We’re All Damaging Dog Ownership
Reputable breeders are reputable because they care: They perform the necessary health tests for their breeding dogs. They spend a ridiculous sum of money toting those dogs around the country to compete in conformation and working trials to prove that the dog is a good example of their breed. Reputable breeders screen prospective owners and keep in touch with those owners for the life of their puppies. They require spay and neuter contracts, limited registration, and co-ownership in cases where the owner may want to show or breed the dog they purchased.
Irresponsible breeders don’t do any of these things, or they might do some of these things but not all of them. Heck, they might even do all of them but they also produce dogs with too much white, or a short neck, or a bad gait. Maybe one of their puppies was born blind. They probably sell to pet stores, list their dogs on websites like Puppyfind, and make lots of money. They keep their dogs in kennels outdoors and have more than two litters a year. They produce too many puppies to keep track of.
If you just read the last two paragraphs and agreed with any of it, you are the problem.
I know this is going to sound really ridiculous coming from a page called “I Love Responsible Dog Breeders” but my message today is very important. I urge you to let go of your pre-conceived notions about “responsible” and “reputable” breeders. You are being lied to. This is a very good time to start paying attention.
While I really don’t like the Humane Society of the United States (more on that later), the following statistics were pulled directly from their website for the sake of simplicity.
Before we begin, there are a few basic facts that I want everyone to understand:
1) There are 83.3 million owned dogs in the United States. That is 83 million dogs that have a home. The VAST MAJORITY of these 83 million dogs are happy, healthy, and well-cared for. Most importantly, 83 million dogs in the United States are loved. Those reports you see on the news about animal neglect and abuse represent the minority and are sensationalized to entertain you.
2) 83% of those 83.3 million dogs have been surgically altered to have their reproductive organs removed. That is 69 million spayed and neutered dogs, leaving 14 million unaltered. Of those 14 million, an unknown percentage contribute to the population of dogs in the United States, with the very small exception that does not account for imported animals.
3) Approximately 2.7 million cats and dogs COMBINED are euthanized in shelters every year. This number of euthanized animals is the lowest in forty years.
4) Not all animals included in the shelter statistics are adoptable. Many of them are sick or have severe behavioral problems that render them unsafe. For this reason, the number of euthanizations in the United States will never be zero.
So what does this have to do with breeders?
The arguments about where Americans should buy their pets seem to be never ending. Whether you choose to buy from a shelter, a breeder, a pet store, or a privately funded rescue, you are probably making somebody somewhere very angry. There are pros and cons to every one of those options and it blows people’s minds when somebody suggests that none of them are a bad idea.
But we’re not even here to talk about that yet. What I really want to address is the issue of classism. For those who are not familiar with the term, classism is like racism for wealthy people. (Ironically, that previous sentence was discriminatory towards the upper class and is, in itself, classism).
According to the classists of the dog community, the only responsible dog owner is a rich dog owner. The only responsible dog breeder is a rich dog breeder. People who can afford to drop thousands of dollars on a single vet visit deserve dogs. People who don’t have that money should get a stuffed animal.
This is unequivocally the most damaging misconception in the history of animal ownership.
Animals, specifically dogs, in other countries that are subject to a different view on pet ownership are perceived as being mistreated. A dog that lives in a makeshift kennel may get a little uncomfortable on hot days. He might someday die of exposure or disease. He probably isn’t vaccinated. He definitely isn’t neutered. He gets fed scraps from his owner’s table. He has probably never seen a vet. His home is clean and he has water, but the kennel might not be spotless and the water isn’t fresh.
Is this dog suffering? Does this dog actually know that other dogs in other countries are sleeping on $2,000 pillow-tops? Most importantly, if he did know, would he care?
The thing that classist dog owners seem to forget is why they like dogs in the first place. My dog’s name is Pilot and he is very simple. On good days, he gets to play ball. On bad days, he doesn’t get to play ball. Sometimes we go for a walk and that is fun. He doesn’t want to come in when it’s below freezing because somebody might be playing ball without him. He definitely doesn’t want to come in when the air is so humid you could swim through it. He just wants to be next to me, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes him. While we spend hours in front of a computer criticizing others for how they treat their animals, we are ignoring the most important thing about being a dog owner: dogs adore us, regardless of what we can afford.
That third world dog in the makeshift kennel doesn’t care that his owner is poor. I promise you that he isn’t thinking about it. We tend to anthropomorphize our animals to the extent that we start to believe they want to live in luxury. My dog would just as soon sleep in mud as he would on a bed.
I’m not telling you to reduce the standards you have for your own dogs, because those standards are probably wonderful and make you feel like a very good owner. But please stop assuming that nobody else is worthy of companionship because they don’t have the things that you do. If a dog is adored by his family but gets fed Beneful, is that really the worst thing that could happen to him?
Classism, unfortunately, does not stop at damaging dog owners. It also threatens dog breeders. Aspiring breeders who can’t afford the competitions or have no interest in competing with their stock should not be discouraged from breeding. 83 million dogs in the United States- for the sake of supplying the demand and genetic diversity, we need those pet breeders. After all, most of our dogs are pets and only pets. While I personally find great value in the working dogs I see today, I don’t have any problem with somebody who strives to produce more of what there is a demand for. People go to breeders because they want puppies and they go to rescues because they want to help. It should always be up to the owner to make that decision about what works for their family.
This is not a black and white issue and I absolutely implore you to try seeing the dog community from a different perspective. With mandatory spay and neuter laws cropping up all over, placing restrictions on what dogs can and should be bred, we are all becoming an endangered species.
I used to believe that good breeders fit into a very narrow view and the rest were irresponsible. Now, as I begin the search for a puppy that is still a few years off, I am looking in places I never thought I would. I appreciate breeders with no contracts because I want to have control over my dog’s reproductive organs. I understand why some working breeders have decided to not perform certain health tests- whether because research has proven those tests to be ineffective, or the breeder can clear the future generations by parentage. I am eternally grateful to the people who make my search easy and list their puppies on websites like Puppyfind. I don’t like the direction in which conformation is pushing my breed so I choose to look for working dogs instead. And I would never discredit a breeder simply because one or two of their puppies were born with a genetic defect. When you are breeding within a closed population, mutations are going to happen far more often than they would without that restriction. In other words, yes, purebreds are going to have more mutations at birth. Recessive genes will always appear more often in a smaller gene pool. And, perhaps most controversially, I hope the breeder I choose is being paid well for their hard work.
The important point here is to stop worrying about what other people are doing. The Animal Rights agenda is committed to stopping breeders altogether through legislation because they believe that breeding animals are being exploited for personal gain. They don’t care what you produce: you are in the same bed as Joe MakeABuck who sells puppies in front of Wal-Mart. Siding with the activists by justifying your actions is not going to save you in the end. In order to protect your rights, you need to also protect the rights of others. Obviously nobody condones neglect or abuse, but true cases of either are rare. Like plane crashes, you are much more likely to hear about the horrifying things that happen than you are about the good.
I support dog breeders. Period. I don’t modify that statement anymore because I don’t need to. I have close friends in the commercial breeding industry and the show dog world. The only thing we need to have in common is a love for our animals. Isn’t that enough?