Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Designer Dogs and Puppy Mills Offer Vanity, but What of the Health and Ethical Implications.


I had no idea about Puggles. But, I do know about puppy mills and breeding. Designer dogs and the vain people who seek them are the reason for puppy mills. Over all, given the problem of euthanized dogs and cats in shelters, designer dogs and puppy mills are only wrong.

More information on puppy mills and breeding can be found here:

http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/

get_the_facts_on_puppy_mills/

http://www.stoppuppymills.org/

Popularity at a price

Puggles are hot new dog on block; that's the problem

http://www.azstarnet.com/

By Gerry Doyle

Chicago Tribune

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.24.2006

Puggles, with their floppy ears, a hyperkinetic, curly tail, and a catchy name, are designer dogs that have been surging in popularity.

These offspring of female beagles and male pugs have settled into the homes of celebrity owners as well, including actors Jake Gyllenhaal and James Gandolfini.

"It's crazy," said Robin Segal, owner of Pups4Kids.com in Gurnee, Ill. "If I had another 50 (puggles) sitting here, they'd all be gone today."

Segal's puggles cost $899, a $100 increase over the price a month ago. Carolyn Dick of Paul Webb Kennel in Dalton, Ill., said that the dogs were selling for about $450 in April and that now it's common to see them listed for more than $1,000.

Puggles have been around for about five years, and their popularity has risen steadily, Segal said. She estimated there are thousands in the United States. The American Hybrid Canine Association notes that puggles are the most popular type of dog among the 500 litters a month the group registers.

Why the popularity? Many experts believe crossbred dogs are healthier because they draw from a more varied genetic background than purebreds. Owners are looking for animals that combine the best qualities of two breeds, like pugs' lap-friendliness and beagles' loyalty.

But Lainie Cantrell, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, warned that the trendiness of a particular breed is a bad reason to choose a pet. Besides, in trying to bring out the best traits in both breeds, you might end up with the worst, she said.

"It's really just a genetic crapshoot," Cantrell said. "The other problem is unscrupulous breeders capitalizing on a trend. They're just trying to pass out puppies to as many people as they possibly can."

If you want a mixed-breed pet, she said, you can go to a shelter and get a healthy dog for a small fee. Buying from a breeder or broker increases the chances that the puppy has been raised in poor conditions.

Jenn Uhen of Chicago saw that firsthand when she bought her puggle Rhody about two years ago for $300. After taking her home, Uhen discovered the dog had parasites and kennel cough, and the seller refused to pay for the veterinarian bills. The dealer was keeping about 15 puppies in her back yard, Uhen said.

If she had to do it all over again, she'd look for a dog at a shelter or a rescue organization, she said.

She said she loves Rhody, who is "a big dog trapped in a little dog's body." When she first started looking for a dog, she wanted a pug but decided on a mixed breed to avoid that breed's breathing problems and other health issues.

"I didn't get Rhody because she was a puggle or a hot dog," Uhen said. "I got her because she was cute and playful and energetic."

Theresa Rogers of Schaumburg, Ill., said her interest in puggles also began when she was looking for pugs. But the hybrid's lack of health problems made the difference, she said. She got her dog, Max, in November 2004 for about $700. By comparison, purebred beagles cost $200 to $300, and pugs can run upward of $500.

The puggle follows in the paw prints of other more-established hybrids such as the cock-a-poo (a cocker spaniel-poodle mix), the golden doodle (golden retriever-poodle) and schnoodle (schnauzer-poodle). The labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, first was developed in Australia about 30 years ago by breeders looking for a hypoallergenic house pet, said Garry Garner, president of the American Canine Hybrid Club.

Animal-rights groups say they have no problem with designer dogs in principle, but they caution against giving a puppy as a gift.

"We don't generally recommend people just go out and buy or adopt a pet for a family member," said Gene Mueller, a licensed veterinarian and president of the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago. "What you're doing is, you're making a decision that's going to impact your life for the next 15 to 20 years."

Paula Fasseas, founder and chairwoman of PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) Chicago, added that puggles' desirability can cut two ways.

"Any time people embrace animals, they realize what wonderful family members they are," Fasseas said. "That's the positive. The negative is when people think of them as accessories and have them on a temporary basis."

It's unclear whether the puggle's popularity will wane over time, Garner said. Interest has spread as far as Europe, where a London Telegraph article led to calls from Britons inquiring about buying a puggle, he said.

"I thought it was a fad," Garner said. "I have thought that for three or four years. But it just seems to keep growing and growing and growing."

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