Confusing Hoarders with Breeders

An endemic problem with dog culture is that we are lazily imprecise with our language and willing to throw around very damaging labels where they are not really deserved when commenting on our peers.  This not only elevates the culture of character assassination, it also devalues the words and concepts themselves.  Even worse, it offers ammunition to the enemies of dog breeding.

One all-too-common manifestation of this problem is blaming “breeders” for the horrors that result from hoarding animals that are intact.

Take the recent story of Rosie the Chihuahua, whose debut article was titled “Liberating Rosie, a Sad Testament to the Horrors of Bad Dog Breeding.” Now this blog is no stranger to the horrors of bad dog breeding, but I make an effort to correctly assign blame to the causal factors which lead to animals crippled by malgenics.

But if you read the above article, notice that the word “hoard” appears only once on the entire page, yet the word “breed” is mentioned 8 times in the short article and another 20 times in the comments.  The website which now exists to raise money for Rosie and spread “awareness” repeatedly slanders and blames breeders for her condition:

This poor little angel dog needs to be the poster child for all those vermin that call themselves animal breeders. Disgusting. I do hope Rosie survives and lives a wonderful life filled with love, care protection and safety forever and I do hope these breeders get a hefty fine that they will never be able to crawl out of and big time jail time. – KP

These kinds of things need to be put out there for all to see, not just those of us who work so hard to save these babies. I bet 75% of the population of the USA have no clue as to what really happens with breeders, puppy mills, or even some pet stores. That doesn’t even include the slaughter houses. Like I do, I’m sure you all feel helpless and up against a wall. – BB

The author of the Rosie site repeatedly characterizes this hoarding gone awry situation as first and foremost a “breeder” doing this for profit.

Back yard breeding and animal hoarding has always been around but with the internet making it so easy to sell animals quickly and anonymously, this unethical practice is booming. In the city, where one can only have three or four dogs, this type of operation requires keeping the dogs hidden from neighbors. The breeder doesn’t want to risk detection by taking the dogs to the vet so the animals continue breeding – brother to sister, father to daughter and so on – until there are dozens of sick dogs living in filth.

If you bought a puppy off Craigslist or from someone selling dogs in a grocery store parking lot, chances are your puppy came from a backyard breeder/hoarder.

In 2012, a backyard breeder/hoarder in a quiet Los Angeles suburb lost her house, and she had to find someone to take over 40 dogs that no one – not even her next-door neighbors – knew she had. These dogs had never been outside, never seen the sunshine, never had medical care and were terrified of the outside world. There were puppies, pregnant mothers, dogs so matted it was impossible to tell what breed they were. As with any situation where dogs are inbred, there were several with congenital defects – in this case several were born without front legs.

The purpose of this page is to shine a light on backyard breeding/animal hoarding. If what happened to Rosie bothers you – good! Call your local animal control agency and ask if there is a law to prevent backyard breeding and if they are enforcing them. If there isn’t a law, then gather some like-minded neighbors and get your city council to write and pass one!

A followup article that was published to both Vetstreet and Yahoo continues the anti-breeder tirade but fails to connect the obvious incongruity between someone who is giving away puppies for FREE and being labeled a greedy back yard breeder.

Imagine spending the first two years of your life in a house with 40 other dogs, hiding under a piece of furniture to avoid being trampled and never going outside to play in the sun. These horrible conditions are how Rosie, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, lived until being rescued from a backyard breeder in June 2012.

The breeder and animal hoarder Rosie lived with was brought to Muhlbauer’s attention by a friend who noticed a sign in her neighbor’s front yard advertising free puppies. When the friend went into the neighbor’s house, she discovered Chihuahuas who had been inbreeding for years, resulting in a number of puppies with deformities like Rosie’s.

Backyard Breeding in the U.S.

Rosie’s story is also drawing attention to the problem of backyard breeding, which is “similar to puppy mills, just on a smaller scale,” according to the ASPCA.

They are breeders who keep more dogs than they can responsibly and humanely care for, in order to breed them and sell the puppies for a profit,” says Cori Menkin, Esq., senior director of the ASPCA’s Puppy Mills Campaign.

Menkin says many breeders sell online or directly to the public to avoid regulations, and since they are not required to be licensed, it’s impossible to track how widespread the problem is.
“State regulation is spotty, and enforcement is not always the best,” says Menkin.

If people want to help combat backyard breeding, Menkin recommends adopting from a shelter and avoiding buying puppies in pet stores. Muhlbauer also suggests people look into the dog breeding rules in their community and alert animal control if they find a backyard breeder.

Rosie is an example of when greed takes over everything in your life, and you don’t think of a dog as a living being,” Muhlbauer says.

I’m not surprised with a preachy and ill conceived article appearing on, but VetStreet should seriously reconsider the quality of analysis coming from Lisa Granshaw.

Breeding is an active pursuit, it is not passive nor unguided. It is the considered and directed production of animals by selective mating, requiring both organization and control.  This is no small distinction, it is akin to the difference between accidental manslaughter and premeditated serial murder.  Applied to animal mating, the later is qualzucht, the former is an unfortunate side-effect of mental illness.

As horrifying as the neglect and abuse is in this case, this isn’t an issue of breeding ethics and animal husbandry, this is clearly an issue of hoarding and mental illness that includes animals.  No police powers or governing body of animal sport or show could have changed this, and no law meant to curtail animal breeders in good faith would change the situation either.

This is a hoarder situation and thus Rosie and the numerous other malformed and congenitally diseased animals are most certainly the result of generations of random incestuous inbreeding from the stock this person had before they really went off the deep end.  Can anyone tell me what the benefit would be of a rational mind directing breeding to create a dog with no front arms? One with no lower jaw and a double set of teeth on the top?  Fragile, paper thin skin that doesn’t heal, joints that ossify and freeze in place, eyelids insufficient to cover the globe of the eye and immune systems unable to stave off mange?

The overwhelming issue here is not breeding, it’s hoarding and total loss of control. If you want to talk about engineered and abusive inbreeding of Chihuahuas, I’d start with the NYT article about what they are doing, very intentionally, in Japan with them.  If you want to talk about the guided malformation of the face and mouth, stubby legs, eyelids that don’t cover the cornea, crippled movement, spinal deformities, and the intentional inflection of harm upon an animal by people apparently in their right mind, yes, let’s have that discussion.

Trying to use this fiasco as evidence against “breeders” is base sensationalism and horribly misguided.  We don’t condemn the institution of parenting when drug addled junkies neglect their toddlers and they suffer harm, we point to the direct cause: drugs.  Would we condemn the art of Gardening and professional Gardeners because this hoarder’s yard is overgrown and some rose bushes are a mess?  Would we lambaste Interior Decorators because her house is filthy and overflowing with detritus?  Would we pillory Librarians because she has stacks of newspapers 5 feet deep?  And is it the fault of Chefs that her refrigerator is overgrown with bacteria and mold?  No.

So why blame Rosie on breeders?  That position is irresponsible. To conflate de facto breeding with de jure breeding will only punish upright Breeders who are under the jurisdiction of the law.  Under a wide definition, you are a de facto breeder of mice if one had a litter in your garage.  Should you need a license?  When your cat brings a dead one back to you as a gift, you should be prosecuted for animal abuse? Do you owe a standard of care to the wasps in the nest under your deck?  Are you a commercial concern if the squirrels nest in your trees and have X litters per year?

A de facto breeder would not be touched by any de jure breeder laws and licensing would not have prevented this.  Clearly pet limit laws and pet licensing laws failed to prevent this situation, and adding additional measures against professional breeders would have been equally as impotent.  Rosie was not created under any circumstance that would have bent to the law before this happened.

Rosie has nothing to do with profit motive, as if you have any evidence to show that she was a brood bitch for a profitable business or even an attempt at one.  That poor dog is the product of the exact opposite. It was not guided intentionally by the hand of a breeder, it and its parents were neglected and not guided, specifically by the chaos of hoarding. It is a product of entropy, not design.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.