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Should you feel guilty about your purebred?

petaprotestAfter PETA’s protest at Westminster, The New York Times posed a timely and interesting question yesterday: Should the buyers and owners of purebred dogs feel guilty — given the number of dogs euthanized in shelters and the abuses that continue in purebred breeding?

Then they bounced that question off four experts on dogs and their place in society.

The responses are well worth reading in their entirety, but here’s the overly condensed version:

Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society:

The only truly guilt-free purebred dog is one acquired from a shelter or breed rescue group … What’s an exploitive breeder? Any breeder that can’t provide a loving, in-home environment for a pregnant bitch, and a safe home environment surrounded by loving people for new born puppies, is exploitive. Anyone who breeds as a business rather than for the love of the breed is exploitive.

Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of ”The Intelligence of Dogs,” “How Dogs Think” and more:

Nearly 40 percent of dogs do not make it through their first year with their first owner, and instead are returned to their breeder, given to a shelter, euthanized or abandoned, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Humane Society … The advantage of purebred dogs is that they provide us with some level of predictability.

Mark Derr, author of “A Dog’s History of America” and “Dog’s Best Friend”:

This need to find “unspoiled” or rare breeds is tied not only to a desire for the next “hot” dog but also recognition that purebred dogs for all their beauty or uniqueness often have multiple genetic problems that are as much a result of the way they are bred as are their appearance and talents … But with purebred dogs accounting for 25 percent of those in shelters and countless more with dedicated breed rescue groups, virtue would appear to lie in giving a dog a home.

Ted Kerasote, author of “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog”:

Dividing the world into those who should feel guilty for owning a pedigreed pooch and those who can feel self-righteous for rescuing a mutt does little to solve the two major challenges domestic dogs face today: careless breeding and an antiquated shelter system … Assigning blame to one or the other won’t do much to bring more genetic diversity into the world of purebred dogs or help shelters operate in more diverse and life-saving ways. Nor does instigating guilt give the slightest nod toward the magic that happens when a person and a dog, purebred or not, fall in love.

Comments

Comment from laura
Time February 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

Well said, Ted Kerasote.

I purchased my purebreed Vizsla from a respectable breeder, who sat with us for two hours and talked about the breed. I don’t think enough credit is given to these breeders. They put time, energy, and love into their dogs. Their knowledge of the breed is invaluable.

As for genetic problems, my breeder gave us the medical history of both parents and grandparents. That is worth something to me, knowing my dog has good genes and will live a long life. Why am I expected to feel guilty about that?

Comment from Carey
Time February 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

A true breeder does it for the love of the dog. They will tell you up front they aren’t making any money off of your sale.

I’ve owned both mutts from shelters and expensive purebreds from breeders.

While I love all dogs with all of my heart, all of my dogs will continue come from shelters. They seem to “know” that they are saved and are eternally grateful. And they tend to have less health problems than purebreds.

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