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Westminster Dog Show: An opposing view

Best in Show

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If the following take on Westminster reads like its coming from some PETA hothead that’s because it is.

Then agains, hotheads are sometimes worth listening to.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, and her remarks appeared in the form of a guest column in the Sacramento Bee.

Pollard-Post recounts watching Westminster in her youth, usually with a bad case of strep throat, and with her dog Katie at her side…

“But had I known then that Westminster – and the dog-breeding industry that it props up – share the blame for the mutilation and deaths of millions of dogs each year, I would have changed the channel faster than you can say ‘Sesame Street.’

“Back then, I had no idea that the snub-nosed bulldogs and pugs prancing around the ring may have been gasping for breath the whole time because these breeds’ unnaturally shortened airways make exercise and sometimes even normal breathing difficult. I didn’t know that the “wiener dogs” that made me laugh as their little legs tried to keep up may have eventually suffered from disc disease or other back problems because dachshunds are bred for extremely long spinal columns. I didn’t learn until much later that because of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features, approximately one in four purebred dogs suffers from serious congenital disorders such as crippling hip dysplasia, blindness, deafness, heart defects, skin problems and epilepsy.

“I remember feeling shocked when I learned that Doberman pinschers’ ears naturally flop over, and that their ears only stand up because they are cut and bound with tape when the dogs are puppies. And I felt sick to my stomach when I discovered that cocker spaniels have beautiful, long, flowing tails, but American Kennel Club breed standards call for their tails to be amputated down to nubs. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that these procedures ‘are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient’ and they ’cause pain and distress.’

“… Like many people, I hadn’t made the connection that every time someone buys a purebred dog from a breeder or a pet store, a dog in a shelter – a loving animal whose life depends on being adopted – loses his or her chance at a home …

“Dog shows also encourage viewers to go out and buy purebred dogs like the ones they see on TV from breeders or pet stores. This impulse buying robs shelter dogs of homes, and even more dogs end up homeless when overwhelmed people discover that the adorable puppy they bought ruins carpets, needs expensive vaccinations and food and requires their constant attention.

“My own parents succumbed to the lure of purebreds: They purchased Katie from a breeder. Katie was an exceptional dog and my best friend, but it saddens me to think that other loving dogs waiting behind bars in shelters missed out on a good home because we thought we needed a certain breed of puppy.

“Thankfully, some things have changed. After Katie passed away, my parents adopted a lovable mutt from the local shelter. I haven’t had strep throat since I was a teenager. And if the dreaded illness strikes again, you’ll find me cuddling on the couch with my rescued dog, Pete, watching movies – not Westminster.”


Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time February 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Well, I guess people who remember my comments know that I grew up around purebred dogs, and there are certain breeds I’m very attached to. I would hate to see the purebred dog disappear from the landscape. I only agree with PETA about once a year, and this may be the day. I didn’t watch the show this year. I had it on long enough to watch the hounds, all of whom I love, and that was it. I no longer like what I see.

The Dachshund is a very good example, and I grew up around lots and lots of them. In my long-ago childhood, they were very sturdy, strong dogs. Like many other breeds, they evolved as the farmers’ friends. Dachshunds I knew and loved were low-slung, but their legs and hindquarters were powerful, their chests deep enough to accommodate good breathing. Their muzzles provided ample breathing and sniffing room. They were feisty but seldom aggressive. A full-grown male could weigh as much as thirty pounds, and even the smallest females seldom weighed less than twenty–and that was when they were at their ideal weight. It really grieves me to see what has become of the dachshunds. They’re like caricatures of the dog they once were. And that’s only one breed of the many.

I’m beginning to believe that the AKC, and the way dogs are bred and exhibited now, is going to end up extinguishing the purebred dogs rather than promoting them. It’s taken me a long time to arrive at this conclusion. You ought to be able to take your purebred dog out and have it be able to retrieve or point or chase or guard or do whatever it evolved to do. The old rule was “from field to show ring.” If that’s not the case, then the dogs are the victims.

Comment from Anouk
Time February 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm

It is a simplistic view to state that buying a dog from a breeder takes away a rescue dog’s chances. I have two beautiful pure bred dogs. I bought them from a wonderful breeder. She genuinely loves the breed and does her best to bred healthy, happy dogs that make wonderful pets. We have our second dog because his first family weren’t able to keep him, and she, as the breeder, accepts the responsibility for all her pups for their entire lives. She knew we’d give him a loving forever home.
There is a definate difference between a responsible, ethical breeder who wants to see a distinct breed of dog preserved and a puppy miller/farmer or a backyard breeder who see dogs are livestock.
I agree, if you just want a dog, by all means go down the rescue path.
Because the breed of dog I love specifically are fairly rare in my country, they are luckily not widely available, and they don’t often get surrendered into shelters. This is an excellent thing and demonstrates that responsible breeders have as much of a role to play in no more homeless pets as do shelters and rescue groups.
I get so frustrated by PETA and other Animal Rights organisations’ black and white view of this.

Comment from jonathan gilbert
Time February 17, 2011 at 9:40 am

And, the AKC lobbyists work against all the Puppy Mill bills nationwide.

Comment from Jim
Time February 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I don’t much care for the AKC, never did, and the fact that they fight legislation designed to protect dogs from unscrupulous breeders / puppy millers says all that needs to be said about them in my opinion.
I have nothing against either ‘mutts’ in general or ‘Rescues’ in particular, but I see no reason to discriminate against ‘Pure Breds’ either, just because of the AKC. Dogs are dogs regardless, bless their souls.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t discover the joy of owning one many years ago (always been more of a cat person). However, four years ago circumstances more or less forced us to ‘rescue a Female Pomeranian from a neglectful family member, and she has brought us nothing but joy ever since. She is sweet, smart as a whip, and of course, spoiled rotten. I only wish we had the wherewithal to adopt another dog (regardless of breed). I imagine it would bring at least twice the joy, (along with twice the work). Bottom line – get a dog – live a longer, happier, more aware life, and then advocate for them in any and every way possible.

Comment from Pamela
Time February 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I’ve had strong feelings against the AKC for years. But I recently adopted my first purebred dog. I was hoping for certain characteristics and I worked hard to find a responsible breeder with a strong concern for health and proper socialization.

That said, the AKC is very retrograde in permitting breeding standards that harm the health of dogs. And docking tails and cutting ears are prohibited as cruelty in Europe.

I now see purebred dogs as a history of human interactions with dogs. But I still think there’s room for a lot of improvement in breed standards and responsibility.

Comment from Leesia
Time February 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

While this may be an oversimplified view, I have huge issues with AKC as well, mainly because of their refusal to back the puppy mill legislation. If any issue was ever black and white, the puppy mill horrors are, but AKC is too busy lining their pockets and encouraging (over)breeding for all the wrong reasons.