Purebred Dogs and Overpopulation
Many people mistakenly assume that if someone pays a significant sum of money for a pet, they will provide the animal with good care and a permanent home. The many purebreds relinquished to shelters are testament to the fact that this is simply untrue. Frequently, the most popular breeds are relinquished in the greatest numbers. Of the 1,332,557 new dog registrations processed by the American Kennel Club in 1996, the top five breeds were Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Beagles, all of which can be found in abundance in animal shelters. The overwhelming number of unwanted purebreds has led to the formation of breed specific "rescue leagues" devoted to saving a single breed of dog.
While the unrelenting tragedy of pet overpopulation claims the lives of many purebreds, health and temperament problems condemn countless others to painful and unhappy lives and premature deaths. These infirmities, bred into animals over generations of time, provide yet another good reason to eschew the breeding of purebreds. More than 300 genetically transmitted abnormalities and diseases have been identified to which various purebred dogs are predisposed. Although many of these infirmities occur unintentionally - epilepsy being common to beagles and deafness frequently afflicting dalmatians - other abnormalities result from deliberately breeding for various "desired" characteristics. For example, the skin folds of a shar pei are often a site of infections and the basset hound's short, bowed legs and long back invite spinal problems.
The Plague of Purebreds by Dr. Eric Dunayer, VMD
In the United States, purebreds are status symbols. Many "owners" of pedigrees possess a breed chauvinism, the belief that their breed is more worthy of love and respect than other dogs. Ironically, the scorned mixed-bred dog is generally more physically and emotionally fit than the purebred.
The self-appointed promoter of purebreds is the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC's literature states that, "It's purpose is to...foster and encourage interest in and the health and welfare of purebred dogs." Yet, the very nature of breeding pedigrees is detrimental to the dogs themselves, and is irresponsible when millions of homeless dogs (both mixed-breds and purebreds) are being killed in shelters.
Purebreds suffer from inherited diseases at a far greater rate than mixed-breds. Eye diseases plague purebreds including cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal degeneration that ends in blindness. Congenital heart disease afflicts purebreds at over four times the rate found in mixed-breds. As a result of inbreeding to create and maintain their appearance, each breed harbors over a dozen genetic defects which may undermine psychological as well as physical health.
Sources of Purebred Dogs
Despite all these problems, purebreds are still desired. Many "owners" are ignorant of these diseases; others overlook them because their love for their breed is just too strong to be bothered by these problems. The resulting demand for purebreds sustains a multimillion-dollar industry.
Having created the demand, it must be satisfied by suppliers. Purebred dogs generally come form one of three sources,
- backyard breeders
- "responsible" or dedicated breeders, or
- pet stores, often supplied by "puppy mills."
While puppy mills have received a lot of attention for adding to the overpopulation problem, it is the other two groups - the backyard breeder and the 'responsible' breeder - who produce the majority of purebred births.
Purebreds are Abandoned
Purebreds are coming into shelters in alarming numbers. Shelter workers report that 25 percent of the dogs handled each year are purebreds. In one Chicago area shelter, purebreds account for about 50 percent of their animals. Incredibly, this number has occasionally reached 80 percent! Yet, in none of the AKC's publications does one find reference to the shelter as a place to find a dog. Instead, the AKC writes strictly about buying purebred dogs.
The AKC and its breeders can no longer hide form the problem of companion animal overpopulation. They can take immediate steps to reduce the number of purebreds born and the suffering they endure. In the end, however, it is the height if hypocrisy to breed and buy afflicted purebreds while healthy mixed-breds (and purebreds) perish by the millions.