Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taking A Stand Against The Dalmatian Club Of America's Position On Dalmatian Deafness

Deafness affects a significant number of Dalmatians. In a Louisiana State University study that tested the hearing of 5,638 Dalmatians, 21.7% (1,226 dogs) were found to be unilaterally deaf, and 7.8% (441 dogs) were found to be bilaterally deaf. The study also tested other dog breeds including Bull Terriers, Australian Cattle Dogs, and Cocker Spaniels, among others, but deafness was found to be most prevalent among Dalmatians.

Tragically, the Dalmatian Club of America's response to this wide-spread phenomenon is unequivocal: The club is adamant that all deaf Dalmatian puppies should be "destroyed." In their position statement, the DCA's board of governors encourages owners of deaf Dalmatians to have their animals euthanized: "Consider starting over with a healthy, hearing pup. (And DO have the deaf dog put down)."

The Dalmatian Club of America has the same message for animal rescue organizations: "If you are affiliated with an animal shelter, humane society, or dog rescue service, please do not attempt to place the deaf Dalmatian puppies and adults that come in, and do not advertise for a 'special home' for the 'poor little deaf Dalmatian. The HUMANE approach is to put down the deaf Dals and concentrate on finding good homes for the healthy hearing dogs."

The club's rationale is that "Deaf Dalmatians are hard to raise, difficult to control (they are often hit by cars when they 'escape'), and often become snappish or overly aggressive, especially when startled."

Statements like these are far more reflective of fears as opposed to facts. Myths about deaf dogs abound, and people who have had little or no experience with hearing impaired pooches may mistakenly believe, as the Dalmatian Club of America does, that they are prone to aggression, hard to train, and difficult to care for.

In reality, deaf dogs are very much like other dogs. They cope with their limitations by learning to use other abilities. Hearing is but one of five senses, and a dog's primary sense is smell.

Furthermore, the Ontario SPCA reminds us humans that "dogs communicate primarily through body language and are very adept at nonverbal communication." Because we place so much emphasis on verbal communication, we tend to forget that our canine companions are incredibly skilled at interpreting visual cues. This film clip is a perfect example:

Deaf dogs like Olivia enjoy playing games:

And here's Holly, a deaf Dalmatian who is an agility competitor:

These three Dalmatians are living proof that deaf dogs can in fact be trained to learn tricks and follow commands. Their deafness is not nearly as debilitating as the Dalmatian Club of America suggests. On the contrary, these dogs appear to be thriving!

Here is what people who know and love hearing impaired dogs will tell you: these pooches are not inherently more aggressive than other dogs; they can live in harmony with children and other pets; raising and training them is not especially difficult, it just requires a different vocabulary; a lack of hearing does not drastically diminish their quality of live; and above all, deaf dogs make wonderful companions and family members!

The reality is that the Dalmatian Club of America has dramatically overestimated the drawbacks of canine hearing impairment. It is grossly irresponsible for the organization to promote such negative misinformation related to deaf Dalmatian puppies and adults, and to advocate for the killing of otherwise healthy, adoptable dogs.

Please join me in taking a stand against the Dalmatian Club of America and their policy on Dalmatian deafness. Contact the club's officers and board of governors to let them know that their position is outrageously inaccurate, inhumane, and unnecessary:


VickiT said...

Wow, it's incredible that a breed club would take such a shockingly shortsighted view. The club's rationale, that deaf dogs who 'escape' are often hit by cars, is true of ANY dog who escapes, and ANY dog can become snappish if startled, without proper training and socialization.

Thank you for alerting us to this, Katja.

Patricia said...

Thank you so much for spreading the word in support of deaf Dalmatians. As a trainer of deaf dogs, my personal dogs teach Fire Safety and Dog Bite Prevention programs and visit hospice and abused children. Deaf dogs can do anything a hearing dog can but hear.
Patricia or on Facebook

Ariel E O'Brien said...

As the president of a Deaf Dalmatian rescue I can assure you these dogs are as easily trainable as any hearing dog and in many instances even easier to train. They have amazing focus on their owner/handler. I have been training and trialing in obedience and agility for over 7 years now with deaf Dalmatians and the only Dalmatian that I have that is aggressive hears perfectly out of both ears. My deafies are sweet, intelligent and wonderful animals.

Critsit said...

And with this narrow type of thinking, then every dog of every breed should be put down as soon as they start to lose their hearing because of age, doesn't matter that they are otherwise healthy and happy. So ridiculous! Talk about being handicapped; people with such narrow vision. What a sickening waste of these wonderful, intelligent animals who are being destroyed without a second thought.