Please Help! and Shame on the AKC
Yes, it's my normal rant on dog breeding. Puppy-mills are evil and their operators should be forced to endure the same treatment. Apparently there is a bill in the MN Legislature right now that is beginning to work toward licensing and regulating breeders, basically in the hopes of keeping them honest. Please call your representative, senator, and anyone else you think should hear the message to vocalize support. If you are not in MN, please send a letter to the committee chairs telling them what a good idea you think this is. I have a draft of an email below the cut. It's too long, but it describes the issues. I'm thinking of sending it as a hard-copy letter along with a copy of Susan Conant's book Bloodlines (Dog Lover's Mysteries), which very clearly describes the evils of puppy-mills.
Here is the text of the bill.
Here is a list of the committee members. Ironically, this information is from the American Kennel Club, which urges voters to reject the bill. Shame, shame, shame on the AKC. In this case, the good that can come from this bill outweighs the bads attributed to ethical breeders. And truly, an ethical breeder should be able to afford the $75 licensing fee for fewer than 50 animals; no ethical breeder should have 50 animals or more. Period.
Action is particularly important right now, because courts have just ruled that there is really nothing illegal about a MN man's proposed large breeding facility about which I have blogged before.
Dear Senator Jim Vickerman and Representative Joe Mullery,
I just heard about the Dog and Cat Breeders Act that had been on the Agenda for review on March 15. This act is especially timely given the recent news item regarding Gary McDuffee's proposed breeding facility in Belle Plaine, MN. I am writing to voice my support of this bill and urge you and your fellow Representatives to bring this bill to enactment. I will even go further to state that I will volunteer to act as a state-certified inspector of these facilities, and request only mileage and rooming expenses. Humans on the whole to not pay nearly as much attention to the needs of others who are dependent upon us.
Large breeding facilities, while currently legal, should be considered nothing less than unethical and immoral; the other name for "large breeding facility" is "puppy-mill," because they churn out puppies the same way widgets are milled. Animal shelters and rescue organizations are bursting at the seams from dogs who have been seized from puppy-mills and abusive situations. For a fictional account of what a "puppy-mill" frequently turns into, please read Susan Conant's novel *Bloodlines.* While the puppy-mill depicted in this account is an extreme, these circumstances are becoming increasingly more common.
The purpose of a good breeding program should be to ensure that the best characteristics of a particular breed are the ones that are genetically continued. By being conscientious about the breeding of animals, many inherited traits and diseases can be avoided, leading to a great reduction in the cost of care over an animal's lifetime. Some specific examples may include: viciousness; diseases such as hip dysplasia, cancer, Wobbler's Syndrome; allergies, and many more. The positive benefits associated with selective breeding can include the ability to perform valuable service functions such as blind/deaf/handicap assistance; search and rescue; herding; water rescue; sound health and temperament. Finally, ethical breeders will also research the individual(s) who may be purchasing the pups. Is this a family that will be showing the dogs as part of the breed's future? Is this a family who simply wants a pet? Is this a family who is experienced with the breed, dogs, or animals in general? Is this a family who will take appropriate care of the animal? Purchasing a dog from an ethical breeder should be very similar to applying for a job; the breeder wants to make sure that the fit of the adopting family is right for the dog.
Gary McDuffee's proposed facility will hold an estimated 500 breeding animals. Imagine the time and effort that will be needed to investigate the heredity and backgrounds of each dog and to develop a scheme of the best matches for breed specifications. Unfortunately, the reality is that McDuffee will not be doing this research. His business model is one based on profit. He will breed dogs to produce large litters, which he will then sell to pet stores, possibly the public, and possibly other potential breeders. The larger the litter, and the greater the number of litters produced, the more value a dog will have to his facility. Once the dog has ended his or her cycle as a useful breeder, what will be its fate?
But beyond each individual breeder in such a facility, what will be the fate of the puppies sold to a pet store? There are many possible consequences. In order to for the mother to be able to breed again, she cannot have a litter nursing. Therefore, it will be in McDuffee's best interest to wean the pups earlier than they probably should be for sale to stores. It is doubtful that they would have received any sets of vaccinations, since many vaccinations are not recommended until well after a pup has been weaned. The pups may also not have had the opportunity to learn many of the pack behaviors its mother could have taught it, such as the appropriate use of teeth, or socializing with other animals. At the pet store, further socialization is also highly unlikely. For the pet store, space and pet turnover are the money makers. The more animals that can be housed in a smaller space means the more animals that can be sold, which mean the more animals that can be bought and resold again (at a mark-up from the original cost of purchasing from the facility). Pet store employees are encouraged to sell as many pets as possible, regardless of the fit between the animal and the buyer. Large breed dogs are particularly cute when they are small pups, but someone who is anticipating the dog will remain small may be in for quite a surprise. Those are the dogs that are frequently turned in to the animal shelter, relegated to the backyard, or worse, unceremoniously dumped by the side of the road for someone else to find or to be hit by a car.
And I haven't even begun to discuss the proper care, cleaning, and nurturing of dogs. Pet store dogs are notoriously the ones who are euthanized for temperament reasons because the hereditary disposition was not researched; they are frequently prone to infections and diseases that will cost their owners thousands of dollars, not including emotional durress; and they may also be the ones who become the property of so-called "backyard breeders," those individuals who are not large breeding facility owners, but who elect to breed their dogs themselves and have not done any of the requisite research.