Think before buying a purebred pet

Alabama Living Magazine

It has been a while since we talked about pet overpopulation. Overpopulation simply means we are producing more pets than there are homes for. Approximately 3.7 million dogs enter shelters every year in the U.S.

That leads us to the question: Why are we producing more and more pets when we don’t have a home for all of them? Producers will produce as long as we buy… Basic supply and demand, right? 

Why do we keep buying from producers? Vanity and dare I say, ignorance. By ignorance, I mean an inability and/or unwillingness to see the bigger picture. When we want something special and then procure it, we feel good about ourselves!

Many years ago, a family came in for their first puppy visit. They brought along a manilla folder about an inch thick. They proceeded to tell us about the ancestry of their new puppy in great detail. This was a golden doodle. I was a bit dumbfounded. After all, just 30 years ago, it would be considered a mixed breed dog, a “mutt!” Now, we carry around its “pedigree” like many of us carry our lineage chart that traces back to the Mayflower!

Now, don’t get me wrong, these people are fantastic human beings, and they love their fur babies to bits! But why do we buy a purebred dog? Maybe it’s a throwback to the old ways of thinking – that fleeting sense of pride in owning something extra special, more valuable, and prestigious than just your everyday stray or mixed-breed mutt.

It is a complex sociological problem and not easy to define why we want a purebred pet, but movies and celebrities are great motivators. Studies show that from 1927-2004, 87 movies have influenced dog breed choices, and these influences seem to last for about a decade. Lassie had us all dreaming of collies and “101 Dalmatians” sparked the craze for the spotted dog! It’s like fashions and fads in the pet world. French bulldogs are the modern-day stars, but bless their hearts, they struggle to get enough oxygen, leading to all that adorable snorting and snuffling.

Now, let’s talk about the big I-word – Ignorance with a capital “I.” More than one client has told me that the shelter dogs are broken. I guess their logic is, why else were these dogs rejected from other homes? Many so-called purebred dogs were developed by mixing other so-called “purebred” dogs. And going back in time, not a single dog ever landed on this planet as a purebred dog. In the past, we talked about the origin and evolution of dogs. Many of the modern “purebred” dogs are in fact mixed breed dogs selected for different character or physical traits, and selectively bred generation after generation.

The value of the dog or a cat is not in the title (Labrador, Shepherd, golden, Maine coon, Bengal, etc.), but in how they teach us how to give unconditional love. The love we find a little challenging to give to another human for the fear of rejection or expecting reciprocation, we can give freely to animals. Our love is in the personality of the pet, and our connection to them, not their appearance! 

Over the years, we have collaborated with many rescue groups. They pick up the pieces where society has tossed out unwanted, excess animals. Rescuers are the golden children of the pet world. However, the sad reality is that all of them, including very large rescue organizations, are always feeling overwhelmed, always trying to make ends meet, and always failing to find homes for the number of pets that need homes.

Maybe, just maybe, before you look at FB for dogs for sale, browse the Petfinder website. What we really want is a pet’s personality that fits us, not a specific breed. But if you feel you must have a purebred dog, there are many organizations that do rescues of specific breeds. If you visit the American Kennel Club rescue network website at akc.org/akc-rescue-network, there are lists of purebred rescue organizations for almost any breed you can think of. 

Overall, there is some good news. Over the last decade, euthanasia in shelters has steadily been decreasing. And one study from Hungary cited that about 45-55% of the dogs in U.S. households are mixed breed. Things are changing for the better!

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at contact@alabamaliving.coop

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