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April 28, 2011

Talk Back: Helping Pit Bulls and Purebreds

This week, calls to remove a mobile phone app that simulates dogfighting are garnering headlines about this barbaric industry, which chews up tens of thousands of dogs a year.

Many of you were happy to read the adoption story I shared last week from the pit bull rescue group Casa Del Toro, who found a new home for several of the dogs The HSUS rescued from a large suspected fighting operation in Ohio.

Here are some of your thoughts about Abby the pit bull’s story:

I was so touched by this beautiful article—it brought tears to my eyes! I had a beautiful red nose American Staffordshire when I lived in LA a number of years ago—he was the sweetest dog you would ever meet! He was thrown out of a car by people who wanted to use him as a fighter! I was fortunate enough to adopt him—I think of him so often—I get so angry when I hear people disparage the pits and the staffs for being attack dogs—they are not! —Rosalie

Casa Del Toro in Indianapolis is a FABULOUS organization, and they have some fabulous bullies. I love all of them. Please, if you can, support their work with a contribution. —Karen

Though not yet known as a major dog welfare issue, like puppy mills or dogfighting, reckless breeding creates genetic and hereditary problems for purebred dogs. HSUS’s Purebred Paradox conference is in progress today, with veterinarians, scientists, animal protection groups, and others discussing the best way to address this crisis.

Chocolate Labrador retriever
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Responsible breeders are motivated by the welfare and health of their dogs, but that's not so for others who try to adhere to a static conformation standard at the expense of the animals. The latter parties produce suffering and shortened life spans for countless dogs, not to mention heartache for their families.

Short-faced breeds like bulldogs and pugs are prone to breathing problems; Great Danes and other large dogs to joint problems; and dogs like boxers and shar-peis to skin and eye problems. Labrador retrievers, the most popular American purebred, are predisposed to about 50 inherited conditions.

As I wrote recently, the AKC should be a leader on this issue, not an impediment:

Aloha, my name is Theresa Donnelly, and I am the secretary of Boxer Club of Hawaii. Thank you so much for taking this on and questioning the AKC. I am involved with helping pass some animal protection bills here in Hawaii, and I have really enjoyed working with HSUS. I have been hoping that the AKC could partner with HSUS for some time. The fact that health is not a standard that is judged against in confirmation shows is wrong. As a hobby breeder, I feel health and temperament should come before appearance. I can only hope that the AKC will stop opposing bills like our commercial breed bill here. It is too bad too, because AKC has a lot of great programs and it hurts both sides when we don't work together. I thank you for standing up for what is right and confronting them for their breeding standards. We can only hope that as time goes by, more ethical breeders will join the fight. —Theresa

I find the statement, "reckless breeding of purebred dogs" misleading to the general public. While yes irresponsible breeding occurs, it's an unfair statement as there are many responsible breeders that work very hard to produce healthy sound dogs. To make just broad statements is misleading to the public and does a disservice to the public. While the USA has plenty of puppy mills, it also has some amazing breeders who do things right, and I feel it's very unfair and unjust to lump them all into the same pile. —Mia

I'm glad somebody's finally talking about the "elephant in the room" problem of dog breeding. I am a licensed veterinary technician and see sickly, inbred dogs all the time with painful maladies and lifelong problems that are the result of sloppy breeding where, as Wayne says, no thought is given to the health of the dogs (and other animals), merely their cosmetic appearances. It's as ridiculous as, say, building a car designed solely on its color and ignoring the fact that it's a clunker that will never run right and cost thousands of dollars just to keep it running. Yet that's what breeders of purebreds do, and people who buy them help the system churn out still more unhealthy animals. It's an incredibly stupid cycle that greedy organizations like the AKC are primarily responsible for perpetuating, and it's high time it was stopped. —Dave

I am with you on so many things, but I find the attack on AKC and purebred dogs disagreeable. I've owned rescue dogs and I've owned purebred dogs and paid vet bills for both! You are barking up the wrong tree with me on this issue, because every breeder I know is completely committed to producing litters of healthy dogs above all else. Go after the puppy mills, but honestly I feel you are attacking the wrong people here. —J.R.

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