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The Future of Dogs


B: Of all aspects of canine care and companionship, are there things you feel are happening too slowly?
TK: What I wish would change faster is the amount of freedom dogs enjoy. In most places in the U.S., dogs can no longer roam because of leash laws or traffic or both. Off-leash dog parks are nice, but most are too small. We accept them in lieu of giving dogs true freedom. In many European countries, on the other hand, dogs can go into restaurants, they can ride on buses and subways, and they have more freedom in big urban parks.

B: You spent a lot of time at shelters, investigating what makes some successful in becoming no-kill, while others can’t seem to reach that goal. What do you think makes the difference?
TK: A proactive, compassionate director who can change how a shelter operates. There are roughly 3,500 shelters in the U.S.; approximately 200 are no-kill and quite a few more have not yet reached the goal of having 90 percent of the dogs going back out into the community, but are close. A good fostering system connected with the shelter helps, as does outreach to the community—taking dogs off-site to be adopted. A really simple thing that can be done is to keep the shelter open at night and at least one day on the weekend so working people can get to the shelter and adopt a dog.

B: In Pukka’s Promise, you take on some big players in the dog world—breeders, veterinarians, dog-food and toy manufacturers. Are you concerned about their reactions?
TK: I tried very hard to not trounce people, but to gently point out how we can improve the health of dogs. Those I took to task most are breeders who continue to breed for extreme form even though we all know this leads to unhealthy dogs. I also described pet-food manufacturers who wouldn’t have an honest conversation with me. I hope the weight of the evidence helps people make healthier choices.

B: What is the big take-away you want readers to get from Pukka’s Promise?
TK: Pay more attention to your dog. Get on the ground with your dog, see what it’s doing and what it’s telling you with its body language, its eyes and its facial expressions. I’m often disturbed by how unobservant many people are when it comes to their dogs. Their dogs are asking them a question, but they’re talking on their cell phones. More and more people also treat their dogs like children, giving them a gazillion toys instead of exercise, which is far more important than a bunch of rubber bones and stuffed animals. Dogs need to run, they need to smell, they need to meet other dogs. And it’s important that they get to do that almost every day. For a dog, toys can’t replace running, or reading the world through its nose or having canine company.

For the full interview, see The Bark, Issue 73, Feb–Apr 2013.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 73: Spring 2013
Rebecca Wallick is an attorney and a Bark contributing editor; she and her dogs live in Washington.
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | February 1 2013 |

I love this article. I have an adopted lab mix who has had nothing but health problems since the day I brought him home from a no-kill shelter. He does tell me exactly what he needs. We are so in-tune with each other, he also knows what I need! After extensive illness and traditional vetrinary medicine that wasn't working, I consulted a genious alternative vet named Dr. Wessner in Ocala, FL. He has a tremendous gift for diagnosis and turned Barney's life around. Finally, at 10 years of age, he got healthy, gained weight and never felt better. He is on a grain-free diet and for about 6 moths, has been on a frozen raw-food diet. I think our biggest challenge as pet owners is the REQUIREMENT of vaccines. Dr Wessner has done extensive research as well and it has been proven that dogs don't need many of them at all and the few that may be needed are only neeeded every 7 years. My biggest dilemma is wanting to adopt my next pet from a shelter but I know he'll have been over-vaccinated by the time I can save him. The vaccination laws MUST be changed. Thanks!!

Submitted by Diana | February 2 2013 |

Having dealt with tumors in my golden retriever and losing her to cancer, I am hyper-aware of what I feed my adopted shelter dog, check her body regularly for any lumps and take her for off-leash walks at least 5 days a week. But I still feel our environment contributes to the early death of our dogs. I don't trust dog food companies and dog toy maunfacturers. Although my vet is great, I wish I didn't have to have my dog injected with vaccinations but I don't dare not do it especially since I live in a small town where dogs must be leashed or contained. I cried when I read Merle's Door but I don't think I could have kept Merle alive as long as the author did.

Submitted by Amanda Dimov | August 22 2013 |

In reading the interview with Ted Kerasote, I was baffled by not only the author’s comments about animal shelters but also his stance on spay/neuter. First, he states that he was disturbed to see “dogs being killed at a Los Angeles shelter,” yet he purchases a dog from a breeder. Second, he chooses not to neuter his dog. Millions of animals are euthanized every year in the United States alone because so many end up in shelters. Even if there are health concerns with spay/neuter, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Submitted by Kristin Bauer v... | August 22 2013 |

I have no doubt that Ted Kerasote loves dogs and does so much good, but one of the things that I find disheartening is people who have loved a rescue, seen the state of shelters, yet continue to buy rather than adopt. How does one see suffering and forget? And the even worse question: How will suffering ever end if kind-hearted, intelligent people who care promote the act of conscious forgetting? To see someone with Ted’s reach and Ted’s voice purposely turn away saddens me. How will we survive if we don’t see that we need to evolve completely?

Submitted by Toby Sue Shaw | August 22 2013 |

I believe Ted Kerasote makes some valuable points in Pukka’s Promise. Although I do not agree with him about leaving his dog “whole,” I do wonder about the value of not totally removing the organs that produce sex hormones. I do believe we have to look at that. I also believe that for now, and until further research is in, spaying and neutering is the way to go to prevent pet overpopulation.

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