a clarification

On the pet gallery page is the phrase "Don't breed or buy while shelter animals die."

It's a blunt sentiment, even harsh. And a correspondent recently pointed out that it reflects, unfairly, on my good friends who have let me put pictures of their bred and/or bought animals on this page. Even suggests that I think those particular animals are "inappropriate companions".

And he's right. It could suggest that, and that is unfair. Because I do understand that, as he also pointed out, "Each adoption is a unique circumstance, not a binary decision".

So I feel I owe those who visit, and especially contribute, an explanation, or at least a clarification. Especially because I believe with everything inside me that every single person on these pages is a good, responsible pet owner. I wouldn't host a photo of an animal if I thought differently, or if I was dubious about the person's motives for owning an animal, or if I disagreed with their treatment of it - or their decision to own it.

The key word in the phrase "Don't breed or buy while shelter animals die", is "while".

Until we get to a place where shelter animals aren't being euthanized in the millions, I want shelter adoption to be peoples' first thought. It's probably a relatively harsh way to put that desire. But in the back of my mind is the thought that if that harsh sentiment wakes up one person... it's hard for me to give up that opportunity.

I don't mean to criticize anyone who buys an intentionally-bred animal. I celebrate everyone who rescues one. And I particularly admire those who do both because they are fulfilling their desire for a particular breed AND giving a home to an abandoned animal, a significant financial and emotional investment on their part.

We need responsible breeders. There are many types of dogs bred to specific purposes - Newfoundlands who jump out of helicopters to rescue sailors, Labs and Goldens who are helper dogs for the deaf, blind and paraplegic, hunting retrievers. We need people to breed them. We also need people to breed companion dogs and cats; breeds that have been developed over hundreds of years must be preserved and improved for that time in the future when there are many fewer shelter animals.

I believe we should preserve all breeds to the degree in which they're needed - working dogs to meet service need and companion breeds to replace themselves and preserve the breed while we work on reducing surplus animal population.

So what do we do? We aim for replacement breeding. We don't breed them as fast as people will shell out money for them. We don't breed tens of thousands of Dalmations just because Disney made a movie and they're a hot commodity right now, or Jack Russell Terriers because Wishbone and Frasier's Eddie were so cute. We quit creating new designer breeds until we get a grip on this thing.

But I want people to not breed or buy while unwanted animals are starving, freezing, suffering, and dying. That's what I want. That's my goal. And that's what the note says. It says it in a strong way. I want to say it in a strong way. I want to shock people into thinking about the issues, frankly. By saying it, I am hardly going to stop breeding or buying entirely. But I might make one person decide on shelter adoption for their next pet.

I'm not saying I have perfect clarity of vision on this. Instead, I'm hypocritically pragmatic about it, or pragmatically hypocritical, take your pick :)

I want to thank my correspondent for having an email dialogue with me that encouraged me to clarify my positions on these issues; and I want to thank every person who has shared pictured of their beloved family members with me.


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