By Steve Dale
No, they didn’t get a shelter dog. So what?
The First Family’s First Puppy is as pure bred as they come, a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo, a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy’s family, who have three Portuguese Water Dogs of their own.
By accepting 6-month old Bo, who had been returned to the breeder by another family, you’d think animal rights (AR) groups would be pleased with the President’s choice Instead, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society of the United States were sharply critical of Obama because he didn’t adopt a shelter dog, as if somehow dogs in shelters are suffering only because Obama chose a dog from a breeder.
To be absolutely clear " adopting a shelter animal is one way ordinary people can do something extraordinary, it’s relatively inexpensive and you may potentially be saving a life. It’s a great thing to adopt a shelter animal.
However, I’m sick and tired of the AR groups blaming responsible breeders for the ills of animal shelters, as if they are somehow to blame for too many animals being given up and too few being adopted.
When I began writing this column nearly 15 years ago, most people considered shelter dogs and cats damaged goods, and were reluctant to adopt. That false perception is no longer accepted as fact. Shelter adoptions are up, and in many places way up. In fact, today, some communities even have shortages of adoptable dogs, so they ‘import’ them from other cities, counties or states where there’s an abundance in packed shelters. Meanwhile, spay/neuters are up, and overpopulation is down in many parts of America. A complex web of caring volunteers rescue pure-bred dogs and pedigreed cats, yanking them from shelters (freeing space there for others), and bringing those rescued into home environments to be adopted.
When you subtract the dogs and cats considered unadoptable for behavior and/or health reasons, we’re doing better than ever when it comes to adoptions. Still, YES YES YES " absolutely too many animals languish and die in shelters. I’m not disregarding that tragic fact.
Unfortunately, animal rights (AR) organizations have blasted Obama for not choosing a shelter dog. Obama’s not alone. Joe Biden was attacked for purchasing a pure bred German Shepherd dog. In fact, according to these extreme AR groups, anyone who purchases a pure bred dog or pedigreed cat from a breeder is considered to be directly responsible animals dying in shelters. That leap of faith is simply wrong.
Pets purchased from conscientious breeders rarely land in shelters because, according to most contracts they must be spayed or neutered, and if anything goes wrong those pets are supposed to be returned to the breeder. That’s exactly what happened to the Obama puppy that unfortunately turned out to be a poor fit for his first home. He was returned to the breeder, rather than dumped at the door of a shelter. If somehow, some way that puppy did land in a shelter, Portuguese Water Dog Rescue would have saved him.
In fact, the AR groups have it backwards " responsible breeders are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. The problems begin with the idiots who breed animals for all the wrong reasons, they don’t belong to a breed club or consider genetics in their haphazard breeding; they simply hope to make a buck.
Totally at fault are the pet stores (whose supplies are from puppy mills and commercial warehouses) selling to anyone who has cash (credible breeders are discerning and interview perspective buyers).
Most of all, according to data, here are reasons animals most often land in shelters: it’s owners who can’t deal with a behavior problem and can’t find or don’t bother to seek suitable help; relocate but without taking the pet; people who rent an apartment or buy a condo where pets aren’t allowed but are soon discovered so the pet losses; or increasingly they simply can no longer afford to maintain the pet. Increasingly, lots of dogs are confiscated from gangs and other ‘bad guys.’
Dealing with all these issues is what we should all be working on " not worrying about the breeders who are acting responsibly.
If the AR groups literally had their way " based on their own statements " there would be no breeding whatsoever. Their mantra is to advocate all breeders go away and that each and every animal is “Bob Barkerized” (spayed or neutered). If that were to literally happen, Maine Coon cats would soon be as endangered as the Cheetah; and American Cocker Spaniels or, for that matter, Portuguese Water Dogs would be as threatened as the African Wild Dog.
Made to feel guilty, and pushed to do positive PR, the Obama’s will make a contribution the Washington (D.C.) Humane Society. That’s nice. But the Obama’s have nothing to feel guilty about. If you purchase a dog from a pet store or a reckless breeder, now you should feel guilty. But that is not what the Obama’s did. In fact, they didn’t make any purchase since Bo was a gift from the Kennedy family. Rescuing an animal from a shelter is good, but so is choosing a loving and responsible breeder " these two choices are not mutually exclusive.