What’s Best for the Dogs? Breeding Bans versus Reasonable Rules for Dog Breeding

By Ron Sturgeon, NADBR Sr. VP.

Every time NADBR posts about dog breeding, we get a chorus of comments from people who want dog breeding banned. They feel strongly that breeding should stop because the world has too many dogs in shelters waiting for homes.

Banning breeding does not make sense. Are the majority of dog breeders treating animals inhumanely? I don’t think so. Not by a long shot. Many dog breeders breed dogs for the love of them and are very selective about what kind of homes they will allow to have one of their dogs.

The best are genuine experts. They provide dogs that many people willingly pay to have as family pets because they want a carefully bred and properly socialized dog. They may want a family pet that has a known pedigree and has the characteristics of a particular breed.

Is it right to put the many excellent breeders who are providing a valuable service to buyers of puppies out of business because shelters are full because some dog owners get dogs without thinking about the work involved in caring for them?

I think breeders should be judged individually and that those who are responsible stewards should be recognized for providing a valuable service in preserving breeds that dog lovers care about.

We applaud those who rescue dogs. I founded NADBR because I love dogs, and because I do, I rescue and foster them. Nevertheless, I don’t condemn those who do not choose to get their dogs from rescue. They are not killing a shelter dog by getting a dog from a breeder who has carefully bred and socialized it. They are making a choice that ought to be permitted in a free country.

Leaving aside the immorality of taking away the livelihood of responsible breeders, think with me what would happen to breed-specific rescues if a breeding were suddenly banned. Breed specific rescues would be busier for a time. Everyone who wanted a particular breed would have only rescue groups to turn to. However, before long, breed specific rescues would run out of dogs.

If breeding stopped, how would the United States meet the demand for dogs? Numbers are hard to come by, but my best estimate is that the current supply of dogs in shelters might meet 6-9 months of demand for dogs. That presumes that people would be willing to adopt whatever dog they found in a shelter, instead of a dog of the breed they wanted, a doubtful proposition.

At that point, assuming people preferred a shelter dog to no dog, a ban on breeding would begin to produce a dog shortage. Maybe there would be a black market for dogs and breeding would go underground. Would that produce better, more humane treatment of dogs? The breeder most likely to quit in that scenario is the one who is scrupulous about following the law and about caring for his or her dogs.

Maybe it would be legal to import dogs so that breeders based in other countries could do the work now done by American dog breeders.  Would that produce better, more humane treatment for puppies and parents? I doubt it.

Accurate numbers about the source and number of dogs that come into U.S. homes from shelters, breeders, rescues, pet shops, friends, etc. are hard to come by. However, Americans buy millions of puppies every year from breeders and meeting that demand without breeders is not realistic.

Dog breeding is going to happen to meet a market demand. If dog breeding is going to happen, what can we do to ensure that breeding dogs are shown kindness, treated humanely, and bred using only medically sound practices? That what NADBR is committed to working on.


New Movie “The Dog Lover”: Propaganda or Parable?

By Ron Sturgeon, NADBR Sr. VP and Founder

“The Dog Lover,” a just-released film based on a true story, is likely to make some dog lovers angry.  Spoiler alert: It is about an idealistic dog lover, a veterinary student, who goes undercover to capture video of conditions at a commercial dog breeder. The evidence she gathers is taken out of context by a large fictional animal rights organization and used to draw negative media coverage and incite authorities to seize the breeder’s dogs and farm.

In the film, the activist dog lover starts with the point of view that all dog breeding is wrong. When her father suggests to her that she may find the people she is trying to expose are responsible dog breeders, she says, “There is no such thing. Every time someone buys a designer puppy instead of adopting from a shelter, a homeless animal loses its chance of finding a home, and then it’s euthanized.”

I know lots of people reading this may feel that way. Although I rescue and foster dogs, and have done so for many years, I don’t believe it’s quite that simple. Dogs come into people’s lives in many ways. Buying a dog does not mean a shelter pet will not find a home or that it will be euthanized.

The dog lover in the film gradually comes to a less black-and-white view of the world. She comes to believe that dog breeders should be judged based upon how they treat the animals in their care. She distinguishes between the breeder she originally targeted and a callous breeder producing puppies under appalling conditions next door to him.

I agree with the point implied by the film: dog breeders should be judged based upon the way they treat the dogs in their care. We live in a world in which dog breeding is going to happen because people want to buy the puppies that breeders produce.

If dog breeding is going to happen, dog lovers should do what they can to ensure that the people who breed dogs have the proper regard for them. The National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform was founded on the idea that all dogs should be treated humanely, shown kindness, and bred using only medically sound practices.

I plan to see “The Dog Lover” because I am interested in improving dog breeding for the dogs. I am curious what reaction dog lovers and people active in rescue will have to a film that casts one dog breeder in the role of victim of overzealous government persecution and another in the role of villain. If you have not seen “The Dog Lover,” do you have plans to see it? If you have seen it, what did you think?

More about the film from a review in Variety: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/the-dog-lover-review-1201809980/. Commentary on the film and its executive producer from Dogster: http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/why-everyone-who-cares-about-dogs-should-see-the-dog-lover


Four Ways to Help Dogs in a Buy-It-Now World

By Rita Rice, NADBR VP of Research

After 25 years in the dog world, I can tell you that many dogs are bought in haste. Some buyers don’t go to a rescue or a breeder because they’re unwilling to put up with the scrutiny that well-run rescues and quality breeders require before a dog goes home with a new owner, or they want a dog or puppy now and don’t want to wait for a breeder or a rescue to have the type of dog they want.

I wish people approached getting a companion animal with the care it deserves, but many don’t. Nor are all “buy-it-now” owners bad. Some, frankly, are just Type A personalities, people who know they will be responsible dog owners but who won’t answer 5 pages of questions.

Other prospective dog owners are simply accustomed to being able to get what they want today. They have a buy-it-now mentality and don’t understand the work it takes to match dog to owner or to breed and socialize a puppy properly.

Human nature dictates that some human beings will get a puppy where it’s easiest. If a puppy of the desired breed isn’t easy to find locally, the buy-it-now person turns to Google or Craigslist to find their new puppy. Despite how happy the puppies look on the website or Facebook page, I can tell you from years in rescue these photos don’t always represent the true conditions in which the puppy was raised, and that many do not become happy, healthy, well-adjusted dogs.

The stories about online puppy sales gone bad are legion. By the time the vet bills start rolling in, the hasty buyer has learned that consumer protection laws are nonexistent in the Ukraine (or whatever country the puppy came from) and that puppy buyers have no recourse. Check out the Facebook page Puppies for Sale for a few of these stories.

Some people will read about these bad breeders and conclude dog breeding should be outlawed. Of course, that position ignores that most dog breeders in the US are responsible, that their work has preserved many of the breeds we love, and that shelters and rescues wouldn’t be able to meet the demand for dogs for long if all breeding stopped.

Dog breeding will continue because people want dogs. So, which will do the most to ensure that breeding dogs are treated well? Passing a ban in a city or a town that stops a pet store or two from selling dogs, or focusing on setting and enforcing sensible standards for all dog breeders?

Trying to control where puppies are sold just moves the problem out of sight. It does not improve conditions for dogs or ensure a supply of healthy well-bred puppies. Instead of trying to limit sales outlets, we should focus on improving the care and conditions of ALL dogs.  Only setting care and conditions for “commercial” breeders ignores the many litters of puppies that are bred in your local neighborhood by people who don’t consider themselves to be “breeders,” by families who sell them to make a quick few hundred dollars, and who don’t follow up on puppies or consider their fate when that “buy-it-now” home decides they no longer want the dog.

Here are four ways we can help all dogs. First, we can support well run local rescues. Second, we can support dog breeders who meet those standards. Third, we can support standards for dog breeding and enforcement of them by supporting responsible breeders and responsible rescues, and helping our friends learn enough to do the same. Finally, we can insist that cases of genuine neglect of dogs or cruelty to dogs be prosecuted vigorously.

Post by National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform VP Rita Rice. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/NationalAllianceForDogBreedingReform


Response to Forbes’ “French Bulldog Puppies: Inside The Business Of Breeding New York’s Most Fashionable Dog”

Original Article: French Bulldog Puppies: Inside The Business Of Breeding New York’s Most Fashionable Dog

Response By Rita Rice, NADBR VP of Research

Forbes writes a balanced article about the pitfalls of popular breeds, how to shop for a quality puppy, and how to avoid accidentally supporting irresponsible, neglectful, or abusive breeders.  While it’s easy to respond with platitudes, every potential owner needs to examine their own needs and wants for their new family member.  Apartment and/or city life brings challenges that aren’t always answered by adopting a shelter dog.  Breed specific rescues are one possibility, responsible breeders another.  First, though, the new owner needs to decide if they’re in love with a breed or with a fad.  Popular breeds are often popular for a reason; they fit common needs and lifestyles. Popular breeds often attract numerous responsible breeders; for example, an entire Breeder/Pet Owner online “College” was founded by a group of Golden Retriever breeders who are dedicated to breeding happy, healthy Goldens for companion owners.  Unfortunately, these breeds often attract “fly by night” breeders, “amateurs” who buy a couple of dogs and think to make some easy money (responsible breeding is many things, but never easy), and “retail rescues” who suddenly “find” a glut of the desired breed in another part of the country (usually in an unregistered breeder’s kennel).

While Forbes touches on the issues, the article fails to help these potential homes find their desired canine companion.

So how do you find that preferred pooch?

First, don’t assume that the best breeders charge the highest prices.  Your breeder should justify their price: that high price tag should be accompanied by membership in a parent club (such as the French Bulldog Club of America), AKC championship (or working titled) pedigrees, proven health testing submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (offa.org), health and temperament warranties, and a LOT of owner support.  A breeder doesn’t need all of these to do a good job breeding, or be a responsible, ethical breeder – but their prices should reflect the difference; there’s profit, then there is price gouging.

With a rescue, you should know where your puppy comes from.  Vague responses or claims of “high value” breeds languishing unwanted in shelters 2,000 miles away should be treated with the same skepticism as the half price car on the lot (with good breeding, you’ll own your pet longer than you will own your car – and spend as much money in care and maintenance).  No matter where the shelter, there is almost always a major Metropolitan Statistical Area within a few hundred miles, and those pups are as desirable there as anywhere else in the US.  Your rescue should be well established, with a track record and – if purebred – an affiliation with their AKC Parent Club.

Finally, you should be willing to wait.  From the time a breeder plans a litter, waits on the dam to come into season, breeds her, whelps the litter, raises the pups, and send them to their new homes, you might be looking at a wait of 6 months or more for that responsibly bred pup.

So what if you do all of those things, and your perfect pup proves impossible to find?  Look at similar breeds.  Love that Frenchie?  Maybe a Boston Terrier will capture your heart just as easily.  Looking for a Golden Retriever?  Perhaps a Labrador (or Flat Coated Retriever, or a Chesapeake Bay Retriever if you want a non-shed coat) will fit your family to a T.  Check the AKC website: breeds are organized by Groups, which means that you can find many similar breeds for comparison and research.

And when you’ve found that baby, and the wait seems interminable….join a Facebook Group or other online forum.  Buy training books or watch videos or podcasts.  Puppy proof your home; I recommend that new owners crawl through the house at puppy level – if you can reach it, so can they!  Check out training classes, day cares and dog parks (visit them and meet other like minded owners).  Catch up on sleep, and work on your bucket list; your free time will be limited to the length of time your pup can be crated at home, and no matter how well trained your puppy you should expect a few 2am wake up calls (if not for a potty break, then for emergency snuggling, or the spectacular scream of a puppy who catches his toe in the door of his crate).  Make friends with your neighbors, and bribe them with food; they, too, will be subject to the wail of a puppy in (imagined) distress, if you live in close quarters.

Most of all, enjoy the decision you’ve made, knowing it is the right one for your home and lifestyle, and get ready to have your heart and world expanded by your new friend!

Fact: Dogs are going to be bred for profit and to meet demand.

You can’t limit or regulate demand. People will always want to buy dogs. Trying to limit demand is pushing a string. We can’t change that, but we can change how many of those dogs live.

Read more

Thoughts on How to Reform Companion Canine Breeding Practices

Everyone understands that many breeders don’t follow any guidelines, and that many safety, health and abuse conditions exist in the most offensive breeders. There are large breeders, small breeders, and everything in between. Different titles are synonymous with this discussion, including backyard breeders and puppy mills. All are just dog breeding operations, put simply, for monetary gain.

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Are We Winning the Battle But Losing the War? Reflections on Rescue Groups’ Bidding at the Missouri Auction

I have been following the news of the auction of King Charles Cavaliers that took place in Missouri and the efforts by many in our rescue community, especially the Alabama Chapter of Cavalier Rescue USA, Brittney Wilk, and the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, to save these dogs.

Thanks to them, scores of our beloved breed will eventually be in forever homes and be cared for by people who love them. Many gave their time and money to make sure that rescue groups acquired every single King Charles Cavalier.

Read more

Are You Your Dog’s Owner or Guardian?

By Rita Rice, NADBR VP of Research

In a few cities in the United States, advocates for animal rights are attempting to change laws so that pet owners become pet guardians. Maybe such a change is being considered in your city or town.

Boulder, Colorado, has made the change. So have San Jose and West Hollywood in California. The State of Rhode Island has even made pet guardianship part of its Constitution.

So should you care whether your state or city adopts a pet guardianship law? Would you lose anything if you became a dog guardian, rather than a dog owner?

Advocates for the change believe that guardianship will result in a higher standard of care for dogs and make it easier for the courts to step in when the rights of dogs are being violated. They argue that dogs have rights and that guardianship is a better way to protect those rights than treating dogs as property and requiring owners to meet standards of humane treatment

In a society in which many Americans feel great affection for their dogs and call them fur babies and fur kids, advocates for guardianship already have an argument with strong appeal to many dog owners.

The word guardian has positive connotations and changing from owner to guardian can be made to seem like a small matter.

However, it isn’t. Ownership and guardianship are distinctly different in the eyes of the law, and dog owners should understand those differences before they give up one status for the other.

Guardians can be relieved of their duties based upon a finding by a court that they are unfit. Pet owners who become guardians may find that those who deem them unfit can take their dogs away more easily in a world without dog ownership.

The other argument that advocates for pet guardianship make is that guardianship will somehow improve the way dogs are treated. Think about that. Will it? Will the person who is abusive as an owner be any better as a guardian?

What would giving dog guardianship do to veterinary medicine? Would the added complexity, cost, and liability risk for veterinarians really result in better care for dogs? I think it is apt to produce less choice of care, wasteful defensive medicine, and less care because veterinary care will cost more.

Dogs are property, but they are a special kind of property because they are sentient beings. We cannot do with them as we will. We have a duty to treat them humanely and with kindness.

Dog owners should celebrate the progress toward objective, scientifically validated standards for the care of dogs. At NADBR, we applaud the work that is underway at Purdue CAWS and other schools of veterinary medicine to better define humane treatment and to set standards for dog breeders.

All of would like to see a world in which dogs are treated humanely and shown kindness. The best path to that world is not to give dogs rights and make humans their guardians. Instead, we should set and enforce clear standards for the humane treatment of dogs.

Is Rescue the Only Moral Way to Get a Dog? (And Should We Judge Those Who Take Other Legal Paths to Dog Ownership?)

By Ron Sturgeon, Founder & Senior VP of National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform

I read an opinion piece in Dogster that I admire for its frankness. The article is titled “Commentary: I will Judge You for Buying a Dog from a Breeder” and describes a view many people hold.

It’s ironic that the writer is a huge opponent of breed-specific bans that often discriminate against pit bulls. Of course, she’s right about breed-specific laws. It’s really unfair to condemn a whole breed based upon the behavior of its worst specimens.

I’m against breed-specific bans because there is a huge variation in behavior within a breed, and beyond genetics, much depends upon the human beings who raise the dogs.

In the same way, the way that the best breeders treat dogs differs quite a bit from the way the worst breeders do. I don’t condemn all breeders based upon what the worst breeders do.

Think for a moment about what the best breeders do. The French Bulldog that Kezia Willingham, the writer of the Dogster article, wants so badly (but won’t buy because it’s a breeder’s dog) may be more expensive for a reason.

The best breeders do genetic testing to ensure that they have carefully selected the right dogs to make defects common to the breed less likely in the pups. They socialize puppies carefully. They keep the pups longer. They care for puppies and parents meticulously.

The best breeders take great care in making sure the person who wants one of their puppies will be worthy of it. They come to visit the home where their puppy will live. They ask many questions before money changes hands. The best breeders will take back a dog any time that the owner can’t take care of it. They are accessible to the buyer with advice about the breed long after the transaction.

So, how should we judge the person who wants a dog from that breeder? Have they done something wrong because they want a dog with a known pedigree, a dog that an expert has carefully bred? Have they done something wrong by choosing to buy a dog from a responsible breeder?

I don’t think so.

Dogs come into people’s lives in different ways. Some wander in as strays. Some come from shelters or rescue groups. The people who rescue and foster are doing worthwhile work. The author of the article, rescued her dogs and has confidence that rescue is the right path to pet ownership for her.

It’s not, however, the only moral path. And just because it’s right for her doesn’t make it the only path or allow judgment of others who don’t agree. By the way, we can disagree without being judgmental. To become judgmental essentially means we have stopped listening and trying to be objective. By the way, I won’t be judgmental about her being judgmental. I just don’t agree with Kezia, but I’m glad to continue to listen and to talk about the issues her article raises.

When Kezia learns that her friend has probably purchased a puppy from a breeder she has this response: “I realized I’m not as open-minded as I like to think: I immediately thought less of the person for buying a dog instead of rescuing one.”

I admire her candor even though I disagree with her. I think we should not judge other people’s choice to buy from a breeder rather than to adopt a pet from a rescue or shelter.

As dog lovers, we should see that what matters is not whether the dog comes from a breeder, a rescue, or a shelter, but what type of home the dog gets.

As far as dog-breeding reform goes, we know that there is a world of difference between the best breeders and the worst. We recognize that breeding is going to go on because people want to buy dogs from breeders.

However, we also believe that dog breeding can be made better for the dogs. We want to ensure that every dog is treated humanely, shown kindness, and bred using only medically sound practices.

Many believe that we should never buy a dog; rescue is the only path. It’s an intriguing pointy of view. I think I understand why they feel that way, but I can’t support a position that isn’t practical.

To say that adopting is the only moral way to get a dog is not realistic and will certainly alienate many dog lovers who feel otherwise—many of whom might otherwise support sensible reform of dog breeding laws that would make a difference for the dogs.

I want to win for the dogs. Registering all breeders and reforming the bad ones are lofty goals and may never be 100% achieved, but both are practical and reachable on some level. If you think these are worthwhile objectives, please share our posts, sign up for e-mail updates and volunteer (we need researchers to help us finish the dog-breeding-laws wiki).

Should we Stop All Dog Breeding Until Every Rescue and Shelter Dog Has Been Adopted?

By Ron Sturgeon, NADBR Founder and Senior VP.

Many of the National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform’s members are passionate about rescue, and all of our members love dogs, so we understand the desire to see every adoptable dog find a permanent home. We hope you will visit our site and register for updates or volunteer to help.

So, let’s take a minute to consider whether an outright ban on dog breeding would really be wise.

My first objection to the idea of a breeding ban is philosophical. Shouldn’t Americans who want to breed dogs in a responsible way have a right to do it? Shouldn’t Americans who want to spend money they have earned on a dog from a breeder have the right to do it? We believe the answer to both questions is yes.

As admirable as it is to rescue a dog, it isn’t what every prospective pet owner wants to do. Yes, there are wonderful dogs at the pound and at shelters. Yes, many rescue organizations and shelters do an outstanding job of matching dog and owner. Yes, purebred dogs are available from breed-specific rescues and from shelters.

Some prospective dog owners want to know the parents and want the expertise and advice that a good breeder can give. Maybe they want a dog with a full history or a dog that has been socialized carefully by a quality breeder.

Prospective dog owners should be free to rescue a dog from a shelter or rescue group, to take in a stray, to get a dog from a friend or family member, or to get one from the reputable breeder of their choice.

In addition to the philosophical objection to dog breeding bans, I have a practical one: a ban would not stop Americans from buying dogs from breeders.

Instead, dog breeding would go underground and the least ethical breeders and their clients would devise a host of ways to circumvent the law. Perhaps dogs would be imported. Costs and hassles would go up, but dog breeding would go on with less scrutiny and fewer protections for the dogs.

Third, a ban would work well enough to cause a certain kind of breeder to quit. The ones most likely to quit would be those who are scrupulous about following the law. Ironically, a ban might drive out the breeders who do the most to ensure dogs are treated humanely, shown kindness, and bred using only medically sound practices.

Finally, even if a dog breeding ban worked just as advertised and all prospective pet owners who now buy dogs from breeders or get them from other sources went to shelters or rescues to get dogs, the shelters and rescues would quickly run out of adoptable dogs and cats.

The math just does not work. Writing in response to a critic in 2008, No-Kill shelter advocate Nathan Winograd points out that more than twice as many people are looking to add dogs and cats to their homes as there are dogs and cats in shelters:

“…every year about twice as many people are looking to bring a new dog into their home than the total number of dogs entering shelters, and every year more people are looking to bring a new cat into their home than the total number of cats entering shelters. On top of that, not all animals entering shelters need adoption: some will be lost strays who will be reclaimed, others are feral cats who need neuter and release, some will be vicious dogs or hopelessly ill/injured and will be killed, and so on.”

As much as we would like to see every adoptable shelter dog and rescue dog find a home, a ban on breeding isn’t the best path to achieve that goal.

In a democratic society with a free-market economy, bans on commerce are unlikely to be successful in the long run. Perhaps a dictator backed by an invasive state and draconian penalties could make a ban stick, but that isn’t the sort of society most Americans want to live in.

We think the wiser path is to recognize the dog breeding is here to stay and so are sales of puppies at pet stores or in other channels. So, the questions become what can we do to make breeding more humane? How can we address the issue of bad dog breeding practices at the root?

We believe the best hope for meaningful progress on the issue is to be pragmatic but creative. Rescues, shelter experts, veterinarians, dog owners, and good breeders all can contribute to improving dog breeding. Many good dog breeders want to be part of making dog breeding better for the dogs.

NADBR’s has the goal that every dog being bred be treated humanely, shown kindness, and bred using only medically sound practices. We believe a lot can be done to achieve that goal without bans and in ways that are consistent with the reality of a market-driven economy for dogs.