Q: We are in the process of moving to a rental home but we’ve run into a major roadblock because of an issue with our dog, a 6-month-old large mixed breed. We were told by the previous owner that he is half Golden Retriever, part German Shepherd, and perhaps some Chow Chow. When I gave this information to the rental company, they said that our dog could not live in the house with us if he "has any chow in him whatsoever." They now want me to provide a letter from a veterinarian which states that "to the best of (the vet's) opinion," our dog is "predominantly" a Golden Retriever and German Shepherd mix. It would be even better if the vet could say that our dog does not appear to have any Chow, Rottweiler, or Pit Bull.
I asked our veterinarian to provide a letter to this effect, but she will not say that our dog appears to be any particular breed without a DNA test, which would take weeks and hundreds of dollars.
My whole family is upset, and my daughters are on the verge of tears. We were all looking forward to our move, but if this issue cannot be resolved we are going to have to find another property to rent. This situation has become a nightmare. H.B., Cyberspace
A: I know this is going to sound melodramatic, but I actually cried when I received your note. Real tears – no kidding.
Lennox, a mixed breed dog near Belfast, Ireland was confiscated about two years ago because officials said they thought he looks like a Pit Bull. In truth, Lennox wasn’t a pedigreed Pit Bull. This dog had done nothing wrong, except to live in a place where Pit Bulls (or dogs judged to be Pit Bulls because of what they look like) are banned.
Lennox’s owners just lost their long battle, and their beloved family member was killed on July 11.
A colleague wrote on my Facebook Fan Page, “Well, that’s Ireland for you.”
I wrote back, “That’s Ireland, and several other nations including the U.S. – countless dogs have been killed here in communities with Pit Bull bans because of what dogs are alleged to be.”
Your story isn't too different than the story of Lennox - except that your dog isn't being confiscated.
Indeed, nearly all dog breeds were bred for a purpose – and they are typically hard-wired with to herd, retrieve or guard, or what whatever that purpose generally is. But a dog’s individual temperament is far more shaped by individual genetics and even more so by early socialization.
To broadly ban a dog that is 100 percent Chow (or American Pit Bull Terrier or Rottweiler, or fill in the blank of any breed) makes little sense to nearly all dog experts. However, when a dog is only part Chow – this is plane ridiculous, this information means nearly nothing to predict a dog’s temperament. That is the fact, a fact which the landlord or property manager can’t possibly dispute with reason.
While it’s true that a Chow with poor individual genetics and deprived of appropriate socialization may demonstrate aggression, it is no different for the other breeds in your dog’s progeny, German Shepherd dogs or even Golden Retrievers.
The genetic test, called Wisdom Panel, can be mailed in – but the results do take some time; I sniffed out a test that’s $59 on Amazon. Speedier is the Wisdom Panel blood test, through a veterinary office – which cost about twice the mail-in test.
I personally know of many, many veterinarians who would be so sympathetic to your plight – and agree to call your dog whatever they come up with.
You didn’t mention where you live, and I realize finding pet friendly housing can be challenging – but if I were you, I’d consider another property. What if you move in and then the property management decides your dog looks too much like a Chow Chow? Or who knows what?
A lease can’t prevent you from dealing with idiocy. Assuming your dog is friendly, and well behaved – there are many more enlightened property management companies who would be happy to have you, and your entire family.