Monday, September 17, 2007

Nuns vs. Pit Bulls: Preschool Wants Pit Bull Kennel Moved in OK

The nuns run a preschool; the dogs' owner says he's put $80,000 into fencing to keep his dogs in. But the nuns remain resolute: pit bull terrier don't belong near a school playground.

This sounds like a simple issue, but it isn't. I decided to take a deeper look at it after seeing several glaring omissions in the article.

One thing that the article does not make clear: are these "pit bulls" or dogs that are purebred American Staffordshire Terriers? That distinction is important. Remember Spuds McKenzie from the ads?

The purebred American Staffordshire Terrier, like Spuds, is not the same animal as a pit bull. A pit bull is literally a mongrel form of terrier, inbred on generations of "pit bulls" bred for ferocity and fighting skills. In addition, the pit bull is an example of both nature and nuture: many pit bulls become dangerous because of the cruel and abusive treatment handed out by sadistic owners like Michael Vick and other dog fighters.

The article also fails by tossing in a reference to the dogs being "show dogs," but never corroborates that by giving verifiable examples and references. An AKC Champion American Staffordshire Terrier, well bred and raised, is not any more likely to be a danger to anyone than any other breed--as Spuds McKenzie proves.

However, as a veteran AKC show person and owner of AKC Champion German Shepherds, I find myself suspicious that no proofs of heritage or training are included. Is that the fault of the reporter? Or does the owner simply call them "show dogs"? And what kind of showing? If the owner uses them for Schutzhund training, that is a different training--and different psychology on the part of the owner as well--from obedience, agility, or the better-known "show dog" competitions.

Given my concerns for what the reporter did not supply, I decided to research the kennel owner. I found a web page where I learned something valuable: the dogs are advertised not within the tighter American Kennel Club (AKC) standards, but within the newer United Kennel Club (UKC) shows.

And that brings up another issue: the promotion of UKC registation and titles. Although most non-dog enthusiasts won't know this, the UKC was formed in reaction to AKC strict standards. The bottom line is that it's almost impossible not to get a dog on UKC rolls as a "registered dog."

I just reviewed the UKC "registration application" again. If the dogs, or entire liter, being registered is not "UKC registered," all an owner has to do is to submit a "pedigree." Here's the catch: if an owner registers a dog that is not descended from UKC dogs, no verification numbers of prior registrations are required. This means that an owner can write their own "pedigree" and get even a non-purebred accepted as "registered" purebred.

In addition, it's also almost impossible not to get "titles" on UKC dogs. Unlike AKC standards, which are arduous and sometimes take years to fulfill, UKC bills itself as a "working" or "family sport" environment--both of which are very politically correct terms. However, becoming a UK "champion" does not require the same level of excellence or training that an AKC title does. (Note: UKC adherents will contest these statements--this is a hot topic in some areas of the dog world.) Although the owner gives a nod to the AKC, and has some AKC-titled dogs, the entire presentation focuses on UKC and "UKC American Pit Bull Terriers." AKC is adamant in separating Staffies, as they're called, from "pit bulls."

Then why even bother with UKC registration and titles? Because, to an average dog buyer, "registration papers" and "titles" help sell dogs--and for higher prices. The average buyer doesn't know the difference.

The UKC in essence, in my opinion, is a "papermill" for handing out registrations and many awards. The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation points out "Any of a number of sham registries than register anything bred--including mixes of all types--used by puppy millers to circumvent restrictions
of the AKC: CKC (Continental Kennel Club), ACA (American Canine Association, APR (American Purebred Registry), APRI (America's Pet Registry, Inc.),UKC (Universal Kennel Club), and many others. Many of these registries deliberately use the same or similar acroynms as legitimate registeries."

Which brings us to this important point: why so many dogs, and who cares for them? The article says that 40 dogs live in the kennels. The physical demands alone of properly caring for 40 dogs every single day are enormous.

The cost of caring for 40 dogs, even without expenses related to shows, will be enormous if done well. In addition, I learned that the owner's wife has a kennel of Yorkies, which means additional expenses.

In short, the costs of maintaing so many dogs, plus the expenses involved in going to show events and paying for entry fees as well as gas, lodging, etc. are enormous. How can someone recoup those expenditures? Selling puppies is one way, of course.

This is not to say that the owners do not provide care for their animals. However, when the owner asserted that the nuns' concern was misplaced because he had "show" dogs vs. "pit bull" dogs, he himself opened the door to questions about the goals of his breeding business.

In fact, the city, in prior skirmishes with owner Kenneth Gonzalez, mandated that he keep no more than 25 dogs in his kennels. Gonzalez has previously sued the city over regulations and a prior denial of a permit to operate his kennel.

The controversy goes well beyond the surface level of "nuns and preschool playground" vs. pit bulls. The article also would have been improved by having a map of the properties, which are said to be about a mile apart. Another thing that would have added to this article: having a photograph of the actual kennels.

Is this, as Gonzales' attorney says, simply a land use issue? Is it, as the nuns say, simply a safety issue for the children in their care?

There are depths to this story. I hope that the Daily Oklahoman continues to follow up on this and provides deeper background at some point.

The nuns at Villa Teresa Moore preschool in south Oklahoma City are picking a fight with the neighbors — a kennel full of pit bull terriers.

The Carmelite nuns who run the school at 13501 S Western and several surrounding property owners are upset about a deal struck last month between Oklahoma City and a local landowner who operates a pit bull terrier kennel near the school.

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  1. Hi Pat,
    Thoughtful comments in your blog article, but bad research. As a person chiding the Daily Oklahoman for not providing sufficient information, you might want to consider the following information:
    1. "Spuds McKenzie" was not an American Staffordshire Terrier. He (actually she - the dog playing the character was female) was a White Bull Terrier. The same breed appears as the popular Target department store advertisement pitch-dog "Spot". White Bull Terriers are an entirely separate breed from the American Staffordshire.
    2. The United Kennel Club was not formed "in response to AKC strict standards". The AKC was founded in 1884, the UKC was founded was founded in 1898, so UKC is a "newer" organization only in the broadest terms. Both are venerable institutions in the sport of purebred dogs. Although the link in your article leads to the United Kennel Club's home page, prehaps you thought you were linking to the "Universal Kennel Club" which is a less that reputable registry.
    3. Many AKC registered American Staffordshire Terriers are also cross registered with the United Kennel Club as American Pit Bull Terriers. Some places have more UKC shows and others have more AKC shows. UKC offered agility before AKC did and now offers titles in weight pulling, a sport Am. Staffs/Pit Bulls excel in. Most "Pit Bulls" advertised from fighting kennels (e.g. Michael Vick and Co.) and from back yard breeders are indeed a "mongrel form of terrier", but the UKC Pit Bull is as pedigreed as any purebred dog. Am. Staffs and American Pit Bull terriers are not the only breed that are registered under different names in AKC vs UKC. I own and show AKC Belgian Tervuren. My AKC Champion Belgian Tervuren dogs are also registered as UKC Belgian Shepherds. I dual register my dogs because it expands the venues I can show in - and I like to show!
    Happy Blogging! but do avoid that old problem with glass houses and stones.

  2. Hi Elaine,

    Nice to hear from you after all this time.
    Thanks for the correction on "Spuds"--it was pulled from some company PR information.
    I'm very aware of the sensitivities involved with UKC/AKC. However, in this particular case, the distinction was important for many reasons: 1) the locale 2) the specific problem 3) the context and 4) the fact that today, unless something has suddenly changed, you can register anything with the UKC as "purebred" without documented proof. And in this general area, a great many puppy mills and people in it for money eschew AKC in favor of UKC.
    It's a far different environment from Florida. Unfortunately, rescue groups in this area are constantly having to rescue, even buy in large lots, dogs at large-scale auctions, being sold "down market". Rather than strong AKC groups literally just miles from each other, parent club-affiliated breeders tend to be more isolated, while the puppy millers and "I can sell anything with some kind of papers" people are seemingly everywhere.
    My advice to anyone, if they were to ask me, won't change: if you wish to buy, ask for a 6 generation AKC pedigree with appropriate multi-generational health certifications: PPV, hips, whatever is appropriate for the breed.
    We also have a horrible problem with pit bulls in this area. Although those of us living in the city must register our pets (in addition to rabies, etc.), around here people with pit bulls just merrily register them as Staffordshires. I guarantee that if the city ever required documentation of breed, there would be a lot of UKC certificates suddenly showing up.
    I know many people who enjoy what some have described as the more "relaxed" atmosphere of UKC shows--one said it was more like a family picnic than the stress of many AKC shows--and that's fine. But in educating the public, especially in areas where there aren't so many breed clubs and kennel clubs and quality shows, I have a mission in education: go for the best quality, and deepest quality breeding and *documentation* possible. And I'm not alone in this--again, the context and the specific locale play into this.
    However, my best advice is this: adopt a rescue! I support some wonderful rescue groups. There are so many dogs out there who are tossed aside and need good homes.
    Although it's been good to talk with you again, my CH German Shepherd thinks I've spent too long at the computer. And my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Owain Glendower, reminds me that it's time to play. After all, he's running for President of the United States so we need R&R! Don't worry, his credentials are impeccable. There will be no scandals forthcoming!

    And--in Tornado Alley, we don't have glass houses. We're far too practical for that! ;}

    Thanks for stopping by. Happy show trails to you!


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