I heard that it was National Dog Week which is odd since I keep a Calendar of pet related commemorative dates at the shelter for promoting adoptions and I’ve never heard of this. The best part is that it was established in 1928 by dog fanciers to accomplish the following:
- A good home for every dog.
- Elimination of stray dogs from the street
- Better-informed dog owners
- Consideration for dogs and all animals
- Emphasis of the dog’s use as companion and protector
- Fair laws for dogs and dog owners
- Respect for the rights of non-dog owners
I think we’ve done a good job in some of these areas but I also think the sportsmen who founded this event over 80 years ago, might be surprised by some of the twists and turns along the way. They might be surprised that we have so many shelters with adoption programs for lost and unwanted dogs. About a million dogs per year are rehomed according to a report from Tufts University. (The report estimates that 4-6 million animals are sheltered, half are killed and most are cats, so I’m estimating). Since open admission shelters not only accept strays, they go out and collect them, the first two items on the list seem to have retained their importance for decades.
The AKC, PetSmart Charities, Maddie’s Fund, AHA, and ASPCA have active dog owner education programs. So does APDT (Trainer’s group) and many animal shelters and humane societies employ professional educators. There is even a membership group for teachers who use humane education curriculum. Number three-check.
There are a few areas in which consideration for non humans is at an all time high. We could marvel at the billions of dollars spent on pet care or the number of on line sources for pet information, the growth in veterinary medicine to include specialty hospitals and oncology centers, or increase in pet population. We have programs for ensuring that animals raised for food are treated well and killed in a humane manner. There is general outrage when any mistreatment of animals is reported in the news and many laws are enacted as a reaction to one or two extreme cases to eliminate the risk of repeat cases and to harshly punish humans found responsible. Most states in the US have criminal charges for animal cruelty.
Celebrating the dog’s role in our lives is reflected by the number of books and publications dedicated to understanding and doing right by dogs. Dogwise.com has some of the best. Another success.
I’d say the last two are the most likely to require some work. More and more legislation restricting the number or type of dogs one can keep, the fees and permits needed to do so and harsh punishments for owners of dogs gone wrong may be seen as unfair by some. I am in favor of laws that treat damage done by dogs as the owner’s responsibility. This could all change if the legality of “ownership” is changed to guardianship as some activists would like. Responsibility should be a big part of maintaining freedom. But I am not in favor of laws that attempt to prevent people from making mistakes. Most of us won’t make the mistakes the laws are aiming for and those who do should pay the existing fines and consequences AFTER they actually fail. For example, a law that says if my dogs disturb my neighbor or run loose in the neighborhood I will be held responsible through a fine or some sort of restitution is fair and applies to any number of dogs I choose to keep. Preventing me from having 4 dogs when there has been no problem is unfair.
And finally, the last one. This one is pretty important. Dog owners and non dog owners are pretty equal in number in this country. If my ownership of dogs infringes on my neighbor’s freedom, this is a problem, just as his non ownership of dogs should not interfere with mine. As dog owners, we should all be a little sensitive to those who are afraid of dogs, do not enjoy dogs, and simply dislike dogs. We don’t have to understand them or like them but if we want to continue to share our time with dogs and honor National Dog Week, we need to respectfully accept some people are not going to join the party. Let’s not give them cause to call in the authorities.
You can celebrate National Dog Week by getting a dog. In Washington DC you have several options. Prince George’s Animal Control, Washington Animal Rescue League, Washington Humane Society, Montgomery County Humane Society, Arlington Animal Welfare League all offer dogs for adoption.