The Elephant in the Room
The truth of the matter is that there are glaring issues with both the breeding industry and the rescue field, but it’s not fair to paint either with a broad brush without first stating that there are beacons of light in each industry. There are fantastic examples in each group of driven, knowledgeable, exemplary models in each particular vocation. There are excellent breeders who select for personality and select against common maladies that affect particular breed lines. There are amazing, hardworking rescue groups who genuinely care about placing dogs with families where they will thrive.
With that said…
On the whole, the breeding industry must do a better job of breeding out diseases and personality flaws when breeding for family life instead of breeding to a standard that encourages excessive deformities in many of our dog breeds.
The AKC and breed groups should consult with reputable veterinarians to ensure the dogs being promoted as “healthy” are actually healthy specimens. Better yet, ethical veterinarians could judge the breed rings to prevent dogs like overweight Labradors and German shepherds with knocking knees. Pekingese that overheat from walking around a ring should not be crowned as well-bred, healthy dogs, but that is what happened in 2012 when a Pekingese named Malachy won Best-in-Show. This dog could not walk around the ring without requiring an ice pack after the event. The dogs that win these breed classes are the parents of the next generation of dogs, so if we are starting with unhealthy stock, even if they win a trophy at a nationally recognized dog show, those flawed genes are passed on to puppies that end up in homes and show rings. Potential owners need to know that just because a dog is registered with the AKC, the dog might not be a healthy specimen. Just because I register my car does not make me a safe driver.
We are settling for perfectly imperfect when it comes to our dog breeds.
On the other hand, shelters need to be more selective of dogs they can take in so they can help those dogs to the best of their ability. They need to do a better job of conducting honest behavioral and physical evaluations in addition to improving breed classifications (including “no determinable breed,” “Heinz 57” or “American Shelter Dog” if the primary breed type is unknown) on every dog to ensure that when a dog is placed, it’s going to be a successful placement. Rescue groups must deny truck adoptions to get around state loopholes and have reliable resources for owners to contact after they bring a dog home. It’s not fair to get on a high-horse about seeing a dog in person at a breeding facility if the current culture in rescue accepts shipping sick and behaviorally unsound dogs who are not seen prior to adoption. This is not acceptable.
There should be a trial period to make sure that when a dog is placed, there is permission to bring it back if the relationship isn’t working. That’s fair, and necessary.
Both industries need to put a moratorium on shipping dogs directly to people. Rescues should partner with brick-and-mortar shelters or fostering groups, so people can see the dogs before making a decision to adopt. Reputable breeders need to put pressure on other breeding facilities to stop the shipment of dogs by plane, truck or other method, for profit. We all need to stand up and promote a very simple, ethical, responsible idea: potential dog owners should meet a dog, in person, prior to any decisions being made.
Regardless, it’s up to you to do your homework. There are great breeders, great rescues and great shelters, but you just have to know what you’re looking for.
Let’s do this.