Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Dog Morons

Sari from our Asia Group sent me a link to this (nearly) unbelievable story about New Guinea singing dogs.

It begins: "The New Guinea Singing Dogs are the rarest in the world. Just 150 were known to exist before the bust at Randy Hammond's home. Now there are 235."

So they "rescued" and neutered them.

Was their owner abusing them? Even the idiotic story suggests not:

"The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture describes Hammond as a hoarder, and he's been charged with animal cruelty, among other offenses. Despite the 85 dogs living in 27 small enclosures, Wendt describes these fox-like canines who can climb trees as "pretty healthy...In the last two years, Hammond turned all his attention to care for his wife, battling cancer...Wendt says Hammond has been very cooperative with his group and law enforcement, and that he truly cares about the dogs, who are attached to him... The number of dogs "just exploded. It went from 50 to 85 dogs in two years," Wendt says. "That's when it turns into chaos."

First they were going to rescue them by-- what else? -- putting them down. (Vicki Hearne used to say ARists preferred all animals to be either cute or dead). But (the "caring" warden who arrested the owner, one Georgia) "...Martin wouldn't allow that. As Wendt writes in a note of thanks on the New Guinea Singing Dog International Yahoo site: ...(She) realized that these rare and special dogs needed a chance to survive..."

With no descendants-- genetically and evolutionarily dead. Sorry, I don't buy "too inbred" either-- why not breed out to some of those other rare dogs?

But the fix is in. No dissent mentioned in the story. Four "choices" to make about it-- "This story makes me happy/ inspired/ laugh/ intrigued"-- why not disgusted, appalled, murderous, depressed? And you can only comment on (Evil) Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg being a private arm of Big Brother...

When Big Nanny, AR, and moronic institutionalized "compassion" meet there are no civil rights and no fertile dogs. (Re)read Vicki Hearne. Me? I'll defend my own genetic gold. Molon labe.


PBurns said...

Steve, there's no shortage of NGSD -- just a shortage of people that want them.

The story here is much the same as the Basenji -- a small population in the "western" world (about 300 dogs) all descended from a handful of dogs collected from the wild, and all deeply inbred as a consequence.

All the dogs in the US and Europe are descended from just 8 dogs, so not much genetic diversity has been lost by sterlizing this set. If you want one, I can probably get one released to you if you are willing to build a massive roofed enclosure ;)

As for the dogs in New Guinea (and parts of Indonesia), from what I can tell no they are still there, but they are wild animals and you need to go trapping them. Like trapping a wolf, it takes time and money and there's not much of either to go around. But go to the right place and walk three or four hours and you will see quite a lot of tracks and scat as noted here >> Do I think the NGSD has disappeared from New Guinea? Not a chance. Hell, we couldn't even get rid of wolves in Minnesota, and it has the largest mall in the world ;)



harcapper said...

You see, thats the problem with reading one reporters story. You label people like myself as morons when you have not taken the time to gather the real facts of this case. At least PBurns has a clue. Singers are very difficult to place and especially unsocialized adults. Despite this group being so inbred we are testing them for purity and for genetic defects before we decide to further the lines. It's the responsible thing to do here. And oh by the way, only 46 of the 85 dogs have been altered. How's your math?

Tom Wendt
New Guinea Singing Dog International

Steve Bodio said...

I am glad that there are more singing dogs than the story implied-- and my reservations about the story are obvious-- see my remark on comments.

But Patrick should remember, and Mr Wendt familiarize himself with, this blog's longstanding position on mandatory spay- neuter even by governments, never mind quasi- governmental, meddling private entities: we are AGAINST it. See my last sentences.

Such policies, with philosophical roots deep in AR's hope to end domestication, would lead and in some cases are leading into acute shortages of dogs in some places-- when street dogs are being imported from Mexico something is out of whack.

The level of spay neuter regulation in greater Albuquerque in my own state would not allow my non-AKC Asian salukis, who actually have papers, to be considered anything but mongrels with no possibility for exemption-- this despite my expenses bringing them in (before the regs) or the fact that they are valuable for breed diversity.

I don't doubt singing dogs are difficult and hard to adopt, or that Mr Wendt did a good and necessary job after they were legally stolen. But they HAD A HOME.

These have been constant themes here, ones Vicki Hearne wrote presciently about in Bandit years ago. It is a book anyone concerned with these matters should read.

Janeen said...

Laws are important - and so are the ways we choose to enforce them.

Labeling someone with an emotionally-laden term like 'hoarder' or 'abuser' makes it easy(er) to deny that person the kind of protections the rest of us like to think we're entitled to under the law.

When dogs are siezed (or, as is often the case) an owner is unduly pressured into releasing them the race shouldn't be to kill / neuter / rehome them, it should be to collect evidence and prepare a case.

I spent hundreds of hours in the last year working with, fostering and giving free training help to the victims of a large hoarder case. While on the face of it the seemed to be a simple one, the authorities still took the time (and expended significant resources) to hold more than 200 sick, starving, sexually intact dogs of another rare and not always easy to place breed for several months until their owner was convicted.

Then, and only then, were these dogs released to be neutered and adopted out.

When we agree to let authorities (legal or otherwise) engage in a mad rush to remove and parcel out the living evidence in these cases, not only do we trample on the civil rights of a potentially innocent person, we may also signficantly limit the ability of law enforcement to collect and document the evidence needed to convict a guilty person.

I wonder if this is part of the reason that many of these people (i.e., alleged hoarders and / or animal abusers) are not successfully convicted.

Steve Bodio said...

Thanks for the level- headed thoughts, Janeen-- I admit that the possibility of anyone ever neutering one of my dogs against my will makes me see red.

And at least until recently it was a real problem in NM-- there was a serious push to take the Albuquerque regs statewide, even as apathetic rural breeders imagined themselves invisible. One rancher- houndsman said "we have a county out here". Think his country has the assets of HSUS?

Steve Bodio said...

Uh-- that would be "COUNTRY out here".

Anonymous said...

Although I wouldn't say NGSD's are the rarest dogs in the world, they certainly ARE rare, and getting rarer. And at the current rate of deforestation(habitat loss for the wild NGSD's) and wildlife endangerment(wild NGSD'S have to eat something...), loss of tribal culture of the Natives in New Guinea(who originally kept and hunted with NGSD's), and crossbreeding with non-native dogs, the NGSD's are definetely dissapearring as a distinct form of primitive dog, just as distinctly unique Basenjis are becoming rarer in Central Africa, and Dingoes are being crossbred out of existence in Australia, all for the same reasons. To pretend otherwise because the general pariah population that results from crossbreeding with "outside" dogs sorta looks like a Basenji or NGSD or Dingo, is showing ignorance of the uniqueness of the rare, feral characteristics of these primitive types, which are lost when the isolation that produced and preserved these characteristics is lost. Wolves survived in NORTHERN Minnesota because they still had sufficient habitat and prey, and no one was trying to totally exterminate them there--they WERE wiped out in the Southern half of Minnesota--where the Malls are--(deforestation, loss of big game, and too many humans), just as they were in ALL the other lower 48 states, and just as indigenous Basenjis, NGSD's, and Dingoes are as we speak. Wolves are rebounding because many people made a lot of effort to make this happen, not by just saying everything was just fine because a tiny remnant population of wolves were surviving in an isolated portion of Northern Minnesota! Yes, every effort to preserve any individuals of these NGSD's should be made, and hopefully will be in this case. Finding the right homes will NOT be easy, though. No one should get a NGSD because they want a dog, you get an NGSD because you want an NGSD(and hopefully wish to join in the effort to preserve them) and know EXACTLY what you are getting yourself into!....L.B.

LabRat said...

Once rule of law becomes contingent on the dual question of "are the people good people" and "are the dogs (or assets) any good" rather than "sound legal procedure", we're well and truly fucked.

Steve Bodio said...

LabRat---EXACTLY. "Quis custodiet" and all that. For the record: show breeders should be able to breed, and working dog breeders, and even breeders of "mongrels" (how else would we make lurchers and other intentional crosses?) The standard should be someplace else-- ability to feed and care adequately, place young, etc.

In one of the southern NM counties your number of dogs is predicated on acreage-- shades of aristocratic privilege! How could we have bred so may fine, even prize- winning coursers, not to mention raised our own runners, on half an acre?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Wow, that's appalling. And the Hearne quote is right on.

Heather Houlahan said...

Alas, animal welfare laws (the real ones, not the Albuquerque monstrosity) have no way of taking account of breed conservation values.

That's not a reason to not have animal welfare laws, or to fail to enforce them.

The way to safeguard one's breed conservation efforts is to, #1 stay on top of legislative attempts to define things that are not animal-welfare-related as animal welfare (again, see Albuquerque; if you are a resident of Albuquerque, I'm sorry, but I can't sell you a puppy), and #2, don't run afoul of bona fide animal welfare laws.

Now -- non-legal question -- what is the appropriate *selection* process by which one would conserve the New Guinea singing dog?

I know what it is for my rare and emphatically non-AKC working breed. And I know what it is not.

One thing it is NOT is 200+ dogs in a five acre junkyard, selling to anyone via internet puppymill sites, starving, dehydrated, parasitized, feral animals huddling under junked cars, chained to posts, and caged in their own shit. It is not dead dogs being chipped off frozen manure piles.

This knowledge, of what constitutes breed conservation in the case of the breed I know well, causes me to reject it as a justification for cruelty that far surpassed the threshold for felony.

But even IF there were precious bloodlines being preserved there (the abuser did start with some good dogs, but the genetics were hardly unique), breed conservation cannot and should not be a mitigating claim when the animals are being cruelly treated.

If the original owner had conservation goals, then the appropriate time to safeguard them would have been BEFORE the conditions violated bona fide cruelty statutes.

Because, though I am obviously not one of those people who believe that the only interesting or relevant thing about an animal is his suffering, I am also here to say that the animal's suffering matters. And it's the part of the animal that the law has a legitimate interest in. I don't WANT the law to show an interest, one way or another, in my breed conservation priorities. It's none of the law's damned business one way or the other, as you correctly note.

It actually sounds as if the authorities have been unusually flexible and helpful in this case.

But there would have been no case if the owner had given the legal minimum of care to his animals.

Retrieverman said...

The unfortunate thing about New Guinea Singing dogs is that they have been kept for generation after generation under the assumption or perhaps hope that they were some unique species. Some of the propaganda about these dogs is appalling-- and hysterical. Supposedly the fact that the scream while copulating makes theme so unique!

There are plenty of dogs in Papua New Guinea that have the phenotype and behavior. The natives use these dogs to hunt, although they, like the dingo, have been mixed with foreign breeds.

I saw on a PBS documentary called Dogs That Changed the World a few years ago, and it was established in the native lore that their hunting dogs came from pups taken from the dens of the feral dogs. They selectively bred from those pups to make the tree kangaroo and pig dogs. Those dogs, of course, have evolved as domesticates-- with spots and floppy ears-- and they have had the addition of foreign breeds. But if people want to know where the singing dogs went, their genes still exist in these hunting dogs.

The ones in the West have been inbred, although some have had some addition of Shetland sheepdog blood (of all things) to increase their genetic diversity.

New Guinea singing dogs-- as they define them-- probably became rare for the same reason that pure dingoes-- as they define them-- are becoming rarer and rare. Neither of these animals is a unique species, and both will readily cross with domestic dogs. That's because they are feral dogs, not unique species.

BTW, one of my favorite things about dingoes is that for a long time, German shepherd dogs were forbidden to be imported into Australia. Why? Because the British had called them Alsatian wolf dogs during World War I, and it was belied that these "wolf dogs" would get loose and breed with the dingo, making a super wolf that would devour all the sheep in Australia.

Right now, foreign dogs have increased the size of some dingo populations, but the dingo likely played a role in developing the kelpie, the koolie, and the Australian cattle dog.

But whatever happens with these singers, it doesn't change the fact that we need more dogs breeding in all sorts of breeds. Genetic diversity is something that has so tragically been overlooked throughout the vast dog culture.

The AR people do not help. Sad as it is, certain sections of the AR crowd will not rest until all dogs are liberated of their gonads or liberated of their lives.

Retrieverman said...

The island of New Guinea has two nations on it: the nation of Papua New Guinea and the provinces of Papua and West Papua, which are part of Indonesia.

With that island are cultures that hunt both pigs and tree kangaroos, and they use dogs to assist them on their hunts. These dogs are relatives and derivatives of the singers.

If they can get away with crossing in Shetland Sheepdogs, why not cross in a native New Guinea hunting dog?

These animals were severely hurt by the attempts to get them recognized as a unique species, which was provisionally called Canis hallstromi. It painted their breeders into a box. This box is just as bad as any closed registry system that exists in other dogs.

Obsession with blood purity hss hampered Mexican wolf conservation. A whole line that could have been sued for reintroduction was euthanized because it was believed that they were crossed with dogs. Genetic evidence has since refuted this assertion, but not before virtually every wolf in that line was killed off.

The same thing has happened with the New Guinea singing dog.

Anonymous said...

There ARE NOT plenty of NGSD's left in New Guinea that are not hybridized with more domesticated dogs! You cannot look up hardly any information about them without this rarity being noted. Just because the hybrids sorta look and act like NGSD's does not mean the unique characteristics of this definetely(formerly) unique canine have been preserved--exactly the opposite--ditto with Dingoes and Basenjis. All these primitive types DO have unique characteristics that developed in their formerly isolated conditions--like only coming in heat once-a-year unlike virtually all other domestic dogs. They are fairly useless for study by scientists trying to learn about primitive dog characteristics if they are crossbred with just any mongrel--their uniquness in New Guinea is almost gone. There ARE NOT lots of truly wild specimens left--only a tiny remnant population(according to those studying them in New Guinea) MAY exist in an isolated mountainous region--a fraction of their former range in New Guinea. It is also believed these dogs may be hybrids--no way to tell for sure, as they haven't been able to catch or even see them for the longest! You cannot tell if they are crosses or not by a few tracks. The natives do still hunt with dogs, but they are not good examples of the original NGSD's before European encroachment. I saw that dog special on PBS too, awhile back, and the dogs looked like varied pariah types--none looked much like a typical NGSD(which I found saddening). The only thing scientists can learn from those dogs is what they can learn from any feral pack of domestic dogs--NGSD's,Dingoes, and Basenjis predate all other domestic varieties(according to recent genetic tests, although this has always been assumed), and it is what makes them unique, and worthy of preservation and study--they are a window back in time to all dogs' origins. Swamp their gene pool with outside sources, and they are no longer primitive NGSD'S! Sure, try to get as much genetic variety as possible, as for any endangered zoo population, but once crossed with more modern, more thouroughly domesticated types, the NGSD uniqueness is gone....L.B.

Retrieverman said...

I think you're correct. It's just that the majority of dogs that have that phenotype and genotype aren't going to be running around in the forest. They can be procured in the villages.

And if they are mixed with other dogs but still have the primitive characteristics, why not use them?

Basenjis have primitive characteristics, but they are extensively used for hunting.

I think these dogs were really badly hurt by the paradigm that sought them out as a unique species.

I don't know if any really wild dogs exist in the remote highlands or not, and if some were discovered, what if they had foreign dog genes in them? I would hope that they would be used if they had the phenotype and behavior.

This is different from basenjis in that basenjis are clearly unique from other African dogs, and there are enough of them in Africa to sustain a breed. I'm not so sure New Guinea singing dogs exist at those numbers, regardless of their unique characteristics. The luxury the basenji has is not shared with the singing dog.

PBurns said...

A few pictures of the lives of the Pennsylvania NGSD's might be illuminating.

NGSD are WILD DOGS and they are almost never kept in captivity even among the indigenous tribes of New Guinea.

Here are some pictures of the dogs as found in Pennsylvania >>

Another one here (and more information too) >>

Look at those pictures.

Would you keep a wolf like this?

A coyote?

Your own dogs?

This situation was NOT a recent problem caused by a spouse with cancer; it was a situation that occured over years. Years of misery for dogs that almost never left small wire cages.

And, of course, it has nothing to do with mandatory spay-neuter; it has everything to do with the failure of personal responsibility.

I am hardly an animal right lunatic. I hunt and I have stapled up more than a few dogs in my day (and yes, I too have been stapled up after playing a bit too hard ;).

That said, dogs are not inanimate property. If you leave a shovel out in the rain and snow, it is of
no concern to the state. But do the same thing to a dog, and not only will the state step
in – it may fine you, remove your dogs and, in extreme cases, jail you.

This is not a new thing -- it is a very old thing, and the rules of decency for dogs and wild animals kept in captivity have not changed much so far as I can tell.

Retrieverman said...

Actually, I don't make such bizarre claims. I'm sure there was a dingo that lived in New Guinea that adapted to living in the highlands. I don't know if it's still there or not.

I think one should read some of the propaganda put out by the New Guinea Singing Dog propaganda people and see if that represents any kind of objective understanding of dogs: "They scream when they copulate-- must be a whole new species!"

I have seen footage people in New Guinea and photos in Nat Geo magazine of the same people hunting with dogs that look exactly like New Guinea singing dogs. They are modifications through domestication and through cross-breeding, but at their base is the wild dog that the natives have always talked about. That's where the genes for this dog are.

It is not a wild dog. Dingoes really aren't wild dogs either. See Carl Lumholtz's ethnography, where the dingoes were taken as small pups and used to hunt. Some of these returned to the feral existence when they did, others did not. The natives of Australia used the dingoes as living thermal blankets.

A New Guinea signing dog is nothing more than a dingo that has adapted to live in the highlands of New Guinea. All the genetic studies have found this out. They look different and have thicker coats, but so do dingoes that live in the snowy mountains. No one makes bizarre claims that those dingoes are a different species.

If they don't want to use New Guinea village dog populations, which have New Guinea singing dog at their base, to contribute to genetic diversity of this animal, they can easily use dingo.

Here are photos of New Guinea village hunting dogs that obviously are derived from New Guinea singing dogs or share a common ancestry:



From what I've read, the natives believe that their dogs are derived from some wild animal that lived in the forest. There are no wolves or jackals native to New Guinea, so it must be the New Guinea singing dog.

This is the documentary that should be seen before commenting on anything to do with New Guinea Singing Dogs:

The differences in these village dogs come from domestication, selective breeding, and new dog blood coming from elsewhere. New Guinea is not as isolated as it once was.

To me this argument is about like what exists in dingoes and European wolves these day, people are way too uptight about blood purity in both populations. Dogs have crossbred with both these wolves and dingoes, and everyone is scared about protecting the hybrids. And who know how much manpower and money is being wasted to keep red wolves (a coywolf) from mating with coyotes? I'd rather red wolves have some coyote in them, rather than becoming so inbred.

Same with New Guinea singing dogs. If any of them exist in the wild, they have got to have domestic dog crossed in. I'd be very surprised if any pure New Guinea sining dogs exist, even if they do live free of humans.

I don't think Mr. Burns is an animal rights lunatic, but he is playing into the hands of the blood purity for blood purity's sake people--something I thought he opposed.

Retrieverman said...

Here's the video in question.

This documentary includes Savolainen's big N MtDNA research.

Retrieverman said...

I'm not defending anyone who keeps dogs in terrible conditions.

I'm an a bit upset that people think it's a great idea to keep these dogs in a closed registry system, and some people still promote the lie that they are a separate species. I'm also a bit upset that these dogs lost their reproductive potential.

I don't know why people are so resistant to the idea that we might cross-breed to save them.

As said earlier, I would be very surprised if any genetically "pure" singing dogs exist in the highlands.
These dogs have very real issues with genetic diversity. The majority of these dogs derive from a single litter:

Retrieverman said...

I should also point out that a very similar breed of dog called the Telomian is found in Malaysian. It looks and behaves very similarly to the New Guinea singing dog. It is monestrous, is not a barker, and it is generally considered a primitive.

It could also be used as an outcross to preserve New Guinea singing dogs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Retrieverman, NGSD's are NOT just a Dingo that adapted to life in the New Guinea highlands, except in the BROADEST of terms--although definetely a primitive pariah type of dog like Dingoes and Basenjis, they bred in isolation from Australian Dingoes for certainly hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, until they were quite distinct. If you've ever SEEN NGSD's and Dingoes in person(as I have), they are VERY different! As different, say, as Cocker Spaniels are from Golden Retrievers(even though both of them are in the same category of Sporting Dogs!) For one, NGSD's are HALF the size of typical Australian Dingoes; their body conformation and proportions are also entirely different. Their social structure also appears to be different--they tend to be much more solitary than Dingoes, and it is difficult to keep them in large packs in captivity like Dingoes often are--this social characteristic makes them REALLY different! It was hoped that studying them in the wild could shed more light on these unique social as well as physical differences, but, as you said, there may not be any "pure" specimens left--a shame! The New Guinea natives apparently PREFER the crossbred mongrels with more domesticated characteristics--not suprising, as they are much easier to handle and keep! Nat Geos showing natives with NGSD's are OLD Nat Geos! And the Telomians are undoubtedley going through the same swamping of their gene pool with more domesticated dogs just as are ALL the primitive types the world over--there just aren't many places that allow for such isolation anymore, alas. As for NGSD's not being WILD dogs--I guess that's all in what one considers "wild". Sure, they are undoubtedley descended from dogs originally brought by natives thousands of years ago to these locations, but they have been feral for possibly THOUSANDS of years(in the cases of NGSD's and Australian Dingoes), so have definetely developed "wild" behaviour and characteristics that make them VERY different from more thouroughly domesticated breeds--not as completely wild as a wolf, perhaps, but certainly a lot more truly wild than feral domestic dogs, and this is something anyone that adopts one really needs to research and consider--in the practical keeping of them(and yes, they certainly should and deserve better accomodations than the fellow in this discussion provided!), one is better off thinking of them as a tame wild animal than a feral domestic one. Having kept both rehabilitated feral domestics, and wild animals over the years, I can assure you they can be quite different! I personally haven't kept NGSD's or Dingoes(yet....) but I have talked to people who have, and they all said it was much more like keeping a little tame wolf than any domestic breed--to me, that's WILD! And of course both Dingoes and NGSD's were around LONG before more modern, more thouroughly domestic breeds were, which is what makes them unique in the present day.....L.B.

Anonymous said...

I think Retrieverman misses a few points. First, the term "species" is a technical term from biology. It would be preferable to let the biologists work out what it means and whether it applies to the NGSD except for the political situation. If the NGSD is defined as a species or sub-species there is the possibility of obtaining protection for it as an endangered wild animal. Admittedly the biological argument is inadequate to support the political one because the NGSD is most certainly descended from SE Asian domestic dogs gone feral and has the same ancestry as the dingo. For some reason authorities can't be persuaded to protect a "unique wild breeding population". It has to be a "species".
And unique it is, quite distinct from the Telomian and the dingo both in behavior and conformation. It appears that it has been isolated from those and also from the effects of human selective breeding for a very long time.
What is truly disturbing is Retrieverman's belief that cross-breeding would benefit the NGSD. There is no danger that the NGSD will become extinct in North America, except by the same mechanism as will produce its extinction in its homeland. That is, by cross-breeding with domestic dogs. To suggest that cross-breeding solves a problem in this breed is outrageous. Cross-breeding is extinction. The fact that that domestic dogs share most genes in common with the NGSD is beside the point. In domestic breeds where it has become necessary to resort to out-crossing with other breeds it has been done to correct genetic flaws fixed by inbreeding, not the inbreeding itself. Fortunately, the NGSD has yet to display such flaws. That is probably because the founders, while few in number, were quite healthy, genetically speaking. And that is probably because they were produced by natural, not artificial selection. So far, breeders have tried to preserve as much of the original gene pool as possible, by breeding from all available bloodlines and by not breeding for type, performance, or any other human goal. There are also efforts being made to capture more wild stock.