A few years ago, it seemed like we were standing at the precipice of a major scandal after the Washington Post revealed that rescues were buying and reselling dogs from their avowed mortal enemies: commercial breeders. Yikes, can you imagine that? But this practice had been going on for some time, and by 2018, the shadow market it created had become so large, some breeders claimed to be breeding more dogs specifically for the “rescue market!” For rescue, whose goal is (or at least was) to do such a great job of emptying the shelters that they put themselves out of business, buying puppies from commercial breeders is a curiously sustainable business model.
But here we are in 2022, and as you can see by this news story, not only did the above scandal cause little more than a ripple of public outrage, this practice has actually been normalized by large humane organizations, and is even celebrated as “lifesaving.”
Of course, no matter how noble and humane a veneer you place on it, rescues buying and reselling “overstock” (or even deliberately bred) dogs from breeders or importing unvetted street dogs from overseas are not engaged in the business of solving problems. Taking and rehoming individual pets brings good feelings and is great marketing, but relying on this model means that substandard breeding operations remain in operation (or even grow), and dogs and cats in foreign countries continue to reproduce unchecked. You can look at this from a compartmentalized perspective and celebrate the individual animal rehomed, as well as taking action for action’s sake (and many people do), but again, this simply allows the underlying issues to persist. Practices like these are short-sighted at best, and cynical at worst.
To quote our own peer-reviewed dog study on the outdated perceptions that shape today’s dog marketplace: “As Rhode Island state veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall put it, ‘…There’s some evidence that the rescue groups are a new model for the pet shop industry.'”
★ (2018) Dog Fight: Dog rescuers, flush with donations, buy animals from the breeders they scorn
★ (2018) USDA says individuals and groups may need license if buying dogs for rescue at auction
★ (2019) NAIA: How outdated perceptions have reshaped the dog marketplace