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Breeding Paradox

A paper representing the other side argues that the extent of the disorder is not fully known, it can often be addressed with new drug therapies and it hasn’t been proven that introducing LUA Dalmatians will totally solve the problem. “Dogs have 99 percent of their genes in common. … It’s the remaining 1 percent of the canine genome that separates them into distinctly different breeds,” the report reads. “That is not a little matter to someone who dedicates a big part of their life to preserving and caring for a particular breed. What appears as a miniscule fraction of the canine genome is a huge percentage of what distinguishes our breed from others. As protectors of our breed, it is our duty to guard those factors that make a Dalmatian a Dalmatian, and with facts, not unproven theories.”

In a way, the purebred dilemma goes to the very core of our thinking about dogs, and the generally accepted view that man has dominion over them. We shaped them, based at first on the work we wanted them to do. We placed them in neat categories and then took steps to keep those categories pure. Some see that pursuit as arbitrary and anachronistic; some see it as honorable. But rare is the person who doesn’t see the amazing diversity of breeds that resulted as worth preserving, treasuring and fighting for.

While the genetic health problems of purebreds may not be a high-profile issue for the general public, it is among breeders and the scores of breed clubs. To many of their members, organizations like HSUS have no place in the debate. Whatever agreement may exist in terms of a common cause — healthy animals — is undermined in America by a lack of trust among many of those who breed dogs and some animal welfare organizations.

Many breeders see HSUS as intent on bringing a halt to dog breeding, if not pet ownership. That point of view is based on actions HSUS has taken against large-scale and neglectful breeders and the organization’s stance when it comes to puppy mills, spaying and neutering, and the sales of dogs in stores. Those who accuse HSUS of having a hidden agenda also point to a statement attributed to HSUS President Pacelle.

“We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding,” he was quoted as saying 14 years ago, before he joined the organization. Pacelle says he was misquoted, and that the remark was taken out of context. (He was talking about cattle.)

The “Purebred Paradox” conference ended with a call to bridge the rift between those who breed dogs and those who identify themselves as members of animal welfare organizations.

“We are going to have to heal that fissure before we can heal the dogs that we all know and love,” said the final speaker, Stephen L. Zawistowski, science advisor of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

His comment had a shallow ring to Sharyn Hutchens, legislative liaison for the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, who blogged about the conference, which was attended by only a handful of breeders.

She called his remarks “inspiring and reasonable and, sadly, totally unrealistic considering that if the goals of the AR [animal rights] world were achieved, there would be no more breeding. But it sounded real nice and if you didn’t know the history of the disagreements between breeders and the animal rights movement, you’d have thought this conference was sincerely about doing what’s best for dogs and working together to solve problems.”

Hutchens, while acknowledging that the conference was informative, polite and not the breeder-bashing fest she feared, still viewed it as HSUS sticking its nose where it didn’t belong. “Nothing the animal rights organizations can do will help, unless they would like to make a contribution to the AKC Canine Health Foundation or fund a parent club health study.”

“I have no illusions — and neither should other breeders — that this will be the end of HSUS’s interest in purebred dogs,” she wrote. “Those of us who have been fighting the animal rights movement for the past 10 years have always said that after the commercial breeders, they’d be targeting show breeders. This is the first salvo.”

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