Breeder vs Shelter
We all have a favourite dog breed, right? I mean, who could resist the floppy, silky ears of a Spaniel or the adorable squashy face of a Pug? Not me!
We have probably all, at some point, gazed back into a pleading puppy dog’s eyes behind the glass at the pet shop and felt that pang of guilt for leaving the last one behind. So let me make it clear that I am not about to judge anyone for having a fancy pet. After all, we are all animal lovers, aren’t we?
But here is the thing. We do not need any more dogs or cats in the world (in Auckland pounds alone more than 3300 healthy dogs were killed in 2010-11). Walk into any animal shelter and it’s instantly obvious. But what isn’t plainly obvious is that those dogs and cats in many shelters are actually the lucky ones. They are the desirable ones. Young and cute and well behaved enough to be considered rehomable. The older, less cute, less perfect animals are sometimes euthanised. All while the breeders continue to breed.
In my years as a vet nurse, before working for SAFE, I met and worked with many breeders and heard multiple arguments as to why pure breeds are better. “You never know what you’re going to get with a rescue dog.” Is a common argument. If I had a penny for every time I have heard that one! It seems the most common way for people to justify choosing the cute puppy over the homeless mongrel, and while it is somewhat true that you don’t know what issues the rescue dog will have, you have even less of an idea of an animal’s personality when you buy an infant animal whose personality is still developing. Not to mention that most bad doggy behaviour is caused by the caregiver! But that’s a rant for another day.
Another common myth is that buying from a good breeder eliminates the chances of health problems when in fact the opposite is true. Pure breeds have their very own unique set of health problems. The trusty Labrador is notorious for hip problems. West Ireland Terriers are plagued by skin issues and those squashy-face breeds we love the most have trouble breathing because of their unnaturally shortened snouts. Persian cats have the same problem and often have eye and teeth problems to match. And all because we like our pets to look a certain way.
When you consider that domestic dogs were bred from wolves you can see that some breeds are a long way off what nature intended them to look like.
Puppy Mills – a NZ issue?
Something else to consider is where that cute breeder puppy really came from. Some pet shops are supplied by commercially run dog breeding facilities where as many as 100 animals will be farmed. Many dogs are kept in small, overcrowded cages in squalid conditions, akin to factory-farmed animals.
So please, don’t go to a pet shop, a breeder or buy from Trade Me. if you are thinking about adding another furry family member to your brood, consider the moggies and mongrels of this world. Bend down to pat that old, one-eyed dog in the street. Look into his eyes and see how grateful he is to be loved in his twilight years. Think about rehoming the ten-year-old cat who’s beloved human passed away recently. Adopt a retired Greyhound. Go on. Do it! I promise you’ll feel better for it.
Laura Gentle, National Volunteer Coordinator.