There’s a debate raging right now in my family. It’s a hushed debate, because people have strong views and no one wants to offend anyone else (we’re polite like that), but it’s one fuelled by passionate views on both sides.
The question at the crux of it is: can you justify buying a purebred or ‘designer’ dog from a breeder when there are hundreds of rescues looking for a home?
In my experience, this is a divisive topic for many.
The implication is that if you choose a dog from a breeder, you’re basically fuelling the puppy farm economy and claiming that your labradoodle or spoodle or French bulldog is inherently more desirable and better than the many mutts who are homeless through no fault of their own. When it comes down to it, I can’t say I disagree with this implication.
There, I said it. I judge people who choose to buy a dog instead of adopting one.
My self-righteousness is earned because my dog is, of course, a rescue. He was an expensive rescue too, needing urgent surgery for hip dysplasia, which we were more than happy to pay for because we’re both animal-loving tragics and yuppies with the money to spend on dog surgery. He’s a garden-variety kelpie. If you looked up ‘dog’ in an encyclopedia, you’d probably find an image of Charlie, because he looks like the generic depiction of a medium-sized canine.
In contrast, members of my family have all committed various sins (in my opinion) when it comes to sourcing their pet dogs, including buying puppies from Gumtree ads, and purchasing designer Spoodles from a breeder without necessarily doing the due diligence I would expect as a minimum (which is to follow the RSPCA’s Smart Puppy Buyer’s Guide to the letter to make sure you’re not purchasing from a puppy farm).
I understand that people prefer certain dog breeds over others for any number of reasons. Poodle blends don’t shed, which is one reason for their extreme popularity. Labradors are the type of dogs that inspire a loyalty to the breed that often traverses generations. Unfortunately, though, our love of some breeds can have hugely negative consequences.
For example, people seem to find the squishy, flat-faces of French Bulldogs and pugs (just two of the many ‘brachycephalic’ breeds out there) so adorable that breeding standards have become exaggerated over the past decades to create dogs that can barely breathe and are prone to cooking from the inside in temperate weather until they die. I have no doubt owners of these breeds love their dogs, but are they also complicit in promoting the exaggeration of these characteristics that lead to pretty poor health conditions for the breeds?
And on a more simplistic level, is it morally acceptable to keep breeding dogs on purpose when pounds and rescues across the country are teeming with perfectly wonderful dogs that have wound up homeless, often because of irresponsibility on their former owner’s parts?
I’m not denying that there are many legitimate reasons for needing to rehome a dog, but there are also plenty of dogs who are abandoned because of behavioural issues that could have been solved with proper and dedicated training, or that have emerged because they have been neglected and not provided the mental and physical stimulation they need.
I’ll cop to the fact that I’m incredibly sanctimonious when it comes to animal welfare, but my previously quietly held views are beginning to evolve into straight-up judgement whenever I see a friend announcing the arrival of their husky or cavoodle puppy while I’m snuggled on the couch with my rescue mutt who is unbelievably grateful to have found a safe landing place after three years of being shuttled from home to home.
Is this issue cut and dry, or is there a balance to be struck between pure breeds and rescues? Does breed actually make a difference, or could people be equally happy with a mutt from the pound as they think they will be with the $2000 pug they have on order?