Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Purebred Paradox: What Now?

The first four parts of my Purebred Paradox Impressions post reported what I heard at the conference. In this final part I want to offer some opinions about what it means and what we should do. These thoughts are mine alone, not approved by any organization.

It’s a standard HSUS tactic to announce a problem, get others to talk about their announcement, and then use all the talk as a springboard for an attack. It does not matter that there are few real problems or that existing laws would take care of them: They use the talk that they generated together with whatever seemingly awful events or situations they can find or invent to promote the idea of a general crisis demanding immediate attention.

Experts in the field are caught off-guard. Sure, there are some problems – there are problems in every facet of life -- and current law is dealing with them.  But HSUS is talking to people who know nothing about this field -- lawmakers and the general public -- using emotion rather than facts. It doesn’t matter that there is no fire and all the smoke came out of an HSUS spray can. They have credibility and money and they use it to demand action.

Recognize the term 'puppy mill'?  How about 'factory farming'? Those were earlier campaigns and some very bad laws that were the result. Obviously the point of these campaigns is the very successful fundraising that goes on around them.

It’s safe to say that the Purebred Paradox Conference was the opening salvo of an HSUS attack on the breeding of purebred dogs. It does not matter that most presentations were balanced, or that several of them pointed out actions being taken to improve the health of purebreds. It certainly doesn't matter that no presenter that I heard endorsed the idea of laws about breeding dogs (with the possible exception of a couple of the British presenters, who hinted at “regulations.”) The conference raised the profile of purebred health and HSUS will use selective quotes and pieces of the documentary to 'prove' that laws are needed.

Anyone with doubts about the future can check out Wayne Pacelle's blog at

He says: "But perhaps the biggest dog welfare issue in America is the reckless breeding of purebred dogs, which produces an incredible laundry list of inherited disorders, congenital health problems, and welfare concerns for the animals. In The Bond, I take this issue head- on, calling out the American Kennel Club and other breed registry groups for their mania in valuing the exterior appearance of the animals rather than the underlying health and wellness of the dogs."

I don't think he could get any clearer than that. Only the details differ from what he said about commercial dog breeders when the 'puppy mill' campaign started or his thoughts more recently about 'factory farming.'  And only the details will differ in the laws that HSUS and their various puppets will start introducing in the next legislative seasons.

The annual HSUS Taking Action for Animals conference will feature a workshop entitled “Health, Welfare, and Policy in Purebred Dog Breeding,” Speakers are from Best Friends, Humane Society International, and the ASPCA. Less than two months will have passed between the Purebred Paradox conference and this follow-up. What’s next?

We are about to begin a war with the general public over our right to breed dogs. They will be told that we are not stewards of our breeds but that we are breeding for appearance, with disregard for the health of our dogs. Just as they have been convinced that all commercial breeders are puppy mills, they will now be told that all show breeders are only out to win at the expense of our dogs.

How do we fight back? One thing that will not work is to keep shouting, “We don’t have a problem!” Legislators and the public will not buy it. So what can we do to protect our breeds?

1. We need transparency. When HSUS attacked the farmers, their response was to say, “Okay, why don’t you come SEE what we do?” We need to reach out to the public and show them that there are not dirty secrets hiding in the darkness of our kennels. This will not change anything HSUS is doing, but it will help show the general population that the claims are not true.

2. Get informed and get involved. Okay, you aren't a commercial breeder so those laws didn't bother you. You're not a farmer, either. But if you’re a breeder of purebred dogs or ever hope to be one, this campaign will matter to you. A lot. If you’ve been letting other people deal with “all that legislative stuff,” those days are over. We can only defend our rights with INFORMATION to combat the lies that are about to start and NUMBERS of voters who tell lawmakers the truth.

3. Be prepared to make some changes. Forget "We've always done it that way."  Nobody will care how you always did it.  If Velma Voter calls her lawmaker and asks him to vote for HB 666 to stop breeders from producing defective dogs and you call him and say "We've always done it that way," then that lawmaker will most likely decide that a law to make you stop doing it that way would be a good idea. I’m not talking about compromise. I’m talking about improvement.

4. Know what science says about your breeding practices. Some practices that were necessary or at least okay when breeds were being founded (say 100 years ago) no longer make general sense. If you have an exceptional situation so one or more of these breeding practices does make sense for your dogs, then be sure you know the reason and be prepared to explain it so the public can understand it; otherwise don't do it.

-- Inbreeding and linebreeding. To reduce the frequency with which inherited diseases appear, scientists and geneticists insist that we should be outcrossing, not inbreeding/linebreeding. (Linebreeding is a term coined by breeders, but geneticists say it is still inbreeding, though to a lesser degree.) This is a tough one for us. “But my mentor said...” Your mentor was not wrong, but we’re in a very different place with our breeds than we were 40 years ago. We need to change course. They needed consistency, we need diversity. Remember, we may think inbreeding is “setting type” but genetic experts think “not healthy” and the general public thinks “Deliverance.”

-- Use of popular sires. Nobody in the scientific community thinks this is a healthy practice. Even when no known bad trait is passed on, the unhealthy recessives that the sire carries (every animal carries some) will be more frequent in succeeding generations and if something truly terrible is discovered in a few generations it may be nearly impossible to breed away from it. It happened most famously in Dobermans (cardiomyopathy) and we're seeing it now in other breeds.

-- Breeding physical traits that are not good for the dogs. If the trend in your breed is to more c-sections, more of a trait that brings discomfort or danger with type, or anything else that you would have a hard time defending to the public, then it is time to reverse that trend.

I hope the parent clubs involved will be ready for the fight. These breeds are believed by many veterinarians and (in some cases) by the public to be prone to problems due to traits specifically bred into them for appearance’s sake. I am no expert in any of these breeds and have must to be able to explain either why these traits are not damaging to the dogs’ health or what we are doing to change those traits. Again, transparency. If only two percent of your breed is affected by, say, brachycephalic airway syndrome, get the figures to prove it and be ready to talk about it. We cannot ignore these accusations any longer. We must be prepared to defend what we’re doing...or change it.

-- Failing to give specific attention to inherited health in a breeding program. Are you doing the tests that make sense for your breed and line? Do you do pedigree research on health issues?  Do you offer the best health guarantee practical for your breed and encourage your buyers to report any problems? And when the problems are reported, are you supportive?  Put that information on your website, and when you talk to prospective puppy owners or anyone else, emphasize health.

Basically if you can't say 'health and happiness are the primary concern for our breed' then you are going to be on the defensive. The heat will be on for laws to force you to change and that heat is going to include laws that will do much more damage than good.

5. Join your breed's parent club. Support their health program. Be willing to consider specific action to improve the health of the breed. For example, there are breeds with defects so that are so common that they cannot be much reduced: These breeds might need to open their stud books in a carefully planned, scientific program to bring in healthier genes. Neither the public or lawmakers will care about the argument "Our dogs won't be pure anymore!"

Does your breed have something like a 'guide to breeding healthy (name of your breed)'?  They should. Health problems and what is being done to reduce them should be on every parent club’s website.

5. Support the AKC. No, they're not perfect but they're making a serious effort and they're miles ahead of where they were even a few years ago. They are the only organization with the horsepower, the name recognition, and the reputation to go toe-to-toe with HSUS. They cannot do ths without our support and they cannot defend the indefensible.

Change is coming whether we want it or not. If we act now, we can assure that most -- maybe even all -- the change actually benefits the dogs. Our specific actions will help with our defense but the increased knowledge of WHY we do what we do will be even more valuable.

If we do not act, then we will get change anyway. It will be led by those who hate us and don't care at all about the animals and it will be enforced by the ignorant.

Our choice.

Sharyn Hutchens
Timbreblue Whippets

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Purebred Paradox conference

 Background: In 2008 the BBC released a documentary produced by Jemima Harrison, called Pedigree Dogs Exposed. (PDE) The premise of the documentary is that breeding practices, breed standards (or their interpretations), and judging practices are seriously compromising the health of purebred dogs. (Note: In England, a dog registered with the Kennel Club is called a pedigree dog. In the US, we use the term purebred for any dog of pure parentage.) The program generated such a public outcry that the Kennel Club made some major changes:  reviewed all breed standards and altered some of them. It also made changes in judging practices, put restrictions on the number of c-sections bitches could have, and prohibited extremely close inbreeding. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) presented a conference on the topic last month called The Purebred Paradox: On the Health and Welfare of Pedigree Dogs.)

With the support of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders Alice Harrington and I attended the Purebred Paradox conference April 28-29 in Washington, DC. We discussed long and hard whether to attend -- since it was hosted by HSUS, we obviously were not interested in supporting the conference. But we felt someone needed to go to find out what was said. AKC had decided not to participate, which was the right decision for them. AKC and the parent clubs have much invested in improving the health of our dogs and the discussion and action is ongoing. Nothing the animal rights organizations can do will help, unless they would like to make a contribution to the AKC Canine Health Foundation or fund a parent club health study. That is not likely to happen. However, if they're going to be discussing the health of purebred dogs, we need to know what they're saying. So in the end, our decision was to go. It was not the first HSUS conference we've attended, and unfortunately, it won't be the last.

Mostly, however, we were pleasantly surprised by the content of this one. The agenda was full, but some of the subjects were obviously "filler" and were only very tangentially related to the genetic problems of purebreds. The strictly on-topic presentations were fairly sparse.

First a few notes:

-- We counted only about 60 people in the auditorium, and as far as we know, fewer than ten were actually breeders. The others were: 17 speakers, Matthew Stander from Dog News, a double handful of veterinarians (including Gail Golab from AVMA and Dr. Patty Khuly, who writes the Fully Vetted blog) a couple of vet students, two or three experts in assistance dog training, two or three rescuers, two UKC folks, and a slew of HSUS staff, including John Goodwin. (I was told that HSUS staff received free registration and were encouraged to attend.)
-- Thuogh AKC was not officially represented, Patty Haines, former AKC board member and a practicing veterinarian, spoke about the role of parent clubs and how the breed standards are written and controlled in the US (The Kennel Club in England owns the standards). Also at least three AKC club delegates were in the audience.
-- Though we had some AR speakers the first day, the AR slant was not much in evidence. Most of the presentations were largely factual. More on this later
-- The final speaker was from Best Friends with the usual "evils of puppy mills" rant, so we ended on a much less pleasant note than we began.
-- Jemima Harrison struck me as a sincere person who cares deeply about this subject. I like her. While I still cannot agree with the sensationalist aspects of "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," I do understand now why the sensationalism was there. More on that later, too.
-- In addition to the predictable RSPCA, HSUS, etc representatives, speakers included geneticists, veterinarians, behaviorists, and scientists. Some had an AR haze around them but most did not

The bottom line delivered by most (not all) speakers: Every living being has some genetic disease and dogs are no exception. Mixed breeds have about as much as purebreds, especially designer breeds, since they are usually mixes of breeds that share the same genetic defects. Genetic disease is made worse by some common breeding practices:
-- Inbreeding, which includes linebreeding
-- Use of popular sires
-- Breeding for exaggerated characteristics that affect health or soundness
-- Acceptance by breeders of genetic disease as unavoidable (e.g., breeds frequently affected by cancer at young ages)
-- About a dozen breeds are considered to be in serious trouble and I think we can look for focused attention on their problems, both in the press and possibly from other sources. They are, as well as I can remember: German shepherd dog, pug, Pekingese, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, boxer, all the mastiffs, Chinese sharpei, dachshund, English bulldog, Bernese mountain dog, flat coat retriever. In addition, the other brachycephelic breeds, others with lots of wrinkles, the giant breeds, and the achondroplastic breeds will also be targeted.
-- Nothing legislative was mentioned specifically.

Several of the speakers were excellent. Some seemed to be there to fill out the agenda and their topics had little directly to do with the seminar topic.

Introduction was by Andrew Rowan, president and CEO, Humane Society International; chief international officer and chief scientific officer, HSUS. You have to give Dr. Rowan credit. He set the tone as nonconfrontational and I detected no anti-breeder bias whatsoever. He pointed out the huge reduction in euthanasia since 1970 (90 percent) and also asked the question that if the US population needs nine million puppies a year, where are they going to come from? Dr. Rowan's comments really got the meeting off to a good start and I would have had a hard time placing him at HSUS and HSI if I had not read his bio.

Context and Unifying Principles: Science and Policy 
Bernard Unti
Senior policy adviser and special assistant to the President/CEO of HSUS. His bio says he "works on a wide range of strategic, policy, program, and communications priorities for HSUS and its affiliated entities.

The crux of his comments is that HSUS is "trying to build networks with government agencies and NGOs" (non-governmental agencies)

Problems of dog-breeding and what to do about them
The keynote speaker was Sir Patrick Bateson, president of the Zoological Society of London and author of the Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding (2010) He was entertaining and funny and the first of many to tell  us about the silver fox study.

His own inquiry covered all types of breeders in Britain and his findings were that the welfare problems in dog breeding come down to:
-- negligence  (he's talking about substandard breeders)
-- inbreeding
-- breeding dogs with genetic problems
-- artificial selection for extremes  and judges rewarding extremes
-- puppy sales to unsuitable homes (wrong breed for the situation)

He holds high coefficients of inbreeding responsible for reduced fertility, developmental abnormalities, lower birth weight, higher infant mortality, shorter lifespan, and loss of immune function.

Bateson talked about the problems of c-sections and stated some pretty amazing statistics. The one that floored me was that Boston Terriers have a 92.3% caesarian rate in England.

The way forward, according to Bateson includes:
-- providing the best available science to breeders
-- rewarding good breeders and recognizing their efforts to improve health
-- educating the public about what constitutes good welfare/good breeding and appropriate behavior (I assume he means behavior of  specific breeds)
-- helping the public find good breeders
-- placing more emphasis on microchipping
-- and (here it comes) providing backstop of effective regulation

He stated that all three studies that followed PDE had advised setting up an "independent advisory council," which has been done in Britain -- Sheila Crispin, described as a "leading expert in the field of dog welfare" is the chairman.

He concluded that breeding brings a great deal of personal satisfaction to humans, but the "cost in welfare to dogs has not been very happy." He says he does not want breeding stopped, but we need some quality assurance.
Breed risks for disease in purebred dogs
Brenda Bonnett, BSc, DVM
Her complete bio (I am quoting the whole thing because she was an excellent speaker, non AR, and extremely informative) "After years as tenured faculty in the Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, Brenda is now a Consulting Epidemiologist and currently Lead Scientist for the Morris Animal Foundation Canine Longitudinal Health Project. Her research has involved numerous species and disciplines, with a focus on companion animals, population-based research utilizing secondary data sources (most notably a large veterinary insurance database in Sweden), human-animal interactions and medical communication."

The research  we heard about has been primarily based on that insurance database -- Why Sweden? Because our pet insurance companies won't share their information due to "privacy concerns." Her studies were based on facts, she did not condemn breeders, and she asked very interesting questions:
-- Which causes of death are acceptable? How about for humans? We all die of something. Obviously causes of death that do not cause a great deal of suffering are best.
-- Are there acceptable levels of disease within a breed?
-- How do we promote acceptable breeding practices and keep the good breeders?
-- How do we create collaboration rather than confrontation (among organizations, but individual people as well)
-- Is it okay for us to create/enhance breeds to suit our purposes?  (She answered this one:  Yes, that is what domestication is all about) What are the limits? Who decides the limits?

A few interesting points:
Mixed breeds are at slightly less risk of genetic disease but they're at a higher risk of injury. Conditions causing death of purebreds and crossbreeds are not very different in Sweden, however, she pointed out that most crossbreds in Sweden are  purpose-bred and/or a mix of two purebreds. They don't have the "Heinz 57" dogs we have here.
Eighty percent of pet owners in Sweden have pet insurance.
The insurance companies provide "breed profiles" free to the Swedish breed clubs so they can see what their breeds are dying of. You'll have to get your browser to translate if you don't read Swedish and apparently you can order the profiles from the site.

Sweden is establishing (or has established -- my notes fail me) a "Breed Specific Breeding Strategy." It is kennel cub and breed club driven -- no legislation or government involvement. The breed clubs must provide a description of the issues their dogs face and outline what is being done to address them.  Problems are evaluated: common? high risk? severe/fatal? age of onset? control? prevention?

Efficacy of hip dysplasia screening: An animal welfare imperative
Gail K. Smith, VMD, PhD
Dr. Smith is Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Department of Clinical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine.  In 1993 he founded PennHIP (the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program).

Maybe I'm a little cynical but the main take-away message I got from Dr. Smith's address was that 1) he thinks PennHip is way better than OFA and 2) artificial selection has had little to no effect on hip dysplasia, and 3) as a rule, greyhounds do not get osteoarthritis

Brachycephalic airway syndrome: Etiology, treatment, and prevention
John R. Lewis, VMD, FAVD, DAVDC
This was a graphic and interesting talk on the problems our brachycephalic breeds face due to their shortened (or nonexistent!) muzzles--brachycephalic airway syndrome. Dr. Lewis made the comment that the market for designer breeds might be partially driven by health concerns of pet owners -- as he said, the puggle does give the pug more muzzle. (I've heard that theory before, "hybrid vigor" being a reason people flock to the designer breeds)  We saw some graphic slides of various problems -- from narrow nostrils to elongated soft palate to everted laryngeal saccules.  As someone who has never owned brachycephalic dogs, I found this presentation interesting and somewhat alarming. He said we have reduced the muzzle until there is not enough room in it for the soft tissue. But as with many of the "facts" presented at this conference, no indication was given of what percentage of dogs are affected with breathing difficulties or whether breeders are working to address these problems.

The RSPCA report on purebred dog breeding: Conformational selection and inbreeding in dog breeds
David R. Sargan, MA, PhD
Director of  Life Sciences Graduate Education for the University of Cambridge. He has worked as a geneticist in mutation discovery and genomics in the dog for the last twenty years--completed work on lens luxation and on a second locus causing PRA in the Miniature Long Haired Dachshund. His lab is now working on breed predispostions to cancer. One of the two lead authors of the RSPCA report Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: A major welfare concern? and on UK’s Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding.

Dr. Sargan runs a genetic disease database website where he lists about 500 canine genetic disease.
 A few of the points he made:
-- Irish Wolfhounds are about 15% larger than they were 100 years ago
-- Problems in giant breeds include dysplasia, osteosarcoma, cardiomyopathy and bloat/torsion
-- Brachycephalic breeds have trouble with overheating, breathing, whelping problems, cardiac and eating difficulties.
-- He also talked about problems in the achondroplastic (dwarf) breeds, mostly relating to their length of back and weight (in Bassets specifically)
-- Dr. Sargan mentioned the toy breeds, but my notes are incomplete at that point.

Canine Genetics, Behavior and the role of the parent club
Patricia H. Haines, DVM
Patty is a practicing veterinarian who previously served multiple terms on the AKC board of directors. She has bred and competed with purebred dogs at AKC events for over 40 years. She is VP of the Ohio Veterinary Medicine Association.

Patty was personable, an excellent speaker, and calmly explained the differences in dog breeding in the UK and Europe and the US. In England, the Kennel Club owns the standards, so they are able to make changes. Here, each standard is owned by a parent club, so it is much, much more difficult to make major (or even minor!) changes to them. She explained that since most purebreds in the US are not registered, the influence the AKC can have on their breeders is minimal. She talked about the different types of breeders (casual, commercial, and "parent club breeder") and the codes of ethics of parent clubs. Patty also pointed out the tremendous amount of money that has been put into studying and addressing the health problems of purebred dogs, adding that the health and welfare of our dogs remains a major concern of good breeders.

Canine behavioral genetics: State of the art
Linda van den Berg, PhD
A cum laude graduate of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Dr. van den Berg started her scientific career with a study of the genetics of aggressive behavior in Golden Retrievers. This included the development of tools to measure subtypes of canine aggression and the molecular genetic study of genes involved in serotonergic neurotransmission.

Another interesting talk focusing on the problems of reduced genetic diversity in purebreds. Dr. van den Berg pointed to small founder populations, genetic bottlenecks caused by war or economic depression, genetic drift. use of popular sires, and inbreeding. She talked extensively about the heritability of behavioral traits and one of the more interesting comments she made was that problem behavior is usually normal behavior carried to an extreme or in inappropriate settings.

Unintended consequences of breeding for conformation: Owner-directed aggression in English Springer Spaniels
Ilana Reisner, DVM, PhD, DACVB
Dr. Ilana Reisner received her DVM from the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and a PhD in behavioral physiology from Cornell. She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and is currently Assistant Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Veterinary Behavior Clinic at Penn’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, which sees primarily dogs and cats referred by veterinarians for behavior problems ranging from anxiety disorders to aggression.

Dr. Reisner was one of the best speakers, entertaining and informative. She talked mostly about genetics and aggression in dogs, with an emphasis on rage syndrome (I don't believe she used that term though. I'm pretty sure she just referred to "owner directed aggression.) She pointed out that anecdotally, rage was associated with one kennel (thus indicating a genetic basis) but that in reality, it was not exclusively that  kennel. She also mentioned that Springers are not the dogs she sees most often for aggression.

Panel Discussion
An interesting panel discussion followed, with questions from cards handed in by the audience. Main points I took away from the discussion were:
-- Education is absolutely key. Pet buyers must be educated, as must breeders and veterinarians. If we are the make progress with the real problems in purebred dogs, it is critical that breeders are not vilified.
-- Sweden has an extremely different situation from ours. The Swedish Kennel Club was described as "very strict." There are no pet stores, the breed clubs strongly encourage fostering and mentoring new breeders, there are few mixed breed dogs and most of those are intentional crosses. Out of 75,000 puppies, 60,000 are registered with the kennel club. They do have a problem with imported dogs.
-- Veterinarians need education about genetic defects. Many have become complacent and just say, "Oh, well, that's common in your breed."
-- Sir Bateson recommends an independent advisory committee, similar to the one in Great Britain
-- The parent clubs must be involved and it is very important not to attack breeders
-- Recommendations include opening the stud books for breeds with serious problems, prevent the registration of inbred dogs, and increase imports

Alice and I did not attend the $60-a-plate vegan dinner that night.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed: The Aftermath
Jemima Harrison, Producer
Ms. Harrison is a writer and independent television producer. She directed the 2008 BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, and recently started a blog of the same name at

She has owned purebred dogs all her life and says she is not an animal rights advocate. I believe her, though her documentary gave them a whole lot of ammunition against breeding.

I expected not to like Jemima Harrison. After all, she produced a documentary which made breeders in England look like uncaring louts, ridiculed the Kennel Club, and emphasized the worst of the health issues we have faced in purebred dogs. What's to like? But after listening to her talk, I understood her a little better and actually found myself liking her. She does love dogs. There is no doubt of that. I believe her intentions were sincere. She really wants to see purebred dogs healthier.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed was sensationalistic and one-sided. She did not include the tremendous efforts good breeders have made to address these problems and she didn't interview the many good people who breed and show dogs in England and who do consider health first in their breeding decisions. She focused on severe cases of syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels when these severe cases  are fairly rare because it is heartbreaking to see one of these little dogs writhing in pain. Much more so than seeing one with mitral valve disease, which kills many more Cavaliers than does syringomyelia, but less dramatically.

Jemima started out her presentation by telling us that PDE had three years' research behind it and that it was "intended to be powerful," She said that previous attempts to get the Kennel Club to address the problems in breeding for exaggeration had failed. She actually showed a 1987 video clip of the KC saying that yes, they were going to take the health-affecting exaggerated features out of all the standards, but she says it never happened. She said it was these unfulfilled promises that made her decide the film had to be "powerful" in order to have any effect.

Though she said, contrary to what I'd heard, she did not become interested in this subject because of the early death of her own Flat Coated Retriever (who lived to an unusually old age and may still be alive), but she was very affected by a study of a cohort of 170 Flat Coats -- 53,6 percent of them died of cancer before the age of ten. I'm sorry I don't have details about this study, but I'm sure Jemima would furnish them if anyone needs to follow up.  Remember, these are just my notes from the conference!

Jemima holds four practices/conditions responsible for the spread of genetic defects in purebred dogs.
1) small, closed gene pools
2) inbreeding/linebreeding
3) use of popular sires
4) breeding for exaggerated traits for the show ring

She pointed out that generally the interpretation of the standard, not the standard itself, causes problems.

Vets have been desensitized, she says. They also don't want to "bite the hand that feeds them" by taking a stand against these common breeding practices, and she believes in England they are heavily influenced by the Kennel Club, which she views as very powerful.

The extensive media coverage PDE received pressured the Kennel Club into making some changes:
-- changes to breed standards
-- a ban on mating of first degree relatives
-- changes in judges' training
(As a matter of fact, beginning next year, gundog judges in Britain have to attend a trial as part of the requirements for judging those dogs.)

Jemima talked also about the practice of culling (killing) for appearance faults. "Being born ridgeless is still the leading cause of death for a Rhodesian Ridgeback in the United States." She asserted that the genes responsible for the ridge are associated with a genetic defect called dermoid sinus, similar to spina bifida in humans. I was unable to find proof of that in some very quick research using Google. She mentioned other breeds that cull for appearance -- Great Danes, Boxers, and a few others. She did say that there is a movement to spay/neuter and place the puppies in pet homes rather than killing them.

Some direct results of PDE:
-- Three studies were commissioned: the Bateson report, one by the RSPCA and one by the Associatee Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW).
-- An independent advisory board was set up
-- The Kennel Club has opened its books to dogs of "unverified parentage" on a case by case basis in an attempt to widen the gene pools (she says the effective population size for some breeds is less than 50)
-- There are now vet exams at shows for the 15 high profile breeds
-- Limits on c-sections (I think it's two per bitch)
-- The KC is developing a computer program called Mate Select so breeders can look up health tests and check the COI before making breeding decisions

Jemima would like to see some more stringent rules preventing inbreeding/linebreeding, a limit on the number of times a sire can be used, and less emphasis on appearance in the show ring (as an attempt to address the health problems caused by exaggeration)

According to Jemima, one of her "inspirations" to produce the documentary came from Pat Burns' blog -- Terrierman's Daily Dose. I disagree with a whole lot of Terrierman's "wisdom," but his post on inbreeding is worth reading.

Ethical issues related to selective breeding in dogs
Randall Lockwood, PhD
Prior to joining the ASPCA as Senior Vice President for Anti-Cruelty Initiatives and Legislative Services in 2005, Dr. Lockwood was vice president for research and educational outreach for the Humane Society of the United States.

Lockwood's presentation covered the history of man's relationship with the dog, the concept of dominance and wolf social structure. He said the dominance theory of dog behavior is based on a misunderstanding of how a wolf pack functions. He also went into some detail about how breeding for specific behaviors has resulted in some that are maladaptive and discussed his belief that "specific selection for changes in levels of inter- and intra-specific aggression in dogs, including guarding and fighting breeds, has produced changes with enormous ethical and welfare implications."

The development of dog breeds: Why and how people breed dogs
Frances O. Smith, DVM, PhD
 Dr. Smith obtained her degrees from Normandale Community College   and in 1986, she became a Diplomate in the American College of Theriogenology. Dr. Smith breeds Labrador Retrievers and is on the board of directors and the health committee chair of the Labrador Retriever Club. She is also president of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and a member of the AKC Canine Health and Welfare Advisory Panel.

Dr. Smith's presentation covered the evolution of the dog and reasons for the development of the different breeds. She talked about ethical issues of breeding as well as the different types of breeders and motivations for breeding. She challenged the idea that purebred dogs are unhealthier than mixed breeds. Some of the more interesting points:
-- Hybrid vigor is only possible if you cross a dog with another species (wolf, jackal, etc) The term is incorrectly used when talking about mixed breed dogs. That is heterosis, not the same as hybrid vigor.
-- Behavior traits such as fearfulness are as heritable as coat color and length
-- 90 percent of the dogs registered by AKC come from one-litter breeders

The impact of puppy mills on the welfare of purebred dogs
Frank McMillan, DVM, ACVIM
Dr. McMillan has been the Director of Well-Being Studies at Best Friends Animal Society since October 2007.

He presented an unscientific study mostly on behavioral problems in adult breeding dogs turned pets. Essentially, what he did was ask people who had these dogs to tell him what "unusual behaviors" they had and concluded that these dogs were psychologically damaged by being kept in kennels. To be perfectly honest, I walked out about a quarter of the way into his talk. When I came back right at the end, it had not gotten any better.

Then we got a "Can't we all just get along?" talk from Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor of the ASPCA. It was inspiring and reasonable and sadly, totally unrealistic considering that if the goals of the AR world were achieved, there would be no more breeding. But it sounded real nice and if you didn't know the history of the disagreements between breeders and the animal rights movement, you'd have thought this conference was sincerely about doing what's best for dog and working together to solve problems.

There was a "roundtable" for the speakers after the meeting to which the audience was not invited. I have not heard what came out of that.

All in all, the conference was informative and extremely interesting. I found myself wishing that AKC had sponsored it. For one thing, the attendance would have been triple what it was, and the motivation would have, of course, been beyond question. I have no illusions -- and neither should other breeders -- that this will be the end of HSUS's interest in purebred dogs. Those of us who have been fighting the animal rights movement for the past ten years have always said that after the commercial breeders, they'd be targeting show breeders. This is the first salvo.

Sharyn Hutchens
Legislative Liaison (with Alice Harrington)
Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders

Jean's case: Waiting on the courts

The money was raised! A very sincere thank you to those of you who contributed to Jean's appeal fund. This is, as far as we know, rhe first time one of these cases has been appealed. Most of them don't even go to trial because the victims don't have the money or the heart to go through it. Jean Cyhanick knows she is innocent and she wants her name cleared. Thanks to the Pet-Law community, she is able to follow through with filing an appeal.

Jean's attorney, Tate Love, has filed the petition for appeal and the Commonwealth has filed a brief in opposition. Now we wait to see if the single judge to whom the matter has been assigned will grant the petition. If he or she grants it, then we're on to the next stage in which Mr. Love files his opening brief. If the appeal is not granted, then we have a right to file a request to be heard orally by a three-judge panel. So we're just waiting for the wheels to turn...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jean Update

We need only a few hundred more $ to reach our goal for Jean's appeal. It has been filed and is in progress, but these things move like molasses.

Jean has placed all of her dogs with people she knows and trusts. She is allowed four, per the city limit, but they must be spayed. Unfortunately that means spaying a 13-year-old Yorkie and a 2-lb chihuahua. Jean asked the judge to exempt those two dogs, but he refused.

More news as we know it and thanks so much to those of you who donated -- both those who managed to give over $1000 and those who sent $10 or less. And to those who could not afford to donate, your support has been just as important as the money.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on donations for Jean's appeal

Jean's attorney has now filed the notice of intent to appeal and we are well on our way to reaching our goal of $35,000 to pay for the appeal. We have over $37,000 pledged, from over 210 donors. We've actually
received about $27,000 from 161 donors.

The 'pledged' amount (above) does not include people who said "I won't have money until the new year" or "I'll send the price of a puppy when I start selling my litter at the end of January" or "I can send $50/month all through 2011." It is just the amount that people expected to be able to send right away.

So ... if you have donated, thank you! If you expect to donate, the sooner we have that in hand, the sooner the real work can start.

If you didn't get instructions for donating, please send me an email ( with the word 'pledge' in the subject line and indicate the amount you want to send. I'll send directions pronto.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the posts below!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tell Jean Cyhanick What To Do

UPDATE 12/15/10: We hit the $20,000 milestone and are now working on raising the last of the $35,000. You are not too late to pledge. We received a challenge pledge from Hank Greenwood of the American Dog Breeders Association and we have met that challenge. This is going very well, but we need more pledges in the next day or two to go ahead with Jean's appeal. The money, when it is time to send it, will go directly to her lawyer. This is a good case. Please do what you can to help.

You may have read about the Jean Cyhanick case (if not, see the previous blog post, below) in which a commercial breeder in Virginia was convicted of  animal cruelty because five of her dogs had dirty teeth plus two had old (healed) eye injuries, and of a number of other lesser charges, most of them depending on her being legally a 'commercial breeder' because the state counted dogs at her kennel that were not hers, thus pushing her over the 29 dog limit.

There's not a single one of us who owns even a few dogs who couldn't be convicted of cruelty based on the law that got Jean Cyhanick: If a condition could 'progress' then under our law it must be given emergency veterinary treatment and if you don't provide that, you are guilty of cruelty.

In Virginia a cruelty conviction means you can never again sell a dog. The court can also order you not to own animals and Jean is limited to four dogs.

I've followed many of these cases. This one is clean -- not a breeder with a bunch of unhealthy and/or dirty dogs who wasn't given his rights, but someone who tried to do everything properly and still got nailed.

I've visited her kennel, it was fine, with healthy, friendly dogs. She never had any official or vet there without offering a full tour; sometimes she got suggestions (which she took), but she never got a single citation.

Considering the violations of basic rights inherent in the laws under which she was convicted and the rotten action in court, I think her conviction stands a good chance of being reversed on appeal.

Jean WANTS to appeal, BUT ...

An appeal (to the Virginia Court of Appeals) will cost her $35,000 in attorney fees and costs. She doesn't have the money.

(She's already out over $13,000 and that's not counting the loss of all her dogs which the court required her to give away.)

I don't have it either, and none of us who are involved know anyone who does.

So, YOU get to make the decision. If YOU -- and everyone else we can reach -- can help us pull together $35,000 to make it possible, then Jean plans to appeal. If, on the other hand, the breeding and dog community doesn't think an appeal is worthwhile enough to put up most of the money, then it WON'T happen.

Winning an appeal would immediately destroy one or more of the worst animal laws in Virginia, would give us much more clout in going after the other bad ones through the legislature, and would be citeable in similar cases nationwide.

How many times have we discussed the idea of a group to fund legal action? And passed it by, because most victims plead guilty and most of the rest lack either or both of a clean case and a clear violation of constitutional rights? (How useful would it be to throw money at a lot of 'sure loser' cases?) Or maybe they were accused of something that wouldn't be a threat to you or I? (Self interest does matter ...)

Well, now we have the kind of case for which an appeal stands a good chance, and a charge of cruelty for dirty teeth (or maybe yours would be for fleas, or worms, or a scratched up tail ...) could happen to anyone in Virginia, TODAY. Your state? Maybe now; almost certainly later if we don't stop it here.

What I need from you by this coming Monday, December 13th at noon is an email to me personally (waltah @, take out the spaces) with an informal pledge of an amount. No binding obligation but PLEASE DO NOT PLEDGE UNLESS YOU'RE PRETTY CONFIDENT YOU CAN CARRY THROUGH.

If you cannot pledge by Monday but expect to be able to do so soon, please let me know the story by Monday. Please get 'PLEDGE -- Jean Cyhanick case' in your subject line.

A sentence or two about why this matters to you will be helpful. Actual money would be needed by December 24th IF ENOUGH IS PLEDGED and IF I REMAIN CONVINCED THAT THE APPEAL HAS A GOOD CHANCE as the planning goes forward.

DO NOT SEND MONEY NOW. Among other things we want to work out the mechanics of how that will be done.

We don't need pledges for the entire amount by Monday, but I have to be convinced that we can get there. I'd say somewhere north of $20,000 in pledges (by Monday) would do it for me, if enough others tell me they are trying and expect to be able to commit shortly.

We're pledging the price of one of our puppies -- $1150. Jean will put in substantially more than that. I hope that some other breeders will consider this case sufficiently important to offer the price of a puppy. Are there clubs that could contribute?

I wish we could give everyone more time but Virginia requires Circuit Court appeals to be filed within 30 days and that clock is already running. Because preparation is most of the job, the attorney needs to have his money before he gets deeply into it.

Finally, if it turns out that we can't raise the money, then that's okay. This is a long war; if we don't have the 'troops' for this battle, then maybe a year from now with another case. Pledge what you can and do not feel guilty about not doing more.

Jean feels the same way I do: She's comfortable with however this turns out.



Walt Hutchens
Timbreblue Whippets

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Trial of Jean Payne Cyhanick

(12-23-10 To the best of my knowledge, everything in this blog post is factual, and others who attended the trial have also read it and agreed. I have made a few revisions since the original publication to clarify some points, but nothing substantial has been changed. Jean continues the fight against this injustice. More to come.) S.H.

At the end of November, 2010, I was a spectator at a three-day trial in Staunton, and I came away from it ashamed to be a Virginian. I saw a 64-year-old woman's life ruined essentially because this state felt that five dogs with bad teeth were more important. The dogs were not suffering – indeed, they were in good body condition and eating well. They were of breeds in which dental problems are very common. They were being well-cared-for and even loved. But their owner was convicted of animal cruelty, had to give nearly all her dogs away, and can never sell a companion animal in Virginia again.

Jean Payne Cyhanick had been a breeder of toy dogs. I'm a hobby breeder of whippets. She kept her dogs in a kennel and sold her pets locally. Ours all live in the house and people have come here to buy our puppies from as far away as Texas and Ontario. She registered with the Continental Kennel Club (CKC) and we with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Jean's puppies are all bred to be lapdogs. Some of our dogs compete in dog shows, lure coursing, agility, obedience, and even freestyle dancing. You wouldn't think we'd have a lot in common.

What we do share is a love for dogs and a serious concern about the future of dogs. I've talked to Jean several times over the past couple of years about the animal rights movement in Virginia, but I'd never met her in person till I visited her at her kennel this past August. I found there an intelligent, compassionate woman whose life was her dogs.

I saw happy, healthy dogs who were very obviously loved and who loved Jean. The photos here were taken that day. Some of the dogs were, if anything, a bit overweight. All the dogs were either neatly trimmed or in full coat, well groomed. I saw not one mat and no evidence of fleas and even though it was August, I didn't see any flies and there was minimal odor. In mid-November, my husband Walt went to Jean's kennel and saw essentially the same thing I did. What we saw was a good breeder without a fancy kennel. The dogs did not seem to care what the place looked like. It was clean and secure.

Jean has been breeding small dogs for over 30 years. She began breeding because she loved dogs and because she had a disabled son and needed a job she could do at home. She believes that dogs are not happy in “sterile environments” with cages and concrete, so she set up her kennel as a warren of yards and heated dog houses, with toys and bones and paths going here and there. Over the years her dogs thrived and her kennel grew.

She always had help caring for the dogs . Her teenaged children worked alongside her, and after they left home, she brought in a series of young homeless men who worked in the kennel for room and board. Jean told them there were three rules. “Don't mistreat my animals, don't lie to me, and don't steal from me.” It was a win-win for Jean and for the young men. They got back on their feet and she had help with the dogs.

When Jean began breeding dogs, she bought property in the country. Seven years later, it was annexed by the city. Her kennel was grandfathered in. It is not beautiful. She has little money and, in her own words, she “uses everything.” Most of her pens are chainlink, but some are reinforced with hog fencing; there are some concrete pads, but also wooden walkways. There's dirt and grass in most pens, and every one has shade and sun. Vines are allowed to grow because Jean believes dogs like to have “green around them.” Walking through, you wind around little paths among the pens. The pens are large – the smallest are 20' by 10', and the largest is 160 feet long and 20 feet wide.

When I visited, no dog was alone, except for mothers expected to whelp soon. Each pen had anywhere from five to ten dogs, and they appeared happy, social, and healthy. They were obviously accustomed to being picked up frequently and jumped on us with tails wagging.

Mothers with pups had private indoor/outdoor runs and weaned puppies were in raised pens inside the kennel building. Every puppy pen had a heat lamp, shredded paper for bedding, and toys. Also inside the building is a grooming area and an office, complete with a bulletin board covered in pictures of happy pups and owners.

So why was Jean on trial for animal cruelty? On June 3rd of this year, Augusta County Animal Control Officers (ACOs) Amy Hammer and Shane Ayers, along with Rachel Touroo, staff veterinarian for animal care for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, showed up at Jean's kennel for an inspection. Jean had been regularly inspected by animal control (AC), but Touroo had only been there once, in August 2009. Jean was told then that she needed to brush her dogs' teeth and that one of them needed professional attention for a loose canine tooth. There were no other complaints. The loose tooth came out within a day or two. Jean called her vet and asked if she should still bring the dog in. He said no, if the tooth had come out, there was no need.

Kennel inspections are generally done by local animal control, but the state veterinarian can send its representative if local AC asks for help or if, in the state vet's opinion, local animal control is not responding to a reported problem. No one has ever said why the state vet's rep was involved in Jean's case.

Back to June 3rd of this year. Touroo and the ACOs examined every dog in the kennel and found them all to be in good body weight and to have adequate shelter, water, and food. As the dogs were in large pens, there was no question of whether they got enough exercise. Touroo examined health and breeding records on all the dogs. Since Jean kept mixed sexes together, Touroo asked her how she kept the wrong ones from breeding. Jean's response: “Every day I pick up the girls and check to be sure they're not in season. When they are, I separate them.”

Since females are not ready to breed and will not allow breeding until roughly ten days into their seasons, this is a reasonable way of managing dogs. Our whippets are all housepets, so we also keep males and females together. When the girls go in season, they're separated. Not an unusual way for breeders to house their dogs. As long as you're handling your dogs daily and keeping an eye on things, there's no problem.

Touroo and Hammer also told her she had five dogs who needed professional dentals under anesthesia and that two dogs had eye injuries. Jean had been treating the eyes with veterinary drops. 

After the inspection, Jean took the five dogs to her vet, who did two of the dentals and made appointments for the other three. He said he would have used the same drug she did to treat the eye injuries, which were caused by ingrown eyelashes.

On July 20, Jean learned from a reporter that the state was bringing 69 misdemeanor charges against her – two for selling an underage puppy, two cruelty counts for dogs with eye infections, five cruelty counts for dogs with bad teeth, around 21 counts of “inadequate care” (less serious dental issues), one count of being a commercial kennel with more than 50 breeding dogs, and multiple records violations. (These were for not having “breeding certificates” for her females, a requirement for commercial kennels, but she was not told that until the trial started. She was never given the particulars of the charges against her.)

Following are my observations and personal interpretations of Jean's trial, which took place in Staunton Circuit Court November 29 – December 1, 2010. Because Jean's attorney decided not to have her testify, I have inserted some facts that I believe would have come out in her testimony. 


The judge was Humes J. Franklin, Jr.  Seven jurors – four women, three men – were seated after a “group voir dire,” in which questions were asked about belief in animal rights, whether the individuals owned dogs, whether they had read about the case and whether they had preconceived opinions about it. The question was also asked whether any of these individuals were members of any animal rights or animal welfare group. One prospective juror said he believed animals did have rights, that he had visited many breeders who were “puppy farmers” and that he did not believe dogs should be raised that way. He was not chosen for service on the jury, but one young man who was chosen gave him a “fist bump” as he passed, which indicated that they knew each other and that they were both pleased that the younger man had been chosen for jury duty. I do not believe either lawyer saw this exchange, though it was reported to Jean's lawyer later.

The prosecutor was Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jeffrey Gaines. In his opening statement, he informed the jury that they would be required to use a special definition of the term “emergency veterinary treatment,” which is defined in Virginia law as “veterinary treatment to stabilize a life-threatening condition, alleviate suffering, prevent further disease transmission, or prevent further disease progression.”

In other words, not the definition most people think of, which would include only the first phrase, “stabilize a life-threatening condition” and the second, “alleviate suffering.” In fact, by this legal definition, nearly every ailment that requires a veterinarian's attention would be considered an emergency: kennel cough, worms, diarrhea, a slight limp, a stomachache, ear infection...anything that might progress or that causes pain, no matter how minor. Not providing a dog with ”emergency veterinary treatment” is considered animal cruelty in Virginia.

Gaines also remarked several times that the jury would be hearing about “a lot of dogs, a lot of animals.” And he stressed that the law says “maintain,” not “own.”

Any animal that was on Jean's property on the day of the inspection was counted, whether it belonged to her or not. An Italian greyhound she was boarding for her daughter was counted, as well as several dogs belonging to her sister Katie.

The count was important because most of the charges hinged on Jean being a commercial breeder as defined by the state. A law which went into effect in January 2008 defines a commercial breeder as “any person who, during any 12-month period, maintains 30 or more adult female dogs for the primary purpose of the sale of their offspring as companion animals.” Jean did not own 30 adult females for breeding, but she had Katie's dogs there temporarily for whelping and the Italian greyhound was also pregnant, so they were counted as being “maintained” there.

Jean's attorney, Tate Love, pointed out in his opening statement that there was a lot of confusion about the commercial breeder law, as well as about what constituted an “emergency” for a vet. He said that the eye conditions which resulted in two charges of cruelty were injuries for which there was no treatment other than what Jean had provided at home. Of the five dogs with dental issues, two were treated immediately and appointments had been made for the other three. Those three were later turned over to animal control. Mr. Love also pointed out that in order to have teeth cleaned, a dog has to be anesthetized, and that involves some danger to the animal's life.

Why did Jean turn over three of her dogs to animal control? She had appointments for their teeth to be cleaned, but ACO Amy Hammer arrived at the kennel for a re-check before those appointments. She told Jean that, according to Touroo, she would be charged $250 per day per dog until their teeth were cleaned. Jean could not afford those fines and she could not afford to have all three dogs treated immediately, not were appointments available immediately. All five been seen by her vet, who said he did not consider their dentals an emergency and made the appointments for a later time. Jean felt she had no choice but to turn them over to Hammer. The only time she wept in the courtroom (that I saw) was when Hammer testified about her giving them up. “People think if you have a lot of dogs, you cannot love each one,” she told me, “but they are wrong. I cry every time I think about those three girls going to the shelter, but I didn't have any choice. I couldn't pay those fines until their teeth were cleaned."

Mr. Love pointed out that three veterinarians would be called as witnesses during this trial. One was the state's veterinarian who graduated from Michigan in 2007, had only one year of veterinary experience on the job, and then went to work for the state inspecting breeders. The other two veterinarians have treated Jean's animals for years and between them are several decades of experience. Jean's lawyer also stressed several times that the charges of both animal cruelty and inadequate care are over dog dental care and two old eye injuries and nothing more.

Puppy pen
Both lawyers had “stipulated” (agreed that it was not an issue) to the general health of all the dogs. Jean was providing adequate food, water, shelter, and exercise. The “inadequate care” charges, he said, were also dental issues, and those dogs had been graded as 1-2 on the veterinary dental scale -- in other words, minimal problems. Mr. Love maintained that the dogs were well-nourished and not suffering or in pain.

The state's first witness was Ronald Stanley from Lynchburg, who described himself as a counselor for disabled children, a “peer educator.” In May of this year, Stanley said he called Jean on the recommendation of a teacher who had bought a dog from her. He and his family drove to the kennel and picked out a Pomeranian puppy. He was given a sheet of information about his puppy, CKC registration papers, handouts on feeding and caring for toy breeds, information on coccidia, giardia, and hypoglycemia, and a kennel evaluation sheet (which Jean gives to everyone who buys a puppy from her). She said to call if there were any problems.

Also in May, Jean's son shot and killed himself in her backyard. He had suffered from mental illness all his life. A few weeks before his death, a grandchild had been stillborn. In February, Jean's ex-husband had been convicted of child molestation charges and eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison. She was emotionally drained and her concentration was definitely not up to par during this time.

After Stanley got the puppy home and took it to the vet, he realized that it was underage. Virginia state law requires that a puppy cannot be sold or given away without its mother until it's seven weeks old, and this pup was five weeks. Stanley called Jean and she checked her records. She said he was right, to bring the puppy back and she would keep it for him until it was old enough. She also offered him $150 for the inconvenience. (He had paid $300 for the puppy.) He refused. She offered him a full refund and asked that he bring the puppy back. He refused again and later called her to demand another puppy. He said if she did not give him another puppy free, he would report her to animal control. Jean, distraught over the whole situation, finally agreed.

When he came to get his second puppy, she was too upset to even talk to him, so her husband Allan went out to the kennel to let him choose a puppy. He then signed a paper Jean had prepared stating that he knew the puppies were too young and releasing Jean from responsibility. Then, of course, Stanley reported her anyway, on two counts instead of one.

Stanley admitted that letting him have the puppy too young was accidental and that Jean had tried to make it right, but that he had insisted on another puppy at no cost instead.

Photos from happy owners
The next witness was Amy Hammer, an animal control officer for Augusta Regional Animal Control. She testified that she had talked with Jean about selling the underaged puppies and that Jean had explained the situation and said it was a mistake.

Then Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gaines produced a stack of rabies certificates and went through them one by one with Hammer. He asked her to tell what each one was and to say whether that specific dog was at Jean's kennel that day. She would read from the form that it was a rabies certificate for Dog X that Jean had presented to the county for her 2010 Kennel License permit and that that dog was present at her kennel on June 3rd, if it was. For each one, Hammer stated the dog's name and pen number. Gaines would ask whether it was on the list provided by Jean when she applied for her kennel license in January, and whether Jean owned the dog.

Hammer would reply that the dog was in pen X and would add, unasked, if the dog was pregnant or nursing puppies. They started with the dogs who had recently been bred, so the impression was at first that all of Jean's dogs were pregnant or nursing. In reality, there were fewer than a dozen, and what was also not mentioned was that toy dogs have very small litters. I doubt any of these dogs had more than four puppies. But by the tenth dog, eyes were glazing over. In asking whether the dog was on the list Jean provided, the clear implication was that if it was not on the list, Jean was trying to hide something. Hammer was not asked whether the dogs were pregnant or nursing. Those statements were gratuitous.

It was also not mentioned that the pens which held five to eight dogs each, were very large. As stated earlier, the smallest are 10' X 20' and most are a good bit larger.

Then Gaines went back through the entire list, asking whether the dog was used for breeding. Hammer counted any dog that was that was housed with a member of the opposite sex, which was nearly every dog Jean owned, including very old males and any female under the age of eight. Hammer stated that “Age is not really a consideration with the males.” The count included several dogs that belonged to Jean's sister Katie and an Italian greyhound owned by her daughter Sherry, who was out of town and had left the dog with Jean to board.

Being housed with a member of the opposite sex does not in any way indicate whether the dog is used for breeding. Females are unable to breed for most of the year and during those months they are quite often kept with males for social purposes.

On cross examination, Mr. Love asked how Hammer determined which dogs of Jean's were breeders and therefore fell under the 50 dog limit. She said if the dog was an adult female it was a breeder, though she did not count females over the age of eight or under 18 months since they could not be legally bred.

Gaines then called Dr. Bruce Bowman, who is Jean's veterinarian in Waynesboro  Gaines confirmed that Dr. Bowman had consulted with Touroo in 2009 about the condition of some of Jean's dogs' teeth. He had written Jean a letter with Touroo's recommendations, which included diet-based treatment consisting of bones, chew toys, and special dental diets. Gaines asked Dr. Bowman if these were his own recommendations and he said he was simply passing on Touroo's recommendations and that was how he had presented it to Jean.

Since Dr. Bowman was a witness both for the defense and prosecution, in consideration of his time, Mr. Love asked if he could go ahead and question Dr. Bowman as his witness. Court agreed.

Dr. Bowman testified that he gave rabies shots at Jean's kennel and that, although he did not examine every dog, he felt he would have been aware of any serious health problem or pain any of the dogs were experiencing. When Mr. Love asked whether he had seen problems in any of the dogs, he replied no, that they were all in good weight and condition and seemed to be in no pain. He testified that Jean was very knowledgeable about dogs, especially puppies and puppy care.

Dr. Bowman had also provided the dental treatment for Squiggy, one of the dogs for which Jean was being charged with cruelty. Mr. Love asked whether this was emergency treatment, and Dr. Bowman replied, no, it was routine. He was asked if the dog was in pain, and his response was “No, he didn't appear to be in pain, but the teeth were pretty ugly.” He said there was no infection.

Mr. Love then asked whether there was any danger in anesthetizing dogs and Dr. Bowman said, yes, there was always a chance they would not wake up. He said it had happened to him five or six times in his years as a vet and in fact, he has customers sign a waiver stating that they understand the risk. Mr. Love asked whether, in consultation with their vets, pet owners have to use their own judgment whether the dental condition is serious enough to risk putting the dog under anesthesia. Dr, Bowman said that yes, that was always a consideration.

Veterinarians use a scale of one to four to assess tooth condition –

1: Gingivitis -Redness of the gums, no loss of attachment between the gumline and tooth; mild tartar or discoloration of enamel.
2: Early Periodontitis - Inflammation and swelling of the gumline, ≤ 25% loss of bone and gum support (determined with xrays and probing of the gums), moderate tarter, +/- plaque deposits.
3: Moderate Periodontitis - Moderate loss of attachment and/or moderate pocket formation with between 25-50% loss of the support structures. Root exposure and movement of the tooth may be possible. Gums bleed with dental probing. Moderate to severe plaque and tartar deposits.
4: Advanced Periodontitis -Breakdown of support structures of teeth, with ≥50% loss of support, deep pockets and recession of gums. Severe plaque and tartar, severe halitosis.

Dr. Bowman stated that he does not consider a grade 2 or 3 inadequate care if the dog is otherwise in good condition and that he sees many, many dogs like that. When asked if all their owners have the dogs' teeth cleaned when he recommends it, he laughed and said, “Don't I wish!” He said about ten percent follow through. He said he suggests a dental when he sees infection.

About three quarters of all pets have some dental disease, and toy dogs are especially prone to it. Any toy breeder will tell you that tooth problems are a major issue in the breed and that regardless of how often you clean them, you can still have problems develop.

On cross examination, Gaines insisted that the “legal definition” of emergency vet care should be used and asked whether tooth decay could progress. Dr. Bowman said yes, it could.


Rachel Touroo, who works for the Commonwealth under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs as staff veterinarian for animal care, was called to the stand. Gaines claimed that she is a “forensic veterinarian” and therefore knows animal law.

No mention was made of what education she received to become a “forensic veterinarian.”

Gaines produced photographs of a number of dogs and entered them into evidence and showed them to the jury. The first was a dog named Gracie, who Touroo said had a “corneal ulceration.” Jean had been treating her eye with drops, but there was “no paperwork that she had been seen by a vet.” Then he proceeded through pictures of another dog with a corneal ulceration and the five with grade 3-4 tooth decay. All of these pictures were given to the jury.

On cross, Mr. Love asked about Touroo's education and qualifications. He established that she had graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007, worked at a veterinary practice for one year, and then was hired by the state of Virginia “to help animal control officers inspect commercial breeding facilities.” She said about 60 percent of her time is spent investigating cockfighting and dogfighting, and 40 percent is spent inspecting commercial breeders.

Mr. Love asked whether it is possible for dogs to develop dental problems even if they are given the proper care and treatment. Touroo said yes, there is a genetic component. He asked if Shotzy (one of the dogs with dental problems) was worse when she was examined in June than she had been in August the year before. Touroo said Shotzy had lost a number of teeth and there were no other signs of ill health. When asked whether the dog appeared to be in pain in August 2009, Touroo replied, “Not that I observed but dogs tend to hide pain.” She agreed that Shotzy was in good body condition.

Scotty was the next dog discussed and Touroo said that Scotty exhibited pain by moving away from her when she attempted to manipulate the teeth. Love asked if it was not true that some dogs do not like having their mouths examined, whether they are painful or not. Touroo said yes, that was true.

Stormy did not exhibit pain when examined, but Touroo said that Squiggy was “very painful” when his teeth were manipulated. His body condition was good. Goldenrod also was in good body condition and showed no signs of ill health other than his teeth.

Gracie, with the eye problem, showed “no specific, outward sign of pain” but that sometimes a dog exhibits pain by “just being crankier than usual.” She said Gracie needed an ophthalmic exam, complete with measuring ocular pressure. She admitted the drops Jean was using were appropriate for animal use, but “there was no label indicating they came from a veterinarian.” “So there was nothing illegal or improper about Jean administering those drops?” 
Touroo said it was a prescription medication and Jean should have gotten them through a vet.

Tracker was the second dog with an eye problem and Jean was also treating him with drops. Touroo said the drops do not last as long as ointment and have to be applied six times a day.

Mr. Love asked if she had ever done a dental while she was a practicing veterinarian for that year and she said she had done a lot of them. He asked if she had used anesthesia for that procedure, and she replied, “Yes, to get them to cooperate and lie still.” She said she recommends full bloodwork and xrays before any dental.

In response to a question from Mr. Love, Touroo said that dogs are “not always cooperative when you brush their teeth.” When asked if vets could differ on their opinions of whether a dog needed a surgical cleaning, she replied, “I would hope not too much, but I'm sure there can be some difference.” The prosecutor asked if she had requested health records on these dogs and Touroo said there were none other than Jean's own records.

ACO Amy Hammer was recalled to the stand. She testified that after the inspection of August 29th, she had returned to the kennel “to issue the kennel license” and Jean said the dogs were being treated by Dr. Bowman. On June 18th, Hammer told her she needed a response by July 2nd and Jean was cooperative. She had made appointments for the dogs.

Animal control does not issue kennel licenses, the treasurer's office does. Hammer repeatedly stated that Jean had gotten her kennel license from “us.” When Mr. Love asked, “By us you mean animal control?” and Hammer stated yes.

On July 8th, Hammer went back to the kennel and Jean showed her the dates of the appointments for each dog and commented that it was hard to afford so many dentals (they were $300-400 each) in a short timeframe. Hammer suggested she turn over the three who had not had their dentals to animal control. Jean did not want to do this.

Jean says that Hammer said Touroo had informed her that Jean had only 10 days to have all the dogs treated and that she would be fined 250.00 per dog per day for each one not done. Jean did not have money for fines, nor could she afford three dentals immediately, so she felt she had no choice but to surrender the three dogs: Shotzy, Stormy, and Scotty.

Mr. Love: Did she appear to be upset about releasing the dogs?
Hammer: Yes, she did.
Mr. Love: She had not made a definitive decision, but she had expressed concern about being able to afford it?
Hammer: Yes.
Mr. Love: And it was your suggestion she surrender the dogs.
Hammer: Yes.

Touroo was recalled and the prosecutor went through 20 dogs, one by one, to ask about those with grade 1-2 dental issues. For each one, he asked whether Touroo felt they were receiving adequate care, and she responded no to each one.

During cross, Mr. Love showed her pictures of some of those dogs and asked her whether she would be able to give an opinion on the teeth. She replied no, not just looking at the pictures because the pictures might look okay but the molars might be in bad shape.

Mr. Love asked whether any of these dogs were in pain or malnourished. Touroo said no. He asked if she considered grade 1-2 dental issues inadequate care and she responded yes, that home care was required.

Dr. Brian Arneson, veterinarian at Heartland Veterinary Clinic in Harrisonburg was called to the stand. He also testified that he has gone to Jean's kennel to give rabies vaccinations and has done “walk throughs” to check on general conditions. He has never found serious problems. He was shown several rabies certificates and asked if he recognized them as being from his clinic. Most of them, he did, but there were a couple that did not seem to have come from his clinic's software. Nothing was concluded from that.

Puppy pen with hanging toy and heat lamp
When Mr. Love asked him how he would have treated the eye problems in the two dogs, he said he would have used the same drug Jean did, but perhaps in an ointment instead of drops. Mr. Love asked how he would have treated them for pain. He said there was no treatment for eye pain. Dr. Arneson testified that it is very common for small dogs to have bad teeth.

Shane Ayers, another ACO from Augusta Regional Animal Control, took the stand. He said he had had a conversation with Jean about the commercial breeder law in 2008 and she said she was going to try to get her number of females to below 30 to avoid being classified as a commercial breeder.

On August 26, 2009, he assisted in counting the dogs on the property and counted 57 adults, 36 intact females. On December 18 he received an email from Jean stating the she was below 30 females. On January 10, after the law had gone into effect, Jean sent him another email saying she had fewer than 29. He did not go out to her property to confirm this. On January 21, according to rabies certificates, Jean had a total of 61 dogs – 30 females but only 27 for breeding, and 31 males.

The prosecutor entered a number of photographs into evidence, beginning with a photo of a sign saying “puppies for sale” in front of Jean's house. Other pictures were of various pens and cages. These were circulated through the jury.

Jean's kennel set-up and conditions were not on trial. The dogs had been stipulated to be in good condition, with adequate food, water, shelter, and exercise, except for those with dental or eye conditions, and even those were stipulated to be in good body condition and well-nourished. These photos were obviously intended to show Jean's kennel in a bad light.

On cross, Mr. Love asked Ayers if, when he visited Jean in 2008, he had been able to answer all her questions about the commercial breeder law. He said he had not, but that he had “consulted the people who drafted the legislation” and was able to respond to her questions after that.

Hammer was recalled. She was asked whether Jean had told her that she whelped dogs belonging to Katie and that they stayed with Jean for six weeks, then the puppies were sold by either her or Katie. Hammer responded that yes, Jean had stated that.

Touroo took the stand again, and again Gaines went through a list of every dog in the kennel, asking their ages and whether they were pregnant or nursing. This time he also brought in photos of a calendar hanging in Jean's office with the names of dogs filled in on various dates, as well as photos of dog information sheets that were on the pens of the mothers. Making the assumptions that some were when females came in season, when they were bred, and when they gave birth, he asked Touroo why the whelping dates on the calendar did not always match up with those on the pens. She replied that probably the dates on the calendar were expected due dates, but that dogs do not always deliver when they're expected to. She said, “Dogs have a gestation of about 65 days.”

The generally accepted time of gestation for a dog is 63 days, though it can vary on either side by several days. I have never heard anyone give 65 days as the average gestation time.

For each dog, Gaines showed her a rabies certificate, asked if it appeared to be the same dog on the list of dogs she had examined, showed her the calendar for (assumed) dates of coming in season, breeding and whelping, and compared that information to the information sheets on the pens.

There were two rescues, Evie and Beebite, who were not counted, and Precious, who was over eight years old, was not counted. Jewel, Demi, and Little Witch were not counted because they were under 18 months and therefore not old enough to breed. Jean had three housedogs, one very old, one three months old, and one adult female. None of those were examined or counted.

Gaines asked Touroo whether she had received breeding certificates on the breeding-age females and she replied that none had been produced.

Breeding certificates are a requirement for commercial breeders. A breeding certificate is an annual statement from a vet that he has examined a female and determined that she is in suitable health for breeding. Jean did not have these because she believed she did not have over 29 females and was therefore not a commercial breeder. She did not know they would count Katie's dogs and Sherry's dog as if they belonged to her.

On cross examination, Mr. Love asked how many females were counted. Touroo said 31. Mr. Love asked whether the criteria for determining whether a female was a “breeder” was that she was housed with intact males. Touroo said yes, the burden of proof is on the breeder to prove the female was not being bred. Mr. Love asked if it were true that the state vet's office had not even provided a format for breeding certificates as of the June 3rd inspection. Touroo said that was true.

Mr. Love made a motion to strike the charges of selling underaged puppies because it was obviously a mistake which Jean had tried to correct. He asked that the charges for the dogs with eye infections be stricken because Jean did take the dogs to the vet after the inspection and was told no treatment was necessary. When asked how he would have treated them earlier, the vet had said with the same drug Jean had used.

As for the charge of maintaining more than 50 dogs, Mr. Love pointed out that that charge, and all the records violations charges were dependent on Jean having 30 or more breeding females and there was a legitimate question about whether she did. He pointed out that the only evidence that some of them were breeding females was that they were kept in pens with intact males. He said there was no evidence that more than 50 dogs were being kept for breeding and that the Commonwealth had not met the burden of proof.

Gaines argued that the fact that selling the puppies underage was unintentional did not matter because this was a misdemeanor and intent is not at issue. He said that even if the housedogs were not counted, “the evidence is overwhelming that the purpose of this kennel is producing puppies for sale.

According to Virginia law, producing puppies for sale does not make a kennel commercial. Maintaining 30 or more females for the primary purpose of selling the offspring does. Again, Gaines' implication was that simply by offering puppies for sale, Jean was doing something wrong.


Mr. Love called his first witness for the defense, Jan Stephens, who bought two dogs from Jean, neither of which had health or dental problems. She said they had been checked by a veterinarian and were in great health. When the prosecutor asked her if she did anything special to keep their teeth clean, she said no, that they play with chew toys and other toys. Gaines asked specifically if their teeth had been checked by a vet and she said yes, they had and no problems were found.

Ashley Tinsley testified that she had gotten two adult dogs from Jean and both were in excellent health, with no dental problems and no pain.

Sherry Sweet, Jean's daughter, testified that she had taken her Italian Greyhound Isis to Jean's house to board while she was out of town. The dog was five weeks pregnant and she wanted Jean to keep an eye on her. Sherry had planned to pick her up in a week, but she returned to town on May 16 -- her brother committed suicide on the 17th. For the following few weeks, she left Isis in the kennel while her family and her mother dealt with their grief.

During that time, Touroo and animal control came to the kennel and counted Isis among Jean's dogs. Sherry picked up her dog the following Monday and on Tuesday she delivered the puppies at home. Sherry stressed that she is not a dog breeder, that Isis is a family pet and this was a project she and her daughter took on as part of home schooling. The only time Isis has stayed with Jean was that one time. Jean was not compensated for keeping her and received no money from the sale of the puppies.

Meanwhile, another Isis, a poodle belonging to Katie, was bred to Goldenrod (poodle) on May 14 and this was duly noted on the calendar.

Gaines responded to Mr. Love's motions by pointing out that the puppies sold underage were five weeks old and that he felt Jean had sold them intentionally. He disagreed that the treatment by Jean for the eye problems was enough. “Whether there are 30 breeding females is a jury decision, as is whether the daughter is a credible witness.” He added that the jury would have to decide whether Sherry would “lie for her mother.”

The judge denied all motions. He then read every charge and gave the jury instructions. Mr. Love had also objected to several of the instructions, but those objections were also overruled.

Gaines began his argument with a quote from Alexander Pope, beginning with “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He then re-stressed the “legal definition” of emergency veterinary care and warned the jury to put aside their own understanding of it. He said neither of the two local vets who had testified was a “forensic vet,” and they were not trained in the law.

He argued that Jean had been “dabbling in veterinary medicine for years,” treating her own dogs. “I know what to do. I don't need to take them to the vet.” He insisted that she had allowed the two dogs with corneal ulcers to “suffer through the whole disease while she dabbled in vet medicine.”

Dr. Arneson had said he would have used the same drug Jean did and that there was nothing he would have been able to do for any pain in the eye.

He accused Jean of refusing to get dental treatment for the dogs because she “was not going to spend $300 on that dog. It shouldn't take two inspections by animal control to get these animals treatment. She thought she knew better.”

He said he did not believe she had sold the two puppies accidentally.

Gaines insisted that even not counting the dog in the house there were 30 females maintained “for the purpose of selling their offspring.” Although one of the dogs, Toto, had been spayed during a c-section, he said that as long as her puppies were nursing, she was being maintained for that purpose.

Then he said that Sherry Sweet had an interest in the outcome of the case and if they would consider the calendar which said Isis was not bred until May 14 and was bred to Goldenrod (a poodle) they would see that Isis had been brought to the kennel to be bred.

The Isis who was bred to Goldenrod on May 14 was a poodle belonging to Katie, not Sherry's Italian greyhound, who was already pregnant.

One of Jean's whelping rooms
Gaines went on to say “There is no dispute that she is a dog breeder. She makes a living breeding dogs and she moves dogs back and forth between her and her sister for the purpose of breeding.”

And breeding dogs is not a crime, contrary to Mr. Gaines' implication.

He ended by saying, “This woman has dabbled in veterinary medicine and her animals have suffered as a result.”

Mr. Love began his closing argument, as had Gaines, by thanking the jury for their service. He said that as far as selling the underaged puppies, the statement signed by Stanley was proof that the first puppy was sold by accident. He pointed out that if she had intended to mislead him, she would not have put the puppy's correct birthdate on the papers to begin with.

He further commented that “All experts are not created equal.” He said the jury should take into account the combined 42 years of the local vets' experience and the fact that Touroo had one year in practice. “Is there anyone who is not better at a job 19 years later than after one year?”

As far as “interest in the outcome of the trial,” he pointed out that Touroo's job is, day to day, to look for violations. “You judge the vets' credibility,” he suggested.

As for the teeth, Mr. Love said, though you have to follow the judge's instructions, both of the local vets said they did not consider those teeth an emergency. The dogs were well-nourished and there was nothing to indicate they had trouble eating. Vets disagree on when dental work is necessary and the danger of putting dogs under anesthesia has to be considered. And he reminded jurors that Dr. Bowman said you can do everything right and still have dogs with dental problems.

He pointed out that some of the dogs with problems belonged to Katie and were only with Jean for six weeks.

Eleven dogs had only grade one or two dental problems. “Dr. Touroo may have a bias of her own,” he suggested. “The grades are subjective and her job is finding violations.”

Mr. Love asked the jury to consider the openness of Jean's operation. Would a bad breeder invite a vet to tour the facility and tell her about any problems he saw? If a vet had seen sick or mistreated dogs, would he have kept quiet? Would a bad breeder ask the animal control officer to do a walk-through when he came by for something else?

To be guilty of the recordkeeping charges (which involved only breeding certificates), Mr. Love pointed out, Jean would have to be a commercial breeder. That means she has to maintain 30 or more breeding females. At this point Gaines interrupted to point out that the law says “for the primary purpose of selling their offspring.” Mr. Love continued that the dogs in the house could not be counted because they were not examined. Isis should not count, he said, because there had been no testimony as to what the entries on the calendar meant. If the Commonwealth thought Sherry Sweet was lying, why didn't he question her about it on cross examination?

You heard the story. When the law was passed, Ms. Cyhanick had more dogs. She was trying to reduce her numbers. It was hard, but she was doing it. She didn't get the breeding exams because she did not believe she was a commercial breeder.”

Without Isis, her daughter's dog, she wasn't a commercial breeder. And Isis should not have been counted.

During the Commonwealth's rebuttal, Gaines said that even if selling the first underage puppy was a mistake, it didn't matter, it was her responsibility. And he added, “We dispute that it was a mistake.” He said Stanley had taken the second underage puppy to “get it out of that place,” again implying bad conditions at the kennel even though he himself had stipulated that the conditions were not in question. Gaines dismissed the experience of the two local veterinarians because, he said, “Neither of them knew the definition of emergency veterinary care under the the law. Do not let private vets who are not versed in the law influence you.”

As for the healed eye injuries, Gaines said, “If you take a dead dog to the vet, he can't do anything about that either,” so that fact that Jean's vet said there was nothing to treat when she brought the dog in didn't matter. Emergency vet care, he said, was to “alleviate suffering.”
She wouldn't even brush their teeth or give them any dental treatment at all. What you have are dogs with missing teeth.”

Not true. Jean showed me a cup full of broken and chewed up toothbrushes. She had attempted to brush their teeth and been bitten in the process. It's not easy to brush a dog's teeth who hasn't been trained from puppyhood to allow its mouth to be examined. Her dogs also had numerous bones and chew toys in their pens. Toy dogs are notorious for having bad teeth, regardless of what care the owner does.

Gaines said if people did not like the definition of emergency veterinary care, that they should contact their legislators. He said that he had not cross examined Sherry Sweet about the truth of her testimony because “if she is prepared to come in here and lie to you about this, I submit that she would lie when I asked her. Goldenrod is a poodle. Draw your own conclusions.”

Gaines conclusion was obviously that Jean was a commercial breeder of the worst sort and breeding a poodle to an Italian Greyhound would be something she would do.

The jury deliberated for about two hours. They had been instructed to assign penalties for the cruelty charges but to postpone penalties for the others until later. Jean was found guilty on all charges of cruelty and six of the inadequate care charges, as well as all of the records violations.

The judge asked if Jean would like to address the jury before further penalties were assigned. She took the stand and Mr. Love asked her how she had become interested in dogs.

She said she had always had an affinity for animals. She had been an abused child and her pets were her comfort. She'd always had a knack for dealing with animals and frequently nursed rabbits and birds back to health, even as a child. She had begun breeding when she had a handicapped child and needed to stay home with him.

My kennel was my refuge when things were not going well at home, which was pretty often,” she said. “It seems like my only talent was dogs. I couldn't draw or paint or anything but I could take care of dogs. I needed the money, but that wasn't all of it. Back then, breeding dogs wasn't such a big deal and I took good care of them. They were happy.

I have quite an interest in what it takes to have a healthy dog. When I first started, I used to go to the vet twice a month, but reading, studying, and asking questions, you begin to pick up on how to take care of some things yourself.

The dogs were never my sole source of income. They gave me extra money for Christmas and school things. There were times they put food on the table.

I felt like I was making my dogs happy. I had about 180 dogs when the commercial breeder law passed, so I had to cut back a lot. It's not easy to find a good home, a good place for that many dogs in just a few months. I tried very hard to get them to clarify exactly what this law meant but it was never plain how it would be enforced and what would count.

My dogs were always more than breeding dogs to me. I never bred a dog after seven or eight years old. I loved all of them.”

Mr. Love asked her if her kennel had ever had citations before. “No, sir, I have never been in any kind of trouble. I've never been charged with anything and they had been to my house numerous times. I always got the ACO to walk through my kennel and asked them to tell me what was wrong and I would fix it.”

I have one more thing to say,” she concluded. “My daughter Sherry is not a liar. She would not lie for me or anyone else. The dog Isis on the calendar was a poodle belonging to Katie. Sherry's dog was bred at her house and went home to her house to have her puppies. I just want to make that very clear. My daughter does not lie.”

When asked if he had questions, Gaines simply stated, “So I guess you're saying the rules have changed over the years.”

Jean replied, “The laws have changed.”

ACO Shane Ayers took the stand again. He testified that he had known Jean since 1995 and he had been to her property every year since then, sometimes several times a year. There had never been any previous charges. He said he had occasionally made suggestions for improvement, maybe once a year, and she had always complied. He felt the current problems were because the rules or laws had changed.

The jury was given addition instructions, that for each guilty conviction, they could sentence Jean to not more than a year in jail, a fine up to $2500, or both up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2500.

What the jury was not told was that in Virginia, any animal cruelty conviction means you can never again sell an animal in Virginia, and the court may order that you cannot even own an animal again. They may not have known that by convicting her of cruelty, they were depriving her not only of her livelihood, but her beloved pets as well.

Gaines commented that the “times have passed her by” and asked them not to sentence her to jail time, but he asked for at least $500 per violation.

Mr. Love asked them to consider how egregious they felt each count was and to look at each individual fine and gauge the impact they felt it would have on her. “We are not dealing here with someone who has a long history of mistreatment of animals.”

The jury came back with a $50 fine for the records charges and inadequate care charges and $150 for each charge of cruelty, selling puppies underage, and having more than 50 breedable dogs.

After the jury was dismissed, the judge asked Jean if she had anything to say. She did. (Following is a reconstruction of her comments from my notes. The quotes are not exact, but pretty close.)

This has been a travesty,” she began. “ I cannot believe what happened to me here. You're supposed to come to court to get justice. This is not justice. Breeding is not disrespectful or harmful to dogs. Those dogs were the only thing I had that kept me human, that kept me alive. You didn't hear the truth here today or yesterday, and it will be a long time before you hear the truth in an animal case. If you keep running over people like me, to get a dog you will have to sign an adoption contract and pay $5000. That's the way this is going.

For those of you who brought these charges, I curse each and every one of you. What goes around comes around.

I'm done.”

Gaines asked that Jean be prohibited from ownership of any animals, but after a brief consultation with Mr. Love, he said he would ask that she be limited to four dogs and three cats. Although she will not be able to sell them, Mr. Love asked that she be allowed to place her dogs herself and that she have 90 days in which to do so. The Commonwealth agreed, but added that it would be under ACO Hammer's supervision.

It is hard to believe that in Virginia, having a dog with bad teeth is considered animal cruelty. It's hard to believe that a man can extort a free puppy from someone and walk out of court a winner. It's hard to believe that people can manipulate a jury this way, that a prosecutor can accuse a witness of lying without giving her a chance to respond. Mostly it is hard to believe that the testimony of a bureaucrat who has one year of practical experience is believed over the testimony of two veterinarians with a combined total of nearly 40 years' experience.

Jean's dogs are gone, but she will continue to fight. She is the only breeder in Virginia who has been able to fight a case against animal rightists, and she will continue as long as she is able.

Perhaps it would be nice if all puppies could be raised in a kitchen with kids to play with and go to perfect homes where they would live to 15. But there are not enough hobby and occasional breeders to provide dogs for the people who want them. Keeping an intact animal has become politically incorrect and downright illegal in some places, so few people breed the family dog any more. Dog limits and zoning laws have put many small breeders out of business. Without good, caring for-profit breeders like Jean, we will face a dog shortage in just a few years. This country is already importing puppies from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and many other countries – there are serious health concerns with these dogs, and they are raised in conditions we cannot monitor or improve.

The animal rights movement, working through local puppets, is methodically eroding our ability to breed and even own pets.

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