Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Perils of being the "IT" Dog

One of the unfortunate side-issues involving the new First Dog (and we should be hearing news on that front any minute now) is that whatever breed the Obamas choose, it will likely lead to puppy mill copycat breeding. Puppy mills seize upon every high-profile dog in popular culture and seek to meet consumer demand by rapidly and randomly breeding dogs en masse in horrific conditions.

Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, while enormously cute, inspired the mass breeding of Chihuahuas in puppy mills. That's not so cute. Of course, this is hardly the fault of the celebrities -- in fact, we love the fact that they are so attached to their pooches. What it does demonstrate, however, is the need for regulation of puppy mills. Animal cruelty is animal cruelty, and no matter how much you may want a specific dog, we strongly encourage you to get your dog from a shelter or a rescue or a reputable breeder. Indeed, almost every breed club has a rescue or a network to help place a dogs in need. So you can rescue a purebred, you just need to know where to look.

A reputable breeder and a puppy mill are two completely different things. A reputable breeder is working to improve the breed and cares deeply about each and every dog. A puppy mill is a large scale commercial operation that is in business to make money--period. This means that the puppy mill makes more money if its expenses are low. As you can imagine, spending money on adequate food, shelter and vet care means lower profits. The puppy mill is trying to maximize output (puppies) per dog and this has nothing whatsoever to do with the health or welfare of the dogs.

If the Obamas choose a Portuguese Water Dog and you want to get one too, then contact the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. Billy's good friend Rolli Grayson is a wonderful breeder and, like all good breeders, she is extremely strict about where her dogs go. You may even find it easier to adopt a child than a dog from some breeders--and this is a good thing. A reputable breeder wants all her dogs to have a happy life with a responsible owner. That means, no reputable breeder sells dogs to a pet shop or in a mall parking lot. In fact, a good breeder remains in touch with her dogs and their new families and accepts returns if things don't work out.

So, please do your research and enjoy your new pup.

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