Examining The Debate Between Dog Breeders and Adoption Advocates
Passion runs deep in the world of dog enthusiasts and conversations surrounding the decision to buy from a breeder or adopt can spark spirited debates. The mere mention of dog breeders in some circles has the power to elicit intense emotional responses, with some denouncing breeders as “unethical.”
In this nuanced landscape, it becomes imperative to delve deeper. Are breeders truly deserving of such an accusatory label, or is there a possibility for ethical practices in the realm of purebred dog breeding? Moreover, why do some individuals seek purebred dogs when rescues and shelters abound with both mixed breeds and purebreds?
At the heart of this debate lies the most damning assertion: the proposition that all dog breeders are evil. Yet, it is essential to recognize that blanket statements often succumb to exaggeration, distorting the reality. While it is undeniable that some breeders prioritize profit over the well-being of both parent dogs and their offspring, it would be an overgeneralization to cast all breeders into the shadow of evil.
In the U.S. alone, there are millions of dogs in need of homes, and hundreds of thousands that are unnecessarily euthanized due to overcrowding each year. This truth is often the spark that ignites the burning rage against irresponsible breeders, but do rescue advocates really believe that there should be no more purebred dogs? For some, the answer is yes, but there is plenty of nuance to the opinions of most people who say you should adopt instead of shop.
The Argument Against Breeders
One of the most prominent beliefs amongst those that are staunchly anti-breeder is that breeders are directly feeding and increasing shelter populations. However, euthanasia rates have actually gone down over the past 50 or so years.
“Today, shelter animal euthanasia is over 10 fold lower than in the 1970s. Campaigns to improve dog owner behavior in the last 40 years have created the changed dynamic we see between humans and dogs. Shelters can focus on adoptions rather than providing humane euthanasia and dog owners have largely adopted a pet care regime that includes sterilization.”A study compiling U.S. animal shelter data from the 1960s through the present.
If you read closely, you’ll notice that this study attributes poor pet ownership standards with increased rates of dogs in sheltered and euthanized companion animals. So, when did breeders start to get the blame?
Buying a purebred dog from a breeder hasn’t always been controversial. At one time, owning a purebred was commonplace. While there were breed fads, they didn’t spread as quickly as they do today, and new breeds were the result of years—or decades—of careful work. Today, the term “breeder” has become in some ways synonymous with “backyard breeder”—people who breed trendy dogs for profit, and profit only.
This is perhaps in part fueled by the renaissance of “designer” mixed breed dogs like the many Doodle hybrids dominating media attention while purebred breeds like the Poodle are shunted aside and labeled as old fashioned, snobby, or “out of style.” Those working in and around the dog rescue world may have become extra weary of hearing their friends and family gush about the mixed breed they’ll be buying from a “breeder” for thousands of dollars. This becomes especially wearing when they see mixed breed dogs come into their shelters each and every day.
So, although euthanasia rates are on a steady decline, and the number of dogs in shelters continues to decrease, why are people so anti-breeder?
Poor Living/Breeding Conditions
Beyond overpopulation concerns, one of the key issues those who are anti-breeder have is the potential mistreatment of animals by dog breeders. When lumped together with puppy mills and backyard breeders, it’s easy to begin to believe that all breeders keep their dogs in small cages, deny them access to play time, sunlight, or grass, and breed beyond the point of safety to increase profits.
It is absolutely true that puppy mills and some backyard breeders are guilty of extreme mistreatment of their animals, but if you’ve spent any time with an ethical dog breeder, you’ll know this is very much not the case for everyone.
Genetic Abnormalities & Unethical Breed Standards
Some purebred dogs have become genetically predisposed to serious health issues due to inbreeding and attempts by breeders to achieve sometimes unreasonable breed standards.
“Breeders’ obsession with “pure” bloodlines leads to inbreeding. This causes painful and life-threatening disabilities in “purebred” dogs, including crippling hip dysplasia, blindness, deafness, heart defects, skin problems, and epilepsy,” says a page on PETA’s website describing the negative effects of breeding. “Dogs don’t care whether their appearance conforms to a judge’s standards, but they’re the ones who suffer the consequences of genetic manipulation.”
In Support of Ethical Dog Breeding
It’s hard to imagine a world with no Golden Retrievers, no Chihuahuas, no Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless Dogs). For many breeders, the choice to breed started with a love for a specific variety of dog, and a desire to preserve and improve bloodlines for the betterment of the breed and its future. Good, ethical, well-intentioned breeders rarely breed for profit, and often produce too few puppies to truly benefit financially from their endeavors.
So, what are some of the positives of purebred dog breeding? And is there really that much of a difference between ethical breeders and backyard breeders?
Prioritizing Genetic Health
While inbreeding is still an issue within some purebred dog breeds, many breeders today prioritize genetic diversity as a key element of genetic health. Ethical breeders take their time to choose breeding pairs carefully, and make their selections only after doing comprehensive health screenings for compatibility.
Most backyard breeders and puppy mills do not perform enough—or any—genetic testing to determine whether their breeding pairs are compatible, and may inadvertently weaken future generations of their dogs.
Specialized Breeds & Working Dogs
It can be hard for some people to understand the argument for wanting a specific dog breed if you simply want a companion animal. However, purebred dogs aren’t just pets! There are breeds that have been bred to perform specific types of work and tasks, and that do better in particular environments than other dogs.
Some examples include search and rescue dogs with highly attuned senses of smell (e.g. Bloodhounds), livestock guardian dogs (e.g. Anatolian Shepherds), or dogs that show particular skill as service and guide dogs (e.g. Yellow Labs).
Conclusion: Which Side Is Right?
Truly, no side is entirely right. Those that blindly hate breeders fail to see the reality of ethical and responsible breeding, while those that blindly support breeders and their right to “experiment” fail to see the consequences of neglectful breeding.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but one thing is for sure: collaboration between adoption/rescue advocates and breeders is the best path forward for the collective interests of dogs everywhere.
But wait: is it still okay if you want to buy a purebred from a dog breeder?
Yes…but: try searching for a purebred dog using adoption/rescue resources first! Visit your local humane society, search online resources, or reach out to breed-specific rescue programs.
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