The “Evil Breeder” Mentality is not an affliction that plagues breeders, causing them to do evil things. It is a condition by which people involved in rescue lump all breeders into the “Evil Breeder” category and point the dreaded bony finger of blame for any and all pets sitting in shelters and rescues. And just like any virus, it can spread, but does not necessarily afflict everyone.
It is important to differentiate between the different types of rescues, just as it is important to differentiate between ethical breeders and puppy mills. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, WHY NOT point a finger at breeders… whichever finger that may be? Why shouldn’t breeders be blamed? Obviously if “manufacturers” churn out more “product” when there is too much on the shelves, it’s the manufacturers’ fault, right?
Before getting too deep into the article, I must first attempt the impossible. The difficulty of this task is the very reason I am writing this today. I must first help many of those involved in rescue to understand there is a difference between “breeders” and “reputable breeders”. Unfortunately this is where many rescuers will stop reading and cling religiously to their hate for anyone who has ever produced a litter. But those who read on, understand that knowledge is power and sometimes coming together for a common goal is more important than clinging to false beliefs. And I believe those people will be pleasantly surprised.
I was recently referred to as a “low life breeder”, who dared talk ethics to people involved in rescue. Within the same 48 hours, I had a conversation with someone else who talked down to me… again, because I’m a breeder. They said I only deal with “perfect dogs” and that “breeders never do anything for rescue”.
Scratching my head, I tried to figure out exactly who it was who has offered to help local rescues with transport, who has donated to rescue related auctions, who has purchased from rescue related auctions, who has flat out donated money, who had spread the word about numerous homeless dogs, who refers people to Petfinder rescues on their website….. who was that person?
Apparently it couldn’t have been me. I’m a “low life” breeder.
Then I thought about the local and national clubs I’m involved with. Which organizations set up auctions to benefit rescues? Which clubs coordinate with rescue efforts in every area, hold auctions, and donate to rescues every year? Which clubs even have their own committees in charge of supporting rescue efforts?
Why that couldn’t possibly be local and national breed clubs…. they are made up of breeders, and those “low life” breeders don’t help rescue.
Or do they?
Actually the concept of “breed rescues” first came into being when breeders saw dogs of their breed at shelters and coordinated efforts to save them from an uncertain future by pulling them before they were euthanized, and placing them in good homes. Breeders not only support rescue efforts, they created the concept.
But that still doesn’t mean it’s okay to breed, because those puppies end up in shelters and rescues en masse, right? And breeders profit off of puppy sales while thousands of puppies they produce die because they do not have homes. Right?
Well let’s look at how reputable breeders typically place their puppies. This is not set in stone for all reputable breeders, but this process is pretty standard. First, the prospective puppy buyer stays on a waiting list for anywhere from a few weeks to two plus years. We are not out there marketing our puppies because we can’t place them, taking potential homes. Buyers who wait a few weeks to two years have typically researched the breed that is appropriate for their home or circumstance, and they have plenty of time to consider other alternatives. Because there is a wait, reputable breeders often suggest that potential buyers consider a rescue. Most continue to wait, because they can not usually get what they specifically want from a rescue or shelter. It is their right and their choice to decide what is the proper fit for their home.
Reputable breeders health test their breeding dogs for hereditary health issues, investing at least hundreds but usually thousands of dollars over the years, doing their best to screen out potential health issues before the breeding is even planned. They spend even more money showing dogs and proving the quality of their structure and breed type. The breeding is often planned many months, often years, in advance. Pedigrees, health and conformation are taken into consideration in an attempt to produce a healthy puppy that is a good representative of the breed.
Then when a litter is born, the reputable breeder evaluates them for weeks before deciding which is their next show prospect, and which will go to other homes. When those puppies go to their new families, the homes are first screened carefully and the puppies are placed on a contract. Reputable breeders require spay/neuter contracts on all pet puppies and there are stipulations about providing proper care. They also require the puppy to be returned to them if ever the owner cannot keep them for any reason. Often very strict penalties are attached to failing to follow these stipulations.
So, puppies are produced with health and longevity in mind, with a breeder doing their best to avoid producing puppies that might have health challenges, reducing their chances of having to be re-homed. Then they screen potential owners so again, the puppies have the best chance of having a forever home with responsible pet owners. Then the contract requires the puppies to be spayed or neutered if they are pets, and if the owner is not able to keep them for any reason, the breeder will take them back without hesitation.
Then how on earth are these puppies cluttering up all of the shelters? Especially if “all breeders are the same”.
But what kind of health testing and screening does your typical backyard or profit motivated breeders do? What kind of contract? Would they take a puppy back without hesitation? What do they do to ensure their puppies will never end up in a shelter? Would they take regular financial losses if it meant doing what is best for the breed and for any puppies they produced? Usually the extent of their concern is if the orders keep coming and the checks cash.
And what about the litters that result from people breeding their pets for “fun”, or to make a few bucks, or to experiment with crossing different breeds to see what they get? Or the accidental breedings because they simply haven’t spayed or neutered their pet yet? And when they find homes for those puppies, do they screen the homes? Do they offer to take them back if the buyer can’t keep them? How do they ensure those puppies do not end up in shelters once the cuteness wears off? Most of those puppies are purchased on impulse, without much commitment or investment, and many end up in shelters at one time or another.
ARE all breeders the same? REALLY?
Reputable breeders who truly love and are dedicated to the breed, spend countless hours and many sleepless nights with each and every litter. They shed tears for puppies that pass away or for those elderly dogs they have helped to cross the rainbow bridge after a lifetime of love. They sacrifice comforts of their own so their dogs can have quality food and vet care. They make sure their dogs are well socialized, healthy, and sound. They spend their money on health testing, show expenses and vet bills when they could be taking vacations. They pour their hearts into their dogs, taking a lifetime of responsibility for each one of them. And though they don’t make money on their efforts, at least they get appreciation and respect, right? No, they get spit on for it. They are called “Greeders” and “Puppy Mills” and are made to feel guilty for all of their hard work, dedication and love. I still haven’t figured out how I can lose approximately $3-5K per year and still be considered “greedy”. But whatever… right?
Even though their dogs are kept comfortably in their home and pampered, they are lumped together with breeders who cram dogs into rusty cages stacked five high and ten wide in a shed, and who sell puppies in bulk to pet stores or via online shopping carts. In the eyes of many rescues, a puppy yanked from a dirty box with its eyes matted shut and shipped off to an unsuspecting buyer is no less responsibly produced than a healthy one raised bedside with the breeder, carrying a guaranteed lifetime home, and placed only after careful screening.
But behind the scenes, these reputable breeders are helping rescues by spreading the word about homeless dogs of their breed. They are buying things at auctions to benefit rescues. They are donating items to auctions to benefit rescues. They are making cash donations. They are helping with transporting rescued dogs. They are fostering rescued dogs. They are taking their own dogs back when needed. They are their breed rescues’ cheerleaders and supporters.
Or should I saw “WE” are. I donated an item not too long ago that brought quite a decent amount at an online auction to benefit rescue… the same person who accepted and thanked me for my donation later called me a “low life breeder”. Does that make sense? It makes as much sense as breed rescues alienating the most enthusiastic supporters of their breed.
Isn’t it usually supposed to be a dog that bites the hand that feeds them? But what are rescues doing when they condemn all breeders? What are they doing to help the dogs by calling those that support them “puppy mills” and turning a blind eye to the differences in their practices? Does it support the cause to eliminate supporters and donations? Does it support the cause to punish breeders who take responsibility for their dogs? Who are they hurting in the end?
So many rescue advocates are being pulled into the anti-breeder, anti-ALL-breeder mentality, that they do not realize that the animal rights extremists want to eliminate dogs from the home altogether, and tearing us down is just helping them out.
Is the rescuer’s goal really to eliminate all dogs? We’re all animal lovers. Shouldn’t we unite towards the common goal of promoting responsible pet ownership and stopping cruelty?
You will be hard pressed to find people who are more passionate about dogs than those who live and breathe them every day like a responsible breeder. Harness that passion, don’t try to snuff it out, and together we can accomplish so much more than ever imagined.
Addition added 2/4/2016:
I had a comment below that addressed the issue of the fact that breeders, despite the fact they breed responsibly, are still producing more dogs, which take homes from other dogs who are homeless. My response was too long, so I added the comments below. –
First of all, if every dog could have a home if there were simply less dogs, why are rescues importing hundreds of thousands of dogs from other countries? For example, the golden retrievers that were imported not long ago. The shelter owner happily told the media that nearly 100 rescues for Golden Retrievers had long waiting lists they could not fill. Why couldn’t other dogs be placed in those homes? Because people want certain dogs with certain traits. Even rescues and shelters understand this. That is why more highly adoptable dogs are being shipped in from other shelters while less desirable breeds are euthanized by the thousands. I’m not saying this is fair, but it is a fact.
You also cannot say any dog will be a correct fit for every home. A high drive dog is not a good fit for someone with a sedentary lifestyle. A fluffy couch potato is not the right fit for someone who wants their property patrolled or who wants a jogging buddy. A “no cats” dog won’t fit in every home, a “no children” dog won’t fit in every home. Many parents will not purchase pit type dogs for a home with young children. Whether or not it’s a well founded fear, it is a fact that many will go without, rather than purchase a breed they are not comfortable with. Some are not equipped to handle a special needs dog. Some do not want their children to experience the loss of a pet so soon by purchasing an elderly dog. Even someone’s home and yard set up affects their decision on what type of dog will fit their family best and when all of these things are considered, THERE IS A STRONGER CHANCE OF A FOREVER HOME. Feeling bad for a dog that is homeless and adopting the wrong dog into the wrong situation might be even more dangerous for all involved than euthanization.
As to the assertions that a responsibly bred dog is not “better” and that it’s “snobbery” to say they are….. There’s not a day that goes by that some responsible breeder somewhere doesn’t receive an inquiry from someone who purchased an irresponsibly bred dog and is heartbroken because of it. If a responsibly bred dog has no advantages, why in the world are we health testing, socializing, breeding for soundness and structure? At the risk of participating in “snobbery”, I will most certainly say that in most cases, a responsibly bred dog IS BETTER. How can someone say that a dog that has been DNA tested and is guaranteed not to go blind by the age of 2 is not better? What about a dog whose sire and dam have excellent hips or sound patellas versus a dog whose relatives limped in pain by the age of 5? It doesn’t mean the dog isn’t deserving of a good home or have a good heart, but when owners are not faced with thousands of dollars in vet bills to correct a problem a responsible breeder could have prevented, the dog has a better chance of living a long happy life with their owner. And the owner won’t be faced with the decision to find the money to fix the issue, or give the dog up, or put it to sleep. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of healthy shelter/rescue dogs, it’s only to say that there is less chance of an issue if the dog and it’s relatives have been screened to be free of issues common in the breed.
I understand the tendency to be hesitant to say a well bred dog is “better”, but it is most certainly BETTER for a dog to be well bred.
Potential pet owners who research and contact reputable breeders, have done so for many of the reasons above and they have chosen the breed that is the right fit for them. They have also chosen a reputable breeder who they are more likely to get a healthy pet from, that comes with a health guarantee and breeder support, increasing the chances of their pet living a long life with them.
Bless those who adopt, but it’s not for everyone and the fact that many breeders can never have enough puppies to fulfill their waiting lists is testament to the fact that some WILL always shop, and that is their choice and their right.