Written by Becky Monroe
My Own Pundit Accountability
A few weeks ago, I was reading The New York Times and the columnist referred to the phrase “pundit accountability.” He explained that it is when writers and experts should be willing to be transparent when they get things wrong. In his case, it was varying issues of COVID.
On the same day I read the article, a friend on facebook posted a meme that said, “There are NO responsible breeders.”
The two things have stuck with me and led me to write this week’s blog.
Fourteen years ago, after I attended my first puppy mill auction and found myself in the trenches making sense of the AKC, the USDA, legislators, and even the biased media at the time… I hated breeders. I mean ALL breeders. I was so disgusted by this cruel world of mass breeding that I was mad at everyone for allowing it to exist.
In fact, there might even be some trace of my writings that suggested I would favor a complete moratorium on breeding until every dog got a home. Between my work at the county animal control and my involvement in puppy mill rescue, I had simply become undone. To me, the world, and I mean the world, was just a cruel and evil place for animals. I truly believed that absolute measures needed to be put in place in order to make things better.
Honestly, if I am taking on my own pundit accountability then I would also suggest there has likely been a time or two or three that I have posted a meme similar to the one suggesting there are no good breeders.
However, while we are still in the trenches trying to make things better for breeding dogs and there are days I still find the world of mass breeding the most hideous thing on Earth, today I come with much broader perspective and am willing to be transparent about why I was wrong to say there are no responsible breeders.
My early raw emotions have simmered over the years and I have learned to listen and then RESPOND not react. And through my experiences have opened up myself to the opinions and expertise of many more people all while fine tuning my own opinions about these emotional issues we find ourselves in, in animal welfare.
I do believe there are good breeders. I have met them. I know friends who have gone to good breeders to obtain a dog. They saw the parents. They picked the puppy. The breeder was involved through the whole process. No one met in a parking lot. The breeder didn’t have 20 different breeds of dogs to choose from. Everything was legit and went as it should.
This really can happen. These breeders DO care about their breeding dogs and treat them like family pets. They put a lot of hard work and money INTO the dogs because they care about them and improving the breed in ways that make the dog thrive, not in ways that make the breed more popular on social media such as flatter snouts or smaller in size or mixing everything with a poodle.
When you talk to a good breeder it is obvious how much they love their dogs and how important keeping that breed in good standing means to them.
In a recent episode of the podcast “Truths, Lies and Puppy Mills” titled “Adopt or Shop Responsibly” we interview a reputable breeder and she explains in great detail the goals of preservation breeding as well as how her dogs are treated like family – not breeding stock.
I am proud of the fact that Bailing Out Benji has fostered relationships with reputable breeders and sees them as partners in the fight against puppy mills and not enemies. The reality is we do both want the same things and it is far better to work together.
There are also two other reasons I have come to support reputable breeders. The first one is simply that without breeders, dog breeds of all kinds would begin to vanish. Even today, there are many breeds one could never or very rarely find to adopt.
For example, search for an Afghan Hound or a Coton de Tulear and see what you find. There are so many breeds that are unavailable to adopt. Yet, there are wonderful families out there who want to add these breeds to their lives.
When you become a part of the animal welfare world, it seems unjust to want a certain breed. I feel like we are kind of taught to take the neediest dog and love him unconditionally and be happy about it.
I have done this many times.
But, not everyone can do this. In fact, not every home is suitable for the neediest dog. There are many homes that just need a well-adjusted, good natured dog in order to be successful. Many times these dogs are hard to find in rescue, so people should have the opportunity to purchase one from a reputable breeder.
It took me years to watch a dog show after attending the puppy mill auctions. The mere letters “A” “K” “C” made me want to vomit. However, despite my feelings about them, there is something so miraculous about watching all the different breeds of dogs at one show. From a giant Great Dane to a sassy Shih Tzu, my heart melts for all of them.
I believe that all of us who end up advocating for dogs are infatuated with ALL dogs. Sure we have favorite breeds, but put us at a party and it doesn’t matter what kind of dog is there, we seek it out.
Good breeders are our only hope of maintaining this vast array of dogs who are healthy and emotionally and behaviorally balanced. Without them, the diversity of breeds disappears.
My second reason for supporting good breeders is filled with controversy. Let me explain.
A little over a year ago, I found myself searching to adopt a dog. We had lost 3 dogs in about a year due to old age. They were 17, 16 and 15 – two had come from puppy mills and the youngest one came from Chicago Animal Control after being hit by a car. Their beginnings to life were all rough. Living as long as they did was pretty amazing.
We were left with Alice, our 9 year old Shih Tzu rescued at a puppy mill auction. She has one eye, no teeth and her tongue hangs out. She had never lived a day in her life without another dog. We knew she was sad when she found herself an only dog.
We began the search. I filled out at least 20 applications and never heard back from anyone.
Most of the time, after filling out the application, I would see the dog was taken off petfinder or the website.
I searched all kinds of sites. I looked on shelter pages, facebook rescue pages, you name it.
On paper, I think we look pretty good. We are both retired. We have a fenced yard. We don’t have small children. We have so much experience with rescue dogs. I mean I really don’t know where things went wrong. We have outstanding references.
Now, as an animal advocate, I was willing to play this game, but I can’t imagine many other people playing along for so long. It is a frustrating, emotionally draining experience.
You see a dog in need, you fall in love, you apply, you hear nothing.
And it wasn’t just one or two or even three rescue organizations, it was dozens who ignored my applications.
In desperation, I found myself on breeder sites. Initially, I looked to see if they had any retired breeding dogs I could adopt, but when they didn’t I started to look at upcoming litters or any available puppies.
I didn’t want a puppy and I really didn’t want to BUY a dog, but Alice was miserable living all alone and we hadn’t had such a quiet home in forever.
Eventually, I made contact with a rescue in Davies, FL and we adopted a 4 year old French Bulldog who was found on the streets of Miami with mammary cancer.
At first they overlooked our application, but then I took a crazy chance and sent a copy of my book in hopes of winning them over. That is how we finally made an impact. I am not super proud of my tactics, but hey it was pretty much a do or die situation at that point.
We finally adopted Agatha Rose months after we started looking to rescue.
Not many people have that kind of time or patience. And certainly not everyone has an animal advocacy book up their sleeve to send to a rescue to get noticed.
Animal adoption has become a ridiculously difficult process. It was for me and so many other great people I know who are perfect homes for dogs.
It is because of this, that I will continue to support reputable breeders. People need options. Families with small children should be able to have a dog.
I always say that most of us in this animal world are here because we grew up with a dog. Yet, today, families with kids under (insert age) are unable to adopt from many rescues. How sad that so many kids could go most of their childhood without a family pet.
I know there are rescues building arguments against my words. I understand how concerned you are to place the dog in the right, forever home. I know how many people have let you down in the past. I get it is an emotionally draining job.
I have done it. I have fostered dogs and placed them in homes. I have shed tears just on transports after having a dog only two days. I understand and respect the difficulty of it all.
However, all the rules and attitudes and the slow process is what leads people to pet stores, so I think it is important that we educate people on what their other options really are.
We need to support the good breeders and make sure that when people have exhausted rescue possibilities or are in need of a certain breed, they know where to go next. They know there are breeders out there that WE believe are humane.
There was a day I would have said, “In a perfect world, all dogs are adopted.”
However, if that were true, soon there would be no more dogs. And I cannot think of a more imperfect world than one without dogs in it.
Bailing Out Benji has done two interviews with reputable breeders through our podcast “Truth, Lies and Puppy Mills”.
You can access them on any podcast app or watch through the Youtube links below. The episodes are #8 and #59.
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