As you all know I work in a shelter so you might expect me to admonish anyone who even thinks of buying a puppy. But this would actually hurt dogs. Here’s why.
It turns out that even experts are surprised when they are bitten by a dog. Dog bite reports are up at the same time that dogs come from unknown sources, rather than from planned litters. This is no coincidence. Dogs from random sources of mixed heritage make great pets. Reputable shelters can help you evaluate a variety of dogs to find a good match for your family. But breeders actually choose parents who don’t bite, among other traits, to mate to offer puppies who are less likely to bite over generations.
There was a time in the 1970’s when there were many pet dogs allowed to roam neighborhoods without birth control. Animal impound facilities were overwhelmed with dogs. Animal welfare advocates encouraged everyone to consider adopting a dog rather than purchasing a dog because the shelter dogs were at risk of being put to death for lack of facilities and money to care for them, while purposely bred dogs were sure to get a home. However, activists interested in ending the practice of pet ownership took this opportunity to discourage breeding of dogs completely. In many areas by the 1980s’ they supported mandatory neutering enforced through government fines and seizure of pet dogs. No matter that these laws increased shelter admissions, and thus euthanasia of homeless dogs, the larger goal of ending breeding, raising and owning dogs was the point. Baby steps.
So today, we have a generation of parents of young children who believe there is a moral defect in anyone who seeks a dog who’s birth was planned. This is easy to understand when you know the history. But it’s a movement that is failing families and dogs.
It turns out, shelters don’t have enough dogs now that everyone wants a second hand dog, rather than a planned dog. So shelters seek dogs from any second hand source including breeders in other countries. So few breeders in the United States will sell to a middle man/shelter when they can go direct to the full price buyer on the internet by calling their puppies “rescued”. A reseller can expect to get $200.00 for a puppy that will be resold as a “rescue” for $450.00. Transportation from the reseller to the “rescue” has also become big business now that the profit margin supports it.
So if you are looking for a dog for your family there are more questions to ask of your source than ever. The old rules to meet the parents and fill out an application with references still apply but potential owners are competing for puppies so that application fees and bidding wars are common. In other words you may be required to pay up front for the privilege of applying with no guarantee you will be approved to get a puppy at all. There have been a few remarkable cases of puppies imported internationally who died of Rabies, accusations that rescue groups imported a new dog flu from Korea that is spreading across the US, and purebred Golden Retrievers imported from the streets of Turkey. Shelters in the United States have requests every day for Goldens but they rarely end up homeless so how do international charities find them starving on the streets in significant numbers in other nations? More importantly, its so important for a family to believe they’ve rescued a dog that they can only consider the purebred dog of their dreams, if he comes with a story of suffering.
- The old rules for finding a source for a dog go like this.
- Contact the Borzoi Club of America for a list of member breeders
- Find a mentor near you to introduce you around and decide which activities you and your dog will enjoy
- Get involved in your local club and visit several dog shows locally
- The active dog handlers around you will help you find the right breeder who will help you find the right litter and puppy
- If you have experience, consider getting on the waiting list for a second hand dog; retired breeder or show prospect or re-homed dog
So many people just would not wait a year or more for a dog and breeders wouldn’t budge. So Pet Stores sprung up so anyone could get any kind of dog but especially the most popular breeds many times made popular in movies; Lady and the Tramp (Cocker Spaniels), 101 Dalmatians, Eight Below (Huskies), MAX (Begians). As animal shelters filled up with mixed breeds, a result of lax containment and lack of neutering, the message that controlling your dog’s breeding was important to reduce pet population forty years ago, is the same thing as never buying a dog today makes no sense. But that’s where we are.
So if you decide to get a second hand dog, add a few criteria to the old rules.
- Get references from your source from previous adopters and their veterinarians.
- See the facility even if the representatives tell you the dogs are housed in individual foster homes.
- Get receipts for vet care provided and call the listed veterinarians to be sure the dog you are getting is the one the paperwork describes.
- Ask about health guarantees and return policies. It’s true that rescues cannot take all their dogs back but they shouldn’t have to if they screen adopters. They should always be willing to discuss what happens if there are surprises no one could have foreseen.
Consider staying local. The mass importation of dogs (hundreds of thousands per year!) is a risk to bio-security, encourages deception to get through customs and make a buck, and limits your options if things go wrong. But if the dog of your dreams is far away, consider traveling to get your puppy so that you can do all the things you know have to do to ensure a rescue dog is actually rescued and not purposefully bred for the new market of dogs on demand, as long as they have had a rough start.