Let's go for a- walk!
|Barked: Wed Dec 28, '11 5:23pm PST |
|Puppy mills, in many cases, exist because during previous economic hard times in the first half of the 20th century, state and federal authorities actively encouraged farmers to start breeding dogs for the pet trade as a "cash crop." It's because of this origin that laws and regulations about dog breeding, both at the federal level and in many states, are under the authority of the Departments of Agriculture.
And since the main concern of the Department of Agriculture, both federal and state, is keeping the human food supply safe, there just isn't much priority placed on inspecting puppy mills and enforcing the law. Heck, there isn't even enough money spent on having enough inspectors and enforcement for the human food supply; where are these agencies going to get the money for puppy mill enforcement?
And in any case, because these agencies are accustomed to regulating the care of livestock, that's what the puppy mill regulations are based on.
In this current anti-government period, with politicians willing to publicly argue that people unemployed in the worst economy since the Great Depression, with six or seven unemployed people for every job opening, and school janitor positions getting thousands of applicants, must be lazy or they'd have jobs, no, there is not going to be a new agency created specifically for regulating the breeding of dogs and cats, rational regulations developed, and adequate funding provided to enforce those rules intelligently.
Ain't. Going. To. Happen.
And as someone else mentioned, the correct standards for "responsible" breeding vary with the breed and with the goal of the breeding. There's no way for government to efficiently have lots of different sets of regulations depending on breed and purpose.
And mutts are not necessarily healthier, and not necessarily less healthy than purebreds. Very few mutts are truly random-bred over enough generations for any meaningful selection against unhealthy genes to take place. At the same time, most of them are reasonably healthy--as most purebreds are reasonably healthy. Even "unhealthy" breeds, for the most part, simply have a higher risk of their particular problems.
How far back you have to test to protect against problems depends on what the problems are. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a simple recessive gene. Get two copies of the gene, and the dog will go blind. There is a test for one of the most common forms of the PRA gene, prcd, and if that gene is present in your breed, you can dramatically reduce the risk of blindness by ensuring that every breeding includes one dog who is genetically clear of that gene. (You don't eliminate the risk, because there are other forms of the gene, less common, that can't be tested for yet.)
Other things, like hip dysplasia, aren't that simple, and you really need several generations of both tests and health outcomes--did the dogs develop hip dysplasia before old age, or did they not?
So while it's easy to give your mixed breed pups, if you are deliberately breeding mixes, a high likelihood of being clear of PRA, it's much harder to be sure their hips are going to be sound, because if the testing and tracking wasn't done on their ancestors, or you don't have those records, you can't really know for sure what the risk is.
At the Tufts Cat and Dog Genetics Conference this fall, they said that at this point, probably all of the single-gene-determined genetic diseases have been identified, and the others will, as some have already, prove to be combinations of several genes AND environmental factors.
One of the vets at the conference told this story: Bull terriers have a relatively high incidence of compulsive "spinning," tail-chasing that isn't cute, isn't fun, and carries a real risk of severe self-injury if it's severe enough. Responsible bull terrier breeders try to avoid producing puppies who will be at risk, but there's no genetic test for it, even though it's clearly inherited. This one breeder had a lovely bull terrier bitch, who was calm, happy, never a hint of spinning. Conformation champion, too. She bred this bitch to an excellent stud--and every single one of the puppies was a serious spinner. It was heartbreaking.
But she knew the problem wasn't her bitch because this bitch had never, ever shown any signs of spinning or any other compulsive behavior. So she concluded the problem was the stud, and for this dog's next litter she was even more careful in her selection of stud.
And every one of the pups was a serious spinner. Breeder was heartbroken, knowing this wasn't just chance. She had the bitch spayed, and placed her with a friend who wanted a calm, steady, happy companion.
In her new home, the bitch started spinning compulsively.
Returned to her breeder, she was a calm, happy dog with no sign, no hint, of spinning.
No test. And no way to be sure the calm, happy dog in front of you doesn't have the trait to pass on to her puppies, would not herself be a spinner in a different, but still excellent, home.
Think about trying to breed responsibly and produce healthy puppies without the trait, with so little to go on and no history on the ancestors.
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