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Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Creative Dog Grooming, Mutilation and Humiliation

Judging by some of the outlandish mutilations of dogs on TV and social media, creative grooming appears to be getting out of control. I cannot understand how any dog owner who sincerely has any love or respect for their supposed best friend could allow them to be put through such humiliation, but then I am just a dog lover myself and obviously do not “get it” or understand this phenomenon.

Creative dog grooming has been around since the sixties and its invention is blamed on the age of the hippies who coloured and dressed their pets. It is not new as the UK has held a championship for many years and the USA since 1973 but it is only recently that it has become more outrageous.

Dog Grooming out of control.

Creativedog grooming is described as a way for groomers to deviate from breed profile grooms by using colour dyes, extensions and carving in order to turn a dog into another animal or famous character. It has become a very profitable service for professional groomers, but like many crazes, things get out of hand when social media and TV step in and everyone loses sight of the animals involved.

It was sadly a UK nation of dog lover’s company, Beyond Productions, that came up with the idea, modelled on Strictly Come Dancing and Singing contests with a panel of judges. It is obviously destined to become a global franchise. Australia’s Seven Network has a version and ABC in the USA  has ten groomers competing in a serious of “outrageous themed challenges”.

Pooch perfect a bad influence.

The UK version of “Pooch Perfect” hasn’t quite stooped as low as the American version but give it time. It’s Facebook page states that the program ‘celebrates the nation’s love of dogs’, but it seems a strange way of showing it. They also insist their groomers must let their imagination off the lead when they give four curly coated canines a cute teddy bear trim. Note the pun there.

Even the mainstream media take a light-hearted approach and see no harm it with quotes such as Ever thought your dog wasn’t jazzy enough, and that maybe with a pair of scissors and a tin of spray paint you could have the best looking mutt in town”.

There is no shortage of owners willing to put their dogs forward for this humiliation and have a chance of getting on TV and audiences are lapping it up judging by comments on social media and the show’s website. American owners are willing to do whatever it takes to make their dogs the wackiest in attempting to win $5,000. There is even a veterinarian on the panel of the judges, so the veterinary profession must believe its harmless. Really?

It will not be long,  I am sure, when we will be back in the good old days of the circus and have barking contests, beauty shows, dressing up shows and dogs doing tricks on TV. Am I missing something here? Is it really just good fun? Am I just being an old grouch or is it a sign that we have fundamentally lost sight of our respect for animals?

Friday, 2 April 2021

Escobar's hippos. The ultimate invasive species.


You cannot get a more obvious and intrusive alien invasive species running wild in a foreign land than hippos and in the normal course of events such a situation should not happen but in the case of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia and his private zoo at Hacienda Napoles it did and it is now causing scientists consternation and disagreement.

Pablo Escobar managed to legally and illegally import into Colombia a whole private zoo from all parts of the world in the 1980’s and these included four illegally imported hippos. How its possible to smuggle such large animals into a country is another matter, but there were also giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and many other species.

Hippos left to fend for themselves.

When Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993 most of the animals were left to fend for themselves including the four hippos who took up residence in a local river and in the space of thirty years have allegedly increased their numbers to a staggering 80-100. A wonderful breeding achievement proving that you do not necessarily need a bunch of scientists in a zoo with their artificial insemination to breed animals. But some scientists and conservationists hate invasive species and prefer everything to remain in its right order and place as nature intended. This is because in some circumstances they eradicate indigenous animals and plants and muck up the ecosystems and biodiversity and the knee jerk reaction is always to kill them.

In this case, because of the difficulty and expense in relocating them, and the fact that the locals love them, are making money out of tourists visiting them and fingers crossed no one so far has been seriously injured or killed, they are at the moment being left alone. There have been attempts to neuter them but with so many this is now proving impractical. Some university study groups and scientists have wildly estimated that there could be as many as 1,500 by the year 2035 if the Colombian government do not act now. But unusually in such cases the Government are presently protecting them.

One of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world.

One has to wonder why there wasn’t earlier intervention to remove them before their numbers got out of control and why wildlife rescue, university study groups and scientists didn’t step in sooner. One group has stated that they are “one of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world”. but now that they are situ I am all for leaving them be as they now obviously form a colony outside of Africa which could prove useful in the future. And there are many studies in progress to monitor them so there could be many lessons to be learned from leaving animals to without our intervention.

Invasive species are a worldwide problem mainly caused as always by the hand of humans abandoning exotic pets or historically introducing them to benefit human occupation. In Australia and New Zealand it is feral cats and dogs, in Europe it is animals like the coypu, in the USA it is alligators, turtles and snakes. In the UK it is grey squirrels, mink and ruddy ducks. They are blamed for all sorts of things by us which is a tad rich when the major invasive species at work on the planet has always been homo sapiens wherever they have decided to take up residence and irreparably destroy the local biodiversity.


Thursday, 4 February 2021

Should animal rescues dress up animals


Do we really need wigs, hats, and sunglasses to make animals more homeable.

The Flagler Humane Society in Florida received worldwide coverage of their recent “creative” and “ingenious” scheme to find homes for three of their left behind elderly dogs by dressing them up as old people. Such an action raises the question of whether animal welfare organisations should be condoning dressing up animals and possibly sending out the wrong message to animal owners. I think most animal owners have occasionally popped a hat and sunglasses on their pet as a bit of harmless fun but it is not a trait or habit that should be encouraged.

It is a constant problem for rescues, as I well know being a former animal home manager, to find new places for elderly dogs. Most people do not want the heartache of taking on an animal that may just live for a few years. Although it would be a perfect fit to match elderly people with aged dogs this rarely possible. This can cause desperation for many rescues when anything goes in the search for these elusive homes.

Pet industry makes a fortune out of our fads.

Surely though we are hitting a low point when Humane Societies and other rescues are reduced to dressing animals in wigs, hats, scarves and jumpers to get our attention. It doesn’t say much for our pet loving qualities when prospective owners only feel a dog becomes more worthy of a home when it suddenly becomes cute and adorable by wearing a hat and sunglasses.

Costumes for animals are big business for the pet trade, who have no interest in the ethical or welfare aspects of doing so, only the multi-millions they make out of our inane insistence to dress our pets up to make them look cute. Just because these outfits are available doesn’t mean we have to buy them or believe they are suitable or morally right. Very little thought is given to whether they may be uncomfortable, cumbersome, or even frightening.

The issue highlights the divide between animal welfare and animal rights.

The RSPCA and other welfare organisations as usual sit on the fence and guardedly warn against the practice while also giving tips and advice on how to ethically dress them up. Animal rights organisations, such as PETA, are obviously against the practice. Ardent animal rights advocates were probably horrified at an animal welfare organisation showing such little respect for the dignity of animals and their status. It is a classic example of the often great divide between the philosophy of animal welfare and animal rights.

Although needs must and this “ingenious” stunt was successful, with the three dogs finding new homes, there must be a risk that it sends out the wrong message to all those who already paint the nails and dress up their pets, buy bizarre outfits for them and pierce them. Perhaps our perceptions of acceptable behaviour towards animals is becoming rather skewed and if so, it is not a particularly edifying state of affairs.