A Letter by Bonnie Guzman
To My Fellow Colleagues,
I would like to provide some information and perhaps, some enlightenment, on an ongoing and apparently increasing area of concern regarding the status of English Setter Rescue in Colorado. I am referring specifically and solely to English Setter Rescue, aka All Setter Rescue, as represented by Robert W. Attleson. I am providing this information as a citizen and rescue associate and not on behalf of any organization.
I have been integrally involved in breed specific rescue in the state of Colorado for nearly 20 years. I am a member, in good standing, of the American Fox Terrier Club, the United States Lakeland Terrier Club, the Doberman Pinscher Club of America as well as the United Doberman Club. I’m a past national rescue coordinator for the U.S.L.T.C., the co founder of the nationally based Fox Terrier Network, Inc., the co founder of All Breed Rescue Network, Inc. of Colorado
( http://www.allbreedrescuenetwork.com/) and the primary rescue contact for Wire Fox, Smooth Fox, Lakeland and Irish Terriers (http://www.foxterrierrescue.org/) in the state of Colorado. I also assist in Whippet and Saluki rescue. I served as president, as well as a board member at large, for All Breed Rescue Network for a number of years and served as the List Coordinator for the last four years. I have been active (and titled dogs) in conformation, earthdog, and am currently involved in search and rescue, but my primary calling has always been purebred rescue. On a personal level, I have been a Registered Nurse since 1971, working in both staff and upper managerial positions.
Twenty years ago, rescue groups were less organized, underfunded and poorly supported by national breed clubs. As rescue evolved over time, and was more enthusiastically endorsed by AKC parenting clubs, a higher level of expectations and standards followed suit. In the state of Colorado, bona fide rescue groups have specific requirements expected of them including, but not limited to, P.A.C.F.A. licensing, kennel inspections, and recognition/endorsement (required by many shelters) by All Breed Rescue Network. Concurrently, the omnipresent and increasing scrutiny of animal rights groups rests over our shoulders, municipalities are attempting breed specific legislation, and community ordinances are tightening the noose around anything/anyone whom they feel does not fit their idea of “community”. The increased standards have dramatically improved the quality of rescue operations but less than dog friendly legislation is always a heartbeat away.
I have had a collegial relationship with Bob Attleson dating back to approximately 1989. I had been contacted by a shelter in Wyoming regarding an animal cruelty case involving approximately 13 English Setters that the county wished to turn over to rescue. My first meeting with Bob was late that evening after he made the round trip drive to northern Wyoming, returning with all of the setters, a drive that took over 16 hours total. This was the start of a long and reliable relationship that shelters and rescue groups in Colorado have enjoyed with Mr. Attleson. Over these 20 years, I have had numerous occasions to assist or work with Bob on animal related matters. I can not recall a single occasion that he did not make himself available to assist his breed, or other breeds, when needed. There really is no task that was impossible for Bob to do. He enjoys a positive work relationship with all the metro area shelters, non profit animal hospitals as well as all his colleagues. The All Breed Rescue Network hotline fields many hundreds of phone calls per year. There has never been a complaint called in regarding English Setter Rescue.
I have had the occasion to be at Bob’s residence two times in the last 20 years. The first time was many years ago and to be fair, I do not have many specific recollections, aside from the fact that his dogs were in impeccable condition. I did have a few occasions, over the years, when I went to Bob’s workplace, where he oftentimes had a number of English there to greet me. Again, every dog - whether rescue or his personal dogs - were in impeccable condition. I would jokingly remark that I could never tell the difference between the show dogs and the rescues.
About a year and a half ago, there were anonymously offered, allegations, of a serious nature, brought against Bob. There were rumors that his dogs were in poor condition, kept in crates, matted and filthy, and being denied medical care. At that time, I was the rescue list coordinator for ABRN. A year or two previously, I had started to do home visits on people listed on our web site. The plan was to, eventually, have all constituents visited. These visits were pre planned and informal, the main objective being to observe the condition of any animals kept on the premises, to determine adequate shelter, food storage and water, and to inspect records of housed animals, as necessary. On May 18, 2007, I happened to be in the general vicinity of Bob’s house and had a bit of extra time on my hands. I was aware that there were concerns about the welfare of his animals so I spontaneously contacted him, asking if he would mind if I dropped by to do a home visit, essentially unannounced. He was very receptive and invited me over. I was five minutes away. I spent the next hour or so visiting with Bob, receiving a total and complete walk through of both his houses (they are side by side) and of his entire enclosed yards. There were no restrictions on what I could look at or where I could go. I was able to look at, thoroughly, each and every dog present at his home. Once again, each and every dog was not only clean, healthy appearing and outgoing, they were, in what I could consider, impeccable condition. I had some difficulty differentiating the rescue dogs from the show dogs. All dogs were friendly, interacted playfully and greeted me enthusiastically. There were a few crates on the premises but all dogs were loose and intermingling, just as they were on the occasions when I had visited Bob at his office. The yard was nearly as impeccable as the dogs. For those of you who show dogs, you know that you simply can not keep a dog in a show coat if they are in “feces and urine saturated” crates or running in feces infested yards.
On February 24, 2008, Martha Smith, the current president of All Breed Rescue Network, and myself made a follow up visit to Bob’s current home. Once again, we were able to look at the entire premises, no area of the home was denied from visibility, and we had the opportunity to visualize and examine any dog there. Again, all dogs were in impeccable condition, clearly well cared for. No dogs were in crates. There was one very elderly dog isolated in a separate room for the dog’s safety.
In this litigious society we live in, and under the constant scrutiny of so many people who wish to take OUR rights away as dog owners, hobby breeders, rescuers, exhibitors, it is very dismaying to me that there seems to be a pattern of unrelenting scrutiny and attempts to destroy somebody who has, clearly, spent many years doing the very opposite of what somebody is accusing him of.
We all have different standards of living, different levels of income, different ways of going about our daily lives, different views on how to best care for our pets, ourselves, our homes. Surely, there is enough latitude in this great country, and specifically in the English Setter community, to afford ALL of us the respect and the dignity to find our own way in determining what is best for our animals, without letting animosity, jealousy, spitefulness and pettiness dictate what we do. Step outside the silo you live in and think about what is happening in your dog community. We won’t need the animal rights folks to peck away at our liberties. They can stand aside and simply watch us destroy ourselves.
I would be happy to address any inquiries, questions or concerns you may have about this matter. I am available by email or by phone.