Loyal Companions: Bought, Bred, and Rescued
This story looks into the overcrowding of shelters and how different groups of dog enthusiasts justify buying dogs outside these shelters, where the need is greatest. While the reasons for adopting and rescuing dogs seemed irrefutable, it was Rachel's responsibility to present the reasons of those who breed and buy from breeders in a fair and accurate way.
By: Rachel de Leon
By: Rachel de Leon
Avi Gonshor and his fiancé had decided that it was time to find a dog for their home.
Gonshor was determined to find a purebred boxer, most likely from a breeder, while his fiancé wanted to rescue a shelter dog.
Gonshor conceded to browsing the shelters and while at a mobile adoption in Studio City, they found Zoe, a two-year old female boxer.
“It was love at first lick,” Gonshor said.
According to Gonshor, she was found by a police officer stranded in a cardboard box, emaciated and left to die.
When Gonshor and his fiancé decided to adopt her, she was days away from being euthanized.
Stranded dogs like Zoe are becoming more common in Los Angeles County, according to LA Animal Services 2008 Statistical Report. The influx of relinquished dogs is partially attributed to the recent increase in home foreclosures.
The report showed that by the end of the 2008 year, LA Animal Services had seen a 19.4 percent increase in the amount of dogs impounded and a 24 percent increase in euthanasia rates for dogs.
Those who work with rescuing dogs urge potential owners to look beyond breeders and find a comparable dog at a shelter, where the need is greater.
“I can get you anything you want,” said Donna Galespi, deputy director for the Ventura County Department of Animal Regulation.
“If you want a female springer mix Labrador, four years old, I’ll have it this year. Just be patient.”
While buying from a breeder could cost $2,000 upwards, buying from the shelter costs $91, which includes licensing the dog, shots, a microchip and a free veterinarian exam.
But Gretchen Farrel, a dog trainer and owner of a dog training academy argues that a reputable breeder is a worthwhile investment.
“Breeders who have been doing it for 15 to 30 years are worth their salt,” Farrel said.
Cricket Blake, a standard poodle breeder from Granada Hills, said she’s been breeding for about 30 years and looks for dogs to breed that have a good temperament, have at least five generations of clean genetic testing, and that have been loved and cared for in a home.
Blake’s advice for those looking for dogs through breeders is to take their time and get to know the breeder.
“The first thing to look at is where the dog is being raised,” Blake said. “If there’s a bitch that’s being raised in a kennel or a garage, run!”
Blake said often dogs from shelters will have temperamental issues because of their former owners, but buying from a breeder allows people browsing to see how they were raised.
“When you buy from a breeder, you can look at the parent and say, ‘I like that dog,’” Blake said.
Palmdale resident Jim Lackwell, who’s been breeding toy poodles for 15 years, said that another benefit from buying from a breeder is the malleability of the dog and the quality of their breed.
“Most people are getting a young puppy they can train themselves,” Lackwell said.
Both Lackwell and Blake said they have perfect records and have never had any customers return a dog, but declined to offer references due to privacy issues.
Media Relations Consultant for the American Kennel Club (AKC), Lisa Peterson, said that the AKC inspects litters before they register them as an authentic purebred.
“The AKC paper is the first piece of paper you want to look for to make sure you’re dealing with a responsible breeder,” Peterson said.
It’s not necessary for breeders to obtain papers from the AKC, but breeders must register within their county and pay fees for two licenses, said Demetria Brown-Lott, a clerk typist in the licensing office of the Los Angeles Animal Services.
The first license allows the breeder to keep their dog not spayed and the second permits the dog to breed once a year. Both licenses are $100 and expire every year, Brown-Lott said.
According to California’s Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act, breeders are recognized within the state as a person who has sold three or more litters or 20 or more puppies within a year.
The act stipulates that dog breeders must adhere to health regulations provided by the California State Veterinarian and are subject to consumer inspection regulation from a state veterinarian.
The state also regulates pet stores, but Ferral warns buyers to beware of most stores because of where they buy their puppies from.
“We know a preponderance of pet stores buy their dogs from puppy mills,” Ferral said.
According to a United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) official who declined to state her name, puppy mills are recognized as a wholesale breeder and must be USDA regulated.
The USDA official said that puppy mills are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and are inspected at random times by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service within the USDA.
Kathleen Summers, manager of the puppy mills campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, said that the AWA is a set of standards set by the USDA that requires only basic humane treatment.
“You must give food and water and room to move around,” Summers said. “But you could have hundreds of dogs in one cage stacked on top of one another.”
Summers said that because this kind of treatment is technically legal, she is working with her campaign to make regulations stricter.
“Optimally, what we’d like to see is a day where the mother of any puppy you buy is someone’s pet,” Summers said. “She’s not living in a cage somewhere.”
She said that the Humane Society raided a puppy mill in Missouri that displayed extreme cases of animal neglect and abuse.
“Their fur was literally so matted, they lost limbs due to lack of circulation,” Summers said.
Other health issues Summers said she’s seen from puppy mills include rotting teeth from the mothers due to their depletion of calcium from having too many litters and hip dysplasia from not getting enough exercise.
Peter Huling, the college campus coordinator from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said that puppy mills often raise their dogs in cramped, filthy cages, without shelter from extreme weather.
It’s up to the buyers to stop the cruelty of these animals at puppy mills, said Madeline Bernstein, the president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals Los Angeles (SPCLA).
“What consumers do by continuing to buy is creating the demand,” Bernstein said. “As long as people will buy and pay cash for dogs, this will continue.”
Huling said that every time a consumer buys from a pet store, he or she condemns another healthy dog that needs a home to death.
“An animal shouldn’t be treated as a status symbol, but as a loyal and loving companion.”