The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

25Feb/1110

The Selfish Immorality of Dog Breeding (buyers & sellers)

Gizmo, RIPWith over four million dogs killed in American shelters every year, the bill of sale that comes with a kennel bought dog serves dual purpose as another dog's death warrant. There is an adequate supply of dogs, why then do consumers keep demanding more? Dogs are not a commodity, or at least they shouldn't be treated as one. A surplus of dogs cannot be stored, repurposed, or recycled; and they should not be thrown away, but they all too often are. Until and unless the senseless euthanization of homeless dogs is ended, we have no right to "produce" more than is needed.

Convincing the American public to participate in this reduction of supply has proven no easy task. People still buy dogs from breeders (and though it's beyond the scope of this article, they continue to choose not to neuter and spay their dogs). And so the question must be asked, why do people buy dogs from breeders when there are so many in need of adoption? The reasons appear to boil down to purchasers wanting a:

  • Dog of a specific breed
  • Kennel club registered dog of a specific breed
  • Puppy of a specific breed
  • Puppy (of any breed)
  • Dog whose interaction history is known (for safety reasons)
  • Dog whose genetic lineage is known (for health reasons)

And beyond people with these motivations there are no doubt many who are willfully ignorant of the scope of this horror, and have simply never considered adoption; they purchase their new warrantied TV from Best Buy, why wouldn't they purchase their new warrantied dog from a pet store.

Let's examine these issues in some slight detail, because many of them are in fact non-issues, merely an ignorance about what's available and meaningful. The remaining issues may not be satisfiable with a shelter dog, but neither can they justify the monstrous toll their satisfaction requires.

First let's eliminate the non-issues. About 25% of shelter dogs are pure breds, and if someone is looking for a rare breed not commonly found in a shelter there are dedicated breed specific rescue organizations eager to adopt out their clan. If someone wants a puppy of a specific (especially uncommon) breed (registered or not) then admittedly there can be serious supply problems. Shelters have no end of beautiful puppies available for adoption, many of them pure bred, but a pure bred puppy of a less common breed may be very hard or impossible to find. The fact is most dogs are abandoned as adults and thus there will always be a glut of adult dogs needing adoption. Insisting on a puppy of a pure line (registered or not), especially insisting on an acquisition time line of "now", forces a potential dog owner down the path of buying from a breeder. How many times I've heard this lousy excuse proffered along the lines of, "I wanted to get my boxer from a rescue group, but none of them had the pure bred puppy I was looking for in time for Christmas." Unwilling to wait for one to possibly become available, unwilling to bend on the puppy requirement, they give their many hundreds of dollars to a breeder and ensure that the professional or hobby breeder will go on satisfying the sick demand, quietly demanding the destruction of the mixed race and mixed age excess left in the shelters. Health and safety issues unrelated to breed preference are rendered moot by the facts that blank slate puppies of pure or mixed race are readily available; if health is a primary concern one would likely be better steering clear of the overly narrowed genes of pure lines and stick to mutts.

The only desires on this list which can't be reliably or adequately satisfied with adoptable dogs are the desires for a puppy of a rare breed or a puppy with a particular registered pedigree. And to those who insist upon these things I would simply say, "Tough." Life is about choices, and accepting limitations which are in our collective best interest. One may want a pure bred registered puppy. That's a fine thing to want. We humans want so many things, and there's nothing wrong with the wanting. But I am terribly sorry, the vast majority of you cannot see that particular desire satisfied. We humans continue to learn over the course of our long evolution that we cannot satisfy certain desires. Our freedoms end where others' freedoms begin. And we have been very successful in pulling ourselves up from our baser bootstraps; despite our desires we have learned to largely stop enslaving other people, raping our women folk, and stealing other people's land and property. Surely we can afford to recognize that animals deserve more than senseless euthanization. And the few who refuse to recognize that animals deserve something better can probably at least recognize there must be better ways to see their tax dollars spent than funding a potentially largely superfluous shelter system.

Our humanity requires us to do better than we are doing, requires us to curb our selfish belief that we have an inalienable right to have exactly what we want despite the monstrous cost. We must adopt our dogs rather than buy them from breeders or proxy pet stores. We must spay and neuter our pets to ensure we don't negligently help them contribute to their own problem. In the time it took you to read this article 46 dogs in America were euthanized because we have thus far failed to do enough.

^ Quinxy

Comments (10) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Absolutely AMAZING. Thank you so much for writing this incredible article. I wholeheartedly agree. My husband and I live in Nicaragua and we are horrified with the way strays are treated as “second class dogs” on a daily basis. Every wealthy Nicaraguan owns a bred dog while they throw rocks at strays (who are, by the way, much better dogs to own since they have stronger immunity, more grateful, etc.) My husband, Evan Bliss, is a well-known Billboard winning singer/songwriter from DC. He and I rescued a starving dog from the street in Nicaragua and she is the most precious gift to our family. Our rescue, Tila, inspired Evan to write a song and video called “Sweet Dog” dedicated to rescuing stray dogs in the impoverished world where shelter systems often do not exist. The idea was to show people what amazing and loyal pets these dogs can make if given a chance. I can’t tell you how difficult it has been lately at work as a colleague of mine decided to breed her long-haired Golden Retriever in the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Disgusting and so irresponsible. Anyways – thanks again and check out “Sweet Dog” by Evan Bliss on youtube if you can! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZuST0aW9a0

  2. To those that really care for animals,
    I’m am one of the very few that adopted the next dog I saw rather than finding the perfect one on craigslist. My friends all with huskies, yorkies, and pitbulls look at my dog with total disgust. As much as they love their dogs, deep down inside they are selfish people that use their animals as accessories and status symbols. I have a pure white dog with many mix breeds. I like how the vet put him under terrier X. I think with his mix breeds, he became highly adaptable to hot and cold weather. When I brought him to a dog park, I was proud to say he was the most unique dog out there. I remember a kid came by, looked at all the dogs playing, and stared directly at my dog in the group. The kid said “what’s that dog over their?” I came up to him and said “I don’t even know.” All the dogs were pure bred or specific mutts at the park. My life as a child, all I wanted was a dog. When I look into this generation of people, all I hear in disgust is I want a beagle, husky, pit-bull, etc.

  3. Thank you for writing this piece. You have said what so many of us feel on this subject. I just lost a friend today, over her purchase of a puppy from a “good breeder”. I am active in animal rights and welfare work and not one to stay silent on the issue of buying vs. adopting. I told my friend that I was happy for her and glad that the puppy filled her emotional needs, but that I hoped she wouldn’t represent her decision as a good one or encourage anyone else to do as she did. I was told in return that my position on breeding was just my “opinion”, a classic dismissal. So, I think less of her now. Sad as that is, I would rather lose a friend than remain silent on this issue. Silence has helped inhumane acts to continue throughout history, from the fires of The Inquisition, to the Holocaust, to Racism. Now it’s time to speak out, as you have done, on behalf of animals. Someday, our cruelty to them and even raising them for profit will be seen as atrocities too.

  4. Roberta, I applaud your convictions. I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your friend, and hope you don’t lose her as a friend. I can’t help but feel that your presence and your subtle daily influence would do more to bring her into a larger awareness than your largely cutting her off. As she is already your friend I have to assume she has a lot of qualities you appreciate, and I’ve got to assume she will love and take excellent care of the dog she purchased. And those things should not be lightly dismissed. While I agree she could have made a better decision, perhaps you can forgive her this willful ignorance. You can only be a beacon and role model to others if they are allowed to know you.

  5. Some good points, but also some oversimplification of a complicated subject. I volunteered at a shelter for nine years and learned that mutts aren’t always healthier than puebreds, so you can’t make that generalization. As well, it doesn’t help to demonize people who have purebreds, as though they’re all the same. I tried for quite a while to find a shelter dog that my daughter could live with, because she’s quite timid, scared of large breeds, and very anxious about sharp noises like barking. (My daughter has special needs.) We had no luck, and I looked for a long time. I finally did my research and determined a whippet would be a good breed for my daughter because of their reliably gentle temperament, very sound health, and tendency not to bark. We went to meet some whippets and my daughter reacted very well to them. I applied to the national whippet rescue, but I’ve waited a year to adopt and none have become available. So, I’ve decided to get a dog from a reputable breeder instead. (Which means another five month wait, so clearly I’m not rushing things.) If more people did their research like me, spayed/neutered their dogs, and committed to keep their dog for its lifetime no matter what the circumstances, you wouldn’t have all these shelter dogs. I intend to stick with my dog through thick and thin, and will consider it a family member. If all pet owners were like that, our shelters would be empty. So, instead if demonizing an entire group of pet owners, you’d be better off singling out the ones that create the problem. We’re not all status-seeking jerks.

  6. Cheryl

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    You sound like a lovely person, and I applaud your volunteering at a shelter for nine years. I would never dare to find fault with anything you (in particular) do. You clearly love and care for animals, and I am certain that you make the universe of animals better for your having lived on this Earth and cared for them.

    A few specific responses, not meant as arguments, simply as an opportunity to re-explore my position.

    I am not against pure bred dogs. I was simply suggesting to those who didn’t know, that if one likes pure bred dogs there are many to be had at shelters (25% of shelter dogs being pure of breed) and many others to be had from breed specific rescue groups.

    While I do mention that mixes are statistically healthier than pure breds (which I believe is fairly well established), I was not trying to imply that owning a mutt guarantees anything health wise. I’ve never had a dog yet that didn’t need significant medical help at some point in its life, pure bred or mutt.

    Separate from that, but part of my concern about the concept of breeding, of trying to manipulate the genes of dogs towards some human ends, the reality is of course that breeding has created many monstrous health issues for dogs. Dogs descend from wolves. Wolves have an average lifespan (in captivity) of 13 years, so it’s no surprise that the lifespan across all large breed dogs is about this same number, 13 years. So I think it’s fair to say that creating or perpetuating a breed which is significantly below this average is selfish. It requires a human thinking, “My desire for a dog with a particular look or nature is more important than the dog’s right to its full share of years on Earth.” Consider some of the dog breeds with the shortest average life spans: Irish Wolf Hound 6.2 years, Bull Dog 6.7 years, Bernese Mountain Dog 7.0 years. Those dogs have almost half the lifespan of the dogs (and wolves) from whom they are descended. That seems to me like a monstrously horrible thing to do, to gradually over many decades craft an animal with a shorter and shorter lifespan just because you want it to possess certain qualities that nature is doing its best to insist should not be possessed by a dog. Now, is it wrong to adopt an already extant bulldog you find at a shelter that was otherwise going to be euthanized? Of course not, doing so would be a wonderful thing to do. Is it wrong to buy a bulldog, thus perpetuating the market for animals robbed of half their potential lifespan? I would strenuously argue yes, it is wrong. (But I’ll be the first to admit that my argument wouldn’t convince a single bulldog fancier.)

    So, I do not believe you are a status seeking jerk. And I do not mean to suggest those who buy pure bred dogs are. I think most people don’t even think about the issue as an issue, let alone a moral one, which is partly what motivated me to write. Some people who do may be status seeking jerks, many just want what they want and not care what tangential impact that might have, and then others may simply do the math differently than I do and come up with a different answer.

    Q

  7. A very thoughtful response, Q. I agree about overbred dogs being a cruelty. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels immediately come to mind — bred for a look without thought given to the dog’s actual quality of life. It’s mind boggling. You and I likely have similar opinions on many of these issues. Take care.

  8. Quinxy, thank you so much for sharing your perspective on dog breeding. I completely agree. It’s true, dog breeding is based largely on selfishness, but the problem with the entire issue is this: I don’t think dog breeders realize just how selfish they’re being! They and their buyers fall in love with a certain breed, and they can’t imagine living life without that particular kind of dog. If only they realized the beauty of having a shelter dog or puppy, whether purebred or not! True, a mixed breed is something of a mystery and it’s impossible to know what to expect, but I believe our lives are made that much richer with every different personality that comes into them. Not only that, but overbreeding has become a severe problem – there isn’t a single breed that isn’t prone to hip dysplasia, for instance, and some of the health issues are so horrible I don’t even want to discuss them. We have done a severe disservice to a creature that is supposed to be our best friend, and I feel the time has come to correct this tragedy.

  9. Michelle, you make the case very well. And I certainly agree, most dog breeders and dog buyers are probably lovely people who absolutely love dogs. We humans can be incredibly myopic, and even the kindest and most well intentioned among us can do horrible things without even being aware of it.

    It’s a bit of a tangent, but I think of my grandparents and my great-grand parents and how they surely believed they (in their eras) treated people of color “well”. But of course their version of “well” could only be monstrous by today’s standards, because their version of well didn’t include the most basic element: treating people of color as equals. But were my relatives evil or bad people? It’d be easy to say yes, but if we go that route then we indict pretty much every single human of every race and religion that’s ever come before, nearly all were guilty of currently unconscionable acts (e.g., racism, sexism, xenophobia, antisemitism, big game hunting, abuse of the land, slaughter of native peoples, men taking sexual advantage over women, etc.). And no doubt people like you and I may think how enlightened we are today, and how we’ve finally all got it figured out and we’re just marvelous people, but I’m sure future generations will have no trouble pointing out all our heinous but currently invisible sins. So, I try not to be too hard on anyone, least of all anyone who genuinely loves dogs. But I do hope we can shift everyone’s awareness such that more dogs are happy and fewer dogs suffer, which should be a goal we can all get behind.

  10. No need to reinvent the wheel. Just do what the countries without a serious stray problem have done (the HAD a problem until they did this).

    Ban pet shops from selling animals. Simple as that.

    When people have to go to a breeder to by a dog, you imediately elliminate the “spare of the moment buy”, which is a HUGE part of the problem (many people didn’t even really want the puppy, or the gift of a puppy).

    When people have to go to the breeder’s, many of the hideous puppy-mills will just shut down. Who would pay for a pup after seeing the place? And who would let any prospective buyer see the place? Sure they could move the puppies inside a house just for the day of sale but that isn’t so easy when you’ve got dozens of pupps and buyers, like puppymillers have today (because they sell to petshops!).

    Many people will NOT get a dog, if forced to go to the breeder. Chances are that they may meet an ethical one (these chances are much higher when petshop pups are out of the picture) who will inform them of the DISadvantages of owning such a dog, or help them to decide to wait until their toddler grows up a little.

    Many people will not be able to afford a dog from a registerd breeder and thus will consider a shelter dog.
    Sure dumb backyard breeders will always breed dogs (even in Germany and Scandinavia) but it is obvious that they were never really the problem. In every country where the selling of dogs and cats in petshops was outlawed, the stray population dropped dramatically in just a couple of years.


Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.