Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Dogs of Aldrovandus

When my father was writing The Complete Book of Dogs in the 1970s, he asked me to look into the histories of breeds of dogs. He felt that some breed associations were seeking an antiquity for a breed that the evidence did not support. Nevertheless, we agreed that the book would not contradict an association’s materials unless there was clear evidence that the association was insisting on a history against solid evidence to the contrary. In a table of 113 breeds, he had a column labeled “place of origin,” in which he sometimes referred to a breed’s origins as “clouded in obscurity” or “shrouded in mystery” or some such evasiveness when either he or the association admitted to ignorance.

With the advent of genome studies, it is now possible to say a great deal about the genetic proximity of various breeds. If archeology uncovers bones from which DNA can be extracted, it may even become possible to analyze genetic variations in populations of dogs at various periods. A rigorous study is needed to compare reliable evidence of breed separation against genetic variability, and as I take notes for a possible revision of my father’s book, this is one area I’m hoping to cover better than we could three decades ago.

My father suggested that we look at drawings made by early naturalists, not just Linnaeus, in order to categorize the appearance of dogs hundreds of years ago. I gathered some materials but deadline pressure for the book prevented us from pursuing this effort. One work that provides some insight into breeds is the natural history of Ulysses Aldrovandus, De Quadripedibus. Aldrovandus (1522-1605) helped build Bologna’s botanical garden and collected thousands of plant and animal specimens.

Aldrovandus included sketches of 15 dogs in the over 100 pages he wrote about dogs, dividing breeds according to function and finishing with dogs that were inutile, useless—i.e. pets. ("They bark very readily and their only occupation is devouring food.") I have reproduced all 15 drawings in a document now available on my dog law website. I hope this may be useful as I have not found the plates reproduced in an accessible fashion and there are only three full sets of Aldrovandus in the Western Hemisphere, one in Mexico City, one at Berkeley, and one in the New York Public Library. My thanks to the latter for making copies of the dog drawings.

The picture here is that of Canis bellicosus Anglicus—Latin meaning “English war dog,” a term for mastiffs. When Mark Antony invokes Caesar's ghost to "let slip the dogs of war," this is likely the dog Shakespeare had in mind. Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 1. Shakespeare did not see them in battle, however, but rather at the Bear Garden near his house, where bear and bull bating with dogs occurred on Thursdays.

Call hither to the stake my two brave Beares,
That, with the very Shaking of their Chaines,
They may astonish these fell lurking Curres....
King Henry VI, Part II, act v, scene 1

Carl Linnaeus referred to this breed in his classification of animals, Systema Naturae (1758-9). In antiquity, Julius Caesar would not have encountered English mastiffs in battle, but the ancient war dog, the Molossus, is thought by some to have been similar to the mastiff, and various arguments have been made for a genetic connection, including that Roman legions, or even Carthaginian sailors, brought Molossian dogs to Britain where they interbred with local dogs to produce the mastiff.

The mastiff was the dog about which the king was most concerned regarding inhabitants of the forests, and for which English law required forepaw mutilation. I also believe that the woodcut of the night watchman in London (blog of November 11, 2010) shows a mastiff.

In addition to the mastiff, Aldrovandus included drawings of several spaniel-like dogs, short- and long-haired greyhounds, bird dogs, and a very fat French dog (Canis gallicus). Greyhounds were popular with the nobility for their ability to catch game. All dogs are depicted by Aldrovandus with a plant, the mastiff with a species of dogbane. Aldrovandus also had long chapters about wolves and foxes in De Quadripedibus. In addition to writing about real animals, Aldrovandus described dragons and sea monsters.

Thanks to The American Kennel Club Library for providing me with the translation of portions of Aldrovandus on dogs, which is contained in an Appendix XIV of Edward Ash, Dogs: Their History and Development (London 1927).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Arson Dog Helps Send Couple to Prison, Saves Chubb Insurance Co. Millions

A home security company notified several fire departments that a smoke detector at a house in Alexandria Township, New Jersey, was signaling. Emergency personnel arrived to find an intense fire burning down the 6,000 square foot residence. The owners, the Kellers, were outside. They had no injuries and their clothes showed no sign of soot or fire damage. They explained that they had awakened by the fire alarm and the smell of gasoline and told a state trooper that there had been gasoline in the garage and on the front porch. They told the trooper that the house had been listed for sale at $1 million because they had recently moved to Virginia. They asked to leave to go to a nearby motel. Trooper Sanders saw clothing and personal belongings inside their van.

The Kellers arrived at the Kingswood Police Station the next morning, where a detective asked permission to search their van. It was explained that consent was being sought to examine the vehicle and the Kellers’ clothing for accelerants. They agreed to the search. The police called the Morris Country Sheriff’s Office and asked to use Detective Richard Warnett and his arson dog, Hoka, to search the vehicle. The dog alerted inside the van on the rear floor behind the passenger side front seat, as well as in the rear cargo area. The dog did not alert to the Kellers' clothing but did alert to Irlene Keller’s shoes. At the scene of the fire, Hoka alerted to the floor area near the remains of the fireplace. This was consistent with the findings of a detective from the state police arson/bomb unit, who believed that irregular burn patterns suggested that an accelerant had been used. Three gasoline containers were also found. The detective concluded that “a flammable liquid substance” had been poured through the house. The detective also noted that there was not much personal property in the residence.

The state police detective obtained a warrant. On a search of the basement, “he detected a strong smell of chemicals. He located an empty, uncapped one-gallon container, labeled 'Parks xylene,' that had been turned upside down. Detective Ditzel knew xylene, a paint thinner, was an accelerant having almost the same chemical properties as gasoline. The container, lid, and samples of the liquid found on the floor were turned over to the New Jersey State Police Laboratory for testing.” A search of three detached barns revealed a considerable amount of personal property in boxes, items that might have rather been expected to be found in the house.

Laboratory tests of Irlene Keller’s shoes and nightgown tested positive for xylene, but it could not be ruled out that the chemical might have been used in their manufacture.

The Kellers submitted a fire loss claim for $1.7 million to the Chubb Insurance Company for the loss of the house and its contents. A senior adjustor denied the claim based on its own investigation and the facts uncovered by local authorities indicating that the fire was arson.

An agent with ATF found that the Kellers had purchased a home in Virginia shortly before, refinancing their New Jersey home to withdraw its equity for the necessary funds for the purchase.

The Kellers were prosecuted for aggravated arson, theft by deception, and conspiracy, and found guilty by a jury. They were sentenced to eight years in prison. Irlene Keller appealed her conviction, based largely on an argument that her consent to the search was not voluntary. The New Jersey appellate court rejected this and related arguments, and affirmed the conviction of the trial court. State v. Keller, 2010 WL 5346025 (N.J.App.Div. 2010)

According to news reports, the Kellers were sentenced in 2007 and paroled in 2009.

The case demonstrates that accelerant detection dogs are useful both to prosecutors and insurance companies. There was a good deal of non-canine evidence here, but insurance companies have not always carried the day. See Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas, Inc. v. Foote, 341 Ark. 105, 14 S.W.3d 512 (2000).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Support Your Local Bloodhound or Go to Jail: A Tax in the Time of King James

Bloodhounds, also called sleuthhounds and slough dogs (because they pursued offenders through the sloughs), have existed in English history and lore since the middle ages. The Oxford English Dictionary includes citations from 1350 (“blod-houndes”), 1440 (“bloode hownde”), 1483 (“blude hunde”), and 1548 (“good blood hunde”). The OED finds "sleuthhound" in use by 1375.

The drawing is from the Thierbuch of Konrad Gessner, published in 1606 long after his death. The caption uses the Latin for bloodhound, Canis sanguinarius, adding the adjective sagax, clever (from which sagacious). Gessner (1516 – 1565) had received drawings of English dogs from John Caius, co-founder of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and the inspiration for Dr. Caius in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. The drawing may suggest that a long lead was commonly used with tracking dogs even 450 years ago.

George R. Jesse, in his 1866 work on the history and laws of the British dog, devotes a chapter to bloodhounds. Jesse quotes Lesley, Bishop of Ross, who, in a work on the Scots published in 1578, describes a kind of “scenting dog,” similar to those that chase game. He describes this dog as “for the most part red, marked with black spots, or vice versa,” and it is apparent that he is describing bloodhounds:

“These are endowed with so great sagacity and fierceness that they pursue thieves in a direct course without any deviation; and this with such ferocity of nature that they tear them to pieces even by chance lying down in company with many others; for from the first scent the dog perceives (with his master following), although other men meet, come behind, or cross him, he is not at all confused, is not in the least diverted, but constantly sticks to the footsteps of his departing prey. Only in passing rivers they are at a loss, because there they lose the scent: which the thieves and cattle-stealers knowing, they, with many circles and mazes, pressing now this, now the opposite bank, drive off their plunder, and pretending to make their exit both ways beyond the banks, rejoin at the same spot. In the mean time the dog, filling the heavens with his clamour, does not desist till he has overtaken the steps of the fugitives.”

The bishop states that this skill comes to the dogs by training, though he does not describe this beyond to say that the dogs fetch a high price because of their abilities. It appears that the dogs were trained not so much to alert as to attack when they found the person or persons they were following. It also appears that they were trained in how to cast for a trail after losing it, and were well able to ignore other trails that might cross the one they were following. The length of time after a trail was laid that a bloodhound could follow was debated centuries ago as it is now. Jesse quotes Robert Boyle as follows:

“Inquiring of a studious person that was keeper of a red-deer park, and versed in making bloodhounds, in how long time after a man or deer had passed by a grassy place one of those dogs would be able to follow him by the scent? he told me that it would be six or seven hours: whereupon an ingenious gentleman that chanced to be present, and lived near that park, assured us both that he had old dogs of so good a scent, that, if a buck had the day before passed in a wood, they will, when they come where the scent lies, though at such a distance of time after, presently find the scent and run directly to that part of the wood where the buck is.”

Some areas of England were apparently so rife with outlaws that farmers often abandoned their properties, so dogs that could track down bands of thieves and rustlers became essential to keeping the peace. A history of Westmoreland and Cumberland quoted extensively by Jesse indicates that a tax was collected on local residents where slough dogs were kept for their protection.

“The sheriff, officers, bailiffs, and constables, within every circuit and compass wherein the slough-dogs are appointed to be kept, are to take care for taxing the inhabitants towards the charge thereof, and collect the same, and for providing the slough-dogs; and to inform the commissioners if any refuse to pay their contribution, so as thereby such as refuse may be committed to the gaol till they pay the same.”

The text dates from 1616, during the reign of James 1 (responsible for the great translation of the Bible into English). Rawdon Briggs Lee in his History & Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain & Ireland (1893), remarks upon this tax:

"No doubt there was considerable difficulty in obtaining the levy or tax from the inhabitants to keep these hounds in condition fit to run down a man, and not hungry enough to eat him when they had caught him.... It would be quite interesting to note whether such imprisonment was ever enforced. Whether it was so or not. I have not found any record to show...."

I doubt that a modern politician proposing a separate tax to support police dogs would stay in office very long. Still, the idea has some merit, perhaps even wisdom. Ulster County, where I live in New York, has a bomb dog, paid for in large part by federal funds, but the cities and county have given up drug dogs due to the lack of any federal subsidy and the mounting labor costs for police dog handlers. The primary function of an explosives detection dog in the county is sweeping schools and businesses after bomb threats. Meth labs are a bigger problem, yet most police authorities in the county cannot afford a dog that might help shut them down. King James had a point.

Sources: George R. Jesse, Researches into the History of the British Dog, from Ancient Laws, Charters, and Historical Records (London 1866); Leslaeo Episcopo Rossensi, De Origine Moribus et rebus gestis Scotorum (Rome 1578); Nicholson and Burn, History of the Antiquities of Westmorland and Cumberland (1777); Of the Determinate Nature of Effluviums, in Robert Boyle’s Life and Works (1772); R.B. Lee, A History & Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain & Ireland (Sporting Division), Horace Cox, London, 1893, at 4-5; Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh). The Dog in Health and Disease. Spottiswoode and Co., London ("Under the old excise laws the shepherd's dog was only exempt from tax when without a tail, and for this reason it was always removed.").

Friday, January 7, 2011

Centers for Disease Control Gives Thumbs Up to DOJ Definition of Service Animal

I asked in a prior blog (July 6, 2010) whether a macaque could be a psychiatric service animal. I said that it could but noted that regulations proposed by the Department of Justice would exclude nonhuman primates from the definition of "service animal." Those regulations were soon made final. (See blog of September 15, 2010.) Now the Centers for Disease Control has proposed rules under which importation of nonhuman primates to be service animals would be prohibited.

The proposed rules concern those circumstances under which primates may be imported, which include for scientific, educational, and exhibition purposes. In stating that service animals do not fit in any of these categories, the CDC explains that it agrees with the Department of Justice that primates should not be service animals:

"On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising U.S. Department of Justice regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which included a revised definition of 'service animal.' Effective February, 2011, these regulations limit the definition of service animals to dogs. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. CDC has carefully considered the potential risks associated with the use of imported nonhuman primates as service animals and agrees with the position of the U.S. Department of Justice that nonhuman primates should not be recognized as service animals because of their potential for disease transmission and unpredictable aggressive behavior."

The wording, it appears to me, does not completely exclude the possibility that horses or cats could, from the CDC's perspective, be accepted as service animals. The CDC makes no reference to the Department of Justice's acceptance of miniature horses as fitting in a category substantially identical to dogs, but this would not have been appropriate in the context of rules concerning the importation of primates.

The current regulations preclude "maintenance of nonhuman primates as pets, hobby, or an avocation with occasional display to the general public," but do not mention service animals. 42 CFR 71.53(c). Curiously, the revised regulations would also not mention service animals, but rather confine the service animal discussion to the preamble. It would seem that if the CDC wanted to assure the widest dissemination of its perspective, it would have put some no-primate-is-a-service-animal language in the regulations themselves.

Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Requirements for Importers of Nonhuman Primates, RIN 0920-AA23, 76 Fed. Reg. 678 (January 5, 2011).

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Dogs of the Stasi

It is well known that the East German Ministry for State Security, usually just called the Stasi, spied on a significant proportion of the East German population. Police dogs were part of this repressive environment.

Not all uses of police dogs by the Stasi were particularly unusual. Most of the Stasi’s dogs, about 534 by 1988, performed guard and border duty. The agency also had 26 scent and tracking dogs, 15 “smell differentiation” dogs, and 10 bomb dogs. The dogs were trained in Pretzsch, a town near Leipzig.

Tracking dogs were used in criminal investigations, much the way they are used in the U.S., but by 1975 they began to follow spies and other enemies of the state. They were found valuable in this function because they did not need to remain in sight of the subject, but could follow at a sufficient distance that the subject would not know he was being followed. If the subject threw away a cigarette or gum wrapper and the dog alerted to it, it could be saved for further evaluation, though this was before the period of DNA testing.

The most interesting use of police dogs concerned scent identification, a method analyzed by Dutch and other researchers, but adapted by the unique paranoia of the Stasi. As early as 1973, the Stasi began collecting smell samples of a large number of citizens. Sometimes this was done with a special chair that the subject was asked to sit on during a visit to the police station. The chair had a dust cloth on top of the seat that was clamped into place by a removable frame. The subject had to sit in the chair for ten minutes, but after the interrogation was over, the dust cloth was removed and stored in a glass jar.

Sometimes Stasi officials did not bother with being subtle and merely told subjects to put a cloth under their armpits or even under their pants in the groin area. The cloth was carefully handled by tweezers in an effort not to allow contamination by other human scents. The picture shows scent jars, of which the Stasi eventually had thousands.

Scent lineups were used in much the same way as they have been used in other countries in an effort to match a perpetrator’s scent to that of a suspect in a lineup of jars with the scents of foils. Kristie Macrakis, who has a fascinating chapter on this subject in her book on the Stasi, says that by 1982 the Stasi even started developing a “smell vacuum cleaner,” presumably working on an idea similar to what led to the scent transfer unit. The STU 100 was not patented in the U.S. until 1998.

In 1979, the Stasi began to use scent identification in an attempt to find dissidents. A favored form of resistance in East Germany involved printing and distributing flyers that the East German government regarded as subversive. The people who printed the flyers, and those who distributed them, had become careful to avoid touching anything that could take a fingerprint. So the Stasi tried to use scent identification to find the perpetrators. Ms. Macrakis reports that in one instance Stasi handlers tried to match the smells of 51 suspects to odors on flyers, but without success. They did find a match to an informant, however, who was working both with the subversives and the government. The dog’s identification apparently overcame the informant’s claim that he was out of town when the flyers were distributed.

The records of the Stasi's use of scent differentiation dogs could conceivably provide valuable statistics on canine scent identification. On the other hand, in the paranoid world of the Stasi, dogs and handlers may have been encouraged to identify suspects, meaning that the records may include many false positives that would make the results scientifically suspect.

BBC News reported in May 2007 that German police had been compiling a database of human scents to track potentially violent protestors at a G8 summit. Many Germans expressed outrage that the Stasi’s canine investigative methods were still being used. A Cuban exile group has reported that Cuba had by the late 1980s adopted Stasi techniques for following dissidents, including developing an odorology laboratory and storing scents of dissidents in a large room in the Havana police station. The Cuban government obtained shepherds from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Hungary, as well as some less threatening Cocker spaniels. The report does not state how many dogs were devoted to scent identification.

Source: Kristie Macrakis, Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World (Cambridge University Press 2008)