Dr. Patty Khuly's assertion that nine out of ten breeders suck prompted this response from veterinarian and NAIA board member Marty Greer:
I see the world in a very different way than Dr. Khuly. I work with breeders, many every day, and find my breeder clients to be caring, thoughtful, intelligent people who work harder than anyone I have ever met. They live with – I mean LIVE WITH the dogs they are passionate about. I love working with them because they challenge me at every visit. They expect me to know about every new disorder and diagnostic test. And they expect me to work as hard as they do. And I do – because I am one of them. Yes, I am proud to say I too am a dog breeder. I share their passion. I share their joys and I share their heartbreaks. And I have become a much better veterinarian because of the challenges they present me with.
The breeders I work with would not dream of breeding a dog without OFA or PennHip certification, along with elbow, thyroid, cardiac and CERF testing. They include at least one DNA test for every breed. They follow their breed-club health screening guidelines. They work hard to police themselves and each other. And just for the record, there is not a need for annually retesting most of this – only the CERF examination is recommended once a year. The last time I checked, an individual dog's DNA doesn't change from year to year, so if your dog is tested clear for DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) or EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse), that dog will remain clear for the rest of his or her life.
Their breed clubs devote themselves to minimizing genetic disorders in their breed and fund research projects intended to detect the DNA defects that underlie them. Before you start saying they should not have to look for genetic defects, let me remind you that all dogs have genetic defects, whether purebred or mixed breeds. There is no genetically perfect dog, or genetically perfect human for that matter. Only the purebred dog breeders have a gene pool that they can evaluate and work toward eliminating disorders in because they know the DNA markers that indicate disease and have an organized enough breeding program to do something about avoiding these disorders in their next generation of puppies.
Here in Wisconsin, where I live, our residents and shelters have done an outstanding job of limiting accidental breedings. In fact, it has been done so well that we no longer have enough dogs in our shelters and humane societies from local sources for families to purchase. Instead, the shelters need to truck in dogs from other states where they are not so careful with unwanted breedings. Here, our local residents would not be able to find a dog if it were not for intentional dog breeding or "humane relocation", the politically correct term for the shuffling of dogs from out of state.
I encourage my clients to purchase a dog of their choice. And if their choice is to find a dog for their family that will grow up to have a predictable size, appearance, and temperament, I then encourage them to purchase their new dog from a local reputable breeder who carefully screens for genetic disorders, selects and mates two dogs together who have a very good chance of producing healthy pups with good temperaments, who will be there for the family to answer questions about how to care for their new pet and to assist them if they do have a health concern. This is a much safer proposition for a family who plans to live with their purchase for the next fifteen or so years. I think we should have the opportunity to purchase the dog that we want, not what is thrust upon us by careless breeding practices. When I buy a car, I like to know how many miles it has, how big it will be, what color it is, and what the warranty is. I expect no less from a purchase of a dog. And believe me, I expect to love my new dog much more than I will ever love a car.
Last weekend, I was invited to speak to a group of commercial breeders – the large scale breeders Dr.Khuly refers to a "puppy mills." I was given 3 hours to speak. After 4 hours, the hotel shut me down as we needed to clear the room. They were without a doubt the most attentive group I have ever been in, as a speaker or participant. This group that the media likes to demonize was soaking up information like sponges – doing everything they can to learn how to do a better job caring for their dogs. Their questions made it clear that their dogs are not a commodity, but rather an important part of their lives. They want to do their best. Some spend 18 hours a day in the dog facilities, with their dogs, like my dog hobby breeder clients. That is the commitment it takes to know and care for their dogs.
It is unfair to paint all dog breeders - hobby breeders, backyard breeders, or commercial breeders - with a broad brush and assume that they are all cut from the same cloth. I have a huge respect for my breeder clients. They spend hours deciding who to breed, what to test for, what care is best for their dogs, and which family is best suited for this new puppy they have put their heart and soul into. I have wiped their tears and danced with them for joy. When they have sick puppies, I have to insist they get enough sleep and remember to feed themselves so they can care for their dogs. We say many times that breeding dogs is not for the faint of heart. I am blessed to work with such wonderful, big-hearted, caring and devoted people – they are the best!
- Dr. Marty Greer, D.V.M., J.D.