Animal training: the need for humaneness Essay

Animal Training: The Need for Humaneness            Animal trainers should not use cruel methods to train their animals, despite the lack of codified laws preventing such methods.

  This applies to a wide range of animals and their trainers.  Dogs, livestock and even larger, exotic creatures for circuses all fall under this domain of ill treated animals.  When comparing the negative results of trainer inflicted abuse to the failure to regulate behavior, it is clear that the time has come to stop this treatment by creating effective legislation.            To begin any discussion of research it is vital to appropriately identify the elements being examined.  First of all and most integral to the arguments is the working definition accepted to describe animal trainers.

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  These trainers are not household pet owners.  They are not workers in kennels or shelters.  Trainers for the purpose of this paper are professionals and para-professionals who train animals for monetary gain.  The issue of money is what clearly delineates the owner from the trainer.  It is most likely that the cause for cruel methods to be adopted stems from this financial involvement.            In addition to the concept of trainer there is also the term codified law, as found in the thesis.

  Codified laws will be understood to mean actual legislation on the law books of either state or federal governments.  It is the aim of this paper to demonstrate that cruelty to animals through the actions of trainers should be prevented by state and federal laws to make it difficult for these actions to simply be moved down the road to other jurisdictions where the behavior is permissible.            An additional concept must be presented: the issue of abuse itself.  As will be demonstrated later in this research paper, the concept is vital to define.  When left to mere ‘understanding’ instead of some form of rigid definition, there is no more admitted abuse by trainers.  So what are the cruel methods of training that rises to abuse?            The Animal Welfare Act (Jennings) simply identifies it as harm to animals.  The problem is that harm is such a vague word.  It is impossible to convince a room full of people, let alone a group of trainers, to agree on certain instances of harm.

  Rather than accept this, for the purpose of this research paper cruel methods of training will be opined as any form of expression that results in stress and behavioral disorders in the animal.  Even that definition will need to be refined, but for this moment it will suffice.  At least this will cover instances of isolation and physical touching with implements such as prods.  At least the USDA veterinarians would be accustomed to interpreting the existing literature on what constitutes these sorts of stress and behavioral responses in the animals.            What seems like simple enough ground to this point has just gotten much more difficult.

  As rational a definition of cruel training methods as described above would seem, there is actually much conflict surrounding the issue.  Proponents of laws aimed at punishing cruel training methods would accept the preceding definition.  However opponents of these laws have just as strong arguments.            To these individuals, the phrase cruel training methods is almost an oxymoron.  Training methods are artificial actions designed to induce artificial behaviors.  Somehow that makes sense.  The chief defense in the matter of violations of animals is the trainer’s assertion that no harm was ‘intended’.

  That will form the basis for difficulty when it comes to creating and maintain laws.  The inclusion of any concept of intentional harm fouls the debate.  If a law had to prove intention, then the law would not be able to be enforced.  Therefore it is the opponents of proposed laws easiest and most effective defense.  That is where the paradigm of cruel training methods must shift.            There are other points of view that understandably come up when the issue of cruelty to animals is brought to the fore.

  Chiefly these take the form of examples of outright abuse through neglect of household pets and the arrangement of breeding fighting animals that are then taken to underground arenas for sport.  These individuals are not trainers.  Therefore they are excluded from the research and proposals of this paper.  Actual trainers are to be included and their methods scrutinized.            Two types of trainers will be examined.  The first example is the trainer of dogs for display at shows.

  A caveat should be introduced at this point.  This paper concerns itself with issues of the cruel methods of training and the trainers who perpetuate these actions; not all trainers behave in this manner and this paper is not indication of a belief or proof that the majority of dog show trainers operate in this manner.            Trainers using cruel methods on their show animals obviously have reasons to behave in the way that they do.  This is not to establish excuses for this behavior but instead to dissect their arguments to prove that the cruel methods of training should be discarded.  Generally the trainers really do believe that they will only get the results at show that are desired through this sort of training.  These sorts of trainers are very good at what they do – which is to win and to explain why their methods are necessary.

  It is sad that in increasing fashion the public is beginning to look at these trainers as authority figures.  Due to the successes at show that they claim, and the ever growing and popular cable television coverage of dog shows, everything seems on the up and up.  Even loving owners fall prey to this.  A writer with the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently wrote of this phenomenon:They allow the trainer to harm their dog because the trainer persuades themthat it’s in the dog’s best interests or that it really doesn’t hurt the dog or that there’s simply no other way to train the dog. I imagine that these trainers really believe what they say, but they are sadly mistaken, and anyone who allows them to come anywhere near their dog will likely regret it. (OEN)This seems to indicate the trainer’s inner denial that they are doing anything wrong.

  Statements from such trainers affirm this.            Again, it comes down to semantics.  No self-respecting trainer will admit to intentionally harming one of the animals.

  It is clearly against his role as trainer.  That is just it, though.  The role is trainer.  The objective is a trained animal.  Somewhere in between those concepts can be found unusually cruel methods.

            The phrase is often used that seemingly cruel methods are harmless and that dogs don’t act any differently afterward.  This is the case in which debarking is done – the severing of a dog’s vocal cords in order to make it not bark out (Mason).  This is generally the response given regarding any act or method of training, however, not just this extreme sort.  Admittedly these two sites are not of the academic/scholarly views, but they closely relate to the ongoing discussion among average citizens to whom love for animals exceeds those for whom scholarship exceeds all.  The love of adults for their dogs is similarly found in the love of children for circus animals.            The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) is charged with the mission of exposing this treatment in the circus ring.  In their article Animal Circuses, Animal Suffering two more examples are cited.

  The first is trainer abuse through sheer neglect.  Everyone is more or less familiar with the fact that circuses are constantly on the road.  They tour year round and do not maintain permanent training facilities.  Therefore animals are often kept in enclosures that are much too small for their size.  They are left there, too, for extended periods of time.

            An investigation by CAPS in 2009 found that elephants at the Great British Circus were chained up for up to 11 hours a day.  That is not the half of the problem.  The conditions of these chaining make the situation appalling.

  More often than not elephants are chained by a front and a rear leg for this duration while standing on a wooden or metal board.  The animals cannot perform any sort of movement beyond a slight shuffle back and forth.  Eventually this sort of isolation and immobility leads to behaviors in which the elephants display rocking and swaying; these are not movements found in wild elephants.  Unfortunately, the isolation is only one of the two examples given by CAPS regarding the trainers’ cruel methods at many circuses.            Trainers easily dismiss this treatment as not amounting to abuse or cruel training methods.  They treat it pragmatically.  This takes two forms.

  In the first variation, the animal must be kept apart during the long days and nights of the circus train.  They could harm other animals or spread sicknesses.  It is a necessity of circus life that this occurs.

            The second form addresses the chaining of the creatures.  Again the answer to this challenge is similar to the above.  Only this time the trainer admits to the fact that the elephant is ‘in captivity’.  Animals in captivity, the argument goes, are easily frightened or startled by people coming close.  They are perhaps even likely to strike out.

  Therefore the elephant must be chained securely enough to prevent any sort of accidental harm coming to passersby of the cage.  It is easy to see how duplicitous these arguments are.  They are two sides of the same coin, interchangeable as need arises.  The worst thing is they sound realistic, rational, and compassionate all at once.  It is because the commentary takes away the focus from the animal itself.

            Even though such mistreatment and the manners of training are secretive, word gets out.  One CAPS investigator managed to film an elephant trainer using a spiked goad on the creature even during the show; he was hiding it beside his arm.  Animal Defenders International (ADI) performed an undercover investigation of the Great Circus as well and documented large animals being beaten in the face, jabbed with pitchforks and having their tails twisted in order to perform tricks.  Jan Creamer, ADI Chief Executive described it this way:  “In the name of entertainment these elephants are beaten, jabbed with hooks, chained up for hours every day, and pushed into a metal box each week where they remain for hours on end whilst the circus moves to another site.”  Sometimes the trainers themselves recant and admit their actions.            Sam Haddock was one of them.

  Before he died he promised his wife that he would come clean.  He would not only tell of things he saw but also things that he took part in.  One of the more callous events was the use of an electric prod on an elephant in 1997.

  He described it frying for ten minutes.  Also admitted were the beating of animals in the face and head, the chaining of them to walls, and the ripping away of babies from their screaming mothers so as not to distract them from training.  The consequences of such training methods and environments have cause many different forms of suffering for animals large and small, in circuses or not.            The Toronto Zoo has investigated the results of what is considered barren housing (Wemelsfelder), which is the same as the isolation methods used by circuses as described above.

  The report outlined on their web site explains the methods of isolation and the resultant effects.  For comparison, it also seeks to determine if the resultant effects are behaviors found in healthy animals.  The statistics are startling.            Initially the animal ceases interacting with its environment.  To the casual observer it merely appears bored and listless.

  It begins to lie down and sleep more, and sits even when awake.  When presented with an unexpected stimulus though it aggressively over responds to it, often charging and showing belligerent behavior patterns.  One such response involves repetitious actions which have absolutely no functional use to the creature.  This has been observed in tethered animals biting a metal rod repeatedly (Einon 415).  Similar results have been reported elsewhere.

            In Malta, the International Animal Rescue (IAR) reported the exact same cycle of abuse in the circuses that frequent the island nation (Wemelsfelder).  Their results have been so consistent and the abusers so reluctant to admit or cease their abuse that the IAR has actually gone to great lengths to pursue them in court.            This leads to issues of legality and codified attempts at preventing the abuse or punishing the abusers.  The Malta suits were of a civil nature due to the fact that criminal courts do not recognize the offense.  In the end all that was left for the IAR to do was petition the government to simply stop the circuses from coming to Malta.

  No criminal charges or civil charges have been proffered and none are pending.  The circus indeed still comes to town.  That is the case across the globe.  Animal training interests manage to maintain the upper hand when it comes to wording laws and regulations.

            The Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) governs issues of animal handling (Jennings).  That is it.  Animal handling.  The code doesn’t mention training.

  It also only mentions ‘certain animals’ but doesn’t name them.  Humane treatment and care are the watchwords of this regulation and it only applies to some of the possibilities of animals and their handling.  For example, state and county fairs, livestock shows, and purebred cat and dog shows are all exempt from the provisions of the law.  The trainers have won on nearly all counts.            The legal challenges continue, however.

  With the advent of the internet and mass media, word of appalling conditions gets spread quickly and animal rights activists have never been busier.  One of the key components of their work is to express this abuse not only as immoral, but criminal.  Piers Beirne is outspoken about this connection.  Moreover he goes out of his way to compare criminal codes that relate to humans to potential criminal codes that would relate likewise to animals.  To him, and many others like him, violence is violence, and should be stopped (118).            The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is another outspoken critic of the lack of sufficient laws to penalize abusers and stop the cycle.  It is an obvious position that they find to be the default at circuses.

  Their belief is, “The ASPCA does not believe it is possible to train elephants, big cats, bears, and other wild animals to perform circus acts without abuse” (Miller-Schroeder 10).  The problem, however, is not the factual evidence but the process of dealing with the evidence.            This is well expressed by author Tom Regan:                        Circus animals are poorly inspected under the Animal Welfare Act for several reasons.  When a problem with a circus is found, paperwork must be generated and a compliance officer needs to visit the circus.  Often by the time this is completed the exhibitor is in another state and in another USDA veterinarian’s jurisdiction.  If that veterinarian happens to inspect that circus, the procedure is repeated and the exhibitor moves on without the problem being solved (132).            The problem then is apparently twofold.

  The USDA has the authority to act against abusers through the Animal Welfare Act.   The trouble is that veterinarians that work for the agency are bound by jurisdictional boundaries.  Outside of their boundaries they have no power to enforce the law – despite the law being federal in statute.  That is problem number one.            Problem number two is the nature of the circus itself.  It is a travelling show.

  Therefore the entire company may very well move, and move quickly when pursued by the law.  The law, however, is in denial of that fact.  The agencies who maintain the law have failed to act in such a way as to amend the jurisdictional problem.  It is clear that this can be done, even if it may be difficult.            An obvious example of this is the trafficking of firearms across state lines.  This is patently illegal under federal law.  It is therefore a punishable offense.  This law, as with the AWA, is maintained through a federal agency; in this case it is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, often assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  The difference, though, lies in the jurisdiction.  There are no such breakdowns in these two offices.  Each agency may pursue subjects across several state lines if need be.  The AWA setup, however, offers no such assistance or guarantee.  Laws without guarantees are no real laws at all and the trainers who abuse animals know this.            What would a law look like that had the ability to stop this sort of abuse?  It would have to be a peculiar blend of generalized and specific language.  The elusiveness of abusers seems to depend somewhat on the language of legal documentation.  The wording would have to be generalized in the sense that it can pursue animal trainers without specifying animal trainers.

  Currently the AWA describes those who handle animals as being responsible.  That language is too vague, whereas the word trainer is too specific.  A compromise would have to be made.  Adding the phrase in any capacity after the AWA wording of those who handle animals…would seem to be appropriate and meaningful language that would ensure no trainer gets away with his actions by pointing out that he doesn’t specifically handle animals in a training capacity or some other sort of defense.  Handling animals in any capacity would offer very little room for argument.            Yet very specific language would have to be utilized as well.  The wording of the AWA regarding ‘harm’ to animals is nebulous.

  There is no one that would be charged with abuse that would actually admit to harming an animal.  Recall the opinion of PETA regarding such denial.  Somehow the argument becomes that this activity (not called harm) is actually somehow beneficial to the animal.  This would be a difficult issue to resolve through law writing.  The language would have to be such that it would clearly define physical violence.  Most likely the law would have to take into account a clear difference between physical touching that is related to care of the animal and that of training the animal.  A suggestion would be to declare the use of any physical objects or implements on an animal’s body to be off limits to the handlers/trainers.

            The overall activities and conditions of the creatures would similarly have to be delineated.  It has been shown that both activity and passivity can harm the animals trained in a circus.  The activity of attempting to do very un-animal things provides unexpected and unacceptable stress upon the creatures’ bodies (Dantzer 1780).  The passivity of being chained to immoveable objects for long periods of times provides serious disorders through behavioral issues (Wiepkema).  Again, it simply doesn’t work to posit legally that ‘harmful, abusive behavior’ will not be tolerated, for the abuser will simply claim that his actions as a trainer did not rise to that standard necessary for illegality to have taken place.  Then it becomes the trainer’s word versus the accuser’s word.  The animal can’t defend himself, and the case is dismissed.

  However, if the definitions were set for the activities and passivities described above, the law would have more useful application and promise.  Still, there is more to consider.            The idea of jurisdictional authority is simply not working.  The examples have demonstrated that beyond a doubt.

  Therefore this just has to change.  What is the difficulty in this?  The AWA is a federal statute that is pursued and prosecuted by federal agencies.  Presumably that would mean that the authorities could potentially chase a circus from location to location during its entire seasonal run.  That is not the case, however.  The sad thing is that this would take merely the stroke of a pen, figuratively speaking, to accomplish this.

  No additional agency would have to be created.  There wouldn’t have to be wrangling over financing or budgetary issues beyond that of the nominal existence of such.  After all, the USDA already is charged with this duty.  They presumably have been given the money and means necessary to investigate reported instances of abuse.  What is obvious, however, is that investigative procedure just takes too long to keep up with a moving target.  Simply making the investigators just as mobile would make it clear to trainers that their moves and actions can always come under scrutiny, no matter the destination.  This sort of promise would yield much better results.

            Finally the penalties for offenses must be rigorously compared to the penalties for similar abuses of humans.  Civil punishment such as fines is not effective enough.  The money making of the circuses would simply be diverted temporarily when they were ‘caught’.  Making the punishments of a criminal nature with jail time and criminal records would be a much more harsh and capable means of stopping these cruel methods of training right away.  It wouldn’t take a genius of a circus manager to realize that he can’t go far in the business with his trainers all sitting in jail.            Cruel methods of animal training should stop immediately.  It is clear that some methods are synonymous with the common understanding of animal abuse.

  It is even clearer that certain trainers have many arguments ready to explain just why this isn’t so, and how they only use necessary means to train their animals to respond appropriately.  The current lack of effective codified laws on the federal books regarding the issues of cruel training methods should not forestall action on this matter.  The animals, from dogs in shows, to elephants in circus rings, are suffering.  The public is being duped.

  The time to stop is now.Works Cited“Animal Circuses, Animal Suffering.” Captiveanimals.

org Web. July 2010.Beirne, Piers. “For A Nonspeciesist Criminology: Animal Abuse as an Object of Study.” Criminology 37.1 (1999): 117-148. Print.

Dantzer, R. “Behavioural, physiological and functional aspects of stereotyped behaviour: a review and a reinterpretation.” Journal of Animal Science 62 (1986): 1776-1786. Print.Einon, D. & Morgan, M..

Habituation of object contact in socially reared and isolated rats (Rattus norvegicus). Animal Behavior 24 (1976): 415-420. Print.

Jennings, Marianne. Business: Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment. Mason, OH: Thomson West, 2006. Print.

Mason W.A. & Green P.

C. “The effects of social restrictions on the behaviour of Rhesus monkeys: IV. Responses to a novel environment and to an alien species.” Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 55 (1962): 363-368. Print.Miller-Schroeder, Patricia.

The ASPCA. Mankato, MN: Weigl, 2003. Print.OEN. “Dog Trainer Wanted: Control Freaks Need Not Apply.

” 6 Aug. 2010.Regan, Tom. Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights. Oxford: Rowan & Littlefield, 2004.

Print.Wemelsfelder, F.  “The Concept of Boredom and its Relationship to Stereotyped Behaviour.”  Stereotypic Behaviour: Fundamentals and Applis to Animal Welfare. Ed J. Rushen. London: CAB International, 1993. Print.

Wemelsfelder, F. “Animal Boredom – A Model of Chronic Suffering in Captive Animals and Its Consequences for Environmental Enrichment.” Web. 8 Aug.

2010.Wiepkema, P.R. (1987). “Behavioural aspects of stress.

” Biology of Stress in Farm Animals: An Integrative Approach.  Ed. P.W. Van Adrichem.

Brussels: Kluwer, 1987. Print. 


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