Monday, December 23, 2013

Can't We All Get Along?

Kimberly over at Keep the Tail Wagging has an interesting post about dog people disagreeing, especially when it comes to puppy mills.

Everybody loves puppies

It got me thinking. I just love it when blogs do that!

As you know, I'm an animal control officer. I work with rescue groups, shelters, etc. and have many friends in that community. I have had a dozen rescued pets in my home: dogs, cats, birds and Spike, the world's greatest guinea pig. I also have an AKC show dog and have many friends who are breeders and handlers. Here's what I see:

Rescuers often paint all breeders with the same broad brush. In their eyes, the guy with "free to a good home" puppies born under his shed every six months is no different than the breeder who spends six months combing through pedigrees and OFA ratings to find the right stud for her champion bitch. I know people who think it should be illegal to intentionally create ANY puppy or kitten. Many rescuers think it's vulgar to make money selling pets (though if you call it an "adoption fee" and make a profit it's OK.) Some in the rescue community are extremely zealous with their "Adopt, Don't Shop" and "Spay/Neuter Saves Lives" mantras. These attitudes cause responsible breeders to become defensive.

NOBODY likes puppy mills
Responsible breeders just can't fathom puppy mills. I know, sounds weird. They put so much time/effort/money into their puppies. It's a labor of love -- surely everybody does it, right? And, honestly, some breeders come across as stuck up snobs. Multi-page applications and character references are required before a breeder will even think about you looking at her puppies. And if you are fortunate enough to get one there are contracts and stipulations that can make the most ardent rescue groups feel inadequate. Truthfully, most responsible breeders are too busy with their dogs to pay attention to the rescue community. (All breeders I know train/show/compete with their dogs on top of having full time jobs.) The rescue community is foreign to them, and sometimes a rescuer's passion comes across as crazy and/or aggressive.

Having a foot in both camps gives me a unique perspective. If rescuers and breeders would stop bickering for a moment they would see their common ground: neither want puppy mills. Rescuers and breeders both love puppies (seriously, who doesn't love puppies?) and want them to be happy and healthy, loved and wanted. Responsible breeders are working hard to produce healthy, disease free puppies. They don't want poorly-bred, sickly dogs representing their breed of choice. Puppy mills don't test hips, elbows, eyes or temperament before breeding. However, my breeder put more thought into the father of my puppy than I did into the father of my own children. Rescuers don't want dogs to live in cramped in cages with no socialization, turning out as many puppies as their bodies can handle every six months. Rescuers don't want puppies euthanized because they are sick, unsocialized and unwanted.
So here's what I would like to say:
To the Rescuers:
  • Not every owner or breeder is irresponsible. Please don't lump them all together.
  • Think this through: If all dogs were spayed/neutered, there'd be no puppies -- and eventually no dogs. We should support responsible, conscientious breeders. 
  • Yes, breeders can be a bit kooky, but they really do love their dogs.
  • Sometimes your passion can be overwhelming to those who don't know you.

To the Breeders:
  • Not every owner or breeder is responsible. Rescuers are trying to stop those who aren't.
  • Think this through: Every dog deserves a loving home. We should support the efforts of those trying to prevent adoptable dogs from being euthanized.
  • Yes, rescuers can be a bit kooky, but they really do love dogs.
  • Sometimes your desire to improve the breed can appear cold and callous to those who don't know you.
 And finally, can't we all put our differences aside and do what's best for the animals?

YOUR TURN: If you could say something to a Rescuer or a Breeder to help them better understand your position, what would it be? If there is something you would like to know, what would you ask? -- K