Why I support rescue…but choose purebreds:

I decided to ‘reframe’ this topic because some people just don’t ‘get it’.

Whether people who spend a lot of time saving animals want to believe it—or not—people choose the pets  they have  by making decisions.  Usually, the decisions are  based on notions and ideas that make no sense at all.

For example, there are people who will always  choose a shelter dog if they can add a pet to their household.  This is really very compassionate, but what they are  often doing is allowing irresponsible breeders to make a choice for them. These irresponsible breeders, who either allow their pets to breed because they are ignorant  and ‘don’t believe in neutering’, or  who breed on purpose, for ‘beer & cigarette’ money, have  convinced themselves that  they are not responsible for  the animals they’ve brought into the world once they become unwanted.  They really don’t care.   They don’t even think they are ‘breeders’ because they are not making money! They are allowed to get away with such irresponsible behavior because…instead of forcing them  through either peer pressure or law   enforcement to be responsible, the  ‘humane activists’ instead  concentrate on taking care of all the unwanted animals and finding homes for them.

Well, not all the animals. The ‘humane activists’  barely make a dent.  But as Margaret Mead said, “It makes a difference to that one starfish (or dog, as it were).”

In actuality what happens is that when the breeders are no longer able to sell their  dogs, and the economics of  breeding changes—they stop.  It happened  with Poodles and Afghan Hounds in the 1970s and 1980s,  with Soft-coated Wheatens in the 1990s, and it will ultimately happen with Labradoodles, Puggles, and Pit Bull Terriers in the next few years. The shelters will be inundated, people will stop paying top dollar for the puppies, and the breeders will stop.  Maybe they’ll go on to another breed or animal. You never can tell.

When I started  learning about purebred dogs and breeding good dogs, I  learned from hobby breeders who were, for the most part, ethical. They  really wanted their peers in the fancy to believe they bred good, sound dogs, and they really wanted to ‘better’ their breed. They valued the respect of their communities.  In fact, they had to, or their peers would not breed to their dogs or help them sell their puppies.

Thing is, the culture varies from breed to breed. For a long time,  breeders of Dalmations, Harlequin Great Danes, Old English Sheepdogs, & the Merle Collies would euthanize deaf puppies.  Nobody really wants a deaf dog, and this was part of being a responsible dog breeder.  Demand was so great for the breeds, and puppy buyers were so naive, that  in many cases, otherwise responsible hobby breeders would sell dogs without AKC papers. This meant only that offspring could not be registered.  it didn’t mean the dogs were not bred.  But they  naively thought that the dogs would not be bred as they would have no monetary value.

I worked on and off for  foundation Miniature Schnauzer breeder, Dale Miller.  In the early 1980’s, it was discovered that Min. Schnauzers carried the gene for juvenile cataracts. This meant that there was a degree of statistical certainty that  a good per centage of dogs would  be blind in 1 or both eyes by the age of 3 years.  Since the hobby breeders loved their breed more than they loved individual dogs, they started a program of test breeding stud dogs to bitches that were blind.  Some breeders had to totally revamp their breeding programs.  But what of the resultant puppies, who all carried genes for blindness?  The breeders initially sold the puppies without AKC papers, explaining to puppy buyers that the puppy they were buying might go blind (& and giving them the name of a veterinary opthamologist who would remove a cataract at a discount), and they definitely carried genes for blindness, so they should not be bred.

Unfortunately, many of these puppy buyers who  said they understood all this, had no integrity, and , even without AKC papers, were breeding these dogs!  Or, they’d return to the hobby breeders and ask for the papers so they could more easily sell their puppies.  So…..the breeders started neutering the puppies at a very young age.  Younger than they would do otherwise.  & what of those dogs  who carried blindness, now in the gene pool?  Any  dog purchased from a  pet shop or puppy mill (they do quite well selling over the internet via http://www.nextdaypets.com ) carries those genes.  May go blind.

The members of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, many of them fanciers of other breeds, saw what happened  to other breeds when individual buyers were allowed to make  decisions that involved integrity issues, and they have the most stringent code of ethics of any breed club.  You do not get a breedable Portie without co-owning the dog with the breeder.  You are asked to return your dog to the breeder if you can’t or won’t keep the dog.  The breeders can breed as many dogs as they can sell—–but if they want to have access to breeding dogs that others own, they have to play by the same rules, and take back dogs they’ve bred that become unwanted.

If you go to http://www.dogplay.com you will see that most  ‘parent’ clubs—the clubs whose mission it is to protect their breeds—have codes of ethics.  Some involve not breeding dogs until they are OFA & CERF  cleared. Some involve not breeding merle dogs to other merle dogs (due to the link with blindness & deafness), and many mandate that breeders be responsible for the dogs they breed until those dogs are dead.  This is not all breeders, and not all clubs, but this is what  breeders who love dogs do.

Believe it or not, many  hobby breeders support breed rescue and  humane societies. The Saluki Club of America has a ‘humane purse’ that goes to the owner of the Best-of-Breed winner at one of their specialty shows.    However, we are not totally getting this message out to all the puppy buyers.

It is shocking to me the number of  wealthy people in this country, purebred dog lovers,  who throw tons of money  at humane societies/shelters that support mandatory spay/neuter.

The ‘conventional wisdom’ is that middle class, law abiding people who love their dogs will comply with the law, have their pets spayed or neutered. & the problem will be solved.  But it won’t be solved, because the  people doing most of the backyard breeding, who don’t love their dogs enough to test for genetic defects  and who don’t screen potential puppy buyers to make sure they can legally keep a dog, afford to keep a dog, & who will train a dog & be responsible pet owners, won’t comply with the law.  They  will never be discovered, as the law will not be enforced (witness that illegal drugs are never eradicated by law enforcement), or they will be in rural areas or out of state.   They post on Craigslist in the pet section  every day.  Law enforecement  ignores them.

What’s even  worse, is that to be a breeder, you will have to pay for licensing, as the USDA does now—and many if not most puppy mills are  licensed.

That means that in  a very few years, mandatory spay/neuter or not,  those of us who are purebred dog fanciers will either be priced out of what hobby breeders charge (  I could not afford a Scottish Deerhound or a Norwich Terrier at this time), and the only purebreds we will be able to afford will be from the commercial/puppy mill type breeders.  Keep in mind they are not all horrible places with dogs left in filthy stacked crates.  Hunte Corporation, the premier puppy mill, has a cleaner kennel than most hobby breeders operate.  The difference is that hobby breeders  care about the future of the dogs, and the breeds, and Hunte just cares about getting paid.  It’s not a matter of scale of  operation, but of  ‘philosophy and mission.’

So, how ironic that the wealthy,  who  support the mission of shelters and rescues, but are also purebred dog fanciers, believers in planned breeding, support organizations that want to make it damn near impossible for them to acquire healthy, sound, well-bred dogs.  Do they not realize that the average fancier may have only 1 or 2 breedable bitches, may have a litter  every 2 or 3 years, and may very will live within city limits?  In fact, the AKC, which is quite capable of doing a survey of where  fanciers live—is doing nothing.

For those of you reading this who believe that  in fact most breeders  do not really care about ethics or integrity, and that it really makes no difference, it is the ‘luck of the draw’ whether you are able to buy a well-bred dog (because who has time to do the research?)…you may be right.  If you ask the average dog lover if  they care, and if something should be done to help  people wanting  purebred dogs to find  well-bred dogs,  they would say they’d want that, because they don’t want to buy  a dog from a puppy mill.

It is unfortunate that  the people who care the most and who would be affected the most are so discouraged by the facts and  resist organizing  to address the problem.  I  find it very disheartening that the  most well-off  hobbyists/fanciers won’t spend the time or money, and keep deluding themselves about the economic well being of the ‘market’ for their pet puppies.  This is why the gene pool remains small—even threatened in some breeds.  Maybe that is capitalism at its finest:  that there are more Pit Bulls, Puggles, and Labradoodles than there are Scottish Deerhounds, Skye Terriers, and Toy Manchester Terriers.

For those of you reading wondering if  the whole issue makes any difference in the general scheme of things….it’s part of the broader issue of integrity,The Golden Rule, and expectations about transactions and honesty in capitalist society.  The lack of integrity got me thinking at a very young age about how society is organized, and what I could do to  make integrity important.  So—off on a tangent, it’s why I  decided to study anthropology, why I accepted an assistantship at the Center of Urban Economic Development so I could study urban planning & policy, and why I became a Peace Corps Volunteer.


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3 Responses to “Why I support rescue…but choose purebreds:”

  1. Sandi Says:

    Excellent article, full of excellent points! Integrity, truly caring for the animals you bring into the world, and concern for the future of your chosen breed are absolutely essential in a breeder. We should ALL take care of our own, support rescue, and NOT support animal rights organizations, who clearly have nothing in common with us, and at the core, really want to do away with domestic animals.

  2. Renee Says:

    Great article. I just wish people would realize that so many organizations who appear to help animals, are actually legislating against hobby breeders who take back puppies, old dogs and support rescue, yet the same organizations do little to stop indiscriminate breeding by irresponsible people. I just wish I could get a few TV stations, primarily Fox News and the local Fox stations to stop running the add for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who claims to largest organization to rescue and save animals, when in reality they are nothing but an animal rights group, who have NO shelters and have nothing to do with local Humane Societies.

  3. Wendy Says:

    I have a website that promotes rescue and reputable breeders howtofindapuppy.com The reason I promote good breeders is because I understand that it is not the good breeders that care about where their puppies/dogs end up that are the problem to overpopulation. It is the puppy mills and poor breeders that sell to pet stores and through “fancy websites” and free sellers sites that are the problem. The ones who’s only concern is making money and do not care where the puppies end up or whether they are healthy. It is trying to convince the purchasers who are usually emotion driven and want a puppy NOW that are the problem. It is an uphill battle to educate the public and all we can do is our part in making that happen. If people continue getting their puppies from poor breeders and poor sources then eventually the “good” breeders will not be able to keep up and all we will be left with are unhealthy, genetically defective puppies and dogs to choose from!

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