New Mexico's Pet ResourceWINTER/SPRING 2000


CANINE CORNER

PLAY IT SAFE AND SAVE A LIFE: ADOPT A SHELTER DOG

By Ardeth Baxter

You see them advertised in newspapers and want-ad publications throughout the state. FOR SALE: Rottweiler puppies. AKC-registered German shepherd puppies. Or boxers. Or pit bulls. Many New Mexicans earn extra income by breeding their dogs. There are also professional breeders— business people who may not take good care of their animals and provide a supply of puppies to pet stores.

The worst run breeding facilities are called puppy mills, virtual animal prisons where bitches are kept confined and constantly breeding, their litters barely surviving in deplorable conditions with little or no medical attention.

Litters from irresponsible backyard breeders or puppy mills are often confiscated by Animal Control officers after neighbors or concerned animal lovers complain about unsanitary conditions or the noise level at the breeder’s premises. Or they may be in violation of an ordinance which dictates how many dogs are allowed in one residence. The puppies may be filthy, undernourished, listless, frightened, suffering from skin abscesses, contagious, often fatal diseases such as parvovirus, and even genetic abnormalities from inbreeding. Sometimes these unfortunate animals are beyond help and have to be euthanized.

Regulations that apply to professional breeders are loosely enforced. And recently the US Department of Agriculture announced, after pressure was brought upon it by animal welfare groups such as the Doris Day Animal League, that professional breeders selling directly to the public will not be regulated under the Animal Welfare Act.

At the present time no legal standards apply to backyard breeders. The USDA has concluded it is an invasion of privacy to impose regulatory standards on individuals operating out of their private homes, stating the public can observe the living conditions when they purchase animals. These decisions were handed down despite eyewitness reports of local humane societies and animal control personnel who know just how poorly unscrupulous breeders treat their animals. While breeders continue to produce purebred litters for the pet market, animal shelters find themselves inundated with surrendered and stray dogs who also need homes. Two great reasons to adopt from a shelter are that animals are medically and behaviorally prescreened, and that economical adoption packages are offered. For example, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society veterinarian performs a physical and deworming, and administers distemper/parvo and kennel cough vaccinations to every dog offered for adoption. As an added incentive, low-cost spay/neuter surgery and a free initial exam with a private veterinarian are included. The mixed breed dogs most often found at shelters enjoy a diverse genetic pool, and are often healthier than purebreeds. But if you really have your heart set on adopting a purebred, you can often find them at shelters, as well as at no-kill animal sanctuaries and breed rescue organizations.

The sad truth is that for every puppy purchased directly from a breeder or indirectly through a pet store, a shelter dog loses its chance at life. Certainly every dog deserves a home, no matter what its origins. And there’s no question that many breeders are animal lovers. But in a country where as many as 64% of animals brought to shelters are euthanized, should backyard and professional breeders contribute to this overpopulation tragedy?.

Ardeth Baxter is a publisher and animal rights advocate who lives in Lone Butte with a varying number of dogs and cats and one human.

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