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Service Dogs: Animal Abuse in New York

April 10, 2016

Several months ago I had volunteered with an organization that trains service dogs. But  when I realized that their program involves keeping dogs crated for about twenty hours a day (and I'm being generous) I just had to do something. To see those young and energetic young dogs cramped into cages they could barely stand in, and for almost the entire day, every day for the first TWO YEARS of their lives, is more than I can take. And the thing is, they don't need to be crated. I've worked with other service dog organizations that give their dogs plenty of space and playtime and exercise. 

I sent a letter to the organization (see below), but the letter got no response, so now I'm bringing this to the public sphere in the hope it will get them to change their tactics.  Although they do important work, the way they treat their dogs is unacceptable, and must change.

---------- This is the letter I sent to the organization:

A while ago I was a volunteer at your organization in ------------- and in ----------, .  What I observed there has been of great concern to me and I have decided that I must do something about it.  I will not mince words. 

The amount of time your dogs are left in crates is inhumane.  In fact, it is unconscionable.  These beautiful animals are locked up and hardly moving.  Dogs are social, sentient, physical beings and are naturally curious.  Locking them in crates for twenty hours a day deprives them of expressing natural behaviors.  Twenty hours is a generous estimate.  From what I’ve observed at your facilities, your dogs are crated for more than twenty hours a day.  Leaving a dog in a cramped crate with nothing to do is not good for its physical or emotional development.  Dogs are pack animals and seek human companionship which your methods deprive them of.  I could cite numerous experts on the effects of crating, but I don’t think that’s necessary.  The anti-cruelty movement has a long history in this country.  It includes pets, zoo animals, laboratory animals, etc.  If you put a tiger in a crate in which it could barely stand or stretch out, you’d have the law to contend with, let alone an avalanche of humane societies and an outraged public.   But somehow crating dogs goes under the radar. Keeping these dogs in such a confined space stresses them and leads to neurotic behaviors.  Every single dog I have brought home from ------- peed in the house and/or ate their own poop.  This is directly a result of crating.

 There is so much more I could say – but I think you get the picture.

I have called various animal rights groups to see what action could be taken but there are no laws concerning the number of hours an animal is crated.  Therefore, I have no recourse as far as the courts are concerned.  However, the use of social media can bring even an established organization to its knees simply by the click of the ‘send’ key.  I will not hesitate to expose your lack of compassion and decency.

As we all know children must be educated in the least restrictive environment.  That’s the law.  While there aren’t any laws on the books restricting the amount of hours a dog can be kept in a crate, as animal advocates we should have a humane sense of what’s too much.  The aim for   puppies should also be the least restrictive environment which would translate into the most humane environment.   And that means no crates.

While your organization serves an altruistic purpose, the ends do not justify the means.  

If there was no other way of training these dogs, one might be able to attempt to justify the means because of the incredibly noble job they undertake with veterans and other disabled people.  However, there are many service dog training organizations which I have worked with as well as those that I have contacted which use very different techniques.   From what I’ve observed, your philosophy seems to be that Nazi-like tactics make for a well-trained dog.  You isolate these dogs and withhold affection in the belief that you’re creating a more efficient service animal.  When I spoke to trainers at some of the most elite service dog organizations, they were shocked by your methods.  

For the most part, the vast majority of them use puppy raisers at least for the first thirteen to fourteen months.  The expectation is that the puppy will have a normal family environment with the raisers providing mostly socialization and basic commands.   When the puppies return to the organization for formal training they are kept in large runs – and always with another dog as a companion.  They are walked and have play time regularly.  Water is never withheld.  And within about four months, their training is complete, and they are matched with a person.  It is humane and successful.  

Some suggestions:
 --You should seriously consider puppy raisers as an option.  This allows the puppy to become part of a family with all that entails – learning manners, socialization, basic commands, while at the same time having the human contact it craves and deserves.

 --Do your homework: look into other organizations who use puppy raisers and study their programs – their results are outstanding without abusing the very animals their success depends on.    

Keep in mind:
 1.  I have checked with many other organizations and none of them crate their dogs.  They use puppy raisers and have excellent results.
 2.  There are laws stating that it is illegal to deprive an animal of water as you regularly do to prevent them from wetting overnight.
 3.  I have many photos of the inhumane conditions inside your facilities.
 4.  I will not hesitate to put this information out on social media.
 5.  I don’t want to expose this because you do provide service dogs to needy people, however, the ends do not justify the means and I will do what is necessary to stop this abuse.  

“Dogs are highly social pack animals that abhor isolation and crave and deserve companionship, praise, and exercise.  Forcing dogs to spend extended periods of time confined and isolated simply to accommodate your goals is unacceptable.”  (PETA)

Andrea Smith

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