The Functional Dog Collaborative (FDC) has been asked: Do you think shelters should breed dogs? In short, no – FDC is not calling for animal shelters to breed dogs. The FDC does seek collaboration between shelters and breeders at the community level. Shelters are often an important and trusted resource for animal-related education, and have an interest in seeing puppies have their best possible start in the world, so that they are less likely to pass through a shelter later in life. Therefore, the FDC believes that collaboration between shelters and the breeders in their communities can increase the welfare of breeding dogs and their puppies and set them up for success in homes.
All dogs deserve an excellent start to life, with thoughtful genetics and appropriate socialization. Better beginnings for dogs help prevent them from needing the support of shelters, and improve their ability to fit well into their home.
What are typical sources for puppies?
As few puppies originate in shelters, focusing on breeding practices can have a powerful impact on giving more dogs the best possible start.
For decades, “responsible” breeders have been characterized as people who are deeply involved in competing with their dogs in shows, sports, or field trials. They extensively health test their breeding dogs and produce only about one litter per year. Today, breeders meeting this definition breed only a fraction of the 7-8 million puppies needed annually in the U.S. to replace the dog population that passes away due to lifespan each year. . Moreover, their puppies are not affordable for many families.
The gaps are filled by breeders who are not doing a “perfect” job. This is a spectrum: from high volume kennel-based breeders; to medium volume home/kennel-based breeders; to home based breeders who may be breeding intentionally or accidentally. The balance of focus on profit versus the welfare of parent dogs and puppies varies within each of these types of breeding situations, as does the level of dog breeding experience, knowledge, and skill.
How should this situation change to increase the number of puppies with an excellent start in life?
The FDC advocates for providing educational resources to breeders to increase their knowledge and skill, with the understanding that this will result in improvement in that early start for the puppies. The FDC hopes to increase the percentage of breeders who breed dogs primarily in the home, primarily at low volume and with high welfare standards. To this end, the FDC provides a community and educational tools to increase the knowledge and skills of people breeding dogs using this approach. Improving standards and practices in high volume kennel-based facilities is very important, to reduce what can be described as puppy mills. FDC applauds the work of Purdue’s Canine Care Certified, which focuses on this type of breeder.
Shelters and the breeding of dogs
In general, shelter programs engage with the creation of dogs through providing access to sterilization, receiving concerns or complaints about substandard breeding operations, and supporting legislation to restrict retail channels.
As dog intake to shelters continues to decline, some shelters are turning focus away from the acquisition of dogs to other important community issues such as access to veterinary care. Other agencies may choose to get more involved in better beginnings for puppies acquired in their community, or support community partnerships with that goal. We believe shelters play an important role through their messaging and policies as they relate to dog breeding in their community and beyond.
Current and future roles for shelters and other animal welfare organizations could include:
- referring potential adopters to local, known breeders when they do not find a match in the shelters and rescues.
- providing educational opportunities for breeders, including those with past experience who want to do better, and those who are investigating the possibility of breeding and need a trusted place to start
- identifying high-quality guardian homes, thereby enabling breeding dogs to live as pets
- providing puppy socialization opportunities
- providing community based veterinary care for pregnant dogs and mother dogs and their puppies in under resourced communities
- providing high quality pregnancy care and puppy raising in foster homes for pregnant shelter dogs
- Representation as a stakeholder when planning how communities’ needs for dogs can be humanely met.
In summary, the Functional Dog Collaborative works to provide educational tools and support to low volume, in-home breeders to help them produce puppies who are well equipped to handle the world they will grow up in. We do not advocate for shelters to engage directly in breeding, but we embrace collaboration with key stakeholder groups, including shelters and other animal welfare organizations who value these outcomes.