Andrew Hunte & Pet Business Magazine Have Some Nerve!


Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in  southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

This is the response I sent to Pet  Business magazine in response to Andrew Hunte’s op/ed, “A Dangeous Mantra”. He was responding to the trend to promote ‘Adopt, don’t shop’ regarding  the  ‘adoption’ of puppies and kittens, rather than selling them.

 

How irritating! Hunte’s take on what is happening in the pet industry—to retail pet stores—would be laughable had he not so much influence.

I hardly think of Hunte as an ethical dog breeder when he breeds dogs for commercial resale, and doesn’t think it is important to screen every pet buyer. Also, citing Patti Strand’s book, Hijacking the Humane Movement, doesn’t make the arguments any more credible.

When I started out working in the pet industry as a teenager, I worked for several hobby breeders. One, Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: if you had never demonstrated that you could take care of an Afghan Hound, you had to spend the day grooming with him. He kept about seven adult dogs, and he loved his dogs. He felt that good homes were important. He didn’t want you saying that you didn’t know how much equipment you would need, what it would cost, how long it would take or how often it needed to be done. If, after a day of grooming Afghan Hounds, you didn’t think the breed was for you, no harm, no foul. It was not dogs of Fred’s breeding that would up in puppy mills or abandoned in shelters..

Our issues as dog fanciers remain NOT only that commercially bred dogs are more unsound (because the breeders do not do the genetic testing), but that commercial breeders don’t care who buys their puppies. Neither the breeders nor the sellers care if buyers understand the grooming, temperament, and training needs of the dog they are purchasing. No pet shop ever turns down sales…and often they sell the wrong equipment with the dog: harnesses rather than martingale collars, and those horrible brushes that are pins on 1 side, bristles on the other. Ask any groomer: they are good for NO BREED OR COAT TYPE. Why do so many pet industry managers have so little integrity?

We are selling love and smirking at how easily pet buyers are bamboozled!

Hunte (and Strand, apparently) believes that HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA have much more influence than they do. Granted, the national nonprofits do a remarkable job of marketing themselves and fundraising, but not that many people are fooled. More people support local animal shelters, and might support these mentioned organizations for other activities and issues they promote (vivisection, factory farming, the fur industry, how zoo and circus animals are husbanded).

What NOBODY is addressing is that most of the dogs in shelters are bred by what we commonly call BACKYARD BREEDERS. We know they are not coming directly from puppy mills, nor are they coming from hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of the breed. Where do these backyard breeders get their breedable dogs? Either from retail sellers—THE PET SHOPS—-or other backyard breeders. Yet—and this is fundamentally important—-these backyard breeders are allowed to think that they are NOT breeders! Nobody addresses them about the issue of where the pets in shelters are coming from. For Hunte to state categorically that these shelter dogs are temperamentally or behaviorally damaged is specious. In fact, we have been finding that even most dogs confiscated from dog fighters are generally unwilling to fight in a pack situation in a shelter!

If you look at dogs coming into shelters since the 1980s, not only are most of them Pit Bulls (or Pit mixes), the next often most represented breed types are Chihuahuas, Beagles, and ‘designer’ dogs. You never see Briards, Gordon Setters, Salukis, or Portuguese Water Dogs. Could it be that the hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of their breeds, closely monitor (‘husband’) breedable dogs, and do a better job of screening out unsuitable potential buyers, as well as making it clear them want the dogs they’ve bred back? Could this be why, that we are now seeing more Cane Corso, Shiba Inu, and even French Bulldogs being dumped because the breeders of those breeds didn’t do as good a job husbanding?

Mr. Hunte, I also have horse in this race. I AM A PROFESSIONAL DOG GROOMER. When I learned to groom dog s over 40 years ago, everyone involved in grooming was a hobby breeder and an exhibitor/fancier. Every dog was a Poodle. There were no Bichons, Shih Tzu, or designer dogs. Americans spent a week’s pay for housing and expenses, so they could afford the luxury of a nonshed dog needing regular grooming.

Times have changed. Not only has the middle class shrunk, they now spend 3 weeks pay on living expenses, and carry an average of $5000 credit card debt as well (or more in college loans!). The most popular breeds are now smooth coated. Between the big box pet industry chains training ‘groomers’ and the fancy shrinking (because those people who were fanciers and exhibitors are no longer middle class, the average age of current exhibitors being well over 50), there are a lot more ‘groomers’ and fewer dogs to groom. I used to earn an average of $30 an hour on commission, but have recently been offered jobs by business owners who could give a rat’s ass about integrity or talent offering me $9 an hour. It doesn’t really matter. Go to a dog daycare, and you will see Labrador Retrieves ( and mixes), Boxers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Bostons, Frenchies, and some Doodles and designer dogs. Not much work for me, but a goldmine for the veterinarians.

And Mr. Hunte, not all dogs will be spayed and neutered. You know that. Due to economic conditions, however, we will see a loss of breeds. I remember in the 1970s how many people were exhibiting Afghan Hounds. The loss of the breed’s popularity was an example of capitalism at its finest. However, will we miss the Bedlington Terriers, the Sussex Spaniels, and the Scottish Deerhounds? You aren’t selling them—there is no market.

The other problem is, however, that your resellers have never developed actual fanciers among the buyers.

There is enough blame to go around. It’s ironic that the American Kennel Club has spent so much time and money pandering to your fellow commercial breeders , and that they have expected the hobbyists/fanciers to pay for this in raised entry fees for performance events. I am shocked that the regional and specialty clubs have allowed the AKC to get away with this. Like it or not, we DO have to work together to change the dynamic, and blaming the humane societies for getting their message across while denying the reason this has been so easy to do won’t solve the problem.

Where do shelter dogs come from? If every puppy offered for sale in every location had to be microchipped by law (and that would include the backyard breeders posting puppies on Craigslist), we’d know where all the shelter dogs were coming from. Impossible? Not if we help the local animal shelters train humane inspectors to respond to those Craigslist posts, and demand that the state Departments of Agriculture start leveling fines against those breeders not in compliance, and whose dogs end up in shelters. Who should be responsible for dumped dogs if not the breeders? This is why Portuguese Water Dogs NEVER end up in shelters. Check out the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America code of ethics.

Want to be more credible? Train your resellers on how to screen buyers. Many animal shelters will not adopt out a dog unless they meet everyone in the household. Pets make terrible surprise gifts. Most won’t adopt to renters and neither will ethical hobby breeders—as that is the most frequent excuse people use for dumping a pet: moving to where it is not allowed. The breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds ask people who will be home to housebreak a puppy, and state, if the owners are gone for eight hours, how do they expect the puppy to get trained? Is that fair to a puppy?

How do you choose a pet food for the puppy? It wasn’t veterinarians who developed the grain free segment of the industry, but hobbyists and fanciers who were dismissed as eccentric by their veterinarians. I have seen far fewer ear and skin issues since more people are feeding the premium foods.

What about the most effective tools for grooming, and keeping shedding down and the dog matt free? Why are sellers promoting harnesses and Flexis, when you can’t control a dog with these items. Why aren’t they promoting martingale collars and six foot leashes ( or head harnesses)? Why aren’t they sending home basic housebreaking and positive training instructions with each puppy? Who should be responsible for this information if not the sellers?

You are right about one thing: people want to know what they are getting. This is why people choose specific breeds: a somewhat predictable temperament as well as the physical traits. I don’t want idiots and thugs choosing what kind of dog I should own, which is why I choose purebreds for myself. That said, we all bear more responsibility in lessening the number of dogs that wind up in shelters. The altruistic should not be made to feel guilty, but the greedy and dishonest should be held accountable.

This link to what Best Friends says about what’s going on is right to the point:http://bestfriends.org/News-And-Features/News/Puppy-Mills-and-the-AKC/

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