Posted on 03/30/2009


Relationships: Vets and Breeders

Veterinarians are a breeders best friend.  They used to be; they should be still.  As was mentioned in the post The Power of Language,  the past two decades have brought about changes in the ways people treat and think about animals, vets included.  The following was written by “Lottadogs”, a long-time dog owner, breeder and member of the showing fancy.  Read it, then go have a serious conversation with your veterinarian.
Vets and Breeders
by “Lottadogs”

The new vet is staring at my rather thick folder with an unhappy expression. “Are you some kind of breeder or something?” she asks as my heart sinks.

“Why yes” I answer with a smile, “I’m a breeder and I also do breed rescue making my folder extra thick. I like to say I’m a responsible breeder and that I care about more than just the puppies I produce.” She looks at me in disbelief and then examines my dog.

“How many litters has she had?” the vet asks. “None,” I reply, “she’s just getting old enough to have completed her health testing and I’m thinking about maybe doing a litter next spring.” Again the look of skepticism appears. We leave it at that and once the dog is cared for I leave.

Next time I’m at the office I ask for the senior vet and discuss the conversation I had with his new intern. He tells me the vet is very good but that the new vets are coming out of school thinking that breeding is bad as they don’t have a farm background like the vets used to when he was young. Back then most who studied veterinary science went into school from a background of animal care. Now they are people ‘who love animals’ and that is bringing in a new view of the animal owning world.

I do see more of the young vet as she is gentle with the animals and a good diagnostician plus her schedule is more open than the more senior vet’s may be. Over time she decides I actually am what I say I am, a careful and concerned breeder.

I know I’ve changed her view when she unexpectedly calls me one day for advice to help a client who needs to hand raise a litter. At one point during I conversation she tells me “This person shouldn’t even be a breeder as she’s not the least bit like YOU!” So I know the anti breeding prejudice is still there but at least now allows for there to be exceptions.

What is going on here that veterinarians are coming out of their studies disliking breeders? How could this happen that the professions that need each other should be so at odds? If there are no breeders there are no animals and no need for veterinarians. If there are no veterinarians who are familiar with breeding issues and the care of breeding animals then the breeders and their animals are going to be out on a limb alone with urgent or specialized care needs. People new to breeding will not get good advice or be guided into responsible practices by their veterinarian if the veterinarian is anti breeding.

What are the vets learning in school that makes them anti breeders and breeding? Here’s an example from one curriculum seen here .

“A small animal veterinarian has to decide what procedures he/she is unwilling to do for ethical reasons (e.g. ear crops, tail docs, de-claws, convenience euthanasia, etc.) and be equipped to deal with clients and colleagues who may disagree with your ethical values.”

The implication being that objecting is the correct and ethical stand.

In the early 1980’s,  Bernard E Rollin  who is now widely recognized as the father of veterinary ethics published a book Animal Rights and Human Morality which is and has been used in the study of veterinary ethics.
Veterinary Ethics: Animal Welfare, Client Relations, Competition and Collegiality by Jerrold Tannenbaum is another book used to teach veterinary ethics.

Previously ethics was considered to be about the ethics of running a practice, abiding by rules on advertising and dealing with fellow veterinarians etc. More recently it’s become about whether or not a vet should do a medical procedure depending on how they feel about it.

Starting in elementary school students today are presented with information on animal rights and encouraged to not eat meat, not wear leather, and to consider breeding and owning animals as immoral and cruel. By the time they get to a vet school they have years of images about greedy breeders, puppy mills, and animal cruelty firmly in mind.

Then at veterinary school these attitudes are reinforced with more training that comes straight from the animal rights agenda including peer pressure from those students who are ardently animal rights oriented. Some of it works to short term financial advantages for practices such as promotion of spay neuter surgeries.

There is the push for alternate sources of study rather than using real animals such as is seen here on the veterinarians for animal rights website  .   Not working on live animals is considered ‘good’ and working on living animals or dead animals is considered ‘bad’. Yet do we really want veterinarians who have not worked on the actual animal tissue working on our pets?

According to this site  :

“There are approximately 80,000 veterinarians in the United States, and 11,000 of them are already supporters of The HSUS.”

With HSUS being an animal rights group that supports the ending of all animal ownership or interaction between humans and animals it seems a bit strange to find any veterinarians supporting them at all, but they do.

So what are the results of the new age of veterinary science for the animal owner? Well in the new age lexicon Breeder = Greedy Evil Animal Torturing Person. Not quite how I view myself considering the thousands in dollars and thousands in hours I spend tending to my animals’ welfare!

This extends to the person with that new show puppy who will be encouraged to spay or neuter, not show or breed; perhaps the given opinion will even be based on faulty knowledge of a breed by a vet. I remember one vet who told me to spay my show puppy as she had an undershot jaw – which fortunately I knew was perfectly correct in my breed!

This also impacts the pet owner who might consider becoming a breeder as a definite effort to get the dogs altered is shown.

Extremely high prices for needed medical services come into play. $3500 for a c-section but only $150 for a spay with some vets refusing to do a c-section at all! When a beloved pet dies horrifically as the owner cannot afford to get needed medical care at staggering prices, how many will continue on thinking breeding is OK to do?

If you have a dog that is elderly but in good health, or young but dangerously aggressive or fearful, some veterinarians will refuse to euthanize if the animal is not untreatably ill. This leaves owners open to lawsuits if they rehome a dangerous animal because a vet will not euthanize it, puts more stress on the shelters who may end up taking in these animals, or in the case of a senior animal may mean the pet will be bounced in and out of shelters or foster care until it becomes too ill to rehome as so few adopt a senior dog. Is it kinder to keep the animal alive when the owner wants to euthanize? – some vets now think so.

Then there are surgical issues. Surgery is surgery and always has risks and is only ever done for the owner’s convenience and is never done at the request of the animal. So if it comes down to rights, how is it a vet can decide this surgery is OK and that is not? I’m pretty sure that if my dogs could discuss this, they would be happy to sacrifice a bit of ear or tail in exchange for sex and that their vote would be to retain the ability to reproduce.

In the new way of thinking,  it is OK to do surgical sterilization (NOTE: this is a .pdf file) of an animal with all the far reaching impact this may have due to the change in hormones this causes, but its not OK to snip off a length of tail before a pup can feel that surgery, or take off excess ear so that the ear can stand as is normal in dogs (a drop ear is a mutation seen only in tame canines). It is considered reasonable to mention only the positive effects of alter surgery but not to mention the negatives. Now how can it be OK to ‘sexually mutilate’ a dog without its agreement, but not be OK to prevent tail injury or fix an ear or remove a dewclaw? Do the vets not realize that if they alter the last animals they will be out of work?

I think one of the things the dog fancy perhaps even the AKC should be doing is ensuring the new vets coming along in the world are familiar with the positive side of breeding, and that ethical and responsible breeders not only exist but can be encouraged into existence by a vet with a good attitude towards breeding and the ability to guide a new breeder along the path of becoming a caring responsible breeder. Get them to be an educational resource for breeders rather than a card carrying breeder hating animal rights person. It all starts in their courses in veterinary science and they should be hearing from more than just the animal rights groups on the topics near and dear to us!

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