Yesterday I awoke to find an email from Edie (yes, the famous Edie of Will My Dog Hate Me?) passing on information about a campaign to stop eBay from selling puppies.
eBay and Live Animal Sales
eBay got a lot of good press when they announced they’d no longer allow the selling of live animals on their auction site. Then they started allowing it in their classifieds section. (I don’t want to give them any publicity for this so I won’t be including any eBay links–check it out for yourself).
A number of other bloggers have written eloquent posts about this issue prompting change.org to pick it up as a petition. You’ll find a good post over at Mary Haights’s Dancing Dog Blog.
I’m always slow to move on these calls to action. I’m not very impulsive. I wonder if I have all the facts. And what are the unintended consequences of this action? I blame it on my history degree; studying the results of human decision-making over generations can make you skeptical that anything is ever what it seems.
I pondered this issue a bit. I checked out the Ebay classified ads. And I signed the petition.
Why I Signed the Petition
I didn’t sign it because I thought it was going to put the last nail in the coffin of puppy mills. I signed it because I don’t think dog and cats (and even sheep, pigs, and cows for that matter) are commodities to be bought and sold without respect for their sentience. And I signed because I think it sends the wrong message about how puppies should be bred and sold.
Doing It the Right Way
I checked out the eBay puppy classifieds for my state. Here’s what I found and how it contrasted with my experience working with the responsible, hobby breeder who produced Honey.
Classifieds – One “kennel” was selling two litters of puppies at the same time–Border collies and German shepherds. From the pictures, the Border collies were about 4 weeks old and the German shepherds were about 12 weeks old. The pictures were taken inside a home so this is probably not a mill of puppies but simply a backyard breeder trying to make a few dollars.
Hobby Breeder – Honey’s breeder raises only Golden Retrievers, allowing her to become an expert in all things Golden. We continue to get periodic updates on research into breed-related medical concerns from Ms. Breeder. Litters are planned carefully so Mr. and Mrs. Breeder get only the best puppies but also so they have the time to care for their charges. When Honey’s litter was born, Mr. Breeder slept on the couch near the whelping box to keep any eye out for problems.
Classifieds – The only criterion for getting a puppy from the classified ad was that you be registered on Ebay and have the money to pay.
Hobby Breeder – I had to go through a vetting process to be considered as a potential adopter of Honey. First I called the volunteer at the local Golden Retriever rescue for a referral to a breeder. She spent over a half hour on the phone telling me about potential health problems of the breed, their exercise needs, and need for human companionship. The volunteer asked about my work schedule, what kinds of activities we did, what our house and yard were like, whether we had children, whether we had other pets, what happened to our previous dogs, where we lived, and what was our previous experience with Goldens and with dogs in general. Whew!
Once she was satisfied we understood the responsibilities involved, the volunteer gave us the name of two breeders expecting litters. When we spoke to Ms. Breeder ,we had an even longer conversation about all the above topics, and we added in training philosophies and the importance of socialization.
Ms. Breeder sent me a long, academic article on the importance of socializing dogs at an early age and asked me to respond to it in writing. She had no idea what she was getting into–I’m not known for being concise.
But Ms. Breeder felt comfortable enough with us so far to invite us to her home to meet Honey’s mama and papa and to view the puppies (they were too young to be handled by strangers).
We visited the litter several times and got to see how Mr. and Mrs. Breeder were raising the pups to feel comfortable with household noises, young children, car travel, handling by other people, and more.
Classifieds – There was no indication of how puppies would be chosen. Does the buyer just pick who they like best? I suppose that’s it. I have no way of knowing from the ad what the puppy selection process is.
Hobby Breeder – The breeder and her partner got first choices from the litter to make sure they were passing on the best breed characteristics in their future breeding program. The breeder shared results of temperament testing on the two remaining puppies available to us and said that although we could choose either pup, she felt the lower energy dog would be a better fit for our family. I was inclined at first to disagree with her, but in the end we took the calmer pup and I think Ms. Breeder was right. Honey has been a perfect fit in our household and a very easy dog for us.
Classifieds – Although the ad said puppies were of “good stock” and wormed with up-to-date shots, there was no health guarantee or information about health problems associated with the breed.
Hobby Breeder – Honey’s breeder provided certifications that Honey’s parents had good hips, eyes, and hearts. The breeder’s contract noted that they would contribute to the cost of medical care if we brought Honey home and found some serious health abnormality. I loved that they didn’t provide a money-back guarantee, expecting us to return Honey if she was sick. That’s what I expect from pet shops and I can’t imagine anyone returning a sick puppy to a store.
Classifieds – I don’t think the eBay breeder ever expects to see the buyers of his puppies again once he cashes their check.
Hobby Breeder – We get occasional pictures and updates of Honey’s litter mates. The breeders offer boarding to any of their litters. We took a long day trip when Honey was too young to be left with just anyone; we felt lucky to have Mr. and Ms. Breeder to rely upon.
It’s a nice service for the breeder to offer. But it’s also their way to make sure the puppies continue to be raised at a high standard.
This long post was to show what a difference I believe a careful, responsible breeder can make in the process of getting a dog. And that’s the reason I think classified ads (whether in newspapers or on eBay) are no way to sell animals.
I know some readers will disagree with me. Some feel a classified ad is a fine way to match puppies with homes. Others feel there is no reason to ever buy a dog from a breeder and we should have gotten our last dog from a shelter or rescue–advertising is almost beside the point. But I wanted this chance to show you what an experience with a responsible, caring breeder is like so that if dog breeding exists at all it is done with the highest standards and a respect for the responsibility that comes with shaping the DNA of (wo)man’s best friend.
I also do not want to vilify the family I used as my example from Ebay. We’re all just trying to make our way in the world. I’m just hoping to hold up a higher standard.