Readers respond: Responsible breeders exist

This nine-week-old purebred Weimaraner puppy is available for adoption.

In my last No Kill installment, I asserted there’s no such thing as a “responsible” breeder. At least not now, with 10,000 dogs and cats facing lethal injection or the gas chamber every single day in shelters across the country. As expected, readers weighed in with dissenting opinions (I’ll get to those comments in a moment).

When it comes to this particular dilemma — too many animals, too few homes — breeders are not the only problem. They may not even be the biggest problem, but they are adding to the problem. (That is, if you consider destroying healthy, adoptable dogs and cats a problem. If you’re more concerned with humans not being guaranteed the right to immediate availability of a particular breed of dog or cat, we have different definitions of the problem.)

I’m not saying there aren’t breeders who care deeply about the animals they bring into this world. Some readers reported they even know breeders involved in rescue and rehoming. I truly respect their compassion and concern, and I trust that it’s genuine. Still, even while trying to help, they are contributing to an epidemic: They are adding to the population of animals in need of homes. Why bring more animals into the world when there are millions already here, just as deserving of our care, compassion, and concern? How can such actions be called responsible when so many, through no fault of their own, are about to lose their lives? Or sit languishing, bored, lonely, and scared in a small shelter kennel?

Many readers pointed out that some breeders take back any puppies or dogs no longer wanted by the family who purchased them, thus guaranteeing their animals will always have a home and ostensibly qualifying them as responsible. But what if the option to buy from a breeder wasn’t there at all or wasn’t convenient? Perhaps not every person would then consider adoption, but many would. A significant number of people would instead turn to a shelter or rescue to acquire their animal.

Would responsible breeders be willing to give this a shot? To abstain from breeding for three years — two years — to see if this reduction in supply would result in a dent in the number of deaths? Don’t get me wrong: I’m not calling for eliminating personal freedoms, taking away someone’s “right” to breed, or telling people they have to adopt a shelter animal. I’m simply suggesting a voluntary abstention from breeding, by those who claim to love animals, to see if such actions make a difference.

Meanwhile, a round-up of dissenting opinions, and my responses:

Vikki says:

“I don’t want to see a future where there are no healthy, well adjusted, purebred dogs, available as pets, produced by responsible breeders.”

I say:

I don’t want to see a future where healthy, well-adjusted, purebred (and non-purebred) dogs are led in a steady parade to the euthanasia room, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, because there is no one to care for them. PS. Shelters currently offer healthy, well adjusted, purebred dogs, available as pets, produced by breeders.

Anonymous says:

“There is no scientific fact that indicates all dog breeding should be stopped because we have dogs in shelters! This is an OPINION based on an emotional response to dogs in shelters that are not being re-homed.”

I say:

Quite correct. It is my opinion, based on the emotional response to seeing lovely, gentle, adoptable animals die, that adding to the population of dogs who need homes is the morally wrong thing to do.

Natalie says:

“I’m sorry, but people want puppies. They want to be there during that dog’s ‘critical period.’ To say everyone SHOULD want an adult Golden Retriever… give me a break. Fire the writer.”

I say:

I’m not sure which article you read, Natalie, as I never said any of that. In every shelter I’ve volunteered with, puppies as young as eight weeks old are unfailingly available. As are Labs, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Malteses, and even Vizslas, Jack Russell Terrier, Bulldogs, Huskies, and yes, Golden Retrievers. It’s not a matter of foisting a particular age, breed, or mix on anyone — there are plenty of all to go around.

Another Anonymous says:

“My dog came from the latter [a breeder with] all the appropriate health tests done for the breed, and generations of dogs bred for beauty, smarts and temperament. I wanted a dog that would fit into my lifestyle, and enjoy doing the training that I also enjoy, and I did lots of research.”

I say (quoting myself from an earlier article):

I know many educated, compassionate people who are only interested in getting a dog from a breeder. They’re not in it to save a life, they’re in it to enhance their own life. That’s not a judgment, simply a reality. And that’s fine, but it leaves us with a very real predicament.

Ann says:

“…It is your desire that the caring and conscientious individuals in society are expected to pay the price for the cruel actions of the unethical, particularly since it is the unethical who created the problem in the first place and will make no effort to change the status quo… You are wrong to place any and all blame on responsible breeders whether you think they exist or not.”

I say:

I agree that it’s wrong to place all blame on breeders. But any blame? I don’t think you can argue that they’re devoid of any blame. They are contributing to the population of animals in need of homes. As for caring individuals who are “expected to pay the price” — what price? The price of not breeding animals? I guess I just don’t see that as a particularly steep price. Especially considering the price we’re expecting unwanted animals to pay.

Another Anonymous says:

“If nobody is breeding, then all dogs will go instinct. Look at the big picture. I am not voting for irresponsible breeding, but saying — don’t breed, adopt — makes no sense. If there is no breeding, then who are you going to adopt?”

I say:

I’m going to adopt one of the millions of homeless animals who’ve waited in shelters months or years for a decent home. This problem is so big, so out of control, that just getting ahead of one aspect, be it breeding, spay/neuter, or owner retention, would help, but it wouldn’t resolve the crisis. We’d still have more animals than homes. With 10,000 animals euthanized every single day — and many many many more available for adoption — I welcome the day we have to worry about not enough companion animals.

And still another Anonymous says:

“You know, this is really troubling on many levels. If you use the principal of stopping all breeders, you are wasting some precious resources, you are treating lovers of a breed the same as lovers of money the same as ignorant fools. To treat people with differences the same way is a form of discrimination.”

I say:

I don’t think people are the victims here. But I do think loving one breed to the point that other animals of the same species are being destroyed is a type of discrimination. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that Cocker Spaniel [or insert any breed here] breeders are solely and directly responsible for the millions of deaths each year. I am suggesting that if all breeders were to abandon the practice, at least for a time, we would save a percentage of all companion animals, including those of their breed of choice.

Finally, a handful of readers referred to these views as “extreme,” “radical,” “foolish,” “bigoted.” Call them what you will — the bottom line is, I want the suffering to stop. I want the needless euthanasia to come to an end. And I’m asking everyone who can make a difference to do so.

Thank you to all posters. It’s important to continue the discussion.