that we have the best protection for animals in the world as continually stated by the Minister of Agriculture. While on the surface the Act seems to do what it is supposed to, its the detail that shows its shortcomings.

For example the Act states that we shouldn’t impose pain and suffering on animals unless absolutely necessary but we continue to allow industrial practices such as battery farming and sow crates.  Animals which are hunted or animals considered pests are exempt from the any  rights under the animal welfare act.

This is sickening to me.  I can’t believe that if we have deemed an animal ok to hunt, exterminate or farm it isn’t worthy of protection from cruelty while it is alive. Who can be happy with that? Certainly not me.

Peter also raises a contradiction in the Act regarding feral versus domestic. A domestic cat is protected under the companion animal laws but a feral cat has no rights under our current legislation, so you can do whatever you want to a feral cat and not be prosecuted. Again this is crazy.

Peter  highlighted the absence of funding that goes towards investigating and prosecuting cases of animal cruelty. This is currently completely funded by the SPCA. Not ONE dollar of government funding is put toward protecting animals, and when these cases are prosecuted we continually see the feeble sentences handed out to those found guilty.

 New Zealanders do love their animals and our laws are not demonstrating that. The Government are suggesting they are doing a great job of protecting our animals but Peter disputes that, (and I agree with him) and he wants to see a national dialogue started about the way we think our animals should be treated and the Act revisited.

Peter Sankoff and Steven White have written a book ‘Animal Law in Australsia‘ which can be ordered from http://www.federationpress.com.

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Just listen

I am one of those people who doesn’t watch animal movies on TV. They are just too sad for me. The animal always gets hurt, lost or someone is cruel to them so I never watch. Sure there is usually a happy ending but thats not enough to make me endure the sad bits.

This used to be how I dealt with animal cruelty stories being reported in the news, the paper, or online. I just refused to read them or changed the channel. I didn’t want to know the details, they would stay with me for days and keep popping into my thoughts.

Now I make myself listen. I am still haunted by the cruelty, but it feels cowardly to turn away from the hurt animals suffer from human hands. They deserve to have their stories heard so now I listen.

Do you?

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