Our rescue shelters are overflowing with dogs and puppies looking for homes, and even with more spay/neuter programs in place, it does not seem to be slowing down.
With all these dogs looking for homes, I can understand why certain people are against dog breeders. Most don’t understand that there is a difference between a bred for purpose dog and a bred for profit dog. I’ll go into that difference this week.
Bred for purpose dogs are the result of proper breeding programs, designed for perfecting show dogs, competition dogs, or dogs for special needs. Show dogs carry CKC registrations, where you can trace their heritage back for generations. Competition dogs like herders, retrievers and pointers are bred for their special talents, and while many carry CKC pedigrees, most are still purebred, many having their own genealogies.
Special needs dogs for things like therapy, guiding or law enforcement are bred for traits and qualities that make them suited for those purposes. The Labradoodle was developed as a guide dog for a woman who’s husband had allergy problems. Poodles just wouldn’t work as guides, so the breeder crossed his best lab with a poodle and voila. But no one wanted the crosses until he invented the name Labradoodle, and they went from unwanted to must haves. Many of these non-pedigreed dogs are bred properly, from unrelated purebred stock. But far too many use these designer dog names to sell what are effectively mutts with no recorded heritage other than the sire and dam.
The common thread to “bred for purpose” is that the breeders are conscientious in their breeding, documenting and following the results to ensure only the healthiest dogs are produced. People buying bred for purpose dogs are looking for something specific that they would not likely be able to find through rescue adoption. Interestingly, many of these breeders I know are exceptionally active in the rescue community, raising funds, awareness and fostering at risk animals. And many will refer people to shelter dogs at the expense of selling one of their own puppies.
Bred for profit dogs are a different story. Commonly called puppy mills or backyard breeders, many of these breeders are concerned solely with how much they can make from the dogs. Most have no breeding records, and may not even know which two dogs are the parents of any litter. And this is where the doodle craze becomes a problem, because now every dog can have a purebred like name, but be bred from a dog’s breakfast of a gene pool. Breeding a registered poodle to a registered lab retriever is one thing. Breeding a cross to a cross with no documented heritage is worse than a mutt, because they could have so many common ancestors reinforcing bad genetics.
Overbreeding, inbreeding, unsanitary conditions, and poor nutrition can lead to the production of sickly, badly socialized animals. Dogs are resilient, and many of the animals produced this way go on to lead normal lives. But too many end up with serious problems, requiring surgeries, long term medication, or worse. Some never mentally recover from physical mistreatment they have received, and cannot lead normal socialized lives. The lucky ones find homes that can adapt to their special needs, the others face a different fate.
“Bred for profit” is the problem category. Many of the dogs that end up in rescues come from these breeders, either from seizures of animals at unlicensed facilities, or when a problem dog is surrendered. But they can be an attractive option, being less expensive. And now internet resources like Kijiji are making things even easier for unscrupulous breeders. People buying from these breeders are endorsing the practice, and it is through education about this that we need to address the problem.
Visiting where the dogs are bred and raised will tell you whether it is a legitimate breeder or a puppy mill. If they send you pictures and want to deliver, many times they are hiding something. In buying a puppy, we are talking about a 15 year commitment, thousands of dollars in care and feeding. Taking a drive to the breeding facility should be a minimum investment you can make in being sure this is the right companion animal for you.
If you suspect someone of running a puppy mill, or subjecting animals to abuse, call the Animal Care Line at 204-945-8000.