The conversation shouldn't be shelter and rescue vs. breeder — it should be responsible vs. irresponsible.
by Good Dog
Although dog abandonment has slowly decreased each year since 2011, dog homelessness remains a pervasive issue in the United States. The euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals is a reality that happens in many shelters across the country. Still, it's inaccurate to claim that millions of dogs lose their lives to euthanasia. Despite this myth, a staggering 670,000 dogs are euthanized yearly. In an attempt to cull dog overpopulation, the blame is often placed upon reputable dog breeders who are producing ethically bred litters. In an attempt to cull dog overpopulation, the blame falls upon reputable dog breeders who produce ethically bred litters. However, this kind of criticism is unfounded. To properly advocate against dog abandonment, it’s critical to understand the stark difference between good breeders and irresponsible sources.
Puppy mills and unethical backyard breeders are fueling the dog abandonment issue by breeding dogs for profit without concern for health, safety, or temperament. These irresponsible sources often fill pet stores and online storefronts with unhealthy and emotionally unsound puppies. As a result, ill-advised customers end up with a dog who has severe health or behavioral issues that they are completely unprepared to cope with.
The ASPCA notes that unexpected problems with health, size, and behavior are the primary reasons animals end up in the shelter system. “Problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, or health problems owner couldn’t handle” are among the top issues dog owners state when they relinquish or attempt to rehome their pets.
Unethical sources rarely screen potential dog owners because they sell their puppies for profit without consideration for welfare — this means puppies often find themselves in the hands of uneducated, ill-prepared, or irresponsible dog owners. When these dog owners realize they are financially or physically incapable of caring for a puppy from an irresponsible source, they have no choice but to abandon or rehome the dog. Moreover, irresponsible owners often don’t spay or neuter their pets, leading to accidental or unplanned litters that contribute to the cycle of dog overpopulation.
Responsible dog ownership is the cornerstone of repairing the dog abandonment situation. This means screening and educating prospective dog owners, finding an owner that’s a good fit for each dog, understanding the needs of each breed, and committing to their dog financially and emotionally for life. Some of the biggest advocates for this kind of responsible dog ownership, however, happen to be responsible dog breeders.
The notion that responsible dog breeders contribute to dog overpopulation is misguided because dogs from good breeders seldom end up in the shelter system. Ethical breeders agree to take back or help rehome their dog if an issue arises, regardless of age. If a breeder doesn’t stand behind their dog for life, they aren’t responsible. This doesn’t mean that purebred dogs don’t enter shelters or rescues; it means only that there is a crucial difference between purebred dogs and well-bred dogs. This doesn’t mean that purebred dogs don’t enter shelters or rescues; it means only that there is a crucial difference between purebred dogs and well-bred dogs.
Grouping responsible breeders in the same category as unethical puppy producers leads is a failure to acknowledge the striking difference between responsible and irresponsible breeding practices. Good breeders always prioritize the well-being of their animals, and without them, the protection of physically and emotionally healthy dogs would be virtually non-existent.
Responsible breeders screen and vet each buyer to ensure they’re making a suitable dog-human match, so puppies are much more likely to end up in capable, educated homes. They act as a resource for their puppy buyers throughout their dogs’ lives and work tirelessly to shed light on the importance of responsible dog ownership.
Considering there will always be a market for puppies from breeders, pushing out responsible programs will only open up gaps that puppy mills and unethical sources will rush to fill. It’s critical to support and empower those people that are doing right by their dogs to weed out the irresponsible sources who are looking only to profit off of their animals.
The conversation around dog abandonment and euthanasia is delicate and divided, often causing people to feel like they need to take a side. This long-standing debate has led to an attack on responsible breeders, though the argument shouldn’t have pit breeders against shelters in the first place.
It’s critical to reframe the conversation around dog abandonment to make progress. Education about responsible dog ownership is at the core of the solution. Celebrate the efforts of ethical breeders, shelters, and place blame on irresponsible programs and irresponsible owners for fueling the dysfunctional cycle of abandonment. By shifting the conversation, advocates against dog abandonment will be well-positioned to build a better world for dogs.