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February 6, 2007 > Breeding: The Hidden Costs

Breeding: The Hidden Costs

By Nancy Lyon

A recent welfare raid by Fremont Animal Services resulted in the impoundment of more than 15 purebred dogs including puppies. Many were obvious victims of severe neglect and needed to be kennelled and treated at a veterinary hospital. It once again brought to mind the often tragic consequences of breeding for profit.

A visit to just about any animal shelter will introduce you to about every breed of companion animal imaginable, including an occasional rare breed. While most dogs and cats are mixed breeds, people are surprised to learn that upwards of 30% of animals in shelters are of a recognized breed - "purebreds." . Excessive breeding for profit or glory has resulted in an over-population that has rescuers inundated with requests for help that are beyond their ability to accommodate.

Too many of the animals in shelters will not be redeemed or adopted because of behavioral and genetic problems or their numbers are just too great. The result is that many, including purebreds, must be euthanized.

There are the show breeders and hobby breeders who often breed for fame as well as profit, and then there are people who are simply uncaring or ignorant and let their animals reproduce without thought to the consequences. In the end it is always the animals that pay.

Why does this unfortunate problem exist and how can it be corrected? The following article by Kathy Tucker-Kail of the Curley-Coated Retriever Club, reprinted with permission of the author, addresses the responsibility of dog breeders but many of the hard questions can be applied to animal breeders in general.

WHY ARE YOU BREEDING?

So, can you answer that question specifically?

Do you have goals in mind and is every litter an attempt to reach those goals?
Do most of your litters get closer to these goals? If you don't have goals, then why are you breeding? Do you think you'll produce that line of multiple Best-In-Show Dual Champions by just willy-nilly breeding to what's currently "hot" or whatever is convenient? Or do you think it's enough just to produce a Champion or two, or a few "good dogs"? If these are your best, where does it leave the others?

Do you x-ray and send to Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc.? Do you check eyes and register with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, Inc. annually? Do you breed only from flawless dogs (e.g., non-allergic, and good-to-excellent hips, eyes and coat, etc.)? If not, why are you breeding? If you are not doing your best to reduce the number of dogs with genetic problems, why are you bringing potential time bombs into the world?

Do you get champions, obedience and field trial titles on your breeding animals? If not, why are you breeding? No one is capable of knowing whether their dogs are as "typey" and as good workers as the best of the breed has to offer unless those dogs compete with each other or prove themselves in working situations. If you don't care if your breeding stock is capable of finishing a Championship and earning a working title, why are you breeding?

Do you do your best to produce pups with stable temperaments? If not, why are you breeding? Making excuses for shy or aggressive dogs you've bred doesn't change their genetic potential to produce more of the same. Selling an "off temperament" pup to a pet home is not beneficial to the pup, new owner or breed. If you care more for who wins than whether your dogs have halfway normal temperament, why are you breeding?

Do you keep at least one pup from each litter? If not, why are you breeding? If you produce more than the occasional litter that is totally sold to others, are you just producing items for sale rather than trying to improve the breed? If you are producing litter after litter just to have something to sell, get out of dogs!

Do you repeat breedings? If so, why are you breeding? Even if the first breeding produced six or seven perfect dogs, the only legitimate reason to repeat is if the first litter was all one sex! But if the first breeding contained breedable members of both sexes, the only thing that a repeat will accomplish is sales based on the previous wins, and the possibility of more glory if the repeat does as well as the original. (It rarely does.) The result is a flood of dogs with the same genetic potentials, which can lock in faults for generations. If you're repeating a breeding when the original is less than two years, or repeating a breeding more than once, why are you breeding?

Do you spend time studying? If not, why are you breeding? If you don't make the effort to learn all you can about type (by attending large entries and buying videos), working ability (by training, trialing), structure (seminars, books, videos), temperament/trainability (training, testing and studying) and genetics (study, study, study), how can you possibly make intelligent breeding decisions? Show wins and big records, while an indication of quality, can also be the result of lots of money, poor competition and/or dumb luck. If you rely on impressive statistics to make your breeding choices, why are you breeding?

Do you guarantee your pups? And follow up on the progress of the ones you sell? If you don't care enough to make sure your pups are basically healthy and the new owners happy, get out of dogs! Do you make sure that pet quality puppies are spayed or neutered before placement, and do you guarantee to take back and be responsible for any dog of your breeding at any time during its life - no matter what the reason?

A worthwhile breeder does everything possible to screen breeding stock for genetic defects and to prove their multipurpose qualities. A worthwhile breeder studies all aspects of the breed and is not swayed by big records. A worthwhile breeder provides a clean, secure environment and routinely vaccinates and worms. A worthwhile breeder screens buyers, offers a guarantee and follows up on pups periodically. And most of all, a worthwhile breeder knows WHY they are breeding. They have a long term plan with long and short term goals, and study constantly to keep current in all areas. Each litter is an attempt to both improve the breed and get a step closer to personal goals. They keep an eye on all dogs of that breed, knowing that it is rare that one's own stud is the best choice for each female. Litters are only bred when they want to add to the current at home breeding stock. A worthwhile breeder doesn't have several bitches out on co-ownerships with puppy back contracts.

If you breed just on the hope that a litter will produce a champion or two, or just to have something to sell - better that you should breed orchids!

The Ohlone Humane Society Regional Rescue Resource List provides information on responsible breed and other rescues. Contact OHS at 510-792-4587 if you are interested in rescuing a companion animal or for spay/neuter assistance.

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