Bo Bengtson At Large
A Sport Facing Extinction
The Open Letter I wrote last month that was published in this space and also sent to the AKC Board with some ideas for how to improve our dog shows was met with such positive interest that I’m writing again... to a different group of recipients this time and on a subject that’s frankly much more important, for the simple reason that if the current developments continue there may not be any dog shows left for us to improve in the future.
That’s a strong statement, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. Our right to continue breeding and showing dogs as a hobby is challenged right and left, and if unchecked this will have extremely detrimental consequences for all of us. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of feeling like a second-class citizen because I love dog shows and hobby breeding.
The fact is that we dog people make a meaningful contribution to society and ought to be encouraged, not censured. We contribute in at least two different ways: on the one hand to the economy through the millions of dollars we spend on our beloved dogs, dog shows and dog paraphernalia, and on the other hand we help improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people through the healthy, happy, well-bred puppies we provide to pet homes each year. (If you’re a hobby breeder like me I am sure you have reams of letters attesting to the fact that the puppies you bred were the best thing that’s happened in years, or ever, to your puppy buyers!)
The fact is also that if all pet puppies came from responsible hobby breeders like you and me there would be no need for shelters or humane societies, because we care where our puppies go and take care of those that fall by the wayside. It’s in everyone’s interest (except that of puppy mills) that more puppies should come from those who raise dogs because they love them, and fewer (preferably none) from breeders who are in the business for purely commercial reasons, regardless of their dogs’ needs.
Yet our freedom to breed and show dogs as a hobby is attacked on a regular basis by groups who do not realize that we are a force for good and should be encouraged in our activities. The prime offenders, of course, are the so-called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the U.S., two organizations that have their “dog breeding” ideas all wrong.
I greatly admire the energy and devotion demonstrated by all those people who spend so much time and effort trying to defeat the spay and neuter laws which keep cropping up everywhere and affect all dog lovers, pet owners as well as active exhibitors and breeders — but it’s a little like Hydra’s head in Greek mythology… you cut off one head and two or more grow out.
It seems obvious to me that we need help, big time, if this sport that we all love so much is going to have a future. Of course AKC is at the top of the list of those who should help, and it does what it can... but this is too big even for the AKC, and we need to reach further.
What we need to do is turn instead to those billion-dollar companies whose bottom line depends on all of us having as many pets as possible: the providers of pet food, pet utensils and pet services. Their interests in at least some areas coincide with ours; some of them have already demonstrated support for dog shows, and they would be far better able to get the word out than any of us can do on our own. The multi-million-dollar budgets that PETA and HSUS deal with seem huge to us, but they are completely dwarfed by that of the pet-products industry, which could be enormously helpful to our cause — once they realized that it does, in many ways, parallel their own interests.
I am sending the following letter, co-written by Poodle Variety editor and publisher Paul Lepiane, to the big organizations and corporations that cater to the needs of pets, in particular dogs. This includes pretty much all the giants of the pet-products industry. Will they listen? Who knows, but read on...
A LETTER TO THE PET-PRODUCTS INDUSTRY
Dear Pet Products Provider:
As responsible long-time owners and exhibitors of purebred dogs, we are very concerned about the animal rights extremists’ ongoing efforts to make pet ownership continually more difficult, especially for dog owners — your biggest customers.
These extremists want to eliminate all breeders, have only “rescue” dogs and cats be available as pets, and when their numbers dwindle (as they have done, remarkably, over the last two decades), eliminate pet dogs and cats altogether.
Here’s a quote from PETA’s website, dated June 20, 2009:
“We believe that it would have been in the animals' best interests if the institution of ‘pet keeping’ [...] never existed.”
Any success that this movement achieves will have a strong, very negative impact on your business, and I am surprised that your organization has not considered the inevitable results of any success that the animal rights extremist movement (specifically PETA and HSUS) may have.
Many dog and cat clubs are continually working hard to fight ever more restrictive legislation on pet ownership, and it would be in your organization’s best interests to be at the forefront of these efforts. If you do not start pushing back against these groups and their agendas, you will soon have dramatically fewer customers for your products and services.
The aim of these extremist groups is to restrict and eventually eliminate breeding by the small hobby breeders — the backbone of the entire dog and cat exhibition hobbies, including many thousands of fanciers who devote a larger percentage of their disposable income to their pets than any others — leaving only commercial breeders and animal shelters as sources for pets. Once the “hobby” breeders have been eliminated, the next target would be the commercial sector, which includes the world of puppy mills.
These disreputable businesses should, of course, be the current target, not the serious hobby breeders who do health testing, carefully screen potential buyers, and buy your most expensive products. The commercial breeders do not care what happens to the dogs and cats they breed once they have sold their “product,” and they routinely use the cheapest feed, products and health care they can get away with.
Responsible hobby breeders are extremely supportive of adoption efforts, as well as of spaying and neutering pet dogs and cats not owned by active fanciers or hobby breeders, but the success of the animal rights extremists in labeling all breeders as “bad” leaves us fighting for our right to responsibly own and breed dogs and cats, and this is trickling down through local and state legislation nationwide to an extent that infringes on people’s right to have pets, with a resultant effect on the number of people purchasing your products or services.
We and thousands of other dedicated dog lovers ask you to open your eyes to the threat these extremists pose to our hobby and to your bottom line.
As a side effect, any major corporation that publicly stands up to the extremist groups would unquestionably gain the support and business of the entire purebred dog and cat communities.
Paul C. Lepiane
and Bo N. Bengtson
Would these corporate giants even read, let alone respond to, a letter from a couple of dog show fanciers? Chances are the letter will get lost somewhere along the way to the person who might actually do something about it, so this is where YOU come in... at least if you should happen to have an “in” with any of the dog food, pet product or pet service giants. The fact is that there are quite a few dog people with “friends in high places,” and now’s the time to make use of any contacts you might have.
It doesn’t matter who you know as long as it’s someone who is willing to listen to reason, and then take the matter further along to a decision. It doesn’t even have to be someone in the pet-products industry, for that matter it could be anyone with some political clout or with good contacts in the larger media world outside our relatively insular dog show press. The point is that we have a story to tell, we have the facts on our side, and we have so far not succeeded very well in making all this generally known.
I would love to hear from you if you can help. Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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