Friday, April 8, 2011

Mythbusters - If dog breeders stopped breeding all our problems will be solved

This is a comment I see and hear often.  "All breeding should be outlawed until every shelter dog has a home."  There's a couple of significant flaws in this thinking.   I know that even though it may come from a  person with good intentions; they really haven't thought it through thoroughly.

First of all, this is America. I really don't think we want the government telling us when we can and can't breed dogs, or cats or any other domestic animals for that matter. I'm not talking about the licensing and regulation of commercial breeding facilities. I'm talking about the flawed thinking that all breeding should be banned.  There isn't enough money in the budget as it is; trying to enforce this type of law would make us all go broke. And what would the consequences be?  Take the animals away? Put the people in prison? Oh good, more animals and people for the government to care for.

So let's file that in the pile of bad ideas.

But the other argument is the one that truly upsets me because it is a myth. It is the argument that all breeders are irresponsible and if they were responsible they wouldn't be breeding more dogs.

There are many good dog breeders out there who are breeding healthy, sane, socialized dogs for people to love and enjoy; whether they buy them as companions, sports or working dogs. These dogs are the opposite of puppy mill and pet store dogs. Below is an excerpt from my testimony from the public hearing that was held for the Commercial Dog Breeders Bill that was passed in 2009 in Wisconsin.

I am a long time participant in competitive dog sports, mainly flyball, which is a team relay race for dogs. I also have trained and shown in agility. I feel that most dogs are happiest when they have a job, often related to their breed, whether it be herding sheep, playing competitive sports with their owner, or chasing chipmunks in the yard.

Dogs from mass production facilities lack the qualities that enable them to perform their breed specific jobs. They are poorly bred with poor conformation and health, and are often under -socialized. These dogs rarely live up to their full potential in life and often end up in the animal control facilities and shelters when owners can no longer deal with their behavior problems or afford their veterinary costs. This is a burden on the taxpayer whose tax dollars go to fund animal control services.

Licensing and regulating these cruel and inhumane mass breeding facilities will help level the playing field for the responsible breeders who produce sound, healthy dogs - willing and capable to be fully functioning canine members of the family.

Good dog breeders are part of the solution. Let's not ostracize them. Besides, have you recently researched how hard it is to adopt a dog that would be suitable for somebody that needed or wanted a small, non-terrier or non-shedding breed? They fly out the doors at many shelters. Especially if they are reasonably well-socialized and suitable for families with children.

There are more of these dogs in rescues than shelters, but many rescues don't adopt to senior citizens; families with small children or grandchildren; or homes without fenced yards. This immediately eliminates many condo and apartment residents.  I hope we all agree that we want people of all ages - the elderly and children included, to reap the benefits of pet ownership. Numerous studies have shown that there are significant physical and mental advantages to having a pet in your life. Here are a few taken from this Best Friends article:

• Blood pressure goes down when people interact with pets.
• Coronary heart-disease patients with pets have higher survival rates.
• Physical therapy patients with pets show improved balance, coordination, muscular strength, and language ability.
• Children with pets in the household have higher IQ scores.
• Preteens with pets show increased emotional reciprocity and sense of responsibility.
• Children with pets demonstrate increased ability to nurture and care for others.
• Young children with pets have an easier time interacting with their peers.
• Children exposed to two or more dogs or cats in infancy were half as likely to develop common allergies as children with no pets in the home.

So, if the small highly adoptable dogs aren't available from shelters or rescues, we really should be recommending a good breeder to discourage the trip to the pet store.

Well-known and respected animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, PhD of Madison, Wisconsin wrote an excellent  article for Bark magazine last summer entitled Well Bred that explained how dogs from good breeders rarely end up in the shelter.

Here is a quote from her article:
"Responsible breeders not only decrease the chance that a dog needs to be re-homed, they keep dogs out of shelters in the first place by following them throughout their lives and being willing to provide a home if one becomes necessary."

Saving Pets in Australia has also written some excellent blog posts on this subject.

And I loved this blog - "A breeder is a breeder is...well maybe not " from John Sibley when he said he was retiring his "Don't Breed or Buy While Homeless Pets Die" bumper sticker.

One last note: responsible breeders are on our side when it comes to breed specific legislation, mandatory spay neuter laws and pet limit laws.  They see the misguided thinking that is behind these laws as clearly as No Kill advocates. Plus, responsible kennel clubs push for the construction of more dog parks and off-leash areas to provide proper socialization opportunities for dogs.  So we really have a lot of similar principles.

It's time to join forces with responsible breeders, give them the pat on the back they deserve, and work towards our common goal of No More Homeless Pets.

Begin challenging your own assumptions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.
~Alan Alda


  1. Great blog Kathy. Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

  2. Very good start ... but something is missing. Big breed dogs. Labs, German Shepherds, Pits. I would love to see breeding levels slow down on these dog breeds because their progeny (usually mixed with other breeds) are what jam packs the shelters. You're right, the small breeds fly out the door. where I live it's Pits, Pits, Pits, and the rest is lab mixes. I wish the "good" breeders of these large breed dogs that have such huge litters could organize somehow to slow it all down. NOT to stop, NOT via law. But to slow. things. down.

  3. It's not responsible breeders of those dogs that should slow down, but increase their volume, until the irresponsible breeders have no margin.

    You'll never stop stupid or greedy people from doing stupid and greedy things. If good breeders breed less there are fewer good animals available, so mediocre animals are worth more, thereby encouraging bad behavior on the part of said stupid and/or greedy people.

  4. Dogs are being bought instead of adopted. No matter how you spin it, it is still contributing to the problem. That "well-bred," socialized dog also kills the chance of a shelter dog.

    1. AMEN! This article is missing so many important points. Such as the health problems breeders focus on by in-breeding their dogs. They care about one thing. How their dogs perform and look in a show ring and how it conforms to the breed's description. If it causes the dog to be in pain, so what right? You got your ribbon.

    2. I don't show dogs and only have Registered Schnauzers! I can assure you they aren't in pain nor are dogs being shown. Just a dumb statement. Many people have to have a dog that does not shed, for instance, and aren't going to go to the shelter to find it.

  5. Outlawing dog breeding alltoghether would only encourage purebred dogs being sold "underground" like alcohold during the days or prohibition, or like marajuana on the streets today. So outlawing dog breeding is definitely not the answer.

    The answer is to educate the public abou the best places to get a dog - shelters, rescue groups, and responsible breeders. If people know the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill, then they will make better choices and the puppy mills will no longer have a lucrative market.

  6. How about the idea that dogs (and other sentient beings) should not be property in the first place? That is not a "bad idea", and would render the whole breeding argument superfluous, as well as meat industry vs free range arguments. It's a notion that many intelligent people support, who *have* thought through the implications. And the arguments have nothing to do with your myths, because the myths and your answers both rest on the notion of animals as property.
    However of course, animals *are* property at this point, and anything else is vision, not current reality. Nonetheless if you accept the idea that many nonhuman animals (like dogs) are sentient and thus should not be owned by other sentient beings, the idea of breeding animals as pets becomes just as pernicious a notion as that of breeding animals for slaughter.

    Of course if you don't accept that notion, then you can argue til you're blue in the face over the proper *treatment* of your property animals.

  7. I agree with this. Rescuers and responsible breeders should be allies - or at least not enemies. But the breeder bashing makes some who breed dogs so defensive (who wants to be yelled at?) that they oppose puppy mill legislation. Why? Because they think it is aimed at them when it is not and the people who might tell them otherwise are not speaking to them.

    I am always shocked when the show dog people are against puppy mill bills. It is like the motorcycle crowd opposing helmet legislation for kids riding bicycles. They think they will be come for next . . . and yet you would think those who love the breed would be most opposed to mass breeding!

    People who breed show dogs are not going to stop, so bashing them is a waste of effort. It kind of reminds me when many of the 70's feminists alienated stay-at-home mothers. Again, these people should have worked together.

    I know a breeder who recently took back several elderly dogs. She was not elated to get them back, but that is what responsible breeders do. And yet one of the top funded rescues in the country has no retreat rights!

    So let's work on the problem of overcrowding together. Yes there are purebreds in shelters and many are from puppy mills as indicated by their health and behavior problems. In fact it is often why they are in a shelter!

    I also think many animals in shelters are lost, not dumped. And they can be purebreds or mutts - they are still loved and missed.

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  9. Great Blog! You've really got some conversation going on NKN on FB, too. Amazing how many people don't really get the basics, but say they support No Kill.
    Regarding the comments here about the large breed dogs, I had a thought to share. I'm not sure that the problem is too many of them, so much as it is that people are not comfortable bringing home a larger breed when it is an adult. The simple truth is that the larger and stronger the mouth is, the more of a concern it is, particularly you haven't raised and trained the dog yourself. I have to imagine this is an even greater concern if you have other pets in the house, and they are smaller animals. A scenario to imagine is that if you already have a cat, and you bring home a toy poodle mix who doesn't like cats. You'll end up with an annoyed cat, and a poodle w/ a sore nose who has learned to stay away from the cat. If you bring home a larger breed, though, you may well not have a cat for long, so people who want a large dog would be more inclined to get a pup, and socialize it w/ the cat (or small dog, or child, whatever the situation is)from an early age. This is probably also a big concern for rescues, who have dogs transported from far away. They need to place the dogs w/ fosters, and fosters are almost certainly easier to find for small dogs, for the same reasons.
    I think the best way to help the larger breeds is probably to focus on efforts to help people keep their pets. Offering training, help w/ food costs in short term difficult financial situations, etc. Volunteers who could help repair fences would probably be a great help, too, since many of these dogs aren't really willingly surrendered. Often the dogs end up in the shelter because they keep getting loose, and the owners can't afford the fines, so they end up surrendering the dogs, even though they love them, and would like to keep them.

  10. as a RESPONSIBLE breeder, I have to say I thought this was a great article. There are a few of us out there! If people banded together to eliminate the puppy mills, the puppies in pet stores, if the rescue groups would allow seniors and families with small children, or the ones that live in that apartment complex that only allows small dogs to adopt them, there would be fewer in the shelters and rescue groups. The problem isn't the responsible breeders. The problem is the animals that are in a puppy mill situation, or even some of the rescue groups that won't allow them to be adopted only to the childless couple that just so happens to have their own house with a fenced in yard that being a childless couple, they dont need. Or the seniors that live in a mobile home park where there is plenty of room to take the dog for a walk, but certainly no room for a fence, who are in need of a companion. If these dogs came from a responsible breeder they would never hit a shelter or a rescue. There would be one stop in their life, their forever family. And IF for whatever reason they had to be let go they would return to the breeder. Whether it be permanently or just a stop over until the right family could be found for them. A shelter would never enter into the equation here. I am completely supportive of puppy mill legislation. If people don't buy a dog or a puppy from a pet store or a puppy mill breeder, the puppy mills will vanish and be nothing but a bad memory. and as for the "sentient beings" comment..... really? you'd like them to all run free in the world? And that would solve what exactly? other than there being an abundance of animals running free breeding whenever they choose and over running any possible food sources they may have and becoming an even bigger problem than the shelter dogs. canines and other domesticated animals have been that way for centuries. Move on. and that is all i've got. i'm done now. :)

  11. Really great Topic and thanks a lot for shared about this topic.......