Watched the movie Farmageddon last night. Could not help but compare the “one size fits all” legislation that threatens local, family farms with recent legal developments in the world of small scale dog breeders. USDA regulations aimed at high volume agribusiness ( this includes puppy mills) must be reformatted for the very different business model of small, local farmers ( and dog breeders). These commercial and local businesses produce the same “product” – eggs, milk, spinach, puppies – in name only. That’s where the similarities end.
Puppies raised on a scale small enough to allow individualized handling, appropriate exercise, and healthy social lives are as different from puppy mill dogs as is fresh produce found at the farmer’s market from the trucked in variety found at the big box stores. Regulations and prices appropriate for “Big Ag” are just not scalable for small farms and breeders alike. They are not the same business model. Not the same relationship with the consumer. Not the same experience or end product. Ultimately, a different endeavor altogether .
It has never been more important for ethical dog breeders to distinguish themselves as an entirely different “industry” from high volume operations. The public are increasingly swayed by the animal rights extremist rhetoric of all breeders as exploitative. Fighting onerous government regulations on a legal level is certainly an important part of preserving our ability to breed dogs, but not everyone feels called to advocacy. There is much that breeders as individuals can do – even without traveling to the courthouse. Setting ourselves apart from disreputable breeders is vital.
Becoming more visible in our own communities as approachable and knowledgeable is an important part of demonstrating what an ethical breeder is about. Volunteering at our local shelter, nursing home or rabies clinic would serve to open up opportunities for (constructive!) discussion and connection. Offering to teach a mini segment on dog care at the local elementary school or summer camp helps the public experience hobby breeders as human, reasonable and community oriented neighbors. We must become creative in finding ways for the public to understand the difference and the value of local, qualified breeders. It is this public, these neighbors, that will be ultimately drive how ( and if) we pursue our passion.