Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Who fills the shelters?

MY VIEW • Backyard dog breeders add to pet overpopulation
by: JIM CLARK, 
A pit bull puppy gets a once-over from a potential adoptive family at the Multnomah County animal shelter. Not all animals in the crowded shelter are as lucky — a problem two readers say begins not 
with the shelter but with irresponsible pet owners.

Thank you for the article 'No shelter from the storm' (Feb. 12). We appreciate the difficulties that the Multnoman County animal shelter staff face. Every day, they deal with a huge mess caused by us - the citizens of Multnomah County - and handle it with all the compassion and integrity they can muster.

We don't agree with every decision they are forced to make. However, the problem of crowded cells and euthanasia does not lie with the shelter staff but with the larger issue of pet overpopulation and abandonment, caused in large part by accidental and backyard breeding.

Backyard breeders are a major contributor to the countless unwanted pets in our community. Many people find the breeding of dogs and selling of puppies to be a lucrative operation.

The practice is unregulated, untaxed and unlicensed, and can be quite profitable so long as the breeders do not provide (costly) proper care, socialization, vaccination, and alteration of the puppies they sell.

Per USDA regulations, people with three or fewer breeding females are exempt from USDA breeder regulations; licenses are only required for those selling to pet shops, brokers, dealers, exhibitors or research facilities.

What is the impact of these breeders? In the seven-day period between Feb. 5 and Feb. 12, 497 sales advertisements for dogs (mostly puppies) were listed in The Oregonian.

The majority of these breeders are not licensed with USDA and do not have business licenses. As of December 2007, there were only 19 breeders and 20 dealers registered with the USDA in Oregon - including fish breeders.

In addition, there are continual new listings of puppies available for 'adoption' on Craigslist (Craigslist bans the sale of animals, but it is a small matter to change the word 'sale' to 'adoption').

Many of these puppies will end up at the shelter as people realize that they really aren't prepared for pet ownership.

We believe that owning a pet should be a privilege, not a right, and that along with ownership comes responsibility. But right now it is all too easy for people to make quick, rash decisions, later regret them, and then dump their 'mistake' at the door of the animal shelter (or, worse, dump them elsewhere).

One way to reduce the unwanted pet population is to take the 'easy' out of buying pets. We suggest that the city and/or county explore ways to institute a pet breeder licensing program.

For example, anyone who sells puppies, without limitation, must prove that the puppies they sell have received the full series of vaccinations, been altered, have temporary licenses, and had a health exam by a certified veterinarian.

This will serve many purposes. First, it will provide additional revenue for the shelter through business taxes and licensing fees.

Second, it will ensure that the puppies going home with our citizens are as healthy as can be reasonably assured.

Third, it will make backyard breeding much less profitable and make buying a puppy more costly, hopefully reducing the number of 'impulse buys.'

In summary, we are not going to solve the problem by attacking the animal shelter and its staff. They do the best they can in the face of an unstoppable flood.

Instead, we need to drastically reduce the numbers of new dogs and cats being born. If we can't accomplish that, no shelter ever will be able to keep up.

Ronnie Balog-Ressler is a PSU student who volunteers with several animal welfare organizations. Robyne Balog-Ressler is a financial analyst who dedicates her spare time to helping care for numerous foster pets. They live in Corbett.