Bridging the Information Gap to End the Surplus Pet Problem


Bred by backyard breeder. This is a Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I would not have learned to groom dogs—and entered the PET INDUSTRY—if I didn’t love dogs.  I  believe the late Andrew Hunte, of Hunte Corp.—the largest puppy mill in the country (although I am sure he never called his business a puppy mill, but a commercial dog breeding kennel), initially felt the same way. He died a few weeks ago, but his state-of-the-art puppy mill is not going to go out of business soon.  I bet a lot of hobby breeders wish they had a facility like Hunte Corp.

Andrew Hunte came from a family that showed dogs.  He showed dogs in his early days.  However, he had a pet shop, and of course no ethical hobby breeder would sell him puppies to resell.  They all wanted to meet the people who wanted to buy puppies.  So, in order to meet the demand for pups, initially, Hunte turned to substandard breeders—how we envision most puppy mills.  He didn’t like that, as the pups were  genetically unsound and  unhealthy.  He decided he could do better.  He did.  One of my grooming clients owns a Hunte bred Afghan Hound, which she got from PETLAND when she worked there and they couldn’t manage to sell the pup. Sesame  has gorgeous conformation.  I recognized many of the names on her pedigree…so you see, we DO know who wasn’t screening or didn’t care.

Our dirty little secret is that many of the winning breeders of conformation dogs run their own puppy mills.  They breed over 10 litters a year (many breed over 50 liters a year), and do rudimentary screening of prospective homes, if you call asking for a credit card screening.  Rarely do we see the dogs they’ve sold ending up in shelters or rescue, but the problem remains that  dollars matter more than excellent placements.

I am not defending breeding pets as livestock—but these breeders are not the problem.  Ironically, it is the smaller  puppy mills, harder to identify, which  are usually posting on Craigslist and even E-bay, which are the source of most pets ending up in shelters and rescues.

As a hobbyist/fancier, I see this as several different problems: 1. breeding dogs as a commodity and not as pets; 2.  Not screening for  good homes (buyers who  understand what they are getting into); 3. the rescue ‘community ignoring that backyard breeders are BREEDERS and not being made responsible.

Every day, Facebook is full of posts with a photo of a sad dog, and a caption, “Won’t someone save this dog from euthanasia?”  If you notice, most of these dogs are Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas if they are purebred, and  frequently they are Rottweilers and designer dogs. These dogs generally come from backyard breeders, not puppy mills. Certainly, purebreds do end up in shelters:  owners die or have some  terrible misfortune, or a dog is stolen or gets loose, but ask any shelter manager  what physical types of dogs are coming in, and  they will confirm what I am saying.

So, the fancy writes off the rescue community as PETA members and do-gooders, and the rescue community writes off all breeders as the problem, and we’re not really making much headway in solving the problem of surplus pets and who should be responsible for them.

We know that in many European countries,  getting dogs registered is strictly regulated, and there  doesn’t seem to be a surplus pet problem.  Just beyond Europe is Eastern Europe and Russia, now exporting purebreds from their puppy mills because the French bulldog, English Bulldog, Pomeranian, and Boston Terrier breeders in the USA can’t keep up with the demand for PUPPIES OF THESE BREEDS.  Personally, I really am appalled that importing pet dogs for the market, when we euthanize so many, is allowed…but the AKC will register those dogs.

I know I am naive and really want  to believe the  people who run the AKC really care about the future of purebred dogs, but I had an AKC employee tell me that if the AKC didn’t register  these dog, and stopped transferring registration of  breeding dogs sold at auction, they’d go to another registry.  My gut reaction was, So What?

Another fact that hobbyists/fanciers don’t care about is that the pet pups they sell often are not  registered.  Some think this is a good thing, especially if they know their pups carry genetic defects. Many sell at a lower fee with no papers, so the surplus pets they breed can’t be traced back to them.  Do you hear me, Beagle, Rottweiler, Cane Corso,  and German Shepherd Dog breeders?   I don’t mean to single our your breeds  (or you breeders being iffy on the integrity scale), but the last 2 Whippets I got as pets were returnees to their breeders.  A Saluki I got was being held onto as a young adult until the right home came along.  Also, have you tried to purchase a Portuguese Water Dog? With a very small gene pool, the breeders of those dogs are going to ask a lot of questions, and were able to dodge the bullet of having the breed get into the wrong hands when the Obamas got their Porties.  They took advantage of the spotlight to explain to the pet seeking public that good breeders are always responsible for the dogs they breed—even the nonshow dogs, and take them back.

Ok…back to  fixing this. I am out on the street with my Whippets all the time, and  of course,  the question most regular Americans ask is, “Are they rescues?”   This is because they look like Greyhounds, and nobody is breeding pet Greyhounds—they are all retired track dogs. I explain that they are Whippets, not Greyhounds, and that Whippet breeders are generally very responsible, and both mine were returned adult dogs…and you often have to be on a waiting list to get a Whippet puppy.  When I have the time, I also explain that  many of the people who  own racing Greyhounds  always tried to place dud racers, but most people didn’t want them as pets until the marketing was addressed…and I go on to say that most of the dogs in shelters needing rescue were bred by backyard breeders whom NOBODY  admits are breeders!  And…if I  happen to run into an adamant rescue person who feels no dog should be bred until all the dogs in shelters get homes, I tell them they are not addressing the cause of the problem, and if they alienate ME—a supporter of rescue, they are alienating a large group of people who would help them really get to the heart of the problem.

So, let me remind you—the fancy—-1. Do not shop in any store that sells any pet animals unless that store raises the animals themselves.  Ask the manager. You support cruelty of all sorts when you make excuses that a bird or rat is not worth as much as a dog.  We can’t solve the problem when we make excuses;

2. Do not do business with veterinarians who discount that you are breeding good dogs for the future of good dogs, yet profits from puppy mills and backyard breeders.  This does us no good;

3. Do not donate to humane organizations that are not local to you, and that do not accept that YOU are not the problem.  In fact, ask them what they are doing to address the problem of backyard breeders. If you are in a municipality that mandates that  pet shops only offer rescued pets, ask what they do to ensure integrity—because in the metro Chicago area,  we have Wright-Way, which ‘rescues’ puppies from rural pounds that take surplus puppy mill puppies—and they do NOT include neutering in their fees as mandated by state law!

4. Ask your local animal shelters how they screen for  GOOD homes:  a. Do they ask if the pet seeker owns or rents?  b. If they want a puppy, how will they manage to housebreak it if they are gone all day (the answer is, a dog walker coming in every 3—4 hours)? c.  Do they  know that the dog will either shed or need professional grooming, and have they investigated the costs & the frequency recommended?  d.  Have they looked into  who offers dog training classes for basic obedience?  e.What if they pet has behavior issues?  Who  do they refer  puppy adopters to for FREE HELP?  Not every  behavior  issue is an obedience issue.  f. Also, do they  have the adopter sign a statement that they must return the  pup to the shelter/rescue if they can’t keep it, and not  pawn it off on Craigslist?

Of course, you can’t confuse some people with the facts.   One thing I do is volunteer as a court advocate for animals in the court system.  because, you see, it is  going to remain way too easy to get a  pet and abuse it for some time to come, and the do-gooders are so busy  getting all the pets out of shelters so they won’t be killed in the shelters….they are ignoring the fact that deranged people  sometimes adopt  pets and torture them.

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