Oops … I did it again. Last week I penned a post on the subject of pure breed dog diseases, unleashing yet another round of lambasting from readers who felt it necessary to call me out on my anti-dog breeder bias. This in the wake of a comment section discussion full of finger-pointing and apples-to-oranges acrimony surrounding the issues of genetics, dog breeding and breed registries.
That's why I've chosen to back up and deliver another post to clarify the subject; because in the midst of all the back and forth of a comment section, clarity was giving way to the heat of a "you-hate-all-breeders" kind of ranting…
…which I cannot rebut forcefully enough.
After all, some of my favorite people are dog breeders. Trouble is, some of my least favorite people — those for whom Dante somehow failed to reserve a well-deserved circle of Hell for — also go by the same appellation. And, sadly, those breeders I detest happen to outnumber the good guys by about ten to one (my best guess).
So how did I arrive at that stab-in-the-dark statistic? Consider the following:
- High-volume breeders (aka "puppy mills") make up the bulk of the group we call dog breeders in the U.S. About 4,000 of these USDA licensed facilities produce roughly half a million "purebred" or designer mixed puppies every year, typically under factory farm-style conditions.
- You may not know they exist, but your veterinarian definitely knows who they are. They're the occasional and/or semi-professional backyard breeders. They seek little medical attention for their breeding bitches and usually show up only in the event of an emergency C-section or when they need veterinarian-signed documentation. On average, I'm betting these less-than-responsible breeders outnumber our high-quality dog breeders at least ten to one.
Hence, I do believe I’m being overly generous when I say that responsible, ethical dog breeders comprise a tenth of the breeding public.
Perhaps it's also to do with this issue: I happen to know some really high-quality breeders. This makes it tough for me not to compare the kind of new puppy paperwork I run into with the kind I know some of my friends’ pups come attached to.
Take Gina, for instance: A couple of years ago, Fully Vetted BFF Gina Spadafori over at PetConnection blogged about her experience as an occasional (but fully involved) breeder of flatcoat retrievers. I've never forgotten the post. In it, she describes what responsible, ethical pet breeders do when it comes time to usher a litter into this world.
Unfortunately, re-reading Gina's entry reminded me that I haven't had a breeder-client who deigned to consider any kind of genetic screening for their dogs … in about five years. Hips included. Sometimes the best I can manage in terms of prenatal counseling is to beg my backyard breeding clients to at least ensure that the male Maltese is smaller than the female. (I actually had to say that last Saturday. Really.)
Starting to see where I'm coming from?
When pups start coming my way from breeders who’ve had them CERF-tested and hip-certified and who have undergone the necessary screening my Fully Vetted breeding community undertakes, I'll start thinking more kindly upon the bulk of the dog breeding community. Until then, I'll continue to stand behind my firmly held, experientially-informed belief that most breeders suck.
And if the great dog breeders out there get defensive when I say so, they should keep this in mind: We're all on the same side. That is, we're all on the side of healthy dogs, right? So let's quit bickering and get to work on shutting the creepy-crawly puppy peddlers down!
Dr. Patty Khuly