Talk Back: Breeding Bad Health

By on February 19, 2010 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Published on the final day of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, my blog about the BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” and increasing concerns about the health and welfare consequences of current breeding practices in the world of dog fancying, drew a variety of responses. I heard from those who defended competitive dog breeding and showing and, in larger volume, from readers who were shocked to learn of the prevalence of congenital and hereditary problems in some purebred dogs. While The HSUS supports responsible dog breeding, we're concerned about curbing harmful breeding practices—as are the many long-time dog breeders who we work with. Below is a sample of comments from people on all sides of the issue.

A note: If this issue is of interest to you, you might also enjoy browsing four more perspectives on the topic recently posted on The New York Times’ Room for Debate blog.

So glad to hear about this documentary. It's important that people who watch the Westminster realize what is behind it. It's not all about pampered pooches. —Ann Wall

Another excellent story brought to the forefront! I watched this video and it was heartbreaking to watch these dogs suffering from health issues due to extensive inbreeding. The two breeds that I remember well were the German shepherds and the Cavaliers. The German shepherds’ hind end was drooping from pictures of the earlier Shepherds and it was extremely hard to watch. The Cavaliers’ skulls were not large enough for their brains, causing excruciating pain. This is a documentary that everyone should watch in my opinion. It was a real eye opener in the breeding industry. —Nancy Ball

Cosmetic changes that cost the dogs their health and sometimes their lives are criminal. —Meredith Buist

I spent many years watching Westminster and telling myself that those marvelous canines were more than likely being treated extremely well (although I never liked the snub that purebred events represent for the mongrels of the world!). And I felt like a killjoy when I started telling family and friends about the extreme insensitivity of people who subject animals to whatever it takes (tail docking, etc.) to get the "perfect specimen." … So I'm very, very happy to see HSUS step up on this one. It will alienate many people and will force many true dog lovers to recognize the cruelty involved in this practice, but it is indeed the right road for HSUS to take in order to give a voice to another group of suffering voiceless. —Jeri

Mr. Pacelle: I cannot tell you how much I admire you and the HSUS for the wonderful work you do on behalf of animals. I am currently in law school with the ambition to become an animal law attorney. It is my hope that one day I will be able to join the many heroic people in this country that fight to protect animals and promote laws to protect their welfare. However, I am disappointed in your article, "Dog Breeding: Behind the Best in Show" for several reasons. Although, I can agree that there are problems within the sport of dog fancying, there are also many positive aspects that should not go undiscussed. I have participated in the sport of dog fancying for many years. Although, I did not actively breed, I did show, train, and care for all my dogs that I purchased from legendary breeders. My experience with dog showing has taught me so many valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day. The breeders and participants I grew up around put the health of their animals at the very top of their priority list. … I never came into contact with one breeder that did not abide by our strict policy of health and genetic soundness. All the dogs I had purchased from breeders came with contracts that protected the dogs and the breeders kept in touch with me regularly via phone calls and emails. I have researched many, many pedigrees and never found an instance in our breed of inbreeding. This may not be the case with every breed or breeder, but we must not classify all breeders and breeds as one and alike. There were instances of line breeding (taking a nephew to an aunt for example). This method of breeding preserves valued characteristics and qualities without the adverse effects that can result from inbreeding, such as health defects. However, line breeding is not found in every pedigree. … It is a tragedy that some breeders are irresponsible and over-breed or breed unhealthy dogs. This is a very poor reflection on the sport of dog fancying. However, it is not the epitome of dog fancying and it is not what dog fancying is about. —Eryn Pearson

Yes you are correct there are bad breeders out there—many bad breeders—but from my experience show breeders typically are not, and I have almost twenty years experience working with dogs and, believe me, I see the results of bad breeding every day. Stop attacking people who actually work on improving breeds and go after puppy mills and pet stores, etc. —KL

As a former dog breeder, I know that much of the public has no idea that registrations from puppy mills are what pay for these dog shows. That is the primary source of income for the registry. Behind the flash and spectacle of the show ring is a sad world of despair and suffering, which is why I abandoned the purebred dog fancy. —Carole

Thank you, Wayne, for your blog today regarding the Westminster Dog Show and other purebred competitions, and their "dirty little secrets.” For years I have enjoyed the Westminster for the simple reason that I am an avid dog lover and find all dogs beautiful. However, I have always felt that these competitions were inherently wrong somehow, and always felt guilty for enjoying them. Now I know why. Not to mention the fact that these competitions reinforce the fact that purebreds are better (which in fact, from a health perspective, they are worse) and thus further perpetuate the puppy mill industry and overcrowded shelters. Thanks again for having your pulse on ALL animal issues and for constantly educating those of us who strive to make this world a better place for our animal friends. —Tara Spellman

This is so sad!!! Just when we thought it was okay to relax and watch these lovely dogs strut their stuff in the show. A story like this makes you so angry!!! People take advantage of these creatures in so many ways purely for their gain, and reward. —Kim Feinberg

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