I’ve spent a fair number of years working in rescue.
I’ve seen kennels that have made me physically ill.
I’ve seen dogs treated no better than, and often with less care than sacks of flour or potatoes.
I believe that we have a moral and legal obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
But what does that mean?
Do we subject every breeder who brings a litter of pups into the world to licensing and fees and unannounced inspections and having to open their homes to government agencies at the drop of a hat?
Do we set numerical limits on the number of dogs that can be kept on a given property? Do we require X number of hours spent indoors or out, on leash or untethered? Do we regulate only those who sell wholesale, or do we hold those who sell in high volume by other means to the same standards? And where do we draw the line?
There has been a great deal of legislation proposed this year at the state level, the last number that I heard was that 34 states had puppy protection or limit laws on sellers or maximum numbers of intact animals legislation proposed. Some of the regulations sound fairly reasonable, but often, if you hold up the law in the light of responsible breeding – those breeders who test for health issues and temperament, who screen homes carefully, who breed not for another litter to sell but because the combination of genes of this bitch and this dog have the potential to improve the health or longevity or temperament of the breed, who only breed when there is a pair of dogs that can create that improvement rather than when they need a few extra dollars, who regularly take their dogs to shows or performance events and compare their dogs to others in the breed to avoid kennel blindness, who make a commitment to every dog they have helped bring to life — these are the very breeders who would feel the heaviest impact of some of the proposed laws.
I want breeders to have the right to have litters whelped in kitchens or bathrooms or bedrooms or living rooms. Dogs are companion animals, they are not livestock. Even working breeds that may be raised in among the goats or sheep need time with people in gentle, constructive and positive situations, for training, socialization, trust.
Just because some law says a dog can be kept in a kennel with minimal heat or cooling does not mean that puppies should be born onto wire or concrete floors.
Along with rules for humane treatment (and the enforcement thereof, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), we have an obligation of compassion, respect and care for life, joy in the miracle that these companions and teammates and entertainers show us every day.
They give us their unwavering devotion, their trust, their unconditional loyalty.
How can we possibly give them any less?