Snips And Snails And Puppy Dog Tails

I was having a discussion with a co-worker today.  She's getting a puppy and she's so excited she's already picked out his name.  This sounds rather reasonable (fun even), until we get to the part where she mentions she doesn't know when she'll be picking him up; she's buying her dog from a breeder.  She wants a male dog and there are only females in this litter.  The best male puppy is already spoken for in the next litter, so it's possible she'll have to wait until spring.  I guess those are the joys of buying from a breeder.

Turns out she's not alone.  Our soon-to-be Vice President, Joe Biden, just got himself a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder.  He's got "the pick of the litter."  (Source: CNN.)

I don't understand.  With all the loving animals stranded in shelters, why do we need breeders at all?  Sure there are some breeds that are more "desirable" than others.  I understand that Labs are one of the most family friendly dogs you can get.   If you have to have a particular breed, why not consider a rescue rather than a puppy?  Tens of millions of "pets" are destroyed in the US annually.  Buying an animal seems like a waste to me.


  1. i agree with you 100%. i simply don’t understand why we need breeders at all. the last time i had this discussion with someone, they claimed it was to “preserve the breed” because this was something that was (supposedly) really important and noble.

    i just don’t get how puppies that aren’t even born yet are better and more desirable than the most lovable sweet thing from a shelter NOW.

    at the risk of sounding jerky, i think people who buy from breeders don’t really have the same respect for life that people who go to shelters do. people who think breeding is okay think that pets are disposable, fashionable, and easy to get rid of on craigslist when they’re not longer useful.

    it makes me sad.

  2. I agree with you mostly… every dog I’ve ever gotten has been a rescue, and it’s a great feeling. But, I would also not rule out one day getting a dog from a breeder if I was interested in a particular breed. Of course all dogs are great, but sometimes you are looking for specific characteristics and the “mutts” you find in shelters are difficult to judge that way. For example, there is no doubt that certain breeds are friendlier/more playful than others. I currently live with a great, very intelligent dog (shelter rescue), but the fact is he is not terribly friendly and not very affectionate (even to his owner, who I also live with!). The dog is treated very well and is not “spoiled” mind you. Being able to select a breed gives you more control over what kind of characteristics to expect, rescuing a dog from a shelter does not.
    Thousands of years ago we decided as humans to domesticate wolves and in the process embarked in the longest-running experiment of genetic engineering in the history of the world. We accepted selected breeding almost from day 1. While my personal choice would likely always be to rescue dogs rather than buy them, I cannot fault someone for choosing the latter option. If we accept the act of taking animals from the wild and domesticating them (which of course is not the norm in nature), it’s hard to judge exactly how we go about acquiring these pets. I think the most important thing is that any dog, whether rescued or bought, is given a great home, treated with respect, and loved.

  3. For those who are wary of rescuing a dog, perhaps they might consider a mixed breed.

    I can’t recommend enough anyone interested in this subject view the BBC report on pedigree dogs.

    The report is focused on the UK, but the themes are much the same in the USA pedigree marketplace.

    “Pure breeds” suffer so so many health and welfare problems – it seems a case of vanity overshadowing compassion, a question of plain common sense.

  4. I completely agree. There is NO need to go to a breeder.

    I’m saddened about Biden as well. I really understand his love of German Shepherds, but he still need not have gone to a breeder. I have one now, our second, both have come from the German Shepherd rescue in Burbank, CA. The wonderful work this organization does can’t be overstated. As you said, if someone wants a specific breed of dog, there are rescues that work with just about every breed you can think of.

  5. That’s great to know about the breed rescue organizations. I’d like to add though, that there are some breeders who are actually humane (not puppy mills) – some people have a passion for raising and breeding dogs and they treat them very well. I understand the flaw in the concept, but you also can’t assume that everyone who wants to breed dogs is going to be running a factory operation.
    Another thing… some breeds produce puppies that are not desirable as show dogs. For example my brother and his wife wanted a purebred Great Dane puppy (after doing a lot of research and coming up with their own good reasons), and they were able to get one that was very inexpensive and probably would not have gone to a good home because of its color (blue “merlequin” – dog is gray with blueish spots). The breeder they purchased from was definitely not a puppy mill – it was a private breeder they knew very well who does not deal with pet stores. So in essence they did a sort of “rescue” since they purchased a dog that noone really wanted, but still needed a good home.
    With that said I would really consider adopting a retired greyhound one day, so going to a breeder for me personally is not really in the cards. It’s good to know about breed rescue organizations as well in case you are looking for something specific.

    – Leo

  6. I agree completely.
    My father is a high-up ranked veterinarian in the LA City Shelters (I think he’s responsible for at least 3 of them…) and he sees many animals put to sleep every day, cuz of lack of space/funding to foster that many homeless pups.
    My roommate/friend paid $600 for each of her fancy Burmese cats… highly overrated, in my opinion. Burmese have the most IRRITATING voices.

    I love my two free cat-mutts to DEATH, they sleep in my bed and i love them like children. One I got from a lady down the street with barn-kittens, and one I got from a local animal hospital who was fostering him, when they wre both around 8 weeks old.

    I want a dog, and when I do get one, it will definitely be a shelter dog.

  7. Hearing about people that insist on a pet from a breeder makes me sad too. I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and I can see how expensive it is to maintain such an operation. If only people would wake up from their elitist mindset.

  8. I totally agree! 100%! We got both ours from a shelter. Like someone mentioned above some breeders get dogs that they can’t show/breed and more often than not these dogs are dumped at the pound, or just let out onto the streets. Ours are pure Dalmatian (my personal favorite breed), and were found roaming the streets, picked up by animal control. Dumped because they are not showable or breedable due to markings (they have patches). There are MANY MANY purebred dogs in the shelters, many rescues specializing in different breeds so choosing a breeder is NOT a responsible option!

    For the comment above

    “For example, there is no doubt that certain breeds are friendlier/more playful than others.”

    Actually this is getting less and less true as more and more puppies are being bred. It used to hold true that labradors were the perfect family pet because of their friendly nature. Al but ONE lab I have met has been mean, really mean. We had one attack us on our afternoon walk, that ended up costing us $500 in vet bills as it ripped my dog to pieces! Please don’t stereotype dogs by breed! Each dog is an individual, and should be treated as such.

  9. Given that there is not enough space to house all the homeless dogs, cats and other companion animals, to buy or breed rather than adopt is, in most cases, condemning an innocent animal to death. How can a “dog lover” do that?

    I’m especially dismayed by Biden, given the very public announcement by Obama that he’s adpoting rather than buying. Hello?

    I also have heard that the owner of the kennel from which Biden bought his puppy also owns what appears to be a puppy mill in PA, with 100 breeding dogs. Shame!

  10. Hi jennifer,
    It makes us sad as well. Jane couldn’t believe that this person wants a puppy so badly she’s already named him, but she’s waiting – possibly until the spring – to get him.

    Hi Vegan Libre,
    I didn’t mean to imply that all breeders are evil. (one of the perils of writing just before bedtime is that sometimes I come out sounding crankier than I am in real life.) I’m sure that many love their animals, treat them wonderfully, and get great joy in their work.
    My real issue, and Gary (comment below) is again more eloquant than I am, is that by buying an animal, “you” are supporting an industry that doesn’t treat animals well in general. And “you” are sentencing an animal to death or a lifetime in a cage.
    Interesting comment about the longest-running genetic engineering experiment. I’d never thought of it like that before.

    Hi M,
    Thank you for that link. I’ve heard that purebreeds are often subject to all sorts of genetic issues that mixed breeds don’t succumb to, but I had no idea that it was so bad. Nor was I aware that there were issues of inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity.

    Hi Sue,
    We strongly recommend rescues when we hear of people looking for pets. I’ll be sure to pass along the info on the Burbank G.S. rescue next time I hear of someone looking for a shepherd. Unfortunately, one of the problems with shelters and rescues is that many people believe getting an older pet means getting a pet with problems. Even if it’s not the case, it can take a bit longer for the animal to bond with you. Personally, I believe they know you’ve saved them from something and are eternally grateful.

    Hi Emily,
    I love chatty kitties!
    Our kitties are both “rescued.” One was feral and one is from the pound. They adore us. We adore them. There are days when one of us might say, “ooh I’d love a siamese cat” or a ragdoll, or a sphynx kittie. But a few of the pounds around here have websites and you can look at all those animals waiting for a home, and that’s it for us.
    All our companion animals will be rescued!

    Hi Anna,
    I’m not sure it’s an elitist mindset. I think it’s probably a thought-less behavior. If you watch the dog show, you learn to want a particular breed. (Jane thinks Corgis are wonderful animals.) Where do you get a particular breed, why from a breeder of course! You would not believe how many people I’ve spoken to who have never heard of breed rescues. Nor have they given thought to contacting their shelter and requesting to be called if the dog they’re looking for shows up. Often, it’s about education.

    Hi Diane,
    Wow, I’ve never heard of a mean lab. I have run across less gregarious labs. But I’ve heard that too, that “irresponsible” breeding leads to all kinds of problems. On the other hand, M links to a report above by the BBC about the problems inbreeding is causing for these animals, which sounds much more serious to me!

    Hi Gary,
    I found it very distressing to hear that Biden went thru a breeder for his dog. When the democrats come into office you expect to see positive social changes, perhaps that still doesn’t include animal rights.

  11. I myself feel somewhat torn, as a vegan whose mother has been breeding Shetland Sheepdogs for the show ring for over twenty years. I really resent the implication – not here, but elsewhere – that people who intentionally breed dogs are evil, selfish, cruel, etc. by default. My mother has literally devoted her life to caring for her dogs, and to breeding and raising healthy animals with sound temperaments. She raises one litter a year – sometimes less – and is extremely careful about selecting homes for puppies that don’t make the grade as show dogs. What’s more, she’s actively involved in breed rescue and has a very prominent “open door policy” for any dog that she’s bred: if at any time the owner can’t or won’t continue to care for the dog, it has a home with us until it reaches the end of its life or a suitable, loving home is found. She’s made good on that policy. What’s more, she has never been out to make a profit on the breeding of dogs, and certainly she never has.

    I have to acknowledge that there are fine, lovely dogs to be found in shelters and through rescue. But at the same time, is condemning all breeders – and calling for the complete abolition of the practice – really necessary? The vast bulk of the money in dog breeding comes from high-volume commercial enterprises, where dogs are factory farmed. Why attack the very-small-scale breeders, and the people who choose to acquire puppies and older dogs from them, while the puppy mills and pet shops continue to churn out sickly, inbred dogs with questionable temperaments?

    I realize that this isn’t a popular opinion in the vegan community. And, as I have said, I still find it a personal challenge to justify the breeding of more dogs with the existence of unwanted ones. But there are so many factors – primary among them pet owners who view their dogs as disposable toys to be dumped when they lose their luster – that pointing fingers solely at every person who decides to breed a litter seems off-base.

    For the record: I share my home with an elderly Sheltie who was part of my mom’s breeding program and is now enjoying his retirement years on the couch. He’s vegan, too.

  12. I’m with you, Megan! While adopting a dog is very noble and should be encouraged whenever possible, there is nothing wrong with people breeding dogs who are passionate about it, the way your mother does. Where one acquires a dog is a matter of personal choice, but supporting a small private breeder like you describe _is not_ equivalent to promoting murder, as some have suggested! (Buying from a pet store on the other hand is just plain impulsive and ignorant, and should not be compared.)
    My father for example dreams of one day just living out in the country and breeding dogs because he loves that, not because he wants to create a puppy factory and make lots of money. I don’t see that as a problem. Again, the most important thing is, whether adopted or bought from a responsible, caring breeder, is that the dog be given a loving home.
    – Leo

  13. Megan,

    I know some very nice breeders, too, who take great pains to make sure their dogs and/or cats are well-cared for, go to a good home, etc. I would never call breeders evil and cruel, I would never call farmers evil and cruel. But that doesn’t make them blameless.

    What they’re doing is wrong because as a result of their choices, innocent animals are killed or at the very least denied a home.

    The puppy mills are of course are worse, and the people who buy dogs at pet stores are contributing to even more cruelty, but breeding companion animals while there are homeless animals is wrong, causes unncecessary and avoidable death and suffering, and should not take place.

    Therefore I cannot call any breeding of companion animals at this time “responsible.” The only exception might be highly specialized dogs for highly specialized situations, such as therapy dogs for emotionally disturbed children.

    I fully acknowledge that some breeders do rescue also. To them I plead: Why not do all rescue? You would be prefect for the task.

  14. >>>Again, the most important thing is, whether adopted or bought from a responsible, caring breeder, is that the dog be given a loving home.<<<

    If by buying rather than adopting a dog, one is knowingly or through willful ignorance causing another dog to be deprived of a home or to be killed, it makes a mockery of the concept of giving a dog a loving home.

    Granted, there’s plenty of blame to go around: thoughtless buyers, puppy chains that think only of profit, under-enforcement by the USDA and so forth. Animal rights and animal protection groups spend a lot of resources fighting these things. I regularly attend anti-Petland protests and pass out anti-puppy mill materials. But small breeders still contribute to these avoidable, curable problems.

    I tend to put a little more blame on the breeders than the buyers, because a) they are more likely to be aware of the homeless animal situation, b) if they don’t breed (and in most cases advertise their animals for sale), people won’t buy.

    If we stop breeding, will all these people who can no longer buy a dog then adopt one? No, but some will, especially if all the former breeders promote adoption.

    Once we are not killing millions of innocent homeless dogs and cats every year, then maybe we can look at breeding. Though I’d rather look at helping feral cats, rescuing rabbits and guinea pigs and birds, and so forth. When we’re not killing or warehousing homeless companion animals of any species anymore, *then* we can consider breeding – probably under highly regulated cirucmstances, to avoid the myriad health and overpopulation problems brought on in part by breeding. (Most breeds have heritable health problems – some quite serious.)

    I don’t agree that where one acquires a dog is strictly a matter of personal choice, i.e., that there is no compelling ethical component governing that choice. IMHO people acquiring a dog are obligated to consider the profound interests of the dogs whom their decision affects.

  15. I am glad you posted this, and I am glad to be able to read the nice discussion in the comments.

    I find it strange that people think you can EITHER get a purebred animal OR a shelter dog. The HSUS estimates that one in four dogs in shelters is purebred. On, you can search for specific breeds.

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