Guest column: Breeding regulation, not moratoriums by Petra Murray

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1993:

A moratorium on the breeding of
dogs and cats may initially seem to be an
easy and effective solution for companion
animal overpopulation. However, if we
think beyond a moratorium we will come up
with an even more precise and effective
solution––albeit not the only solution.
A moratorium refers to a tempo-
rary cessation of activity, and therein lies
part of the reason that a moratorium will not
be the answer to pet overpopulation.
To be sure, good breeders should
pause for a week or two or a month or more
to become educated about overpopulation.
They should visit their local pounds and
shelters and look at the homeless animals.

They should study records for the month,
the year, etcetera, and get a handle on their
county’s problem. They should be in touch
with rescue and breed rescue groups in their
areas. They should know what pet stores
exist in their counties and which ones sell
feed only, which ones sell animals and
what animals, and so on. Many good
breeders already have extensive knowledge
in these areas, but many have no idea what-
ever of the scope of overpopulation and its
sad consequences. Thus good breeders
should have their own moratorium for what-
ever length of time it takes them to educate
Thus far I have referred to “good
breeders,” and this is the very crux of my
disagreement with a moratorium. “Good”
breeders may well pause for self-education;
but do we really want “bad” breeders to ever
breed? Surely we want “bad breeders” out
of the picture totally.
It has become increasingly clear
and an absolute necessity that we must be
able to distinguish good breeders from bad
breeders. Right now and perhaps for the
next five years, the animal community can
really only countenance breeding by good
breeders: those individuals who are ethical,
responsible, knowledgable, and humane.
The five-year time frame is a theoretical
guess as to how long we should abstain
from breeding mixed breed animals while
we try to catch up with the glut on the mar-
ket. (I know breeders balk at this reference
to “breeding” mixed breed animals, but we
haven’t a better word for this activity.)
Many of us, even those in the
humane community, really do not know
what makes a good breeder. Much less do
we know which individuals in our areas are
good breeders. Most of us have advertise-
ments and some word-of-mouth informa-
tion, but little else. We have come to rec-
ognize that, alas, the initials of the
American Kennel Club or Cat Fanciers of
America mean next to nothing, which is a
tremendous failure of the self-regulatory
process, and must be corrected. We come
back to needing to be able to identify good
breeders so they can be applauded and
patronized and recommended.
Many or most good breeders have
standards, but some of them have been
reluctant to share this information because
rightly or wrongly, they feel threatened.
There is some action to establish standards
for breeders now, such as CFA inspection,
but it is on a voluntary basis and there is no
means of saying “no breeding allowed” to
someone who fails such an inspection,
even repeatedly. Many breeders don’t want
to have a yes-or-no qualification system,
but it has to come. In virtually all areas of
our lives we have to meet qualific-
ations––to get a job, a loan, a license,
etc.––and it is unrealistic to think that
everything can be voluntary. Breeding ani-
mals, whether purebreds or mixed breeds,
is too important an activity not to be regu-
lated. The consequences of unregulated
breeding are just too grave and too pathetic
for us to continue as we are.
Just as we have planning boards
and boards of education, we need compan-
ion animal boards on a county level.

These boards would be comprised of vol-
unteers from all sectors of the animal com-
munity, and would be responsible for
granting intact animal and/or breeder per-
mits. The breeding community should
establish standards or publish existing
standards as a model for any potential
breeder to emulate, which can become the
conditions that have to be met before peo-
ple can qualify to receive breeder permits.
We need alliances now, not of
all breeders and all shelters, but of good
breeders and good shelters. It may be sim-
plistic to hope for this, but it is possible to
ally ourselves from the perspective of care
and commitment to our companion ani-
[Petra Murray is coordinator of
New Jersey Pet Overpopulation Solutions,
a statewide coalition addressing compan
ion animal overpopulation. ]
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