Be Kind to Animal People Week

May 5-11 is the American Humane Association’s Be Kind to Animals Week.


Hopefully, we’re kind to animals every week, but it’s good to have a reminder every now and then, and maybe a reason to go out of your way to do that thing you’ve been putting off. In last year’s post I listed 5 ways to go about this, such as the shelter drive-by (still love this idea! I’m due for another trip!)

But for today’s post, I would like to discuss something that’s been nagging at the back of my brain for a long time. It has to do with some pretty strong divides in the animal community.

On one side, the rescue community.

On the other, the breeder/fancy community.

The blame game can and does get nasty, sometimes. And that breaks my heart.

I’ve seen many posts- some from very well placed people in the dog community- arguing that until all dogs find homes, no dog should be allowed to breed. I disagree. It’s gotten so bad that many people I know are scared to admit on their blogs that they purchased their dog from a respected breeder because they don’t want to have people tell them how they’ve just killed a shelter dog.

I’ve also seen posts from some in the breeder community insinuating that the animal rescue community = animal rights activists who want to eventually eliminate all pet ownership. Ingrid Newkirk does not get to define what animal welfare means. Most animal rescue people I know are a lot like breeders I know- their lives revolve around the animals they love.

Why do we allow ourselves to be defined by the extremes? I think the vast majority of people fall somewhere squarely in the middle of these extremes, with many crossing over; people who have both rescues and purchased purebreds. There are good reasons for both and very different aims.

With rare exceptions, we want the same thing: finding pets a lifelong home with the right family who values them.

It’s unfortunate that the game-changing people doing innovative work in the no-kill movement are so often dismissed as people with their heads in the clouds by those who confuse the animal welfare movement with animal rights.

It’s also unfortunate that the people who work tirelessly to keep their breed healthy, who grill potential owners up one side and down the other to make sure this is the right home, take the blame for all the irresponsible backyard breeders and for-profit puppy mills as the cause of so many ills by those who refuse to differentiate the many ways one might purchase a pet.

We have so much to learn from each other based on our own experiences. Being open minded has put me at a table with AKC leadership at a dog show one day, and sitting with Mike Arms the next learning about the way effective marketing saves lives.

So this is what I ask of you this week, because it really will improve the lives of animals: Be Kind to Animal Lovers, no matter what kind of animal lover they are. I know you will probably never agree on whether someone is a pet parent or a pet owner. I get it. As a vet, I see posts from both groups complaining about how clueless we are. But even if you don’t agree on some things or most things, you may gain a new perspective.

When it comes to making animals’ lives better, we are all in this together.

I’d love for the comment section to be your list of people with a strong voice that you admire. Hopefully I can find some new people to learn from. 🙂

Filed: Be The Change, Blog Tagged:
  • stinapag

    I’m a puli person, and the puli community has a very active and wonderful facebook community that hails from around the world. In the US, the breeders have been pretty good about keeping our breed out of puppy mills (though from time to time Puli Rescue raises the cry). But in Europe, we see tons of pictures of pulik in what they call “killing stations”. We do what we can to help, and there have been wonderful efforts by the whole community to get homeless pulik forever homes. Earlier this year, the community helped Adam, a puli in Hungary that was found on the side of the road either hit by a car or impaled by a fence post. The photos were gruesome, but his spirit was so good in pictures and videos that we all rooted him on no matter how bad the pictures were. We followed his progress with anticipation, and there were people all over the world trying to figure out how to bring him to Australia or the US. Ultimately, he ended up in Finland, and we all are overjoyed that he’s healthy and happy and has a great home. A good hunk of our group shows or otherwise competes with our pulik, but if you were to see our day-to-day chit-chat, it’s mainly about how much we love our pooches and how much fun we have with them regardless of pedigree. I’ve had 4 pulik over my lifetime, grew up with another six. The puppy I got is the first I’ve ever had that will compete in anything, and that’s because my breeder knows my obvious interest in the breed and wants to encourage me to think about getting more involved than just ownership.

    I’ve learned a lot from the whole community about both rescue and the breed. We’re a special bunch that will tell you that it’s not a dog, it’s a puli. We’re dog lovers, but we’re downright fanatic about pulik. And we don’t see anything wrong with that.

    • That’s the beauty of dogs, they are all so different and different aspects of a breed appeal to different people. Absolutely.

  • Pamela | Something Wagging

    I got a Golden Retriever from a responsible hobby breeder because I thought I’d get the dog best able to help me with my dream of fostering.

    Honey has been a dream. She models good behavior for puppies and has helped an extremely fearful foster cope with thunder and other stressors.

    I think of her as a working dog who helps me do my work of fostering for the local shelter.

    That said, I probably won’t get another dog from a breeder in the future. I feel I’ve learned a lot and with the help of a trainer I know, could probably find a rescue dog who could do the same thing as Honey.

    I’ve been lucky that I haven’t been attacked for “killing” a shelter dog by adopting Honey from a breeder. I guess that’s the blessing of having a small blog.

    Thanks for your open-minded perspective. The truth is that internet flame wars have never saved a single dog.

    • “The truth is that internet flame wars have never saved a single dog.” I want to print that out and frame it. 😀

  • Amy Sunnergren

    I think that both groups had best learn to be grateful for one another. The goal is to have healthy animals and wise, learned owners. By and through their individual activities, we will have both some day. (Crossing my fingers and everything else!)

  • Summer

    A note about the shelter drive-by…

    My dog died a few months ago, and every time I get really depressed about it, I will pick up a Kong or two and some treats during my next Target run. Then I drop it by the County Shelter where I adopted him. They’re always incredibly grateful for the toys and treats, and it heals my heart a little bit to spread the love where I adopted him 10 years ago. 🙂
    Thanks for the “shelter drive-by” tip!

    • Summer, what a beautiful way to honor his memory.

  • This – exactly this. Most breeders love the breed, and want it to survive and be healthy and be the best that it can be; most breeders love the breed so much they’ll also rescue and want to make SURE the dogs go to the right family – one that knows the quirks of the breed and the particular dog, and therefore it’s less likely that the dog will end up in a shelter. Plus, breeders will take the dog back and rehome it. I have had shelter dogs (two) and a purebred dog (one) and they are all awesome. They all found me when I needed to add them to my life, and my next dog will find me the same way. I refuse to be so narrow in my search as to exclude one or the other as a place to find the right dog for me. And I refuse to feel guilty because I gave a dog that was already alive, a good home.

    • Lisa W

      Small but important qualification to something you said: GOOD, RESPONSIBLE breeders will take a dog back and rehome it. My parents got two Rottie puppies and one has been a money pit, with problem after (expensive, surgical) problem. Of course the “breeder” “guaranteed” their health for a year, so he would have given them another puppy but did nothing for the one they have. I was beyond angry at the whole situation and that includes (I must admit) my parents for purchasing from someone like that when they should know better.

  • Tabitha

    Love is love, animal or human.

    I don’t care where you got your cat from, just like I don’t care where you got your child from (foster care, adoption, kinship). Love them, respect them and be kind to them and the world will become that much better because of it.

    There are a lot of extremists out there and do strongly believe that there should be no more breeding of animals because of the number of shelters and pet waiting for homes, but perhaps we turn the tables.. Perhaps we tell these people that they can not have children until all of the orphaned, unwanted, and fostered children of the world have found a home, because having a biological child is sentencing a starving orphan to death. I wonder what they would say to that?

  • JaneK

    As always, well said. And there is a lesson to be learned about all sorts of “causes”: not just animal world. It’s important to exam one’s intentions…. Am I pushing for my opinion or am I pushing for the well being of animals (or other cause)? We need to learn to all get along b/c there is strength in numbers 🙂

  • Cathey

    Well said, Dr. V. AND Tabitha and JaneK and the rest of you. I feel like if we each find a way to be a better, more compassionate person, our pets, children AND grandparents will ALL be the better for it. Like in most causes, the extremists spend a LOT time and energy giving the rest of the bunch a bad name and creating bad press while the rest of us are just trying to do the best we can to solve some of the problems, one dog/child/grandparent at a time! And thanks for the Drive By reminder-it’s time!!