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.


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