October 22, 2018

Designer Dogs: Pedigree propels ‘survival of the un-fittest’

Is a mixed-race person any less valuable than a single-race person? Do single-race people even exist anymore? Why should dogs be any different?

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 60 percent of American households have at least one dog, but only 21 percent of those dogs were adopted from animal shelters. In America, there’s no doubt we love our pets.

The problem is that in the U.S., a “melting pot” of ethnicities and cultures, purebred dogs are more sought after than homeless or mixed-breed dogs. This is a problem because shelters euthanize an estimated 2.7 million animals every year, with thousands more dying in the streets every day.

The demand for purebred dogs creates an increase in the number of dogs bred in puppy mills, which focus solely on profit rather than breeding healthy, happy pets.

The all-too-common tale of puppy mill dogs is one of tragedy. Purebred dogs run quite a bill for adoption alone, but sometimes puppy mill dogs also come with a lifetime of hefty vet bills. At times the puppy may not even survive ailments that begin in the mill.

A 1994 Time Magazine story reported that “as many as 25 percent of the 20 million purebred dogs in America — one in four animals — are afflicted with a serious genetic problem.”

This isn’t to say all purebred dogs are guaranteed to have debilitating health problems. It’s common for purebreds to be inbred to protect the bloodline, which causes these health problems. Programs like the Westminster Dog Show don’t help with this attraction to purebreds. This dog show values pedigree dogs, feeding the desire for families to have beautiful, purebred animals.

“This focus on beauty above all means that attractive but unhealthy animals have been encouraged to reproduce — a sort of survival of the un-fittest. The result is a national canine-health crisis, from which few breeds have escaped,” the Time Magazine article stated.

While a purebred is pampered and fawned over, a mutt somewhere is hungry and cold. While breeders spend time and money inbreeding dogs to create the most ideal animal possible, homeless dogs are roaming the streets, unneutered and breeding at an exponential rate.

In countries like the U.S., some of these animals are taken off the streets by organizations like Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Stray Rescue takes in as many homeless dogs as possible. But rescue shelters only have room for so many dogs. The demand for mixed-breed dogs needs to increase in order for Stray Rescue and for similar organizations to continue their work.

Adopting a homeless, mixed-breed dog is a win-win situation: the adopter gains a friend and the dog gets a better life. Mixed-breed dogs are just as loyal as purebreds and sometimes are even smarter, friendlier and healthier.

We need to change how we think about dogs. Rather than putting such a high value on purebred dogs, perhaps we need to look at mixed-breed dogs in a new way. Like a partner or spouse, a dog should be chosen for its compatibility in a person’s life, not for its pedigree or appearance.

 

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