Friday, April 17, 2015

Parenting. If you breed your pet are you responsible for the offspring?

Charleston. My Harford County Humane Society rescue.

I have many dilemmas. They keep me up at night.. not the healthiest way of dealing, but it seems that during the day I am busy enough to keep the little nags at bay. Come sundown and sleepytime they rear up and tug at my conscious. Here's one I dealt with for the umpteenth time just the other day.

Said cute couple just starting their life together adopts their first four legged child. They love this girl to pieces. They dote on her, take her everywhere, and she, of course, sleeps in bed with them. There isn't one part of this pets relationship that isn't fully invested in their marriage. It is everything a vet hopes for a dog to find. Except, they want to breed  her.

My experience has shown me that the reasons for this vary immensely, but I find that breeders fall into one of four categories;

Best In Show
  • These are the  people you watch on The National Dog Show on Thanksgiving morning. They are the pinnacle of expertise for their one specific breed. Almost all of them have dedicated their entire lives to the health, advancement and welfare of their breed. They know the family tree of their breeding line better than any of us could recall our aunts and uncles never mind our more distant relatives. They do not sleep with their dogs, their dogs sleep under security cameras.

Blue Ribbon
  • The local breeders who manage one or two females, breed only after a complete vet work up, and sell privately to local families for upwards of $800 a pup. They work hard to provide healthy, well socialized family pets as an extension of their family business.

One Timers
  • The amateurs who dabble in the idea of taking their self proclaimed prime canine specimen as a way of passing on their prides legacy. They learn quickly that the business of breeding doesn't come cheap or easy. The road to puppies may be paved with good intentions but one $3,000 emergency c-section later they are singing a different hard lesson learned tune.

Accidents/Cash Only/No Ethics
  •  The people who breed because they never got around to spaying and neutering the brother and sister shih tzus who live in the house. Or, the person who is running short on funds and sees the Craigs List ads for "puppies for sale" that all seem to cost a few hundred bucks. Seems like an easy score right? Just breed your dog and grow your own at home business. I don't see these people much in practice. They do not seek veterinary advice, nor intervention when their lack of experience puts their prego pup in a serious pickle for a multitude of reasons. If you are contemplating purchasing a puppy from an ad see my blog on  Puppy Mill Cruelty.

The Black Dogs Rescue pups.

How do I talk to a person who wants to breed their pet honestly and openly when my lifetime of experience knows that there are a significant number of people out there in the world who purchase a puppy without the ability to care for them adequately and most definitely lack the ability to love them until they meet an untreatable end at a ripe old age? Here are some of the realities of pet ownership from this veterinarians perspective...

I know that people give up on treating a disease because it is cheaper to buy a replacement. Simple economics, right?

I also know that people surrender their older pets to get a newer edition, like it a status symbol, or the lease on the old car ran out.

That children who want a pet often lack the attention span to care for them when the monotony of daily feedings, poop clean  up and adequate exercise comes calling on a Saturday morning when the rest of their friends are headed to the mall.

The great breeders I know make a lifelong obligation to take back any pup the buyer no longer wants. They have contracts that require it. The best rescues also do this. Jarrettsville Vet has adopted out many an unwanted surrendered, abandoned, and denied convenience euthanasia pets to dozens of people over the last 10 years. Thankfully, many are in loving homes who share Christmas cards of "Thanks for helping us find our beloved Fluffy." But, I have many stories that attest to people's inability to love til death do them part. Even with a contract that states we will take our pets back "no questions asked" we get surprised. When an elderly woman who had adopted two cats many years prior became ill and needed to be hospitalized for two weeks her children (who promised to care for her cats while she was in the hospital) dropped them off as "ferals" at the local shelter. Luckily, those cats had our microchip and we were called to ask if our cats were lost? People can break your heart and destroy your faith in mankind.

The statistics in the US are awful. In the US we own 83.3 million dogs (all 2012 figures) and 95.6  million cats. The shelters house about 7 million pets and euthanize about 3 million dogs and cats a year. That means that 1 in 25 pets gets surrendered or brought to a shelter. Many of these are euthanized (about half of the dogs and three quarters of the cats). But think to of all of the pets that are euthanized at the hands of vets for the countless reasons we label as "convenience euthanasia." If I had to guess I would say that the 1:25 figure would be halved. Of the rest of the euthanasia's we perform many are due to plain old lack of funds to provide care. Halve that number again. One in 6. Add to that the number of pets that are not brought in for euthanasia, for instance, those that are killed outside of a shelter or vets office (think hit by car, disease, parasites, etc). and we are at 1 in 3. The statistics outside of the US in almost every other corner of the globe are even more abysmal.

How do you feel about knowing those odds? Me, not good enough to bring a soul into the world and bear the responsibility to provide for them for a decade or two should their parent no longer be willing to do so,,, and Lord knows I love me a puppy and/or a kitten. I just see reality too much. It keeps me up at night...

Stealing a moment with Max.
If you aren't taking time to kiss the pups what is the point of working?
Related Blogs;

So You Want To Rescue A Puppy? My advice on how to avoid the disasters of trying to do a good thing.

The Pain Of Breeding.

Breeders My Take On Them.

I am a veterinarian determined and dedicated to helping pets through the extension of educating and empowering people. For this reason I created We are a global community of compassionate people who know that there are options available for every pet need. We can help you find resources, understand your pets needs and link you to those who can assist. It takes a village to raise a happy healthy pet and we believe universal affordable pet care will someday be a reality. Please join us today.

If you would like to meet the amazing people at our clinic please stop by our Facebook page at Jarrettsville Vet, or find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. As someone involved in rescue this topic keeps me up at night too, sometimes in my thoughts and sometimes while I care for an unwanted litter of puppies through the night. I strongly suggest those considering breeding for just one litter visit a high kill shelter and take a long look into the eyes of all the wonderful dogs who are on borrowed time or talk to someone in rescue. I would be happy to talk to people about the other layer (that you cover in another blog post) ... sometimes you loose a litter. There is nothing more heartbreaking than loosing an entire litter of puppies one at a time despite the very best of care.

    1. Hello Jennifer,
      I know that losing puppies is heartbreaking, and that many people don't understand the emotional pain that this can lead too. I also believe, like you, that most people don't know what unwanted litters look like. It is a heartbreaking snowballing cascade of best of intentions and wort case scenarios. Those who aren't involved in rescue are oblivious to the pain and suffering many puppies succumb to. Please never stop caring for those who others have discarded. There are only happy endings only because there are dedicated people like you to dispel them.

  2. Krista - This is a very interesting blog and some of the more careful breeders do feel responsible for the offspring. If I were ever to buy a pure bred, that's the kind of breeder I would look for. While I love specific breeds and have almost always had a Labrador Retriever by my side my entire life, I work in rescue. Believe me, there are plenty of purebreds in rescue who's lives are not looked after by whomever bred them. A good estimate is 25% of the homeless companion dog population is from pure breds. Imagine if we only had to rescue 75% of the dogs we do now.

    1. Hello,
      I agree that there are a lot of pure bred dogs available to rescue and that most people don't realize that the breed of their dreams exists inside the shelter of their community. Here's to hoping that 25 % less dogs ever enter the shelter system.
      Thank you so much for reading and for adding a comment.

  3. Great article, I think the discussion of types of breeders is an insightful one.

    1. Thanks for reading!
      I love your blogs,, they keep me humble,, and thinking that I need to spend more time reading..beautiful.

  4. thank you, thank you, thank you.

    i am all for buying a puppy from an ethical, reputable breeder. this means the breeder titles in AT LEAST one venue, health tests for everything under the sun prior to breeding (and submits results to OFFA, maybe tries for a CHIC number), and has a contract REQUIRING every animal they produce return to the breeder if their home doesn't work out, regardless of the age of the animal and the reason for the return.

    and i absolutely frown upon people who talk about breeding without doing all of these things...because if one cannot do it right, one shouldn't do it at all.

    i also belong to the local branch of the DPCA, and we work closely with a breed-specific rescue in the region. i constantly tell new puppy buyers to go to their local chapter club of the breed they're considering, both for ethical, reputable breeders and for good breed rescues.

    1. Hello Laura,
      Thanks so much for reading and for adding your thoughts. You bring up some really important thoughts. Most importantly thank you for helping to educate people as they make a lifelong decision for the companions they share their days with.
      Please keep reading, sharing your thoughts, advice, and helping pets!

    2. i sure do try. :) i find myself talking to a brick wall more often than not, but i have one link that seems to have opened some eyes...and it may be helpful for you, too:

      this is one of my favorite posts ever written on the subject, as it thoroughly explains why puppy BUYERS (not adopters) should demand higher quality puppies...and along with that, people need to understand the difference between adopting/rescuing and buying. i've read far too many people insisting they rescued a puppy from a bad situation when they paid the "breeder" and only encouraged continued bad breeding practices.

      most of the time, all of this goes in one ear and out the other...sometimes, though, i get that one person for whom this really makes sense, and we end up with someone who thoroughly understands.

      i live for those moments.

  5. Much of the problem is not irresponsible breeding (although there is plenty of that, too), but irresponsible ownership. Too many people view pets as disposable. When the animal becomes inconvenient, they dump it. Many responsibly bred (with a return contract) dogs end up at the shelter anyway as the owner doesn't want to be bothered with getting the dog back to the breeder, esp. if the breeder is several states away and the shelter is just down the street. In my preferred breed, those of us heavily involved dog activities constantly scour Petfinder, Craigslist, and other such sources for dogs of our breed. When found, rescue is contacted, the Nat'l FaceBook page is posted to, breeder contacts breeder to see if they know anyone who sold a puppy in that area. In other words, we go to great lengths to keep our breed safe. People complain how hard it is to get a breeder to sell you one of their puppies. But even with all that joint, nationwide effort, we can't stop every dog from being dumped in the shelter and even worse we can't keep our breed out of the hands of puppy-millers. But we fight the battle everyday!