I’ll finish recapping the AKC Eukanuba experience this week (in between building my gingerbread houses and working on the 12 Days and all the other things that manage to pile on this time of year), but I wanted to deviate for one moment into this large cloud that looms over any sort of dog discussion, and that is the vast and gaping chasm separating two equally passionate groups of pet enthusiasts.
I had some very interesting conversations with some of my fellow bloggers at the conference this weekend. We were discussing the role of the breeders in animal welfare, and one person (who I will leave out by name unless she wants to specifically enter the discussion publicly) spoke to me about the discomfort she felt at BlogPaws as a breeder. She did not feel it was her place there.
“I’m really surprised you feel that way,” I said to her. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for what serious breed fanciers are trying to do to maintain the health of their breeds. I’ve always felt your role was very important in pet health.”
She told me some stories, some personal, some from other folks, about the harassment they had received for their actions as breeders. Police called on them, confiscated pets, threats to families, those sorts of things. And because of that, she and others like her have become extremely leery of anyone who purports to be an animal welfare advocate.
And that really took me aback, because I consider myself an animal welfare advocate. I don’t advocate harassment, or the elimination of the AKC and breeds, or anything that I consider extreme. I am about as far from a PETA person as you can get. Lumping the actions of the animal welfare advocates I know and respect in with animal rights activists is akin in my book to putting puppy mill owners in the same book as serious breeders. Perhaps one can find similarities on an extremely superficial level, but really, they are nothing alike.
There has been so much animosity from the extremes on both sides that what I imagine to be the reasonable majority in the middle are having a hard time finding a way to find the common ground. There is so much work to be done and so little time to waste on distrust.
I am the first to admit that I am not an insider in either community, the animal welfare/shelter movement nor the breed fancier group. In that, the nuances are lost. But it also gives me so much more freedom to look at the situation objectively as an outsider and ask what the problem is. I have no preconceptions or assumptions to keep me from asking the painfully obvious.
I know it’s hopelessly naive to simply say, “Can’t we all just get along?” with a pleading face and expect a summit to happen, the clouds to part and everyone to become besties who agree on everything. But I do think it is perfectly reasonable to explore what our common goals are, to find those commonalities- which at the end of the day is better health and better lives for our canine companions- and focus on that, rather than the other things, in order to serve the greater good.
It is reasonable to want that. It is a good discussion to have. And as long as I can find reasonable people from all areas of canine welfare to discuss it with, I will do so.
Here are two groups of people who love their pets to the ends of the earth, who spend thousands on medical care and supplies and hours on activity and love. We are not the enemy of each other.
The enemy is ambivalence. The enemy is abuse and neglect and greed and “It’s just a dog.”
We have work to do, and I think we need all the help we can get.