Book Review: The Lost Dogs – Jim Gorant

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I mentioned breed-ism yesterday.   The book that really made me think about it was The Lost Dogs.  This was a gut-wrenching read. I cried through most of it, and images from that book still haunt me. In a movie you can avert your gaze, but with the book I had to keep reading.

The Lost Dogs follows the case of Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, Bad Newz Kennels, and the passionate fight to bring him to justice. The many beautiful dogs in the book are described with such clarity and warmth that you feel you know them.  The journalists have thoroughly researched this book and I think they provided a balanced account.  I love that it’s not too ‘schmaltzy’; the horrors described within are emotive enough that there is no need for purple prose.  The impact is immediate.

This is the book that made me research ‘pit bulls’, puppy mills and ‘backyard breeders’.  ‘Pit bull’ actually refers to a collection of dogs, including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and mixes of the two. I was surprised to learn that ‘pit bulls’ actually rated higher in temperament testing than golden retrievers (American Temperament Test Society 2010).  The ‘vicious’ pitbulls we read about in the media are often the result of mistreatment rather than their innate temperament.  Every time one of these stories comes up, it is sensationalised in the media; many people react to this type of fear-mongering by wanting stricter laws. But the evidence is that breed-specific legislation does not work. There are umpteen factors that can contribute to an aggressive dog – for instance, lack of early socialisation and training.  It seems more prudent to start with educating people on good socialisation of their dogs and providing excellent dog training facilities.

Puppy mills and backyard breeders deserve an article of their own, but are just another example of rampant consumerism in modern-day society.  Greed is what fuels these ‘organisations’; but I believe that most people are inherently kind and an educated public will wake up to the horrors of these practices.

There is a lot of information on the internet, but some websites I have personally found useful in learning about the above have been:

http://www.oscarslaw.org

http://www.badrap.org

http://www.nopuppymillscanada.ca (covers backyard breeders, puppy mills and breed-specific legislation)

Have a read and make up your own mind about these issues.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Is there something else that has inspired you  to learn about the plight of animals?

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lost Dogs – Jim Gorant

  1. Azadeh Houshmand says:

    In Denmark, there has recently been a lot of controversy regarding a law (called,quite simply, the “dog law”). I dont know what it involved in its entirety, but recently two dogs (both named Thor, funnily enough), were put down because they had bitten other dogs. The first Thor was an Am-Staf, and he got into a fight with another dog. The other Thor was a german shepherd who bit another dog while he was out walking with his owner, as far as I understood it wasn’t even a very aggressive bite and the other dog was fine. The law was originally made in 2010 to protect humans from aggressive dogs, when a couple of cases emerged in the media regarding dogs that had bitten children. But these two recent cases about Thor and Thor have made SUCH a scandal here in Denmark – most people think it was quite unfair and sad that the two Thors should be put down. I dont know much about it, but the issue I kept hearing again and again in the news was that a dog who bites another dog is a TOTALLY different thing than a dog biting a human being. And dogs should not be put down for doing what is natural to them – they bite if they are provoked, that is their nature. But as long as they dont bite humans, then the argument was that they should not be put down. What happened was that both dogs were removed from their owners by the police. One of them was put down in January, but the second one was rescued from the kennel where he was waiting to be put down by a police officer!! Quite the drama, I tell you! Facebook groups sprouted up all over the place, supporting Thor and supporting the police officer who rescued him. Once they found out who the police officer was, he was forced to take a “leave of absence”, I think it’s called – but now several petitions are being sent around for people to sign, requesting the police corps NOT to fire the police officer. Anyway – just wanted to share an interesting story from this side of the world about dogs who are misunderstood and sometimes treated quite unfairly….

    • I can’t believe this story! If you had to put down every dog who bit another dog, there would be too many to count. Again, it’s a sad example of certain breeds that are demonised by the media and the threshold for putting down a dog can be so arbitrary. Thank you for sharing this. The police officer is a hero.

  2. Azadeh Houshmand says:

    And btw – I could NEVER read that book…I have such a hard time reading about cruelty to animals. I would bawl from the beginning to the end.

    • I have really struggled with this myself. Sometimes I want to ‘un-know’ things that I have read or seen, because it is so heartbreaking. But at the same time, I feel we owe it to these voice-less creatures to understand their suffering and do something about it. We can be active in many different ways – sometimes even having an illuminating discussion with a friend can change their perspective. I think most people who don’t care about dog welfare are simply unaware of the cruelty they suffer, and as animal-lovers, we are in a position to respectfully let people know. It’s hard to do that if we avert our gaze from the suffering. Someone needs to look, as painful as it is.

  3. Azadeh Houshmand says:

    I totally agree with you – it is the responsibility of those who love animals to educate those who are not aware of the suffering that goes on. I left a loooong comment about my views on this yesterday but when I wanted to post it, it got lost :-/ But I have such a hard time with animal suffering. And things have gotten even worse since I became a mother – I can’t see anything close to an animal that COULD MAYBE be suffering before I want to cry. What bothers me the most about it, however, is not the pain – I have had my share of pain and tears in my life, and I am not the kind of person who avoids painful feelings. I much prefer confronting painful feelings. However – what I almost can’t stand when I see animals suffering, is that feeling of helplessness that comes along with it. The feeling that I, as one single human being, is so powerless to make a difference! Don’t get me wrong – I do what I can. I’m a member of the local pendant to the WSPA. I eat only organic meat, which luckily we are fortunate to have quite a large selection of here in Denmark. I never eat eggs from battery hens, and I won’t touch things like foie gras. I boycot (as far as I can), all cosmetic companies that endorse animal testing – and trust me, there are quite a few (I never knew L’Oreal owned THAT many cosmetic companies!!) I can’t go to a zoo, it just makes me sad. I have been close to getting into a serious fight with a close friend of mine with whom I was traveling, who wanted to visit a dolphinarium in the city we were in. I refused – to me, it was a cruel place and I knew I would be so sad to see creatures that are used to swimming several thousand miles a day trapped in small pools, with their only purpose being to entertain us humans – something that is totally against their nature. Yet my friend, who is well educated and very intelligent, couldn’t see the problem. I try, as far as I can, to be an educated consumer. But I can see all around me, that I am just one person doing all these things, and I know there are no doubt others like me – but the vast majority of Danes don’t really bother to find out where their meat comes from, how the animals life was before it was slaughtered, and whether their particular brand of shampoo has been tested on animals. Not to mention the number of Danish tourists who yearly visit zoo’s and dolphinariums around the world.

    And all this is without even mentioning the whole other levels of animal cruelty that go on in the rest of the world (a country like China springs to mind, where they skin animals alive and drain the bile from live bears to use for its alleged health benefits). I simply cannot understand how humans can do these things, it is totally incomprehensible to me! But anyway – my point is, that I definitely don’t want to turn my back and pretend I don’t see these things. Indeed, I do want to educate people and let them know taht these things happen – but at the same time, that overshadowing helplessness, that feeling that I am just one little person trying to do such small things in a world of 6 billion people, the vast majority of whom do not care about animal welfare…well it just makes me so sad. Sometimes, in my quiet hours of solitude where I sit and think about what I REALLY want to do with my life, I think about opening an animal shelter…. for homeless, mistreated, and abandoned animals. Maybe then I would feel like I really made a difference…. and maybe one day, I will open that shelter! Until then, I will just do my (small) part to ensure that more and more people will learn and become aware of what goes on in the world, and make smart choices as consumers, be it at home or when they are traveling.

    • I hear you and I’ve had the very same feelings. The helplessness is truly awful. There will always be cruelty of all forms in the world, of which animal cruelty is a part. We can’t change it all. And we’ll drive ourselves crazy trying to. All we can do is do our bit. I watched “Earthlings” recently, and I could only watch 20 minutes of it. As much as I believe in keeping your eyes open to these things, I could not bear myself to watch more (those 20 minutes had a huge impact though) . I do think there is a fine line between being aware of cruelty and traumatising yourself in the process by reading too much about it. You need to protect yourself too so that you’re in a strong frame of mind to be able to help others. You mentioned motherhood and I guess it’s analogous; you can’t look after your baby if you’re overwhelmed by worry for it. Hope that makes sense.

  4. By the way, thank you for this very stimulating discussion…I might do a post on this very topic soon 🙂

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