June 07, 2007

The death of the mixed breed dog

There was a time when, if asked, I would have said that only licensed, ethical breeders of registered, purebred dogs should be allowed to breed, in order to eliminate backyard breeding and puppy milling. As with most absolutes, I have gradually been forced to re-examine that attitude, for a variety of reasons.

I guess, first of all, mandatory spay/neuter, just by its very nature, must end up descending into the insanity that is California's Bill AB1634, recently (and narrowly) passed by the State Assembly. I'm sure this bill is primarily intended to allow authorities to easily shut down puppy millers, but how the heck do they really think this is going to help anybody?

Forced sterilization of all non-purebred dogs by four months of age? Can any reasonable, logical person step back, look at that statement, and truthfully say, "Yep, that'll work"?

Like the Ontario pit bull ban, engineered by the governing Liberal Party purely to look good on TV, the only people who will obey this law are the ones that weren't the problem in the first place.

I was just commenting to a friend of mine today how many bully breed dogs are walking around Toronto unmuzzled, yet I'm afraid to sit on my front porch without muzzling mine. I love my dogs and I've seen too many dogs die because of neighbour complaints or overzealous officers.

Same in California.

The already illegal and badly bred Mexican imports will not only continue, but will grow to meet increased demand.

The backyard breeders will continue to breed, illegaly, as they have in Ontario. They just won't advertise in the newspapers anymore.

The good hobby breeders, who can't afford the new licensing provisions, will simply give up producing their quality product.

The puppy millers will move out of state and then ship their physically sick, temperamentally challenged, overpriced, and unguaranteed designer dogs back to California, which apparently is NOT illegal.

There can only be one result from this law:

No more mixed breed dogs.

In five years, there'll be half as many as today.

In ten, there'll be almost none.

In fifteen, absolutely none.

Except, of course, for the ones from Mexico, the backyard breeders, and the out-of-state puppy millers.

Wonderful. Thanks.

Yes, there'll be purebreds, but the number won't even be close to enough to go around. Not if the breeders are good breeders who won't overbreed their females, won't own or breed a ton of dogs, and won't hand the dogs out to just anyone.

So I started thinking about the dogs I grew up with and the dogs I've owned, none of which were purebred:

  • German Shepherd type
  • Labrador Retriever type
  • Border Collie type
  • Jack Russell Terrier type
  • Collie type
  • Multiple hound mixes
  • Multiple "pit bull" mixes
  • Beagle/Collie mix
  • Husky/Samoyed mix
  • Lab/Shepherd mix
All of these dogs were rescues of some sort or another and none were provable purebred dogs.

They would not have existed in the new California.

The Beagle/Collie mix and the Husky/Samoyed mix were the best dogs I've ever had (sorry, Brooklynn and Star, but it's true).

What would my life be like now if these dogs had never entered my life?

The Beagle/Collie (Trixie) and one of the hound mixes (Dusty) who both taught me, as a child, what it feels like to watch your dog get hit by a car. Trixie got away. Dusty didn't. Valuable lesson, never forgotten.

The Collie (Piper) who taught me, through a bite, that many dogs don't like being grabbed by a 12 year old when there are twenty kids in the house at a birthday party.

The Lab who taught me, through a bite, that older dogs feel pain more than younger ones.

The Border Collie who taught me, through a bite, that dogs like to chase moving objects, including children.

The Husky/Samoyed (Panda) whose incredible strength and desire to pull encouraged me to pick up my first dog training book.

The Lab/Shepherd (Zeus) who is probably my biggest regret and heartache and who didn't deserve the crappy life he had, both before and after me.

The "pit bulls" (Brooklynn & Star) who changed my life forever and gave me my first real taste of discrimination and hatred, as well as cementing lifetime friendships with other dog owners.

None of these would have existed under California's new law.

There are approximately 80 million dogs in North America. Very few end up in shelters compared to the massive number that stay in their original homes. There may be overpopulation in some areas, but if this type of law spreads throughout the rest of the continent, I fail to see how sterilizing 70 million out of the 80 million dogs is a reasonable solution.

Frankly, I think it's one step above the Chinese solution of handing over all existing dogs (no exceptions) because of three cases of rabies. It's rooted in the same overreactive thought process.

A study of shelters in the late 1990's by the National Council on Pet Population identified the top ten reasons for dogs being relinquished to shelters (Note: this does not include strays picked by rescuers or animal control). They are:
  1. Moving
  2. Landlord issues
  3. Cost of pet maintenance
  4. No time for pet
  5. Inadequate facilities
  6. Too many pets in home
  7. Pet illness
  8. Personal problems
  9. Biting
  10. No homes for littermates
If you look at this list carefully, the only real overpopulation one is #10 (no homes for littermates). #6 might be considered a similar problem, but we can assume that any dog included in #6 is NOT from a recent litter, so that could be bad owner decision-making (in terms of how many dogs were brought into the home) or simply a case of multiple dogs not getting along.

If we break these ten reasons down into major categories, some in multiple categories, we get:
  • Lack of owner planning (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10)
  • Housing (1, 2, 5)
  • Issues out of owner's control (2, 7, 8)
  • Dog behaviour (9)
  • Backyard breeding (10)
So the issue may not, indeed, be as simple as overpopulation when we're talking about trying to reduce the number of dogs in shelters. But, like breed banning, it's an easy thing to legislate (although difficult, if not impossible, to enforce). You can't easily legislate anything else on that list, with perhaps the exception of forcing landlords to allow pets.

So, just like breed banning, legislators try to force a "one size fits all" law down everyone's throats, even though the vast majority of mixed breed dogs in the state of California and in Canada and the U.S. will be kept by the parents' owners or given to a reasonably good home or sold in the newspaper to somebody who'll love them for the rest of their lives.

Do I agree with these choices by these people? Not particularly. I think there are better ways to acquire dogs and, probably, most people could look after their dogs better than they do, feed them better, give them more exercise, train them more diligently. But most people get a dog, love it and look after it reasonably well until it dies, and then get another. That's generally the way dog ownership in our countries works.

We have ideals such as mandatory owner testing, mandatory dog training classes, responsible breeding legislation, severe animal cruelty penalties, etc. These ideals are good and I, along with many others, will continue to push for these things. But the chances of legislating these in the near future are slim. With the exception of the animal cruelty laws, these types of laws won't go over well with the general public and especially with anyone who doesn't want the government interfering with Joe Public's everyday life (I include myself in that group).

So education is a huge component, particularly in those areas that are very difficult to legislate. Only with public education will these types of legislation eventually be allowed and accepted.

California's approach is doomed to fail. Unfortunately, until such a time as this law is repealed, the rights of millions of law-abiding, dog-loving citizens will have been ignored and an entire generation of lovable, funny-looking, unidentifiable "mutts" will not be there to grow up with kids, love their families, and teach children how to behave around animals.

I don't have all the answers. I don't even have suggestions half the time. But I do know a bad law when I see it and this is one of those.

This is a hastily and badly thought-out piece of legislation, heavily promoted by Animal Rights groups who have publicly stated that they want to see the end of all pet ownership. Given those public statements, they could not have asked for anything better than to see the largest state in the country start firmly and unwaveringly on the path to the extinction of an entire species of domestic animal?

And far too many dog owners, sick of puppy millers, mind-boggling animal cruelty, dog fighting, thugs, and gangsters, jump on to the mandatory spay/neuter, mandatory microchipping, and breed banning bandwagons, without any real thought as to the future implications of these laws.

Microchip a dog.
Microchip a car.
Microchip a child.
Microchip a person.
Is there a difference?

Ban a breed and there will be no more dogs of that breed, the majority of which are great dogs owned by good owners. But there will be plenty of other breeds and many, many mixed-breed dogs to replace them, with no reduction in danger to the public.

Sterilize a species and there will be no more of that species. It's that simple.

Dog owners, WAKE UP! It's not just paranoia anymore. They really are out to get you!

-- END --


Dianne said...

The sun-fried brains in California are out to get the cats, too.

Soon, owning a pet will be a criminal act. Wait and see.

Conners said...

I've become a big advocate of getting your pets fixed, but as I read your post it reminded me of all the mixed breeds I also grew up with and loved dearly. Most were dogs we received from the Toronto Humane Society as a kid.
It was instilled in us by my Mom as kids, it better to rescue a given up dog, than to buy one. The same went for the cats we also had, unless I found a wondering lost cat on the street and brought it home and cried until Mom finally said if we couldn't find it's home, it would be ours.
To fix your pet would elliminate many unwanted pets that go into shelters and many are put down if not adopted out by a certain period so this is tricky.
Irresponsible owners that don't fix their pets and allow them to run free, get into garbage, perhaps get hit by a car will never abide to any laws. Somehow they think that to own a pet is enough. To care for it properly doesn't occur to them. These are the same people who don't bother to vacinate their pets or make sure it's on a healthy diet. Often they have tons of pets and none of them are kept properly, but they call themselves animal lovers.
We don't want back yard breeders nor puppy mills, yet you pose a lot to think about.
Great post Steve.

Selma said...

Excellent post!

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