2016-09-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

I have a bone to pick with the popular rescue slogan “Adopt; Don’t Shop.” This saying is short-sighted. Even though it reminds people not to buy puppies at pet stores since these purchases perpetuate the horrors of puppy mills, “Adopt; Don’t Shop” omits the existence of ethical breeders and all the good they do for dogs.

It’s time rescues stop bashing reputable breeders. Ethical breeders are not responsible for dogs in shelters or neglect cases. Ninety-five percent of pets in shelters come from irresponsible owners. Ethical breeders educate the public and do not sell their puppies to irresponsible owners. Ethical breeders preserve and improve their breed. Their health findings benefit all dogs.

The best sources of a carefully bred, healthy, sound, well-socialized, purebred puppy are serious hobby breeders and reputable, ethical kennels. The following is a checklist of their attributes.

Responsible breeders….

Fighting in northern France during both World Wars almost caused the Berger Picard breed to become extinct. Fighting in northern France during both World Wars almost caused the Berger Picard breed to become extinct. 1) ...never sell their pups to or through pet stores. Instead, they screen and select homes for their puppies, advise people on caring for the breed and turn away people whose lifestyle, commitment or home situation does not fit the breed. They monitor their pups’ progress and want to know where the pups they brought into the world are at every stage of their lives. If they learn one of their pups is neglected or abused, or the owner can no longer care for the dog, they do everything in their power to take that dog back. Most ethical breeders place their pups with contracts spelling out their right to reclaim, similar to rescue dog adoption contracts.

The breeder’s sales contract will contain other components such as a required, initial exam by your vet; mandatory spay/ neuter for pups sold as pets and an application to register the pup’s pedigree with a reputable organization like the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club, not a fictional registry the seller invented on his computer.

2) ...consider the primary goal of their breeding program as the betterment of the breed, not a monetary profit. On the other hand, pet stores are only interested in profit. They sell dogs to anyone with a credit card. They do not screen potential buyers to see if the pups will be safe. If someone changes their mind about owning a puppy as soon as the next day, that buyer can’t get his money back. Pet stores only give store credit to buy a different pup.

3) ...work hard to identify and eliminate genetic defects in their breed. Besides individual breeders doing their genetic homework to breed out defective physical and behavioral traits, often breed clubs provide grant money to Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) and/or the AKC Canine Health Foundation to study diseases common in their respective breeds. Golden Retrievers have a very high incidence of cancer. MAF is in the midst of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study enrolling up to 3,000 Goldens to be studied over the next ten to 14 years.

The AKC Health Foundation too has many ongoing disease studies with sponsors from the affected breed’s clubs and other national breed clubs. For instance, Northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds develop an inherited cataract. A study to find the gene responsible has funding from the Basset Hound Club of America and the Mastiff Club of America which are not Northern breeds. Once DNA mutations are found, specific genetic tests are developed to determine if certain dogs carry that gene and should not be bred.

4) ...are knowledgeable about their breed. Reputable breeders will usually focus on just one or two breeds, unlike pet stores carrying every pup permutation from A to Z. Most good breeders show their dogs in conformation and perhaps performance events too. A responsible breeder will discuss inherited disorders associated with the breed as well as the temperament, conformation and health clearances of their dogs with the prospective dog owner. They show pup buyers the adult dogs on their premises. It’s likely the pups’ father will reside elsewhere because good breeders search long distances to find a suitable sire.

Established, ethical breeders serve as mentors for novice breeders, sharing their knowledge, experiences and insights with the new breeder. The breeder’s sires and dams (dog parents) will have recommended health clearances.

5) ...raise their litters in a healthy, safe environment. Good breeders provide the puppies with enough room to run and play, indoors and outdoors. The puppies will be well cared for and properly socialized. Many good breeders distinguish the pups with colored ribbon collars and begin mental stimulation exercises from day 1. The pups stay with their moms and siblings until at least eight weeks old to be fully immersed in proper dog-to-dog decorum. This is a far cry from puppy mill babies forced to nurse in filth and makeshift cages with little or no human touch. Their mothers serve a life sentence in the millers’ prisons while their pups are weaned too young and flown to retail stores.

6) ...do not advertise mixed heritage pups as an expensive “new or designer breed.” Cockapoos, Cavichons, Puggles and the like do not exist in a standardized form.

7) ...are the reason many cherished breeds, like Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs), are around today. Otherwise, once popular breeds would be extinct. This point is often overlooked by anti-breeder zealots. Wars take their toll on the animals living on the battlegrounds. Berger Picards were almost extinct after both World Wars because of the fighting on these herding dogs’ home territory in northern France. Viszlas faced the same problem in Hungary but during WWII the fear was the Russians would kill remaining Viszlas because they were a symbol of aristocracy.

In Portugal, PWDs were known for carrying messages between ships. In the early 20th century, technology took their job. By 1930, the breed almost disappeared. A wealthy Portuguese businessman acquired several of the remaining working PWDs and began breeding what became known as the modern PWD. In recent years, Porties have sailed in San Francisco Harbor to retrieve homerun balls for the Giants, and two PWDs live in the White House with the Obama family.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (31-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Quilliam” 16-452 is a Beagle-sized boy found at Belmont Lake State Park and “Oliver” 6-445 is an adorable gray and white kitten.

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