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How to build a cage for demonstration purposes

  1. Jan 30, 2008 #1
    I'll preface this with the fact that I know nothing about math or physics, I'm not even sure this is a physics question. But I hope you all can help.

    A little background

    In 1966 Congress passed the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Today the AWA regulates the commercial production of puppies for pet stores (among other commercial animal enterprises, such as zoos, circuses, etc.). The AWA is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and when the regulations were written to enforce the AWA, the dog farmers had a major role in how things would be run. Keep in mind, that this law only regulates "commercial" dog breeders -- those mass producing puppies for wholesale purposes. Many people refer to them as puppy mills, but I am not here to preach or to debate the subject, I simply need answers to a project that I am starting.

    The Cage

    One aspect of the regulations uses a formula to calculate the minimum size of the cage that the breeder must use. This is called the "primary enclosure." For most dogs, this is where they will spend their entire life.

    The formula as developed by USDA is:

    (length of the dog + 6 inches) X (length of the dog + 6 inches) = total floor space required in inches.

    At one point it was required that each dog be taken out of its cage for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, to allow for exercise. This was lobbied and changed later after USDA determined that 2 or more dogs interacting with each other in the same cage was the equivalent of exercise, so as long as EACH dog had the minimum floor space, there was no requirement that the dogs EVER be let out of the cage.

    Another option, if a breeder did not wish to provide exercise to the dog, was that they simply double the minimum floor space if the dog is caged by itself.

    Height requirement

    Most dog farmers use an elevated cage to house their dogs. The cage is made of wire on all 4 sides and the top and bottom. The only regulation pertaining to the minimum height of the cage is that the dog have 6 inches of head clearance while in a normal standing position (on all fours).

    Wire Requirements

    Originally, it was required that each cage have a solid resting surface so that the dog would not live on wire its entire life. Lobbying changed that...saying that the dogs soiled their resting boards, and therefore it was not healthy, so they removed the requirement that the dog have a solid surface. When that was changed, new regulations were put in place to supposedly give the dogs more comfort while living on wire. First, they didn't want a negative image from the use of wire, so they changed it to "mesh." Second, they required that if the mesh were not 8 gauge or stronger, the mesh must be coated with vinyl. The only other requirement is that the mesh must be strong enough to support the weight of the dog, and must not sag from the dog's weight.

    Measuring the dog

    USDA has a handout given to dog farmers that shows how to properly measure a dog to determine floor space. The crudely drawn diagram instructs breeders not to follow the contour of the dog, and to measure straight across from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. In other words, they wouldn't measure along the nose, up and around the skull, down the neck, etc. I will try to attatch an image at the end of this post.

    Wire spacing

    The only requirement for the spacing on the floor of the wire cage is that it not be so wide as to allow the dog's feet to pass through the wire.

    My project -- my question

    For many years, I have run a website called NoPuppyMills.com and also run a non profit found at PetShopPuppies.org. It seems I can never get even the most hardened advocate to understand how small and inhumane the cages are for these breeding dogs...that will spend approximately 10 years in a cage as described above. Now, I would like to think I could construct a cage to fit my own dog and then leave her out in that cage with a live web-cam so that people can fully understand...but I would never do that to my dog, and if I did, I would be perceived as the most cruel person in the world...even though hundreds of thousands of dogs live like that in USDA licensed kennels.

    So, what options do I have left to fully demonstrate the life these dogs live? As I see it, as much as I hate the thought, I am left with constructing a cage to fit my own size using the formula, and then live in that cage for 30 days with a live web-cam so that people can fully understand what puppy mill life is like.

    I am not a child of the 60s (well, I am, but I was only 6 years old when the 60s ended) and I have never sat on a flag pole and most certainly never saved a spotted owl from extinction or any other creature for that matter. I shiver at the thought of failure, of not being able to endure that 30 days, and the pain associated with living and sleeping on wire. But, I am passionate about my mission of educating the public and have decided that this will happen, no matter how painful or uncomfortable.

    Hence, comes my mathematical limitations and failures. The last thing I want is to be accused of over dramatizing the true effect of dogs in these cages. I need my calculations to be perfect, and undisputed. Here are the problems, as I see them.

    1. I walk on 2 legs, not 4 legs. The regs state that the dog is to be measured in a normal standing position, from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

    2. I don't have a tail. :)

    3. If my rough calculations were correct, the actual cage size would be so small that I could not even lie down. The regs do state that the dog must have enough room to sit, lie, turn around and sleep in a normal position. This is so that when total floor space is calculated, the dog farmer doesn't make a cage 5 foot long and 6 inches wide. So, while not figured in the formula, there is another part of the regulation that requires this. Therefore, I would have to adjust my own calculations to a normal sleeping position. Then again, my own calculations could be totally off and that is why I am here.

    In Closing

    Before posting my own measurements (and I have certainly rattled on for much too long as it is) I would like to see if this is something you all would be interested in helping me figure out? There are other calculations that I need help with, but by now you may all think I'm totally whacked, so I won't bore you with anything more until I get some feedback.

    I am attaching the image USDA hands out during inspections for measuring cage sizes. I realize the text is small, but most of the text is what is covered above.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2008 #2
    I can't even imagine how you would scale from 4 legged to 2 legged, but a wild guess would be a 3 ft wide X 8 ft long x 7 ft high cage. That allows exercise inside and prone sleeping. You might research prison cells, but I'm not sure there are standards. Good luck.
  4. Jan 30, 2008 #3


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    Science Advisor

    I think even a prison cell has more space, relatively, than those dog cages provide.

    I would start with a cage that was, on the diagonals the 6" greater than your height. I would think that that would be a human version of what is being used for dogs. I think that that is still being generous.
  5. Jan 30, 2008 #4
    Yes, I agree the 6" higher than my height is a must. I'm trying to think of the actual space a dog vs. human would have doing normal things. For example, if you squared the floor space using USDA's formula, you would basically have a cage 6" longer, wider and higher than the dog inside. So if that dog stood in the far corner and took off running...it could go only 6" before hitting the front of the cage. For most dogs, not even one stride.

    So, shouldn't that be the same for me? If the point it so show how the dogs can not move about freely in this cage they will live the next 10 years, I would need to exact the same movement to a human, that walks on two feet.

    I do have to consider the fact that I must still allow for the space for me to recline normally. So, would I totally set aside the mathematical equation and just figure myself in a normal sleeping position?

    It is so confusing for me because despite 6 years of college, math concepts boggle my mind. Fortunately, I only needed one math credit to graduate (history and writing BS).

    I have a very wide audience, as I have been doing this (educating about puppy mills) for many years now. My NoPuppyMills site alone averages several hundred million hits each month. I want to be sure and be accurate on my measurements so that I'm not accused of sensationalizing.
  6. Jan 31, 2008 #5
    If you want to push the point, use 4'x4'x4', the basic punishment box and/or small tiger cell.
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