Editor’s Note: Last month, we republished an article by Megan Segura called “If You Bought Your Dog, I’m Judging You” from xoJane.com, not because we agreed with the sentiment held in the piece, but because we thought it would be great fodder for discussion here. And a big discussion was had — 573 comments as of this writing. Some readers were disappointed that we ran xoJane’s article at all because the opinions held in it are contrary to Dogster’s values, and of them, Jennifer Morrill was among the most vocal. So I invited her to write a rebuttal to Segura’s post, and she graciously agreed. This is that piece. –Janine Kahn, EIC
It is with great frustration that I write this rebuttal to “If You Bought Your Dog, I’m Judging You.” I know that many people, adopters and purchasers alike, share in my disappointment at the method in which this article was presented.
I think adopting an animal should always be a consideration for anyone wanting to get a pet, especially if you do not have specific needs or requirements for that animal. Here is the thing, though: Wagging your finger in someone’s face in your kitty cat hat isn’t going do anything positive for homeless animals. It is only going to enrage those who have purchased pets. In my experience, it is far more persuasive to educate — something this article failed to do on every level.
From the article: “Conversations with others usually start in agreement when someone says, ‘Puppy mills are the worst. It’s pure torture, and you’re a monster if you buy from them.’ But inevitably, it follows: ‘I mean, it’s only OK if you’re buying from a legit breeder who is nice to the dogs.’ No. No, no, no, no, no. NO!”
I think this is where a very important distinction needs to be made. There are “legit” breeders out there, but it is so much more than someone “who is nice to their dogs.” There are different types of breeders that simply can’t be lumped together as “bad.” Responsible breeders are hard to find if you aren’t sure what to look for, but they do exist. So what does a responsible breeder do?
A responsible breeder breeds for health, temperament, structure, and workability. This means the dogs being bred are at the top of their fields. They have passed health screenings. These are extensive screenings for genetic defects. In general, a dog from a responsible breeder is going to be a whole lot less likely to carry those health concerns. A responsible breeder also has a true passion and desire to better the breed and uphold breed standard.
I have heard many arguments against breeders and people who purchase from breeders — that they are selfish, part of the problem, and that they are killing shelter dogs by breeding and purchasing dogs. While I respect the passion that comes from some rescuers, I believe these statements are unfair as a whole. There are many factors that go into the decision to bring an animal into your life, and we have to respect that people have different needs when it comes to their animals.
My own experiences in life started me on my path of learning the difference between good and bad breeders and rescues. I know people who have various legitimate reasons for a specific breed — things like showmanship, dog sports, service, or herding. They need a specific breed, and they need a dog with the proper working temperament. They also put in a significant amount of time and money into training a dog. They risk having to cut that career short because a genetic condition such as hip dysplasia, causing a significant financial burden as well as heartache. These people shouldn’t be judged for getting the right dog for their needs. Despite this, many can’t understand why someone wouldn’t just rescue from a breed-specific rescue. The article states:
“Another option is to find a rescue group for a particular breed you’re looking for. Puppy mills continue to be shut down, and as a result, those purebred pups need homes.”
One of my best friends really wanted an Akita. She wanted to try the adoption/rescue route first and adopted a young male. She was ecstatic, but then the health problems started. The vets decided that he had a type of angular leg deformity. Ultimately, as Oliver grew, so did his leg problems. An expensive surgery was his only option. Oliver was brought in for surgery in hopes of increasing his quality of life.
Following surgery, Oliver died of a massive stroke. Everyone was devastated. After researching, she found that his condition was genetic. It is likely that both of his parents suffered as well. A responsible breeder would have tested for bone deformities before breeding, and the chance of having genetic conditions would have been reduced. Unfortunately for Oliver, he did not come from a responsible breeder. I can’t blame someone for wanting to get a dog from a breeder who has performed genetic screenings.
What the article really doesn’t do is inform the dog buying population how they can help. The author’s judgment isn’t keeping dogs out of shelters. It isn’t doing much of anything other than causing a stir on Dogster. I think that she might have had good intentions with her article, but it came across all wrong. Shaming people generally doesn’t make them receptive to your cause. It shuts them down or makes them angry. It doesn’t help. So, what does?
• Educate — There is no need for shame or scorn of the average owner. Instead of judging those who chose differently than you, educate. Speak to them with kindness and not ridicule or anger. Tell them about your positive experiences. Educate yourself as well. There is always something new to learn.
• Consider rescue for your next pet. I don’t mean you have to rescue or you are a bad person, but visit your local shelters if you don’t need something specific. If you cannot rescue, consider a donation. Consider becoming a foster home.
• If a rescue isn’t for you, consider a responsible breeder. I believe most would be shocked to see how reasonably they are priced. Buying from a responsible breeder doesn’t have to leave you in financial ruin.
• Do everything you can to be a responsible owner. Never let your dog end up in a shelter. It seems like a no-brainer, but this is where most animals in shelters are coming from. The majority are owner surrenders.
• Don’t judge. It won’t get you far. We have all come from different places in life. Try to understand where someone is coming from and share your point of view and hope it changes theirs. If it doesn’t, that is okay too. My immediate reaction on reading the article was anger, but I decided it was far better to write down why I feel differently. What I’ve tried to do here is provide information for people such as the author who believe the issue is black and white, when really there are many lovely shades of gray.
Bottom line, be a responsible pet owner. If you’ve made a purchasing decision you regret, learn from it. Don’t love your pet any less. Just learn and move on.
Jennifer Morrill is a mom and animal lover in Rocklin, CA. She has been an animal fosterer and rescuer for 15 years. She shares her home with her husband, three daughters, a 19-year-old rescue dog, two purebreds, 10 chickens, and two ducks.