The Westminster Kennel Club 139th Annual Dog Show has a history of influencing the American public. The breed of dog that wins Best in Show at Westminster quickly becomes the new popular dog of the minute. Many people looking for a pet will seek out a dog of the same breed as the show’s top winner. Best Friends puppy mill initiatives manager Elizabeth Oreck explains why this instant popularity isn’t always in a dog’s best interest. “After the Westminster dog show, there’s an explosion of people wanting to get the breed of dog who won,” says Elizabeth. “It generates a lot of sales of that breed.”
And unfortunately, the sales all too often take place online or in pet stores, the main sales outlets where cruel, inhumane puppy mills deliver their “product” to naïve customers who have no idea that their expensive new puppy came from a terrible place.
AKC papers do not equal quality
Many people are under the false assumption that because an animal has American Kennel Club (AKC) papers, they’re getting a great dog. But that’s not the case.
“AKC papers are given so much weight and seemingly validate the quality of purebred dogs, but they really don’t,” says Elizabeth. “Papers just show a puppy’s birth date and parents’ names. They don’t guarantee the puppy wasn’t born in a mill. AKC papers should not be considered a seal of approval when it comes to humane and responsible breeding.”
There is good news, though. Whatever type of dog people want — a puppy or a dog of a specific breed or temperament — their new best friend is available through animal rescue organizations and shelters.
Dog du jour
While a St. Bernard has never won the big prize at Westminster, it is a much sought-after breed, especially after being made popular in Disney movies for saving travelers in the Alps. Today, a St. Bernard puppy costs about $1,200 in a pet store or online — but that’s not what Elizabeth paid for her own St. Bernard.
When she walked into a Los Angeles city shelter, Elizabeth found Joey, a purebred St. Bernard puppy. He grew up to be a giant lap dog, never met a pool he didn’t like, and was her best friend for more than a decade. And he’s a terrific example of the purebreds who make up an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the dogs currently in the shelter system.
“Joey was an amazing dog,” says Elizabeth. “He was healthy, loving, and a perfect ambassador for all of the incredible purebred dogs in our nation’s shelters who are looking for homes.
Breed rescue groups
When local shelters don’t have the perfect purebred or mixed-breed dog for a potential adopter, breed rescue groups are a great option. There’s a rescue organization dedicated to every single AKC-recognized breed (and their mixes), with a wide range of puppies and dogs to choose from.
Utah Friends of Basset Hounds has rescued more than 840 dogs in the last 13 years, most of them from municipal shelters. The group utilizes foster homes, which help match the right dog with the right person and offer a wealth of information on the health and behavior of the dog. While dogs from Utah Friends of Basset Hounds might not come with AKC papers, you still get the much-loved giant droopy ears, adorable wrinkles, hound-dog voice and silly basset personality. And the adoption fee will be much less than the cost of a purchased purebred basset.
“Dog shows tend to bring about a pet of the moment,” says Elizabeth. “Yet you can get any type of dog from a shelter or rescue group.”
Best Friends has always encouraged people to adopt rather than purchase their next dog, but adoption doesn’t mean settling. When you adopt, you not only get a wonderful dog, you get the joy and satisfaction of saving a life. And that’s worth a lot more than AKC papers.
Help stop puppy mill cruelty by letting your friends and family know the truth about pet stores and Internet pet sellers. Watch and share our family-friendly video here.
Learn more about the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives.
Photos by Elizabeth Oreck and courtesy of Utah Friends of Basset Hounds