I’m fairly involved in internet forums. I lurk several, post on a couple, and am active almost daily on one. Ranging from parenting to fertility, to dogs… it’s just nice to be able to converse with like-minded people. On any forum, there are “hot topics” that without a doubt will get heated.
You know how they go, someone posts a question/ opinion that everyone knows is a huge can of worms, generally followed by a few posts something to the effect of “Here we go again!” or “this will be good….” And without fail, someone will post the little popcorn smiley. You know, that little guy that is a simple unspoken "I'm just going to sit here and watch this one unfold."
Breeding ethics are absolutely one of those topics. It's also one of those topics that I have incredibly strong educated opinions on. Other people do too. Most of them are wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Wrong. And when these topics come up, out crawl the anti-breeders....
"Breeders are to blame for the pet overpopulation epidemic!"
This is annoying. Mostly because it's wrong. The overpopulation epidemic is because of stupid people, now granted some breeders ARE stupid people. The first problem is that dogs are over bred. Puppy mills all over the place churn out hundreds and hundreds of puppies per year, which the peddle off on various online websites, or sell to pet stores. (we will get to that topic soon. Actually, it might need its own post...) Also, idiot pet owners will throw two dogs together, often times of different breeds, without health testing, genetic history for the sole purpose of making money on them. They generally have no idea how to properly care for a pregnant bitch, whelp a litter, or the proper care of a litter of newborns. The puppies are often times unvaccinated, full or worms, or plagued with skin issues like mange, and sold far too young. But, what makes these kinds of operations so "successful" in the area of money? There's a market for it. Hundreds of uneducated people BUY these dogs. Almost always sight-unseen, without seeing the parents, without asking or being asked many (if any) questions. AND without even thinking about the most important thing: "Are the parents health tested?" Sometimes these puppy buyers mean well, and these kinds of operations have gotten really good at putting on a fantastic front and playing on the general public's lack of knowledge, and the first one with cash takes the puppy and the communication and contact ends there.
GOOD breeders health test. They put thought into their breedings. They don't produce a bajillion litters per year. Not every single good breeder is on the same page, but they educate themselves, their buyers, and they care. More importantly, they care where their puppies end up. They ask you questions, they expect you to ask them questions, and they'll always take a puppy back before it ever ends up in a shelter.
If people would EDUCATE THEMSELVES more on pet ownership, and what breed of dog is right for them, and knew what to look for in a breeder, all the shady operations that peddle puppies off with only their wallets in mind would loose their market. The answer isn't in stopping breeding, it's in being educated and knowing exactly WHAT kinds of ethics and practices you're supporting when you hand someone cash in exchange for a new pet.
"All breeding should stop until there are no more dogs in shelters"
This is dumb. Mostly because it's wrong. Too many years, and existing dogs will be past their breeding prime, when it's healthiest and most ethical to allow reproduction. That means no more purebred dogs. That's really freaking dumb.
"Purebred dogs don't matter, all dogs are the same and having different breeds is damaging to dogs as a whole."
This is dumb. Mostly because it's wrong. Purebred dogs exist for a reason, and it's important. While it's true most dogs are purchased as companion only, there are hundreds of thousands of animals that do important jobs every single day. Hunting. Police work. Search and Rescue. Tracking. Weight Pulling. Therapy. Guide. And of course there's the various sporting activities that many pet owners enjoy doing with their dogs. Agility. Flyball. Obedience. Dock Diving. Agility. Rally-O. Take all of those activities away (which would be a tragedy to begin with) and take into account that everyone's lifestyles are different and dogs are simply NOT a one-size-fits-all commodity. A Boxer, for example, needs extensive exercise or they can become depressed, destructive, and an overall menace, but in the right home that fits their needs are amazing dogs. Border Collies are brilliantly intelligent, and if need mental stimulation to be mentally sound. Every breed is different, and every family, home, and lifestyle is a little bit different. That's not a mistake. The right dog should fit your family like a glove and provide many years of happiness. The wrong dog will make your life Hell. Many people obtain animals that are entirely wrong for their lifestyle, which ultimately ends up in necessary surrender of the animal, thus perpetuating the overcrowding issue in shelters. This goes back to why GOOD breeders make sure the homes in which their puppies go to are educated on the breed and it's requirements, and that they understand what owning the breed entails, rather than sending off a pup to the highest bidder.
"There should be strict laws and hefty licensing fees implemented for all breeders!"
This is dumb. Mostly because it's wrong. (notice a trend?) SO far, there have been several different things proposed that are supposed to put more restraints on breeders, and deter every Tom, Dick, and Harry from shacking up their two dogs to make a buck. They include things like:
Specifications on how large kennels must be.
This sounds great in theory, right? Wrong.
While these things might alleviate situations that are truly bad, they also make it impossible for small "hobby" breeders (I use this term for lack of a better one) that are not making a ton of money.
For one, insane licensing fees and permits are not going to be doable for small time breeders who aren't in fact doing it for money, because they won't be able to afford to. While I can strongly agree that if someone is breeding to make a living, they are doing it wrong because it is most certainly a labor of love, they also shouldn't have to go into extreme debt just to preserve whatever their breed of passion is. GOOD breeders don't have money to pay for such things, unless they happen to be really wealthy outside of breeding. Like they're married to a rocket scientist or something. Same logic applies to puppy taxes. Kennel specifications only promote kennel-type living in the first place, and for good breeders, their dogs don't live in cages in the first place, so why have them?
But the big operations? Oh they can fork over thousands in fees, permits, etc. and still line their pockets in cash. It doesn't stop them.
The point is that there is yet to be anything proposed that works in favor of ethical breeders, and against millers. Sad, but true.
Many other things are said on online forums and otherwise that are simply the product of the anti-breeder. I am a strong advocate of animal rescue, and adopting out of shelters, but the reality is that's just not the right choice for every family and not every pet owner is up to the challenge of taking on a total wild card dog. At least when you buy from an ethical, good breeder you for the most part know what you're getting into, and when issues arise, you have breeder support: someone who knows what they're doing, who knows the breed, and can help you. Your relationship with your breeder shouldn't have to end at the time of sale.
If you want to know where your pet came from...
If you want the comfort of health tested parents....
If you want predictability from your new pet....
If you want to have breeder support when questions arise....
If you know what you're looking for in a pet....
Please, educate yourself and seek out an ethical breeder. If some of these things are negotiable for you, look at rescues and shelters where there are hundreds of awesome animals looking for forever homes.
But people, there is never, EVER, a reason to purchase from or support the practice of puppy mills through buying from pet stores, or money-greedy breeders perpetuating the overpopulation problem. You are truly doing a disservice to the animals when you do, and setting yourself up for many vet bills later.
Because when you hand over that money, and take home a warm, cuddly, happy new puppy, you are supporting: