Thursday, December 18, 2008

"It's Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature"

(Picture left --killing healthy dogs in shelters, while breeding sickly ones.)

I was speaking with a friend last night about our new Vice President purchasing a German Shepherd puppy from a mass breeding operation and the effects this action would have on public perception regarding animals.

"Many people already mistakenly think that something is 'wrong' with shelter and rescued animals and this kind of action from a public leader merely feeds into that misperception." I said. "If Obama also buys a puppy from a breeder or puppy mill, the cause of saving and adopting out shelter animals will be set back decades."

Elizabeth agreed.

Elizabeth is both friend and cat foster. She has been fostering two of our rescued cats (Princess and Lucy) for months now. Elizabeth is a successful (arts) writer, lives on Park Avenue and tends to hang out with those from similar circles. (i.e. intellectual and artsy types).

She told me that among those people she casually knows, many seem to think that animals in shelters are there because of "doing something wrong," such as biting people or having housebreaking issues.

They wrongly believe that the only way to acquire a "good" animal or a breed they want, is to buy from a breeder.

These days, nothing could be farther from the truth.

For those people intent on getting a specific breed of dog, such as German Shepherd, there are "Breed Rescues" that specialize and focus on saving only the particular breed, working with the dogs on any medical or behavioral issues and doing responsible adoptions.

Now, granted, some breeds are in fact, "rare" and their arrivals to shelters are far and few between. Someone seeking, for example, an Irish Setter or Bloodhound would presumably have a hard time finding these dogs in shelters. One imagines too, any "Irish Setter" rescuer might be sitting around with a lot of time on their hands. (I have personally never seen an Irish Setter in our city shelters, though over the years, I have seen a couple of Bloodhounds that were taken by rescue.)

I am not one of those people who say that all dog breeding should end. I believe there is a place for limited and responsible breeding as we wouldn't want to see a day when we have only Pitbulls, Rotties or Shepherds available for adoption. I don't want to see most of the dog breeds go extinct.

But, when I say, "responsible breeding" I am referring to those people who breed only one or two litters a year, OF A BREED THAT IS NOT FLOODING SHELTERS. Such people breed for LOVE, QUALITY, HEALTH AND TEMPERAMENT of the breed -- not as means of making a living or feeding their egos. They have the parent animals on premises and have health guarantees that their puppies have been screened and checked for any genetic diseases unique to the breed. They screen their buyers carefully, work with contracts and TAKE BACK animals that for whatever reason, can't be kept. Where possible, they NEUTER the animals before they are sold.

NO "RESPONSIBLE BREEDER" EVER SELLS ANIMALS TO PET STORES! If truly fitting the definition of "reputable" and "responsible," breeders have waiting homes for the puppies they produce.

But, unless one is running a farm where one specifically needs a herding or sheep protective dog or is doing police work and needs a protective and working breed, most people can find what they need and seek in a shelter or through rescue -- a loving, companion dog, whether mixed or "purebred."

The current situation of back yard breeding, thousands of puppy mills and pet shops and the killing of millions of adoptable animals in shelters is deplorable and disgraceful and has in fact been occurring for more than a century.

Puppy mills are like canine concentration camps. Breeding dogs are usually kept for their entire lives in small, cramped and filthy wire mesh cages. They get no socialization, walks or any of the things that dogs need for any kind of a "normal" life. When the dogs get sick or stop producing they are usually shot or killed in some other way and their bodies hidden or buried. Only when owners fail to provide adequate food, water and protection from the elements are puppy mill owners raided and their animals taken to animal control (which ends up costing taxpayers millions.)

Recently, in New York, a Border Collie breeder on Long Island was raided and more than 50 filthy, malnourished and sickly dogs were taken to Animal Control. One can presume many other dogs were put down to make room for the 50 dogs coming in from the cruelty case. The holding and care of the dogs until the case can be resolved in court will cost the taxpayers in the community many hard earned dollars.

Puppy mills and back yard breeders not only hurt animals, but ultimately cost taxpayers through the nose.

We need to have better legal definitions of what constitutes "animal cruelty" in this country as well as what represents, "responsible breeding."

Certainly, no one breeding dogs or cats in this country refers to themselves as an "irresponsible breeder" though most in fact, are.

But, for those doing it prudently and responsibly, they should not be put in the same bag as the rest. We need a clear cut definition of what "responsible breeding" actually IS.

In the meantime, the biggest myth we need to dispell is this ludicrous notion that shelter and rescued animals are somehow deficient or "inferior" to those being produced by breeders.

On the contrary.

Nature does and has always done a better job in producing healthy and fit animals than humans.

As an old commercial once proclaimed, "It's not nice (or smart) to fool with Mother Nature." -- PCA