Educating Puppy Buyers Is Important, But Not the Focus of our Efforts
Article by Ron Sturgeon, Founder of Reform Canine Breeders and Auctions (RCBA)
First, we support those groups and individual pet lovers who choose to work on educating prospective pet owners. It’s worthwhile, but it isn’t the focus of RCBA.
Why it isn’t is a fair question that this article will answer.
Our strategy is to focus on the supply side of the dog breeding industry, not the sales/commerce/distribution side.
We have chosen to work on the supply side because bad breeders are the problem.
We’re not against efforts to educate puppy buyers. We feel like we can do the most good by working on the supply side. Learn more about RCBA’s thoughts on how to reform the dog breeding industry.
While we were working on RCBA’s mission, many suggested that we should focus on reducing the demand for puppies from bad breeders by educating the puppy-buying public.
We have thought about that idea. Here’s why we are not making it our focus:
- The public’s desire to own a particular breed is hard to change. Demand for a particular breed of dog is driven by word of mouth, past ownership, etc. If you have had a Great Dane or an English Bulldog all of your life, how easily are you going to be convinced by an education campaign to give up that preference? Nothing we can do will affect the public’s desires for particular dog breeds. For example, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have gone from America’s 35th most popular breed to its 18th in the last decade according to AKC rankings. Commercial breeders are going to breed CKC Spaniels to meet the demand. We can’t affect the public’s demand for the breed, but we should try to help prospective owners know how to find a healthy CKC Spaniel, a job members of the Cavalier community are always working on.
- Educating puppy buyers is a mammoth, never-ending task. Based upon USDA estimates, 13,000 Americans buy or adopt a puppy each day. Every day! An education campaign has to find and reach a new 13,000 every day. Consider how hard it is to find puppy buyers at the time when they are ready for advice about how to buy or adopt a puppy! And the effort has to last forever, as there are new buyers every day.
- We are not sure what our educational message should be. Should we educate prospective puppy buyers to buy from hobby breeders because small breeders generally treat their animals the best? Yet, that’s not always true, right? Even if we decide to recommend hobby breeders, how shall we define a hobby breeder? What about educating people to get puppies from shelters? We think educating people to rescue a dog is a good idea, but it has its limitations because some puppy buyers do not want a dog from a shelter. They want to know their dog’s full history. Others want a specific breed and may need to go to breed-specific rescue groups.
- Educational campaigns may not overcome the emotions we have for dogs. Imagine a person looking for a dog sees see a Ford F-150 truck parked beside the road and is told that that the Yellow Labrador pups in the back were raised by a registered breeder. The truck owner gives the prospect, or his or her child, a puppy to hold. He tells them a price that is better than any others they’ve heard. Will that prospect remember what they read in our educational brochure or blog post, or will they buy the dog that their son or daughter seems so eager to have? We think they will take the puppy home most of the time.
- Educational campaigns will present daunting logistical challenges. To succeed, we must find and persuade 13,000 pet buyers every day in a nation of 320 million. What media do we use? How do we get our message to the right people? Billboards? Brochures? PR? Social media? The challenge of educating and reeducating dog buyers is a daunting one. This isn’t education; its education, and re-education, then re-re-education. It never ends. Meanwhile bad breeders will continue to churn out more dogs. If we could get bad breeders to reform their practices or exit the business, we would not need such a difficult education campaign.
Education has its place. We know many talented people are working on efforts to educate dog buyers. It’s not RCBA’s agenda. We applaud those who are making a difference with education. And that doesn’t make them wrong or us right. We are just taking different approaches to a problem that we both want to solve.
We are not going to criticize other groups. We are about results. We don’t need the negative energy that comes from trying to win an argument about which approach is best.
We are going to stay focused on doing what we can to ensure breeders treat the dogs in their hands humanely. We are going to do what we can to ensure breeders treat their dogs with kindness and that they use only medically sound breeding practices.
Our effort will begin with a plan to register and regulate dog breeding. Read more about our focused, funded effort to reform dog breeding. It’s all about the dogs.