A breeder is a breeder is... well, maybe not.
I'm retiring this sticker from the FYE store, and it's been a long time coming. It's something I used to fervently believe and this sticker was prominently featured on my truck - the dog on it is my dog, Jessie. As with MSN, this is something that initially sounds good and smart and logical to the rescue-minded until you begin to dig deeper and you find out that it isn't necessarily so.
Look, I'm a rescue guy. Hard core. My dogs are all rescues and the idea of purchasing a dog from a breeder is, to me, unfathomable when there are so many that are dying. Then again, I have no real attachment to any particular breed or type (although I seem to always get the Spaniels!), I have no desire to raise a puppy (my dogs are difficult enough), and I could care less about bloodlines, shows, ribbons or papers.
Having worked in rescue for a number of years, first as a volunteer then as a professional, I can tell you that the old notion that adopting a shelter dog is just getting yourself "someone else's problem" is sheer hogwash - and I know that the old myth is dying off among the general public. Oddly, the publicity surrounding the foreclosure crisis helped greatly to accelerate the passing of this stereotype as stories came out in major news outlets of pets sent to shelters through no fault of their own.
That being said, there will always be people who will not consider rescue, and some of those reasons are perfectly legitimate. Some absolutely must have an 8 week old purebred Ring Tail Snodheimer and no other dog will do (no offense to the fans of the noble Ring Tail Snodheimer!), and purebred Ringies don't show up often in rescue and are quickly snapped up when they do. Some want a working dog from known stock. Some want a purebreed puppy from a known bloodline that has been carefully and thoroughly screened for genetic flaws. Some are getting a dog for the first time and want someone who will hold their hand at 3am after their new puppy turns the living room carpet into a poopy Jackson Pollock painting because he got into the garbage after dinner. Who am I to judge? I can and will talk people's ears off about the virtues of rescued dogs, but some people aren't going to listen, and they're going to get dogs elsewhere.
And where, exactly? We're not doing ourselves any favors by alienating good breeders. I'm talking about the ones who do extensive genetic screenings on dogs they breed, who raise them in their homes with love and care and attention, who follow their progress over their lifetimes and always take them back rather than ever letting them enter the shelter system. Many of these breeders also do rescue work (quietly, quietly!) for their chosen breed(s), applying their knowledge to help those animals who do end up in shelters. By vilifying breeders as a whole, we're driving away these people who love animals and dogs and want to help them as much as anyone.
We also face a common enemy in the form of the puppymillers and backyard breeders whom we would all like to see driven out of existence - but by lumping everyone who breeds dogs together, we're not only driving away potentially powerful allies, we're actually driving them to hold their noses and stand together with puppy milling scum with well meaning but over-zealous legislative efforts that target not only soulless puppy millers but caring, dedicated breeders as well.
I don't agree with good breeders on everything, I'm not a market for them, and I hope the customer service of shelters everywhere can improve to compete with theirs. However, I agree with them on a lot more than I disagree with them on, we all have a genuine love for dogs, and we all want to see puppy mills driven out of existence. If we're going to do it, we're going to need to stand together, and I for one will proudly stand beside them to do so.