Letter to the Editor: The Problem with Breeders

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I just mailed the following letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer as a response to an article titled “Aid pours in for dogs rescued from kennel:”

I’m writing in response to the “Aid pours in for dogs rescued from kennel” article that ran on February 24th, 2006.

It’s touching to see that so much aid and support has poured in for the dogs rescued from an allegedly abusive and neglectful breeder. I’m thankful there are so many people willing to help companion animals in need.

However, I was disheartened to see that the article also featured a list of ways to “Pick a Good Breeder.” Much more appropriate would have been a list of “Reasons to Adopt Rather than Buy from a Breeder,” especially considering the nature of the piece.

Every year, millions of dogs in the United States are killed because there simply aren’t enough people to care for them or enough room in shelters to house them. Often, strays and lost dogs are picked up, kept at a shelter for seven days, and if no one claims them, they are killed to make room for more animals.

Surely, there are good and ethical breeders, but because of the sheer number of surplus dogs that are killed, there is simply no justification for purchasing from a breeder or, even worse, a pet store. If someone is looking to bring a companion animal into their lives, they should adopt from a shelter or rescue organization. Petfinder.com can help in the search for a specific breed, if that’s an important consideration.

Perhaps when the pet population comes under control, buying from breeders will be an ethical choice. But for now, it’s vitally important we save the animals that most need our help.

Ryan MacMichael

20 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: The Problem with Breeders”

  1. shananigans

    Thanks for writing that. It infuriates me sometimes that the media, even when meaning well, can still be so misguided when it comes to reporting and giving information on companion animals. Considering where most people get their information about such things, itís no wonder we have such a pet overpopulation problem.

  2. Leigh

    What a great letter, Ryan. It’s so sad that people actually need to be reminded of this, but very important.

  3. Karen

    NICELY DONE!!!

    thank you for being “the voice” where it’s needed

  4. Eve

    That was a great letter you sent! One of my relatives bought her dog from a breeder in Germany and now she wants to breed her own dog and sell the puppies. I told her if she truly loves dogs, she wouldn’t purposely bring more dogs into the world, when there are so many already in shelters who need homes.

  5. webhill

    Bear in mind I did not read the Inky’s article… I have a comment on your letter, though. I’m a small animal veterinarian who practices in the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan Area ™. I believe there are valid reasons to preserve many of the diverse and wonderful dog breeds we currently have on our planet. I would hate to see all those wonderfully different dog families lost forever, which would happen if we got rid of all of the breeders.

    Certainly, I promote adoption – I volunteer to the SPCA and do bitch spays for free, even. But I do not, can not, promote doing away with all dog breeders. No more Golden Retrievers? No more Labs? No more Coonhounds? Kill me now, I can’t bear the thought.

    Pet stores are right out. Forget them. The “breeders” aka puppy mills in Lancaster Cty – also forget them. But a good breeder, who uses controlled breedings to produce excellent genetic specimens who are healthy and good representatives of the breed – absolutely. Yes. Bear in mind that these people almost always also have adoption clauses in their puppy purchase contracts, specifying that the breeder must be given “right of first refusal” before any future transfer of ownership of the dog. These breeder-bred dogs are NOT ending up in shelters, or on the street, unless some kind of foul play or tragedy is involved, generally speaking.

    Just FYI.

  6. jimmy

    great letter ryan. as for the comment above by the vet… not so much.

  7. Marcy

    first off to the vet’s comment: while i repsect that it was a thoughtful comment and nothing knee-jerk, it still doesn’t address that everyone adopting bred puppies = one less home for a rescued mutt = one more dog left to die on the streets or by human hand (being ‘put down’, as the odd euphemism goes…sounds more like teasing someone badly than murdering them) = a dog’s death (or several) one their hands.

    everything in this cycle is interconnected and many people don’t want to see that because then their responsibility in perpetuating it would make them feel guilty enough to maybe do something about it.

    needless to say, the same goes for cats and other pets. i have my hands full with several cats in a feral cat colony near me, as well as cats i’d adopted in past (rescued by others), and some feral kittens i was able to rescue from the urban cat colony nearby…in a bad neighborhood that makes trapping difficult and is not at all good to street animals, i might add. i have 4 cats of my own, of which 2 were feral, several of them from the street. i’m also fostering 2 more feral kittens…hence all the food, boarding and vet expenses. 6 cats indoors, in an apartment, on my own, no one else’s help. plus the cats outside i’m still trying to deal with.

    and then i see people only wanting non-feral, perfect, they-raise-them-from-birth cats from a pet store or from someone who’s irresponsibly let their cats breed for the hell of it. it’s not fair, and it’s not right. there are lives hanging in the balance, and folks just don’t care enough to stop it. because it’s on them to do so, they can’t just sign a petition or cut out some food items. it’s real commitment, to take on rescuing & rescued pets, and make sure others around you do the same. and to make less extra pets in the first place. it changes the world, and most people would rather *talk* about changing the world when all is said and done then roll up their sleeves, and muck out some real change.

    sorry to rant for so long, but i was really struck by your letter (so much so i linked to it on my LJ) and it brought up a lot of similar sadness and anger in me, like what you touched on.

    i’ll just add that i do also love dogs, and that i recently attended a fundraiser & donated to a local greyhound rescue org ( http://www.greyhoundfriendsnj.org/ ) held in my town, jersey city. they were the most lovely doggies, so cuddly, so grateful to have anything different from that horrible life spent in a crate. i want to adopt a (rescued) dog once i adopt out the foster cats and therefore am able to move to a better nieghborhood and a better place for dogs, and am very much keeping this org in mind as they do great work. so i just wanted to plug them to anyone interested in dogs in the tri-state area…they place very specifically, for ex. cat & kid friendly status, and have the most graceful and charming dogs. furthermore, greyhounds are suprisingly enough couch potatoes most of the time, and adapt well to apartments. plus, if they don’t get rescued and placed by an org like this, they end up getting murdered at a young age because they’re no longer ‘profitable’. and everybody willing to buy from a breeder or a store should know that and be ashamed that they would help innocent animals be killed, just for a superficial preference.

  8. Ryan

    I can see where webhill is coming from, but the fact is, breeders won’t go away completely as much as we want them to and unfortunately, there are always going to be people that insist on buying from them.

    However, it’s the responsibility of everyone that knows the fate of most shelter animals to spread the word and make people aware of the situation. I think that most people are going to be open to adopting from a shelter or a rescue, particularly since good organizations often do very thorough temperment testing, so you’re more likely to find an animal with a temperment that you can handle than if you buy a breeder/pet store puppy whose personality hasn’t fully developed yet.

    Fact is, on an individual level there are a hundred reasons to adopt and no truly compelling arguments for choosing a breeder instead.

  9. Wendy

    I doubt that the people who claim they are vets are really vets at all. I’m sorry if you really are, but it’s hard to believe that a veternarian wouldn’t completely support the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats across the nations.

    I wish it would be a law. People claim they want their dogs and cats to have puppies and kittens because they want to experience it and it would be good for their children. Now…this female dog is going through a LOT of pain in giving birth to these babies just so the owner can learn a few types. Well, that’s downright wrong. And this type of action taken in front of toddlers is sure to influence them that it is a good thing for everyone, so they will also be encouraged to do so when older. It is a terrible thing, breeding, and I wish those selfish breeders, no matter how loving (if they were truly loving, they wouldn’t make their pets do this anyways) they are, would STOP.

    For every dog and cat that is born in a breeder’s care, three dogs and four cats are put to sleep in shelters. This is an accurate approximation by the ASPCA and PETA. Please, PLEASE don’t make your pet have babies. It is simply not right to anyone.

    I AM IN SUPPORT OF SHELTERS AND AGAINST ALL BREEDERS!!!

  10. Ryan

    I’m sorry if you really are, but it’s hard to believe that a veternarian wouldn’t completely support the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats across the nations.

    In fairness, the vet didn’t say that. She said she didn’t like the idea of all breeders going away. That’s not the same as being against spaying and neutering.

    It is a terrible thing, breeding, and I wish those selfish breeders, no matter how loving (if they were truly loving, they wouldn’t make their pets do this anyways) they are, would STOP.

    I’d like to take an optimistic view here and say that not all breeders are selfish and that they really just haven’t thought through what they do and the consequences of it. I’d be interested in hearing from some breeders — either ones who agree with me and decided to stop breeding or ones who are in support of it. If you’re out there, speak up.

    However, Wendy, I do agree with the general sentiment of your post.

  11. shananigans

    FYI: http://www.NoPuppyMills.com is a great resource for information on this topic and the forum is full of knowledgeable people who are dedicated to animal welfare and education. It’s the first place I go whenever I have a dog-related question or concern.

  12. Wendy

    Thank you for the kind arguements, Ryan. I guess I wasn’t being specific enough, because I was in kind of a stressed out moment. Well, when the “vet” said that she couldn’t bare the thought of losing a breed of dog because there were no breeders. I agree, losing a breed of man’s best friend would be horrible, but at the state of which we are now, that will not happen for decades. There are plenty of the majority of dogs out there in shelters all across the world. I feel that we should only be concerned about the welfare of a particular breed when the numbers decrease. Many pure bred dogs are in shelters, and there is no need to bring more into the world if we already have plenty.

    I also think that we must sacrifice a breed or two to save hundreds or perhaprs million’s of dogs’ lives. Even if a rare breed of dog is on the verge of disappearing, we cannot make more of those dogs simple because they are about to disappear. That is unfair to the millions of dogs in shelters. We should judge a dog by its character and not its breed. If we did judge by breed, all dogs with a common pedigree would be at a great disadvantage. It’s just like people: Judge not by the color of their skin, but the character of their hearts”.

    I am also in FULL support of all animals. I strongly support the idea of helping the world’s sharks, fish, alligators, snakes, and so on. I am a proud vegetarian. My decision has helped save lives. Please join us.

    PS: SHARKS RULE. People, on the other hand, do not.

  13. Ryan

    … Many pure bred dogs are in shelters, and there is no need to bring more into the world if we already have plenty.

    Well said.

  14. Shelly

    Thank you, Ryan, for a very well-written letter. I do, however, have to agree with the vet that the thought of not having any more retrievers or labs or collies in the world is a very sad thought. Some breeds are simply too special to do without. And having known quite a few ‘breeders’ over the years, I have to say that I know for certain that a ‘reputable’ breeder is really more of a mother hen than a money grubber. My family got both of their goldens from the same woman, and both dogs were from the came bitch and sire, years apart. The ‘breeder’ actually lived with six dogs, and if they reproduced, she’d sell the puppies, and if they didn’t, well, them’s the breaks. She never forced any of them into anything, and the puppies were not allowed off her property until they were at least four months old, which is fairly old for a puppy adoption. (When we got Buffy…Brandy Wine’s Best, actually, she was almost two years old, and when we got Kaney, or Lady Jane Koehne, she was over a year old.)

    I knew a Yorkie breeder in college who, upon discovering that two of her bitches had a congential deformity, had them altered and refused to give them up. Those gals are still with her today, and follow her everywhere. She refused to pass along a bad gene or let her gals give birth to pups that would have problems later on, but she also did not abandon her companions.

    I also met a breeder (and I use the term loosely here) who forced animals that were not ready to re-breed into producing more litters, drowned animals that were not perfect, and tried to hide deformities in others. The dog we currently live with, Webber Wetherby, is one of those ‘mistakes.’ Webber was born with too many toes and a white patch on his chest (unacceptable for a black lab) and was literally dumped on a freeway on-ramp by this guy. Fortunately we were able to intercede on Webber’s behalf. I can’t imagine life without him.

    So there are the good and the bad. I have had a few animal companions from breeders, but most of my furry friends have come off of the streets.To be honest…I wish they had all come from the streets. BUT…I’m not willing to say we should shut down breeders, either.

  15. bun

    I think it’s important to note that the traits present in individual breeds are traits that are inherent to dogs as a species. Because “breeds” were created out of selective breeding for naturally occuring traits, dogs that were not pedigreed will still posess those traits. The traits that someone may like about labradors (and, I would argue that those traits were probably more associated with a particular *dog* and not a breed) would still be present should breeding cease as a practice. They may not be bundled as neatly, but one would still be able to find small dogs, barky Breeding animals in the face of overpopulation is cruelty. Animals are individuals, not breeds.

  16. webhill

    I am back to this discussion a year later because I randomly happened across it. I absolutely am a veterinarian – and I absolutely have done plenty of spay surgeries at the local SPCA, as I stated in my original post, so I really don’t understand why one would suggest that I am in any way against neutering animals.

    Sacrificing a breed or two will NOT save animal’s lives on a one-to-one basis, either. Plenty of folks just will not have an animal at all. For example, if someone told me I could not have a Norwegian Forest Cat – fine. I don’t need to have a cat at all. I happen to have allergies to most breeds of cat, including the “mutt cats” commonly called DSH or moggy cats. The NFC is the only one I can tolerate in my bed at night, so that’s the one I want. Similarly a very close friend of mine is crazy over Bulldogs, and has had nine of them in her life — but she really isn’t that into other types of dogs at all. She would rather have no dog than a not-a-Bulldog dog. Me, I’d take any dog, I love all kinds of dogs… but the point is not everyone has the same feelings.

    What kind of loser would go around pretending to be a veterinarian on some blog forum, anyway? I feel all dirty just thinking that someone thought that of me.

    Oh, also: I have some clients who are breeders. A couple of them are scary and I hate them. A couple of them are fabulous and I love them – you know – the ones who breed ONLY enough to satisfy their pre-orders, who breed ONLY fabulous genetic specimens to promote health and good temperament in the breed, the ones who have a “return-to-breeder” clause in their contract of sale that lasts the life of the animal. Most are somewhere in between of course. If we could just get rid of all the imperfect ones…

  17. cannibal vegetarian

    I have mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand, I agree with most of the anti-breeding arguments that have been put forth here. On the other hand, I don’t think breeding (or buying from breeders) is any more wrong than having your own children biologically rather than adopting needy orphans, and I’m not about to tell people I think they should not reproduce. There are very strong psychological reasons for parents to want to give birth to at least one child. Likewise, there are also strong reasons for a person to want a particular breed of animal, and if they can’t find one from a rescue organization, a breeder’s the only option.

    So yeah, it’s way better to get most of your pets from a shelter or rescue, even if you absolutely must have one from a breeder, I do agree with that.

  18. ryan

    The main difference between children waiting to be adopted and animals waiting to be adopted is that the children won’t be gassed after being held in a shelter for a week.

    I’m still firmly of the mindset that there is no justification for buying from a breeder that trumps saving an animal from death row. Again, if a specific breed is important to you, Petfinder’s great help in that respect.

  19. cannibal vegetarian

    No, the children won’t be gassed, but in some orphanages, they will die if they stay there. Here’s a link to an article touching on that: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/10204716.htm

    The bottom line is you would be, in some cases, saving a life if you adopted a child, just as you’d be saving a life if you adopted from a shelter. And even if it isn’t a matter of life and death, I think that saving a human child from years of institutional life (unless it’s an exceptional institution) is just as important as saving the life of a dog or cat.

    There are other things to consider as well. You can neuter the pet you buy from a breeder and make sure it doesn’t produce any more animals; some breeders even insist on selling them neutered. One can’t do that to one’s children, so if a person has one offspring, that offspring might decide to produce twelve (meat-eating?) offspring of their own if they so desire.

    Anyway, though we disagree on this issue, I do agree that Petfinder and other online sites can supply a rescue for almost any breed a person might want, and that’s infinitely preferable to getting one straight from a breeder.

  20. John Galt

    Actually I found your article as well as most of the supportive posts to be one sided and based on a limited scope of understanding of animal husbandry, household pets, as well as the reasons there are so many dogs in shelters for all of you to adopt. The fact that you and others actually believe that everyone should be adopting the aggressive dogs, unsocialized dogs, and often old or infirmed dogs at shelters suggests that you really do not support a healthy relationship between dogs and owners at all. Thank you, Webhill, for speaking up as so many veterinarians across the country have against a mandatory spay neuter legislation. Funny that so many cannot understand why you and others would prefer to treat healthy dogs who have a better chance at life and prefer to deal with responsible breeders of dogs rather than the dogs from shelters whose breeding and health are so questionable. Here is a link from another view.
    http://www.thedogpress.com/Columns/Jade/06_Backyard.Breeder.Fallacy.Rights

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