Is Dog Breeding Ethical?
Most of the time dog breeding is not ethical or done for the health and wellbeing of the dog.
Although my article focuses on irresponsible journalism and a specific dog breed (Briard’s) one can extrapolate all of the same arguments to every dog breed.
After reading Nancy Kalish’s article in Psychology Today, “It’s National Purebred Dog Day,” I was in disbelief. Kalish is a professor, author, and psychologist who blatantly displays her lack of compassion and ignorance of animal rights, shelter dogs, breeding, and companion animals.
I came across her vapid supposition that purebred dogs, in particular, Briards, do not end up in shelters and are somehow different and incapable of being unhealthy or abandoned. I wish this were true but one of my client’s two Briards has cancer at the young age of 6, bought from an “ethical” breeder and the other has more behavior problems than you can shake a leg at.
The illusion of health concerns when adopting a dog vs. buying a pure breed dog is not only untrue but irresponsible to propagate, and displays one’s ignorance about breeding, behavior, canines, and also encapsulates the epidemic of euthanization in America – turning away.
Kalish has little, if any, education in canids biology, behavior, rescue, shelters, neurology, nutrition, breeding, etc. other than her claimed “love of dogs” as her credentials.
Unfortunately, many groups such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) also rely on talking heads with Ph.D.’s, just like Kalish, who has minimal canine knowledge. To produce pseudoscience journalism in support of breeders and breeding more dogs, while millions die every year, discredits herself and the publishing journal, Psychology Today (PT) for allowing a laywoman to opine on a topic in which she has no background or expertise. They would be just as disillusioned and ridiculous in asking me to speak intelligently about the complexities of biomedical engineering.
The claim, “As a psychologist, I know how important it is for bonding and training to start young” while true, is as confounding as the rest of her claims. I did not realize that in her doctorate dissertation, or anywhere along the line in a psychologist’s educational pursuits, they were required to research the depths of dog training and ethology. I believe Kalish, a self-proclaimed expert in bonding and training, is out of her ken and should stick to what she studied.
Kalish doesn’t stop while behind, but adds injury to insult by postulating, “Briards in heat are not wandering the streets to become Briard-doodles, or whatever.” If one is to understand this statement, Briard breeders and parents never make mistakes. I would ask, how many purebred bitches become pregnant after escaping from home, or when (not if) someone drops a leash or has an unneutered playmate or beau, etc. For Kalish to make these blanket statements is irresponsible and foolish.
She commends Briard breeders yet decries any other mongrel Poodle mix. Instead, Briards were mongrelized with the much more “desirable,” Beauceron and the Barbet.
Some tens of thousands of years ago, all dogs evolved from wolf varieties. Then, they were bred to form one breed or another. Briards are no different and didn’t somehow escape evolution.
Outlandish Journalist Claims About Dog Breeds
This is another fascinating claim from a Ph.D., “And if my dog gets sick, after the vet, I turn to the Briarders on the Internet lists for their expertise and experience with many briards.” This is odd because according to Kalish, Briards “are relatively healthier than many other dogs.”
She goes on, “The goal is to breed out the diseases that affect the breed and make the breed healthier. Care is taken to introduce new genes into the gene pool for maximum health.” After all, the reason she advocates buying from breeders is because of the looks of the dog and “healthier Briard that has passed all of their health clearances” rarely get sick, so it seems she would so rarely if ever, need a veterinarian, let alone have to turn to internet chat rooms for advice. That anomaly would hardly be worth mentioning. These are conflicting statements.
Others such as musician Robert Rich have pointed out additional axioms to consider, “Evolutionary biology shows us one metaphor for this trap of stylistic boundaries, in terms of species diversity and inbreeding (ref. E.O. Wilson). When a species sub-population becomes isolated, its traits start to diverge from the larger group to eventually form a new species. Yet under these conditions of isolation, genetic diversity can decrease, and the new environmentally specialized species becomes more easily threatened by environmental changes. The larger the population, the less risk it faces of inbreeding. If that population stays connected to the main group of its species, it has the least chance of overspecialization and the most chance for survival in multiple environments.”
Dog Breeding Moratorium
In some rare cases breeding may be warranted, however, a moratorium on breeding dogs even for a year or two would likely be sufficient to prevent the unnecessary killing of millions of innocent animals. It’s simple math. Breeding could commence after the shelters were cleared, new, stricter laws regarding pet parenthood were enacted, intelligent, well-thought-out regulation was put in place for breeding and selling pets, and the public was educated as to the benefits of adopting and dog training.
I love the morphological differences, shapes, sizes, and dispositions of various breeds, but above all, I love life and health, not death. I love a variety of different breeds, and no one is arguing to get rid of all or even some breeds, however, life and not killing, must come first and foremost, before all else for the simple fact of equality and liberty. Because contrary to civil law, animals have rights and one of those rights is to live. Contrary to Kalish’s argument, animals are here with us, not for us.
This isn’t the first time a Ph.D. speaks ignorantly outside of their wheelhouse and opines about subjects that are not understood by them or simply do not consider and deliver all of the facts. When it comes time to watch dogs die at staggering rates (millions every single year) and to ignore this tragedy and paradoxically claim that you “love” dogs is an oxymoron of the greatest proportion. Cool hand Luke said it best, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Most Breeders Are Puppy Mills
Most breeders are puppy mills in disguise and have a conflict of interest whereby money is put before the health and well-being of animals.
In the dilettante Kalish’s ostentatious article, her analogies, and argument are highly flawed and obliquitous. She makes some absurd inaccurate analogies and points that highlight her ignorance about breeders, animal welfare, and show off her lack of compassion about animal welfare and dogs.
Kalish justifies, advocates, and recommends buying dogs from breeders instead of adopting homeless dogs by dogmatically stating, “And I did not rescue an orphan from Romania or Guatemala or China, although there are orphans who need homes. I chose to give birth to my child.” This is a red herring, ignorant, and flawed logic. This type of myopic position fails to discuss or see the main point of rescuing or adopting a dog rather than buying one.
The first problem with her argument is regarding conspecificity vs. heterospecificity. A dog (a nonhuman animal) is an extended part of your family, not a nuclear member to which you gave birth (or at least I hope not). Furthermore, 4+ million babies (orphan humans) are not inhumanely killed every year, solely because they are homeless. How can you compare having your own baby to buying a dog from a breeder?
Perhaps if Kalish volunteered in a shelter or was in the trenches, injecting poison or gassing these beautiful animals, watching gorgeous, well-behaved, healthy, loving animals die day after day, her pious, pompous attitude would change. It’s easy to sit in an ivory tower touting “I fell for the looks” of a dog breed while millions die. I simply do not have that ‘luxury’ of conveniently forgetting or turning away, and cannot relate to Kalish’s position. Her argument is extraneous and morally reprehensible.
Kalish’s proclamation that she cannot find her purebred dog in shelters is also unfounded. There are estimated between 5% and 25% purebreds in shelters. Depending on which studies are believed. In addition to the shelters, there are many breed rescue groups all over the country and worldwide. Regardless, there are between 3 – 4 million dogs, and cats killed every single year! That is around 10,000 pets every. single. day!
Ethics Of Dog Breeding
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln
While Kalish’s aberration does not hold water, it is irresponsible not to draw logical analogies and parallels to actual, real-life examples – apples to apples not apples to cars. By the sounds of Kalish’s exaltation, one would believe she may have some affiliation with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The etiology of why millions upon millions of dogs are killed every year is the very “solution” Kalish trumpets – breeders. “Ethical” breeding with all of its inherent conflict of interest and structurally unsound arguments is as immoral, oxymoronic, and unnecessary as what “ethical” breeders practice, abusive, ear cropping, tail docking, and declawing.
Please watch Pedigree Dogs Exposed, although hard to find because of all the takedown requests by breeders, still out there for viewing. Breeders and dog breeding, “The greatest animal welfare scandal of our time.”
The skewed nature of our laws, where dogs (and all sentient beings) are treated as property and not as legal persons, affords little if any rights to nonhuman animals. To make a comparison of adopting orphan babies to adopting dogs is not only structurally unsound but irresponsible and negligent.
Love Doesn’t Discriminate
Dozens of pure breed dogs and most mixed breeds have the very qualities Kalish mentions she is looking for. The only thing that sets her beloved Briards apart from the others is looks. Therefore, Kalish’s reasoning for buying dogs from breeders is based on looks, as she states, she “Fell hard for this breed.” The shallowness and notion of falling primarily for a dog’s appearance and calling it true love is akin to an immature, undeveloped, adolescent mind and emotions prior to the development of maturity, wisdom, compassion, and understanding.
Further, can love and emotion be attached to a breed, or is it really tied to an individual, with a unique personality and character trait? I think that Kalish needs to reevaluate her feelings and take some time to look within, dig deep, and uncover the true origins of her emotions. Introspection would do a person well before “falling” for the superficial looks of a breed or the look of any animal. The irony is deafening coming from an author of “Lost and Found Lovers” and a researcher on rekindling romances and “love” who is waxing poetically about love based on superficiality and looks!
Pure Breed Behavior and Medical Health Problems
The ridiculousness continues with statements such as, “Why? Because breeders of Briards protect the breed they love. They do not have more puppies than they have committed buyers, and each prospective Briard family is carefully screened.” Kalish places Briard breeders on a pedestal, and suggests, all other breeders could care less about the line, heritage, genetics, husbandry, etc. I am not sure why she makes this bold, pompous, ignorant assumption but nothing could be further from the truth.
The inherent conflict of interests between breeders and the desire to make money cannot be ignored and skews and warps their relationships with the dogs and families who purchase them. There is no getting around that Briard breeders are no more moral than other breeders and are not doing this for free and thus are affected by profit. They are selling dogs, not giving them away as a nonprofit.
As a psychologist, she should understand this basic tenet. There are no differences from a Briard breeder to that of any other breeder, as Kalish naively contends. There are ethical breeders and unethical ones across the spectrum of breeds. Briards are no more special. Sorry.
The fascinating extremes continue with pearls like this, “Because breeders of briards protect the breed they love. They do not have more puppies than they have committed buyers, and each prospective Briard family is carefully screened. If the breeder believes that the family and the Briard are not a good match, the breeder will not sell the puppy to that home. It’s not easy to convince a responsible breeder to sell a puppy to you!”
For fun, I just search Briard on google. On the first page was a link to a puppy sale website titled “Next Day Pups.” When you go to buy a Briard pup, I immediately found a breeder who would ear crop and ship their puppies. Is that the thorough owner evaluation and screening Kalish is referring to?
Ridiculous statements such as, “Because of their ancestry, different breeds suit different personalities and lifestyles of people: you know what you are getting—there is a national standard for each breed. Breeds are national treasures…” No, living animals are national treasures. For every pure breed dog, I can show you one that doesn’t fit the “profile” and expectation of that breed. Why? Because dogs are unique individuals just like humans. Stereotypes do not hold water, and no, you “don’t know
what who you’re getting.”
I do behavior consultations and training for aggressive dogs such as Golden Retrievers, and also train Akitas, American Pit Bull Terriers, and Rottweilers to be service dogs and/or therapy dogs and have seen many Briards who are aggressive to people. Kalish seems to discredit the nurture part of the nature/nurture equation. Her self-proclaimed “national treasure,” is nothing more than hers, not national and not a treasure. What is truly a treasure is saving a life. When you have a choice (and we always do) saving a life and not turning our backs on dogs. Rescuing a dog is true compassion and love.
We sure don’t need more pedantic claims such as, “And you will not find a Briard puppy to rescue from a shelter.” Am I to believe ivory towers do not possess access to the internet? As you can see here Briard rescues are plentiful. Ignorance is not an excuse in this ubiquitous information age, look it up.
However, regardless even if that claim was true, it is a moot point and doesn’t address the immorality of breeding dogs while millions die. Sitting idly by as others die because you “fell for” for the look of a dog, quite frankly, leaves me speechless. Rescue groups are not “politically correct” as she smugly pronounced, they are compassionate. Which is something her article is lacking.
The documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” by the BBC, also highlights some of many congenital and hereditary afflictions that plague purebred dogs.
I became a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Certified Profession Dog Trainer (CPDT) because I love animals, (alive, happy and healthy) teaching, helping others (not just human animals) and because more than any medical disease, poor behavior is the number one killer in dogs every year. I speak empirically that purebred dogs (Briard and others) from “ethical” breeders have as many, if not more behavior problems, health, and training issues as mixed breeds.
Do Animals Have Rights?
In more irresponsible statements, Kalish goes on to state, “There are plenty of cats, rabbits, chicks, guinea pigs, horses, and other animals that could use a good home. Are all people responsible for all these?”
YES, we are. If not for humans, enslaving, torturing, and exploiting animals for sports, fashion, entertainment, animal testing, animal agriculture, etc. then who is responsible? Abdicating responsibility is not only cowardly but shameful. It is incumbent upon us, and we have a moral imperative to take care of the very animals that we imprison, domesticate, and cause so much pain and suffering towards. People domesticated these animals, and in doing so, we take on the responsibility for their lives. That’s how it works.
We manipulate gene codes, play ‘god,’ create life and take life, so yes, we as a society are responsible. We create dependence and neediness and then turn our backs on animals when it suits our needs (or looks) to determine who lives and who dies. Who made people ‘god’? I do not know about Kalish but my higher power is not a person and contrary to popular ignorant belief, we have no right to decide who lives and who dies other than our own fate. This disconnection between reality and oneself is a blatant display of what plagues humanity, speciesism, ego, and the foible of human exceptionalism.
A further cursory view of the topic is displayed when Kalish states, “I don’t eat animals, but I also don’t judge people who do. It’s a choice, based on one’s personal convictions.”
A Choice is between two animals. It stops being a choice when one of the animals doesn’t have a choice. A “choice” involves two sentient beings who are aware they are choosing. Sure, you have a choice to eat whatever and whoever you want, be it chicken, dog, or any animal. But does the animal on the plate choose to be dinner?
What about a non-human animal’s right to “choose” Kalish has so conveniently disregarded? Just as she conveniently disregarded 4+ million pets in the United States that get slaughtered every year because you like “the look” of a certain breed. This irresponsibility speaks directly to why being a pet parent is a privilege, not a right. And it’s about time we started changing our cultural thinking about dog “ownership” and animal rights and the ability of humans to “own” them.
I contend that if you only love a dog that looks a certain way, this is a problem, not a solution. This act speaks of discrimination and superficiality. Do you feel the same way about people and love someone based primarily on looks? I hope your partner stays physically gorgeous all of their life or you’re headed for therapy.
What would an educated, licensed, therapist in the field of relationships and love, tell a patient if they stated, “I only love Indian men or blonde women with large breasts?” What advice would you say to your children when they ask, what is love, and you try to explain that beauty comes primarily from someone’s external appearance? Boy, I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that household.
Do Not Turn Away From Our Shelter Pets
“Don’t accept that what’s happening, Is just a case of others’ suffering, or you’ll find that you’re joining in, the turning away.” Pink Floyd
Kalish’s article is a sad, advertisement for what is wrong with society today and the pervasive mental dysfunction even amongst our professors and therapists. Kalish is every rescuer, shelter, and lover of lives, bête noire.
Her view is so far removed from my reality, it is hard to connect with any inscrutable statement she makes. How can one claim to “love” another while they enable, facilitate, and watch others die and then defend the very breeders who are some of the largest contributors to the problem? Who contributes most to the death of roughly 4 million adoptable pets in the United States alone? Not only breeders (ethical and non-ethical) but irresponsible, fatuous, misleading articles like this.
Turning your head is a perfidious display to a human’s best friend. This is not a quixotic argument; breeding should end until we cease killing adoptable dogs and our shelters are empty. The paradigm of killing will end when breeding ends or slows down considerably.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.