How to kill a shelter dog

The following is courtesy of Joanna Kimball of Blacksheep Cardigan Corgis.  I feel like this is an important thing to share with as many people as possible to help cut down on irresponsible breeding practices, etc.  Thanks Joanna for putting this in writing!

How to Kill a Shelter Dog

It’s really simple: Buy from an irresponsible breeder. I need you to hear this: If you buy from an irresponsible breeder, you are killing shelter dogs. YOU.  

What’s an irresponsible breeder? Any breeder that does not breed as a caretaker and devotee of her particular breed, as shown by showing, health testing, and being involved in a community of her peers.

Where do you find irresponsible breeders? Flea markets; swap meets; newspaper ads; generic sites on the Web that list a bunch of breeders on the same page. They’re the guy at your office that let his girl dog get pregnant. They’re the friend of a friend who bred her miniature Australian Shepherd “just once.” They’re your cousin who thinks she can make some money by breeding her Chesapeake Bay Retriever to another registered Chessie. They’re the people with the plastic sign at the end of their driveway: “Yellow Labs: $250.” Some of them even have gorgeous websites and professionally produced graphics; many of them are wonderful people, members of churches, clean housekeepers. They don’t look like puppy mills or evil people. But hear this: I don’t care if the breeder is your best friend and you think her dog is just awesome and your kids love the puppies and there was a rainbow in her driveway when you came over to see the litter. If she is not a responsible breeder, go to any vet’s office and ask to see the big bottle of Euthanol and take a good hard look at it, then go to your shelter and pick out the six dogs that are going to get that needle because your friend bred her dog.

Learn to recognize the birdcall of the irresponsible breeder: “We focus on breeding happy, healthy pets.” “You don’t need a show breeder; you just want a pet.” “We don’t want our dogs ruined by the stresses of the show ring.” “I am going to breed her once and only once, just so I can keep a puppy.” “This mix offers the best of both worlds—the nonshedding poodle and the easy-going Lab” (or insert the two or three breeds of your choice). “Our pets are our babies—we breed only for temperament.” “Mom and dad vet-checked.” “Champion lines.””Family-raised adorable pets.”

Learn to recognize the website of the irresponsible breeder: Dogs pictured lying down or playing. Males and females are called “mommies” and “daddies.” Puppies are often shown with props, or with hats on, or on a satin background. A special place in hell is waiting for those websites that show all the breeding females obviously pregnant or lactating (because, presumably, they are never NOT pregnant or lactating). There are no show pictures (where the dogs are “stacked” foursquare) or groomed pictures. The dogs have no achievements aside from looking cute. There’s usually a focus on external qualities: the biggest puppy, the smallest puppy, particular (often “rare”) colors, desirable hair textures or lengths.

So how does your purchase kill a shelter dog? Buying from an irresponsible breeder does several things: one, you’re buying a dog that you could have adopted instead. Irresponsible breeders don’t offer you anything that you can’t find at a shelter; they do not breed only the best to the best; they don’t warranty health or temperament; they don’t test and prove their dogs to demonstrate that their breeding stock looks, acts, or performs the way that breed should. So they are competing directly with the shelters in terms of putting dogs into people’s arms, and when people can buy a puppy instead of adopting an older dog, they virtually always do so.

Second, irresponsible breeders don’t just produce the puppy you brought home. That was one of a litter of perhaps six or eight. You gave them a pretty big check for almost no work on their part, so they’ll do it again. Maybe they’ll get a couple more bitches and make it a part-time job. So yeah, you may take this dog home and love it and never give it up, but your purchase encouraged the breeder to make thirty or forty or fifty more dogs. Can you guarantee that they all ended up in good homes? Can you be sure that they didn’t end up in shelters? The purebred dogs in shelters are the result of irresponsible breeders—yup, the same one you just handed a check to. It’s as simple as that.

Irresponsible breeders are going to keep on breeding until they cannot sell puppies. The market must end. That’s why it’s YOUR responsibility, not just theirs. The first time they have a litter of seven Labs who are all still chewing on kitchen cabinets at age one, having consumed several thousand dollars worth of food; the first time they have to raise an entire litter of Maltese until the patellas start to fail on all the dogs; the first time they get some of the pain and none of the dollars, they’ll reconsider doing this again. Until then, they will keep making puppies.

So what now?

There are exactly two ways to obtain a puppy or dog: adopt from a rescue, shelter, or pound; and buy from a responsible breeder who SHOWS (or trials) her dogs, who HEALTH TESTS (not “vet checks”), who INTERVIEWS YOU and who has standards for where she places her puppies—which means she may tell you no—who REQUIRES A WRITTEN CONTRACT including a puppy-back clause so your dog never ends up in a shelter or rescue, and who is open to PEER REVIEW and a member in good standing in her community (as shown by participation in a club or recommendations from other good breeders in the area). These are the qualities that set her apart as a responsible breeder, and they’re what keep your purchased puppy from adding to the statistics of homeless dogs.


Elbow Dysplasia

Back in the Summer we decided to go ahead and have Miles’ hips and elbows x-rayed and sent to OFA for evaluation.  The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is an organization that aims to research and prevent orthopedic and hereditary diseases in animals, namely dogs. They focus a lot on hips and hip dysplasia, but they also have guidelines for testing and rating elbow disorders.

Miles is neutered and therefore never going to be bred, but we elected to do these tests because a) he’s an athelete and b) he came from a rather dubious breeder (our mistake). So off we went to our vet for radiographs.

Great news first, his hips rated OFA Good. From the OFA website:

Good (Figure 2): slightly less than superior but a well-formed congruent hip joint is visualized. The ball fits well into the socket and good coverage is present.

Bad news, his elbows were rated as Grade 1 Dysplasia with DJD in both. The only grades involved are for abnormal elbows with radiographic changes associated with secondary degenerative joint disease or arthritis. According to the OFA, Grade 1 means there is minimal bone change along anconeal process of ulna (less than 3mm).

So I guess this doesn’t sound so bad until you think about where the dog carries most of it’s weight…on it’s front end. And then you think about most of the forces incurred doing agility and it’s mainly on it’s front end. CRAP! Into panic mode I go.

I pulled it back together and started to gather information about how to handle the diagnosis and prognosis of Grade 1 Elbow Dysplasia in my 76lb agility dog…..76 POUNDS!  Oh nooooes!  “Miles is chunky” says an acquaintance.  “He’s about a 6” says our vet.  “He has no ribs” says my trainer.  My healthy raw-fed wonderfully active jogging partner is FAT. 

Ok first step, weight loss.  I cut back his food to about 1.25lbs per day from about 1.5-1.75lbs per day.  At the advice of several folks I spoke with, to include the wonderful breeder that we were awaiting a puppy from, I also increased his salmon oil and added a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement with MSM and Vit. C.  I also cut back on his road running and now do mainly trails off-lead now or at least have him run in the grass on the side of the road. 

Fast forward four months and Miles is down to a slender 63lbs, but could still stand to lose a few more.  He’s doing great and while he never was symptomatic, I want to protect his front as much as possible.  I will never push him to jump full height in any agility venue except NADAC and CPE where the jump height for him is 20″.  So he’ll never get a MACH or an ADCH…oh well.  Did I really think he’d get those anyway?  Probably not.  I’ll be happy with a few titles and a dog who’s happy to play and lives a long active life 🙂