Monday, December 9, 2019

On My Soapbox.. Again

Red, still in MS.

(Giving the same preface I always give... I am a supporter of responsible breeders as well as responsible rescue/rehome efforts.)

There is a blog post going around called "Dog Trafficking: A Multi-Million Dollar Business." Google if it you want, I'm not posting the link here. It was written in 2016, but seems to have gained some ground on social media over the past couple of days.  It brings up some concerns about the exchange of dogs from the southern USA to the northeast USA. It also holds special contempt for Greg Mahle, owner of "Rescue Road Trips" who transports dogs in this pipeline and makes money doing it.

If you know me at all, you know that I support ethical rescue. My own preferred version of ethical rescue includes the following.
  • I do not support "adopt don't shop." 
  • I do not support the idea that every dog is rehabilitatable and should be placed in a home. 
  • I absolutely acknowledge that there is a lot of bad and a lot of greed in rescues. Most importantly to me,
    • Some rescues don't hold dogs long enough to get an idea of temperament, leading to some of the situations you see on the news about dogs just attacking "out of nowhere"
    • Some rescues adopt dogs right off of transport to unsuspecting owners, leading to the dogs getting returned when the adopters realize they've bitten off more than they could chew
    • Some rescues fly dogs in from faraway lands, sometimes carrying serious diseases, sometimes claiming they're "meat dogs" when realistically.. no one stops to ask why so many people in Eastern Europe or Asia are eating purebred Golden Retrievers
    • Some rescues go to auction and spend thousands of donation dollars to save one dog and subsequently line the pockets of puppy millers, therefore keeping the cycle going
Et cetera. All of these things may help an individual dog, but do much more harm than good for dogs over all, in my opinion.

Most of the people sharing this blog post would probably nod along in agreement with my points above. So.. if I feel this way, what could I possibly have to say in opposition to this blog post?

Welp. Frankly, I've read the post a couple of times and have arrived at the same conclusion over and over.  There is an important message in this post, but that message is buried deep under a ton of vitriol that vilifies adopters and makes outrageous claims with little supporting evidence. This all, therefore, negates any positive message the post might have about the problems with the system.

I repeat. This blog post calls people who adopt southern dogs and people who feel good about moving them up here gullible and brain dead.  At the surface, you can see why I might be offended by that statement, as an owner of southern dogs myself.  My second southern dog was not at all any kind of do-gooding impulse purchase. He was acquired by me with a ton of careful consideration, after scoping out both purebreds and mixed breeds, adults and puppies.  He was in foster prior to my acquisition of him, and the rescue group and foster were both happy to answer my extensive questions and let me dictate how the meet and greet went. I'd likely work with them again.

However, realistically, I do not need or care about some blogger's opinion on where my dogs come from. I've been at this stuff a little while now. So what's my real issue with this?

Well.. people have similar things to say about those who acquire backyard bred dogs. Or dogs from the meat trade. Or puppy store dogs. Or doodles. Or whatever's the latest pet buying craze that people disagree with. And while some or all of the things they say might be valid points of concern, they are presenting their concern in the completely wrong way.

Okay, so maybe you do acknowledge there are some problems with acquiring a southern dog, or a $5K designer dog, or a BYB dog, or whatever.  Do you think that calling people names is going to help them say "oh, okay, that's a good point, let me work with you and find a better breeder or better rescue group next time?" All that shaming does is piss people off and turn them away from you.  It doesn't make them your friend, it doesn't make them respect you, and it therefore neglects to solve the perceived problem at hand because it doesn't change their mind. 

And then there is the other stuff spewed in this venomous post.. the claim that the southern overpopulation of dogs is a mythical fairytale, and some vast majority of the dogs pouring north are doing so under false pretenses.

I am sure dogs are stolen and imported by unscrupulous rescue groups, but I have a hard time believing it is a significant percentage of the dogs coming up from the south. I have seen some of the claimed-mythical overpopulation for myself.  Spoken to many people, including Red's former owner, who live there. Visited the shelter Marge came from.  I have seen intact male dogs wandering with my own eyes on nearly every trip I've made to the region. I have read the Facebook posts where people in places like Mississippi say "my girl had a litter and I can't keep the puppies, someone come get them." The south has dogs that people in the Northeast want.  Houndy, labby, herding mixes. You may question how well local organizations and their north affiliates are helping to curb these unwanted litters, and I'd say that's a valid thing to look in to. But, if you're going to make a claim that most of these dogs are actually offshore fly-by-night imports bred specifically for resale, who are run through shelters to get transported north, I WANT HARD PROOF because that's a pretty big, different claim.

(As an aside - I am going to get flack for this, but I personally feel that this guy, Greg Mahle, is filling a niche.  People in the north want dogs.  The south has dogs.  Greg Mahle makes money moving dogs south to north.  He is not a rescue hero, he is some guy filling a transport void that would be filled by someone else if not him. If the media wants to make him a celebrity, I couldn't care less as long as it's not in an adopt-don't-shop, anti-breeder manner. I think neither positively nor negatively of him.)

It very likely would make for a better dog-owning America if the only dogs available were purposely bred animals that people had to wait in line for.  It would certainly be better for the dogs as there would be no unwanted animals then, no impulse purchases, no animals to save and no animals to "save."  I do think that would require a drastic change on how the pet "industry" in America as a whole operates, which would have consequences more far reaching than just "the Smith family has to wait for Rover to be born". Until that utopia occurs, though, the question remains, despite the posts clamoring to END THIS and END THAT.  Americans want dogs, want them now, and everyone is talking about where not to get one, and not talking about where to get one.  

In the current climate, hobby breeders are an excellent choice but cannot meet America's demand for dogs in full and even if they could, some prospective pet homes are unwilling to wait on waiting lists.  Commercial breeders are the antichrist and now.. moving unwanted mixed breed dogs from south to north is no good, either, and wrought with conspiracy and disease and greed and and and.  

So what do we do?  Do we just sit around and complain about all of the things we disagree with, or even if we don't have all of the answers, do we attempt to educate-by-example without name calling and truly, earnestly help people make decisions that better align with our own morals?

I know what category I fall in to.

I personally feel that the people who "do their homework" with regard to dog acquisition didn't arrive to that point by accident.  They met a "dog person" (be it someone involved in good breeding, good rescue, or both), got to know them, wound up admiring them and their mindset, valued their opinion, etc and did more research.  

They did not arrive there because a blogger on the internet got snotty over where their dog came from.

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