Breeders in Hiding: Part 2
Rescue: We are NOT your enemy.
By Cara Ryckman
Hey you! Rescue Person! Yeah, you! Me? Yes, I am a breeder. But I’m not your enemy. In fact we used to work together hand in hand. I remember when most breeders were a large part of rescue. Then the animal rights agenda came in and told you that all breeders are evil. Maybe some individual breeders are. Some rescue folks are in it for the wrong reasons, too. Again, some individuals. And those individuals caused breeders to back up from helping you out. I’m thinking back to the days when rescue was a strong part of every breed club, when breeders and rescue folks worked together to make sure none of our beloved dogs ended up in a bad situation.
You don’t see my dogs in your work, or if you do when you first scan one with a microchip reader you will find that every dog I put into this world has a microchip that first contact listed is me. No matter who I sell or give or retire a dog to, it’s going to have this microchip. The new owner can add their name, but they can’t remove mine. So, you will call me and I don’t care if you are in Zimbabwe, I will come get my dog. Many breeders I know – the good guys – do the same.
So, why can’t we be friends? The animal rights agenda is telling you that all breeders are bad. That bringing one puppy into this world of overcrowded shelters is irresponsible. Maybe you know or maybe you do not know the true agenda of the animal rights movement is eradicating dog sports along with circuses, rodeos, even service dogs; of eliminating purebred dogs through banning breeding; of finally eliminating pets and returning all animals to wild status to be enjoyed only from afar in their natural habitat. However, most rescue folks I know do not fit the animal rights mold. Not the ones who actually do the work. They are much more interested in animal welfare. They want to see animals treated right. They want each animal to be well kept and loved. They don’t want to see animals dumped on the street or at the shelter. They want pets to have loving homes.
Most rescue people I know are dear sweet loving people who have a heart for animals. I am not talking about the crazies. I am talking about the real people who take in and rehabilitate dogs so they are not euthanized and find them a new loving home. This may surprise you, but most breeders I know in the show world are dear sweet loving people who have a heart for animals. Most breeders I know want the same thing you do. We are more alike than you think.
Why do we breed? We breed because we love our chosen breed. We are preservation breeders who fell in love with a certain breed of dog: it has a certain look, but it also has a certain temperament and certain endearing traits. I can’t just go get a dog from a shelter, because that is not what I want. I grew up with Chihuahuas, and I love Chihuahuas. I have owned a Chihuahua since I was four years old, and shown my Chihuahuas in conformation since I was eleven. I want future generations to be able to enjoy Chihuahuas and the world of dog showing as I have my whole life.
I know if I get a Chihuahua that my dog is not going to get over 6 pounds. If I am an apartment dweller which I am not, or a frequent traveler which I am, this matters a lot to me. If I do my homework, as all prospective pet owners should, then I know the common issues that a Chihuahua owner may have. I know that maybe I shouldn’t get this breed for a small rowdy child. I know that it’s not going to drool, it’s not going to tear up my furniture, and that it is going to be an incredibly loving lap dog for my family. It may not be a social butterfly, though some are – our standard calls for terrier like temperament. It may – and probably will – be a barker. It’s not going to require a lot of grooming, but it will shed. I know exactly what my dog Is going to look like.
More importantly to me, if I buy from a breeder like myself, I know that the puppy has health tested parents. Our breed club recommends certain tests that any dog used for breeding should pass. I don’t expect that my Chihuahua is going to have patella problems or heart problems or eye problems, which are the testing recommend by The Chihuahua Club of America. What’s more, if my Chihuahua DOES have any of these issues, a responsible breeder stands behind their dogs and their puppy owners.
I know that the temperament of my puppy has been shaped from the moment the breeder considered breeding a litter. Parents were chosen for appropriate temperament for their breed. Puppies were reared in a clean brain stimulating environment. We have tunnels and play mats and toys everywhere for our puppies, and they are handled constantly. Within a range, I know what type of temperament to expect, and a good breeder is going to know their puppies better than anyone and should be talking to me about what I’m wanting, and putting the best puppy with me. A breeder is a lifelong friend to their puppy buyers, who they can come to as a resource anytime. A good breeder will also provide a lifelong place for their puppies at any age or situation, should they need to come home. In fact, they are required to! By my contract, they can’t go anywhere else.
Am I talking perfect world? Sure I am! But many breeders ARE like this. Look to our national breed clubs, often that’s where you will meet them. I can’t say every single breeder in a national breed club or local kennel club is good, but you can’t say every rescue person is good, either. We need to get back together to really solve a problem. You don’t want to eradicate pets! You love pets. We do too.
Is the solution getting rid of dog events and show breeders? You know as well as I do we are not usually where your rescue dogs come from. I won’t say NEVER. But usually it is the backyard breeder. The commercial breeder. The money breeder. The pet store. Our world operates separately from these worlds, MOST of the time. We could be your ally, as we used to be…but there has to be some changes. Right now, you are forcing us to have the need – distasteful as it may be to us –to learn to ally with the very people we both have issue with. When our ability to own and show and breed dogs is at stake, we have to think about allying with the circuses, the rodeos, even the labs. Even the commercial breeders and the money breeders that neither of us feel good about. Why? Because you are allying with those who want to end all pet ownership, all dog shows, all breeding, all purebred dogs. My breed that has been my life for just about my whole life, you want to see it end. The only way that we are going to beat the well funded slick commercial animal rights movement is to band together with people of like mind. Unfortunately, what you’re forcing us into is the like mind that agrees on “the right to own and work with and breed animals.”
The Adopt Don’t Shop movement giving a stigma to anyone who breeds dogs or buys a purebred dog is driving the wrong people into hiding. If you look at Craigslist or Hoobly or Puppyfind, you will see that it’s not targeting the types of breeders I listed above. The ones it has running are your former friends, the ones who would actually help with rescue and who could be your strongest ally. Why are we running, you ask? Because we care what people think. We have worked so hard to get to the point where we are with our dogs. We have a reputation that is extremely important to us, as responsible breeders of our chosen breed. In advertising a retired girl who I was looking for a loving pet home for, I originally wrote Breeders In Hiding: Going Extinct because misguided people are so negative to a responsible breeder in the name of rescue. We’re getting old, my friend. We are a dying breed. You are losing the very people who could help you with the answer to the problem, and supporting the ones who want to eradicate pets as a whole.
Do I have all the answers? No. Do I have some? Absolutely.
We need responsible breeders and the real rescue people to get back on the same page.
There are some rescue people out there who are the most awesome people on the planet. They usually have pets themselves, and they love animals. They are angry to see dogs being euthanized in the shelters, and they are taking in every dog they can to try to find it the right home. The good ones are helping the dogs through the behavior issues, evaluating temperament, actually screening homes, and placing the dogs with the best home they can find. The bad ones are extremists, or even worse, profit rescuers who are “rescuing” dogs for resale and making a profit off of it.
We need to educate people again what IS a responsible breeder, what they should expect when they go to a breeder. It was working before. People were getting it. They were starting to understand the difference between a responsible breeder and a backyard breeder and a commercial money breeder and a pet store. Now, anyone who mentions getting a purebred dog has some misguided friend on facebook saying “Adopt don’t shop!”
We need to educate people about how to obtain a dog, whether it be from a responsible breeder or a rescue. If they are going to go to a rescue, they need to know how to find a reputable rescue. If they are going to go to a breeder, they need to know how to find a responsible breeder. And we both need to learn how to refer each other again. We used to. You may be too young to remember, but it happened.
We need to educate breeders about rescue, and somehow find a way to identify rescue groups who are not extremists out to get us so that we can work with them again. We need to educate rescue groups about breeders. Do you realize how many extra hands you turned away, people who know the breeds who know temperament and grooming and care and training, who were valuable resources to you? We got scared, my friends. The extremists on both sides drove us away from each other, and it is hurting the true passion of both of us – the love of dogs.
Imagine an alliance. Eliminate the crazies and profiteers on both sides. Working together, for the true cause. Education of everyone, including the public. That’s what we need, friends. Education. Not against breeders or purebred dogs. Against the PROBLEM!
The biggest challenge we both face is that person who doesn’t know where to go for the purebred dog they are going to get. For whatever reason, they don’t want a shelter dog. They don’t want a rescue dog. Maybe as in the situation of a friend of mine, they couldn’t qualify for a rescue dog because they have children; she watched the shelters, but the breed never came in. Even if the card said it was that breed of dog, it didn’t look like that breed at all. But this person isn’t in the show world, and doesn’t know much about the AKC. CKC registration is registered, right? The most visible outlets are the bad ones. The pet store. The money breeder cheapo ads. That person down the street with a litter of Goldendoodles. They don’t know how to find a breeder who is responsible. They may be considering the absolute wrong breed for their family, but the money breeder isn’t going to tell them! (Sadly, most shelters aren’t going to either.) They are going to pay their money, take that puppy home, and have no support. No support when the puppy starts having behavior problems or getting “too big” or if it’s not a compatible breed for their family. And they are going to take that puppy to the pound or dump it beside the road or pass it off on another unsuspecting family because the money breeder is long gone.
I went to a dog show in Hot Springs, Arkansas last weekend where there is a kennel club that is actively working on the very issue we need to address. In parking our motorhome, we met Leah, who was with the kennel club – very obviously, as they all had matching shirts to make them easy to identify. She was friendly, helped us park, and let us know where to park the car we had brought. She then began telling us about what her club had done…they went out and talked to the general public. They talked to businesses and city officials, and they told them about the dog show. Fees were waived. Businesses actually donated trophies when they heard about the $350,000 that dog show people would be bringing in to their city. Leah let us know that even though the premium list said not to arrive until that day, people were there a day early…spending money in Hot Springs. They had been advertising. They had a Facebook guy who was blasting info about the show everywhere. Leah mentioned that one of our Chihuahuas would have been great for Meet The Breeds, and I asked what day that was…oh no, it’s a separate event! And while last year they had about 75 people total, this year after the “with it” Facebook guy got to work they had 103 people in the first 40 minutes coming to talk about purebred dogs. Leah was excited and the more she talked, the more excited I became. A kennel club was DOING something to combat this issue. When I went inside the show, I was amazed…there was a long table with large posters that explained how dog shows worked. There was a chart of all the breeds. There was information about responsible dog ownership. There was even information about leashing your dog and boating with your dog, grooming, AKC – why it is the best registry, “What’s New At AKC,” and what kids can do with dogs. There were photos from the Meet The Breeds. It was incredible. And you know what else there were? There were PEOPLE. People from the general public like I have not seen at a dog show since the grand days of Astrohall. The kennel club had set up rows of seating around every ring, and like the baseball story…if you build it, they will come. They came! They asked a million questions and asked to pet dogs and asked what kind of a dog this was and that was…and they were wonderful. Inquisitive, curious, and wanting to learn about purebred dogs and dog showing. I bet I personally talked with and answered questions for 20-25 people. Everyone was. And the groups!! People were clapping for their favorite dog, not just the owner’s friends but the general public was there en masse, and they were LOVING it.
We can do this. Each and every kennel club around the country can emulate this model. Don’t let the naysayers get in the way. Ask the people to come again. Explain to the town. Explain to the businesses. Get the support. And ask all your local rescue groups to come too, like the good old days.
Rescue, please put the animal rights agenda aside – it wasn’t yours to begin with! They’ve tricked us. They started a war where there never should have been one, because they are smart and well funded and have a pretty shiny ad campaign.
Controversial stuff, my friends. I know. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not the way to address this issue. We can be friends again.