Breeder Heal Thyself 

STAR Tannery, Virginia - It comes as a relief that the top story this weekend was not about the economy, but about dogs.

Just as the Obamas finally got their Portuguese Water Dog (a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy), news came of the breeder who produced Vice President Joe Biden's German Shepherd Dog. It seems that back in December the kennel was cited for maintenance and record-keeping violations and found "not guilty" of any of them.

As could be expected, PETA ran one of their biased propaganda pieces on Pennsylvania and Delaware television and got its toadies to issue death threats to the breeder. Linda Brown has vowed to never again to sell a dog to a high-profile client. Even though what she was doing was perfectly legal, she has been intimidated into submission.

Isn't that the goal of most terrorists groups?

Oh! Did I say PETA? I'm sorry. For the record, PETA only ran the ad. "Animal Rights Activists" is the term everyone banters about to avoid having to peel through the layers of bogus "associations" to find, at the heart of it all, Ingrid Newkirk and her cult of brainwashed robots.

The condition of Wolf Den Kennel is a matter for anyone else wishing to obtain a German Shepherd Dog. It seems that Brown's breeding program has produced some nice dogs. But, personally, it does not fit my criteria for a good breeder. There are just too many red flags. Responsible German Shepherd Dog breeders with solid reputations abound and those are the kennels I'd support.

The broader scope is that there exist disreputable breeders who give reputable kennels a bad name and give PETA another notch in their gunstock. "Dog people" don't like to talk about them or admit they exist, but they do.

It's the sad truth that most of these kennels are started with the best intentions by people who love dogs, but are not very good about organization. The lure is irresistible to produce more and more litters to achieve that elusive "breed perfection." Every weekend is a dog show, taking you away from housekeeping tasks that should be done regularly and leaving behind the dogs that aren't quite up to snuff.

Pretty soon the dog runs are looking pretty tatty and normal wear and tear takes its toll. Fencing is shot, plumbing is backed up with dog fur and the air conditioning unit has fallen prey to dander. All it takes is one visiting dog bringing in fleas and a few days to fester and you've got an infestation problem not easily eradicated.

That's the very time a health inspector will show up.

It takes more than a love of dogs to efficiently, safely and humanely run a kennel, something those in the dog world don't emphasize enough. You can be a genius at making outstanding breeding choices. But unless you've got the manpower, money, time and inclination to care for a large number of dogs, your breeding program should never exceed the amount of dogs you can place in well-researched homes.

Local jurisdictions are responding to animal rights activists exploiting this type of sloppy kennel management by imposing impossible limits on breeders. I can't blame them for buying into the hype when we in the sport - the American Kennel Club included - won't even admit the outlaws exist.

Dog people spend a lot of time protesting legislative measures being taken to limit the breeding of purebred dogs all over the country. It's infinitely more pleasurable than scooping the poop outside, scrubbing dog bowls and attempting to train my dogs not to bark at every single robin that lands in the yard. But both these aspects of the fancy are equally important, especially when there is a public relations campaign aimed at its obliteration.

And the truth is, for every stinking barn fitted with makeshift dog runs crammed with filthy puppies rolling in their own feces, there are twenty breeders eating in their living room because their current litter is frisking around in a clean pen under their dining room table - in spite of what "animal rights activists" want you to believe.

The Obamas' requirement of an shed-free dog highlighted the need for purebred dogs. But whether purebred or rescue, the public needs to do the same amount of in-depth research appropriate to any life-altering event in their life: don't buy dogs from any facility or organization until you've done your homework.

As for breeders - we need to clean up our collective act before someone does it for us.

Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

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