Dear Breeder: Here’s an idea

Lady Love, a purebred Cocker Spaniel, is available for adoption near Kansas City.

Breeding can be a polarizing topic — especially between the very people who claim to be the most devoted to companion animals. Some live by the bumper sticker: “Don’t shop. Adopt.” (Or its sister sticker: “Don’t buy while others die.”) And some passionately defend the practice. The latter party usually comes back to two main arguments:

1. Responsible breeders don’t do it for the money — they do it for the love of the breed and a dedication to keeping healthy purebreds around.

2. It’s a waste of time to “attack” responsible breeders when backyard breeders and people who don’t spay/neuter are the big contributors to pet overpopulation.

I have no doubt the first point is true, that the majority of Westie breeders, for example, care deeply about their charges. But what if there was something they could do to help ease the suffering of dogs in general? Instead of breeding for the love of Westies, why not refrain from breeding for the love of the animal? That is, why not place more value on the life of an individual dog than on the proliferation of the breed?

What if, instead of bringing more Cocker Spaniels or Great Pyrenees or Scottish Deerhounds into the world, breeders traveled to an area of the country where euthanasia rates are high (no matter where you live, you won’t have to drive far) and took in a litter’s worth of dogs. Instead of investing time and money in whelping, vaccinating, and finding worthy guardians for new puppies, they used those resources to rehome the shelter dogs.

What if the energy the breeders saved from having to socialize puppies went to working with the rescues on basic training — and giving them the attention and sense of comfort they’ve never known? What if they promoted these dogs’ stories? Let people know where they came from, what they’ve been through, and how lucky they are just to be getting a chance?

Granted, there are some dog owners (and potential dog owners) who will never be interested. They will only settle for an eight-week-old Beagle. They absolutely will not look at your generic New Mexican Brown Dog or your gorgeous Lab mix, no matter how well-behaved and friendly the animal is, nor how deserving he is of a caring family. Even the four-month-old purebred listed on a rescue site won’t do.

That’s fine. Who says we have to cater to those people? They can wait for their bred dog until after we find homes for the ones already here. We owe more to the dog facing euthanasia than we do to the puppy who hasn’t been born — or to her potential owner.

I hear point #2 (above) repeated often and with gusto. And maybe it’s true that breeders are only a small part of the problem. But as self-professed dog lovers, they could be a big part of the solution. Why not just see if refocusing all breeding efforts on rescue actually makes a difference?

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