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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rare New Guinea Singing Dogs Discovered in Pennsylvania

posted by: Megan Drake

Rare New Guinea Singing Dogs Discovered in Pennsylvania

A rare breed of dog, indeed, is the New Guinea singing dogs (NGSD). So rare in fact, until one month ago, only 150 were known to exist in captivity -- most of those in world zoos. They are suspected of being extinct in the wild because there have been no known sightings in New Guinea since the 1970's.

And in case you're wondering, they are called singers because of their unique vocalizations. A melodious howl becomes a chorus when other singer dogs join in. Have a listen.

The World Population of NGSD Just Exploded!

Last month, in a small town west of Harrisburg, Pa., about 80 of these unique dogs were discovered living with a hoarder. Randy A. Hammond, 58, obtained his first two NGSD at an Ohio flea market in 1995. A man gave him another pair shortly thereafter, and all the dogs found at his property are descendants from those two pairings of singing dogs.

An anonymous tip led State dog warden, Georgia Martin, to Hammond's property. Discovered among rusted out vehicles cluttering the rural landscape were about 68 adult NGSD in scattered kennels. Some had puppies and one was about to give birth. Living conditions were deplorable as the total number of dogs exceeded the 24 kennels on the property.

Jim Tuttle from Public Opinion wrote about the newly discovered singing dogs.

Greeted by the "chilling and beautiful" choir of NGSD on her first visit to Hammond's address, Martin researched the breed to determine the best way to help. Various organizations were contacted for assistance. They include:

Local veterinarians are also assisting with spay/neuter and vaccinations. None of the dogs were licensed or vaccinated against rabies, which is required by PA state law.

About New Guinea Singing Dogs

Singing dogs are a genetically and ecologically distinct canine species. They are thought to be a sister-taxon of the Australian Dingo. With New Guinea being an island, interbreeding with other canine groups did not occur. This causes the NGSD to be evolutionarily significant.

Some other unique characteristics of the NGSD are their ability to fold their legs under, much like cats do. They also give cheek rubs as a sign of affection. NGSD's can climb trees and are avid diggers. They have not evolved a dependence on humans, so they won't take to performing work of any kind for us.

Animal Planet video:

The singing dog has longer canine teeth than other dogs, as well as carnassial teeth made for sheering meat and bone. NGSD are very independent and take to training much like a cat -- on their own terms!

Due to their unusual habitat needs -- lots of room with safely enclosed fencing and large trees to climb -- NGSD do not make good or safe house pets for the ordinary pet owner. They are still considered a wild animal and should not be placed into a family with small children. If properly socialized from puppyhood, a NGSD can be an appropriate pet, but only in a household that can provide the habitat, training and socialization needed.

A study published in 2010 by Dr. Alan Wilton in the scientific journal, Nature, found the Australian Dingo and NGSD to be the oldest of dog breeds. And NGSD are more closely related to wolves than any other canine species.

Help Arrived

James McIntyre of the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society and Tom Wendt of New Guinea Singing Dog International traveled from Florida and Illinois, respectively, to assist Martin in assessing the singers. Only two of the dogs were considered safe to re-home. They were sent to Susan Oliver near Allentown, a fosterer who has experience with the breed. The others will be sent to sanctuaries or zoos.

Hoarding is considered a mental illness. Animal hoarders often do not realize what they are doing is wrong or dangerous because they collect the animals out of love. Hammond has been very cooperative with authorities and will be allowed to keep 10 of the dogs on the condition they are spayed/neutered. Even though the number of dogs exceeded 80, he had names for each one. He spent more than $100 per week on dog food -- a significant amount considering his janitorial salary at a local retirement home.

What Will Happen to the Pennsylvania NGSD

Eight female NGSD and 17 puppies are already on their way to a sanctuary in Arizona. Add to that a pregnant female and two injured dogs, one with two legs bitten off by their father and another with one missing leg. (It is not uncommon among NGSD -- if puppies are left in a pen with their father -- for this to occur.) Plans are already in motion for the two-legged dog to be fitted for a wheelchair to aid in mobility.

Because of the high inbreeding of Hammond's dogs, McIntyre says they cannot be used for the captive genetic breeding program to further the breed. Hammond's dogs show evidence of too much inbreeding by the reduced tail size and reduction in litter numbers.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is planning to take between 10 - 20 of the singers on November 11, and move them to their Utah-based sanctuary.

What Will Happen to Randy Hammond

Georgia Martin filed three citations against Hammond:

  • Operating a kennel without a license (the maximum number of dogs allowed in Pa. without a license is 25)
  • Not having the dogs licensed
  • Not having the dogs vaccinated against rabies

The maximum punishment he is facing is $1,100 in fines. Hammond also received a citation from Dennis Bumbaugh, Humane Society Police Officer with Better Days Animal League, for one count of animal cruelty due to unsanitary conditions.


Anonymous November 14, 2010 at 6:26 PM  

Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!