2009 January 04 Sunday
Guide Horses Better Than Guide Dogs For Blind

A blind guy with the name Wilbur should obviously get a guide horse named Mr. Ed. (and if you are too young to get the reference you are unknowingly suffering from cultural deprivation)

The woman, Ann Edie, was simply blind and out for an evening walk with Panda, her guide miniature horse.

There are no sidewalks in Edie’s neighborhood, so Panda led her along the street’s edge, maneuvering around drainage ditches, mailboxes and bags of raked leaves. At one point, Panda paused, waited for a car to pass, then veered into the road to avoid a group of children running toward them swinging glow sticks. She led Edie onto a lawn so she wouldn’t hit her head on the side mirror of a parked van, then to a traffic pole at a busy intersection, where she stopped and tapped her hoof. “Find the button,” Edie said. Panda raised her head inches from the pole so Edie could run her hand along Panda’s nose to find and press the “walk” signal button.

Edie isn’t the only blind person who uses a guide horse instead of a dog — there’s actually a Guide Horse Foundation that’s been around nearly a decade.

Go, Panda, go! This is a much better Panda than the South Park Sexual Harassment Panda.

Assorted animals are out there helping people in all sorts of real and questionable ways. This is leading to legal battles over rights of disabled people to use service animals to help them with their disabilities.

They’re all showing up in stores and in restaurants, which is perfectly legal because the Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) requires that service animals be allowed wherever their owners want to go.

Some people enjoy running into an occasional primate or farm animal while shopping. Many others don’t. This has resulted in a growing debate over how to handle these animals, as well as widespread suspicion that people are abusing the law to get special privileges for their pets. Increasingly, business owners, landlords and city officials are challenging the legitimacy of noncanine service animals and refusing to accommodate them. Animal owners are responding with lawsuits and complaints to the Department of Justice. This August, the Arizona Game and Fish Department ordered a woman to get rid of her chimpanzee, claiming that she brought it into the state illegally — she disputed this and sued for discrimination, arguing that it was a diabetes-assistance chimp trained to fetch sugar during hypoglycemic episodes.

Another case in the article involves a bipolar guy with psychotic and homicidal tendencies whose parrot calms him down. Read the description of him in the article. I wouldn't want him as a neighbor.

Sadie rides around town on Eggers’s back in a bright purple backpack specially designed to hold her cage. When he gets upset, she talks him down, saying: “It’s O.K., Jim. Calm down, Jim. You’re all right, Jim. I’m here, Jim.”

If a guy with homicidal tendencies (he admits to them) gets calmed down by a parrot then I say let him walk around with a parrot. I realize they can be noisy. A breeding pair of parrots got lose in Santa Barbara several years ago and as a result sometimes around dusk a dozen parrots nest in a tree near where I live and they chat up a big loud conversation. Definitely lends a more exotic jungle atmosphere to the area. But a parrot that calms down a neurologically messed up and dangerous guy is a parrot that is doing a good job.

The ability to classify pets as service animals has been abused and the article reports airplanes becoming modern day Noah's Arks. Well, so far I haven't had the luck to go on a flight that has chimps and parrots in passenger seats. How about you?

Looking into the future (a futures angle is a requirement here) one can see where all this leads: genetically engineered service animals. Granted, stem cell therapies, gene therapies, and tissue engineering will solve a lot of problems with blindness, severed spinal nerves, shriveled muscles, and deteriorated joints. So human disability should become much more rare. But I see a big future for animals genetically customized to serve important functions like "woof woof" to indicate you are about to hit people in a cross walk or that car that has braked ahead of you while you were engrossed in a cell phone conversation. Pets are going to need to pay attention for us as our gadgets become ever more alluring distractions.

Some might choose chimps as driving assistants. I figure with enough genetic enhancement that chimps could take over the actual task of driving. Then people will be able to text message in their cars without risking a ticket or charge of involuntary manslaughter for doing it.

But the genetically engineered service animals will eventually face stiff competition from artificial intelligences. Will the A.I.'s take over before pet genetic engineering hits full swing?

Update: Okay, I see that people outside of America are especially unlikely to know the legendary Mr. Ed. He's important because he dramatizes the future of horsedom.

Here's another excerpt.

By Randall Parker    2009 January 04 01:36 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2007 May 19 Saturday
Dysgenic California Legislation Against Non-Pure Bred Dogs

Friends of Fido, Rover, and Lassie unite against a bad idea for dogs.

Assembly Bill 1634, which requires dogs over four months of age to be spayed or neutered, passed the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on April 24 by a vote of 7 to 3. The bill, sponsored by Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, requires dog owners to have their dogs spayed or neutered at their own expense. Registered, purebred dogs are exempt from the requirement. The bill has been re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

The goal of this California state legislation is likely to reduce the number of dogs euthanized in dog pounds and shelters. So Levine wants to reduce the killing of dogs. A laudable goal. But he hasn't thought through the consequences.

First off, he doesn't just restrict breeding to purebreds. He restricts breeding to registered purebreds. Now, the registered purebred societies have generated monster dogs in search of stupid ideal breed designs. Look at the flattening of the bull dog face. That's sadistic. So is the current bull dog body shape. From an engineering standpoint it is stupid. Or look at the short hind quarters of German Shepherds. Or how about the unnaturally much more narrow snout of today's rough collies? Lassie's descendants are probably dumber as a consquence of the skull shrink caused by the pursuit of a narrower snout. How about thinking of the quality of life of dogs before creating freak show animals and calling them normal?

When I first read that Australian Shepherds (note to Australian readers: they are an American breed that probably started out with Aussie herding dogs that were brought to California during the gold rush) were going to become an AKC registered breed I was angry. Oh no, those upper middle class ladies who like to parade highly primped dogs around at dog shows are going to ruin yet another excellent breed developed for herding (including herding of yours truly). I think the esthetic breeder types have a lot to answer for. Their in-breeding and pursuit of breed standards that can only be described as Frankensteinish should not be encouraged with state legislation.

My late great Australian Shepherd Oakley never got registered (and when I say great I'm describing the consensus of a lot of people who were more objective about him than I was). Under Lloyd Levine's law Oakley, as a non-registered dog, would be barred from breeding in the state of California. Instead, show dogs would breed and anyone who wanted to buy a dog would be required to choose among dogs that upper class dog show ladies find suitable. I do not want to live in that sort of world.

Among the consequences of Levine's proposal: New breeds could not be created. Any mixed breed dog that was the first attempt at creating a new breed would get neutered. Also, any breeds that exist today without recognition by the AKC or similar breed association would become an evolutionary dead end that would go extinct after the current living generation.

Levine's proposal fits a larger pattern where the big organizations called governments force more behavior to take place within the context of controls and rules of other big organizations. Want to breed a dog? Gotta get that dog registered and you can only register dogs that fit the arbitrary breed guidelines of existing associations. So the proposal pushes us toward a more bureaucratic society and a more dysgenic one to boot. Tell your elected officials to find another way to reduce dog over-population.

By Randall Parker    2007 May 19 01:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
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