Here in the U.S. we have a problem. People want purebreds. Millions of them. So somebody has to bring them to a pet shop, airport, web site, breeding kennel or living room near you. Backyard breeders, puppy millers, importers, parent club breeders … someone. But, as they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

Herein lays the paradox:

A) We all love dogs. We all want healthy, happy dogs. No responsible breeder wants to breed unhealthy dogs — this we know. But it’s also true that no backyard breeder thinks that anything unhealthy will come of their ill-bred dogs’ union. No puppy miller or unscrupulous importer, even, wants to sell you a defective product.

B) Plenty of genetically ill-designed animals come from responsible breeders, all puppy millers’ breed dogs are under woefully inadequate conditions, an increasingly alarming percentage of importers are shipping pups too young to be away from their mothers (much less travel), and the casual backyard breeder is still stuck on having their kids see "the miracle of life" occur — whatever the cost.

C) And we, the consumers? We’re willing to buy them up, sometimes knowing that what we’re doing is wrong (as when we buy dogs at flea markets because we can’t keep ourselves from "saving them"), other times not believing that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with a Clumber Spaniel pup who can’t blink because his eyelids don’t meet ("Sure he needs surgery, but they all do, right?"). But mostly, we just have no clue.

Consider the relative who recently bought an internet pup. She was dead set on a difficult breed, so I sent her to the breed club so that at least she’d get a good one. Even after I told her how to source a puppy properly, she did the dumb thing so many new pup owners get suckered into. Her rationale? "The waiting lists from that club were so long!" So now she’s really proud that she found one from a "great breeder" and that her dog came "all the way from Missouri!" They just. don’t. know.

In a nutshell, A, B and C are what last week’s Purebred Paradox Conference was all about … from the point of view of the experts whose job it is to mitigate these problems.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Puppy Dogs by angel_shark