The Breeder and the Damage Done

Today, while you work, have tea, conversations with friends, lunch, make arrangements for your weekend, and do all the things that enable you to enjoy life, 822 domestic animals will be ‘put down’ in shelters around the country. And that is a conservative estimate. There will probably be a lot more.

We say ‘put down’ when we refer to animals. We do not use the term ‘murder’ because they are ‘only animals’. In today’s society, one ‘puts down’ creatures of a ‘lower order’, where they ‘belong’ – we use euphemisms as shields, lest we should be ashamed…

And we should be ashamed. We should be ashamed because the measures that could have prevented this have been available for some time, because the ignorance that prevails over this scenario is inexcusable, and because the majority feed the problem and sustain it while a tiny minority battles against impossible odds to fight for the lives of these defenceless creatures.

What are the root causes that lead to the mounting numbers, leaving animal welfare workers in despair, their inconsolable sadness powerless to compensate for or halt the carnage? Where do we lay the blame for such injustice – and it is injustice, since we cannot blame the animals for their plight at the hands of supposedly intelligent beings?

“There are more animals than homes” is the common lament, and of course at first glance this is obvious – but how did this state of affairs come to pass? What are the events that lead to supply outstripping demand to such an extent? Where are the checks and balances that in any normal market would reduce production when demand contracts? It’s very simple really, and we do not need a course in Rocket Science 101 to see that if the reproduction mechanism was controlled, we would cease to have animals excess to requirements. Forgive the clinical attitude, but it is time we looked this situation squarely in the eye and put aside the emotional distractions. It starts with the breeder. Breeders take many forms, and we will do well to identify their type and behaviour with regard to dogs, since pretty much the same categories apply to cats and horses:

  1. The unconscious Backyard Breeder, whose animals run around the neighbourhood merrily fertilising or being fertilised to their heart’s content, because they are not sterilised. Whether they are ignorant or just stupid – and I do not refer to the non-human animals here – is not really the core issue. Ignorance must be educated and stupidity must be legislated and controlled. Fact is, legislation and policing is non-existent. Every animal produced by a backyard breeder adds another statistic to the already overwhelming numbers.
  2. The Registered Breeder follows a breeding plan to preserve and protect the breed, and raises the puppies with plenty of environmental and human contact. Usually runs a clean, small kennel and screens breeding stock to eliminate hereditary defects, and works with a kennel club to promote and protect the breed. Careful to place the puppies in the best home possible. While in many cases they are the benchmark for breeding practice, they are not as squeaky clean as some might like to believe. Their primary motivation is, in many cases, financial profit, and considering the effects as outlined above, one could easily say that as an industry it is part of the problem, since these breeders are not concerned with the fact that every time another animal is sold, a homeless animal is consigned to Death Row.
  3. Commercial (unregistered) Breeders are motivated chiefly by money and have little interest in the animals themselves. In many cases, their facilities are not kept very clean and the animals’ health is of secondary importance. Commercial Breeders sell to pet shops and brokers who sell on to pet shops or flea markets or even to anybody from the roadside. This is where much of the excess volume is created, since they are less concerned with quality than with quantity and the dogs that don’t make it are merely ‘collateral damage’.
  4. Brokers buy from Commercial Breeders and sell to pet shops and other retail outlets, often selling puppies in classified ads. Puppies are often shipped by the truckload.
  5. Bunchers collect dogs from people who advertise them ‘free to good homes’, adopt unwanted animals from shelters, or buy stolen pets and sell them to laboratories or brokers.
  6. Puppy Mills produce puppies indiscriminately with no regard for breeding practices, the welfare of the puppies, or socialisation practices. Overcrowding and neglect are common, as is abuse. These also operate in large volumes, since the object is to maximise throughput at any cost. In most cases, the cost is reckoned in neglect and abuse of catastrophic proportions.

The consequence of the above is that the public often unknowingly contributes to the problem and its growth. I say ‘unknowingly’ with a touch of sarcasm, since they should know better, or at least be a little more circumspect since they are dealing with the procurement of a living, sentient being. Given almost any other purchase, most people would want background information, guarantees of quality, and maintenance schedules and costs. Somehow, when purchasing an animal, the great majority seemingly suspend any form of intellectual enquiry and operate in ‘immediate need’ mode without consideration of the consequences for the animal or themselves. In other words, they move into ‘stupid’ gear…

A domestic animal may live between 8 and 25 years. This is not a commitment to be taken lightly, and an animal is not a commodity to be sold off or discarded because of ‘inconvenience’. Those who decide to emigrate often make the decision to abandon their animals, more often than not at the last minute, clearly  a consideration only as a last resort. And for those who dislike the use of the term ‘abandon’, what do you think is likely to happen to those animals when, because homes cannot be found, they have to be taken to the SPCA? They do not publish their euthanasia statistics for a reason – the public outcry would be deafening. But never mind the uncertain future such people consign their faithful companions to for the sake of convenience, what of the opportunity cost? For every animal that already has a home and now has to be relocated, a shelter animal goes without, and the prognosis is not favourable, since they usually have seven days in which to find a home, or be put down, sometimes less or more depending on the capacity of the facility and the compassion of the people working there.. The SPCA does not have a homing process whereby they actively search for homes. The consequence of that should be obvious.

Bottom Line? If you’re breeding in your back yard, you’re part of the problem. That includes those who want precious ‘Topsy’ to have ‘just one litter’, like the woman I recently spoke to recently. This is irresponsible stupidity based on personal emotional gratification, and avoids the issue of the consequence of such an action entirely. Question the actions and motivation of such people, and the answer is usually a shrug of the shoulders. Is this an indication that they do not understand, or that they just don’t care? What kind of person acts without due regard for the consequences of their actions? Simply put, an unethical one. It’s never “just one litter” – one leads to another, which leads to another, and when you look around, there are “more animals than homes”, there is a crisis, and nobody willing to take responsibility.

If you have an unsterilised animal on your property, and you’re not a professional breeder, you’re part of the problem.

If you’re buying from pet shops, flea markets, pet hypers that tout puppies from newspaper adverts you’re part of the problem.

If you’ve advertised your animal ‘free to a good home’ in classified ads, you’re part of the problem.

If you’re a welfare worker and you allow any practice where an animal is transferred from one person to another without sterilisation, inoculations, and home checks, you are part of the problem.

Let’s STOP doing things we should be ashamed of, and be a part of the solution: STERILISE your animals. DON’T buy unsterilised animals unless you are a professional registered breeder who has some understanding of breeding and animal husbandry. DON’T breed at home – we have enough animals in circulation. DON”T buy from pet shops unless they can prove that the animals have had their inoculations.  You do this at your own peril, most pet shop purchases end in a lot of money spent at a vet trying to treat the sick puppy and results in one dead puppy, many sad family members, and a person who is pocketing the rewards of this heinous continual vicious circle. DON’T buy from classifieds sites like Locanto, Gumtree, The Classifieds, Bidorbuy, NetAds24, and Junk Mail. You just never know where these animals come from. Stop the operation of indiscriminate trade by closing off their market.

DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE HOMELESS ANIMALS DIE. This year, there will be at least 300 000 reasons not to do so – those who departed courtesy of the needle…