Breed bans can lead to frustration, even tragedy

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Q: What do you think about the ruling against Lennox the dog in Belfast? -- S.C., Atlanta, GA

A: This may sound melodramatic, but I cried when I read your note. Lennox, a mixed-breed dog, was confiscated about two years ago because officials thought he looked like a Pit Bull, a breed banned in Northern Ireland. In truth, Lennox wasn't a purebred Pit Bull, and the pet had done nothing wrong.

Sadly, Lennox's owners just lost their long battle, and their beloved family pet was euthanized July 11. A colleague wrote on my Facebook fan page: "Well, that's Ireland for you." I wrote back, "That's Ireland, and several other nations, including the U.S. Countless dogs have been killed here in communities with Pit Bull bans because of what dogs are alleged to be."

The following question also touched my heart because of what had just happened to Lennox.

Q: We're in the process of moving to a rental home, but we've run into a major roadblock because of an issue with our dog, a 6-month-old large mixed breed.

The previous owner said our dog was half Golden Retriever, part German Shepherd, and perhaps part Chow Chow. When I gave this information to rental company officials, they said he couldn't live in the house with us if he "has any chow in him whatsoever." Now, they want me to provide a letter from a veterinarian stating that "to the best of (the vet's) opinion," our dog is "predominantly" a Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix. It would be even better, I was told, if the vet could say our dog doesn't appear to have any Chow, Rottweiler, or Pit Bull.

I asked our veterinarian to provide such a letter, but she won't say the dog appears to be any breed without a DNA test, which would take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars.

My whole family is upset, and my daughters are on the verge of tears. We were all looking forward to the move, but if this issue can't be resolved we'll have to find another property to rent. Any advice? -- H.B., Cyberspace

Your story isn't too different from that of Lennox, except that Truman won't be confiscated.

Nearly all pedigree dogs were originally bred for a purpose, and they're typically hard-wired to herd, retrieve, guard, or whatever. But an individual dog's temperament is shaped far more by genetics, and even more so by early socialization.

To broadly ban a dog that's 100 percent Chow (or American Pit Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, etc.) makes little sense to nearly all dog experts. And when a dog is only part Chow, it's simply ridiculous, since the information carries almost no weight in predicting a dog's temperament.

While it's true that a Chow with poor individual genetics and deprived of appropriate socialization may demonstrate aggression, the same would apply to other breeds in your dog's progeny, German Shepherds or even Golden Retrievers.

The genetic test you mention, called a Wisdom Panel, can be mailed in, but getting the results does take time. I sniffed out a test for $59 on Amazon. Speedier is the Wisdom Panel blood test, available through a veterinary clinic, which costs about twice the price of the mail-in test.

You didn't mention where you live, and I realize that finding pet-friendly housing can be challenging. If I were you, I'd consider another property. Assuming your dog is friendly, and well behaved, there are many more enlightened property management companies that would be happy to rent you a home.

Q: Do you know if Christina Aguilera is coming back to the TV show "The Voice"? I hope not. Whenever she hits those high notes, our cat, Max, hits our other cat in the face, then runs down the hall meowing. What's going on? -- V.S., Fort Myers, FL

A: I'm not sure why your cat doesn't care for Aguilera's singing. Other readers have told me their cats have a similar response whenever Justin Bieber warbles. Perhaps the singing does hurt the cats' ears, or maybe they're annoyed. According to several web sites, Aguilera is returning to the "The Voice" next season. Apparently, you enjoy the show, so I'd suggest keeping Max away from the TV when the program is on.

Q: Our cat, Oscar, is a grouch. As he's gotten older (he's now 6 or 7), he complains about everything. What can I do? -- S.H., Evanston, IL

A: Anytime there's a change in a pet's behavior, see your veterinarian. A physical problem could be causing this increased vocalization. Sometimes cats who tend to be articulate become more so over time. They learn that expressing themselves with increasing frequency and amplification might garner more attention. Even if the attention is you shouting, "Quiet, Oscar!" it's still attention.

I host radio talk shows about pets (http://www.petworldradio.net) and it sounds as if Oscarmight be a purr-fect guest host.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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