The history of relations between the Humane Society of the US and the dog breeding community is a rocky one.
Dog breeders are a diverse group that span the entire spectrum of professionalism. At one end are the responsible breeders who care for their dogs as family members, don’t sell dogs indiscriminately to the first buyer with cash in hand, and follow breeding best practices. At the other extreme are the puppy mills, the epitome of animal cruelty and neglect. And somewhere in-between lie an eclectic mix of dog fanciers, amateur breeders, dog show enthusiasts, hobby breeders, commercial breeders, and backyard breeders.
For a time, HSUS opposed all breeders heavily. In a country where shelters are jammed with abandoned and homeless animals, HSUS policy makers could not condone the idea of breeding more pets. And it could not reconcile its fundamental principles of animal welfare with abhorrent practices like cosmetic mutilation (e.g., tail and ear docking), or indiscriminate breeding that led to severe genetic defects.
The abuses of irresponsible breeders and puppy mills strengthened HSUS’ resolve to reform commercial breeders, which led to campaigns and legislative initiatives to ban those practices. Hostility between the HSUS and dog breeders followed. Many breeders felt they had been unfairly lumped together with the irresponsible breeders on the puppy mill end of the spectrum.
Thanks to the efforts of courageous individuals like Stephanie Shain, who reached out time and again to both sides, the official stance of the Humane Society on breeders has evolved: not only do good breeders exist, but they have a crucial role in animal welfare.
You can see the results of that shift on the HSUS website. There, you’ll find pamphlets on how to identify a reputable breeder, and outreach programs directed at breeders who want to team up against a common enemy — such as puppy mills, irresponsible breeders who harm the reputation of the good breeders, and others who value profits over the health of their animals.
Viewed against the hardline stance of the HSUS 15 or 20 years ago, it’s a dramatic change. Unfortunately, old grudges die hard, and new conflicts are quick to spring up. Many breeders greet any HSUS initiatives with suspicion and hostility, and cling to the myth that “HSUS is out to get breeders”.
That’s not the case, but it will take years of patient bridge-building before this 45-year old rift can be crossed.
In the meantime, HSUS continues to pursue its mission of confronting cruelty by opposing mass breeding operations.
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