All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Encourage Labradoodle Breeders

Several years ago I wrote a column about the latest designer dog— the Labradoodle—criticizing people who were intentionally producing mixed breed puppies under the pretense that these dogs were needed for folks with allergies (in spite of the fact that there were over thirty hypoallergenic breeds that already existed). I could not fathom how in a time where millions of dogs were being killed each year (and still are) that anyone could possibly think this was a good idea.
Needless to say, I received my share of hate-male from Labradoodle breeders and individuals who had purchased Labradoodles. Labradoodle breeders insisted that they were breeding responsibly and only producing enough puppies to satisfy the demand. They further maintained that they had very stringent “adoption” contracts that ensured their puppies went to “good” homes and that in fact, very few Labradoodles were being bred. Those who purchased the Labradoodles insisted that as allergy sufferers, they had the right to be able to enjoy having a dog. (They apparently had no idea there were so many other hypoallergenic dog breeds, and Labradoodle breeders certainly weren’t going to tell them.)
But—even at that time—any newspaper’s classified section contained multiple listings for Labradoodle puppies. I suspected that these were mostly people who were back-yard breeders trying to make a quick buck, raising popular, designer puppies in filthy, inhumane conditions, and treating their parents like machines whose sole purpose was to crank out babies. The easiest way to confirm a suspicion like this is to call and offer to buy a puppy. Back yard breeders will always want to meet a potential buyer in a parking lot, or some other place that ISN’T their own home. They do not want anyone coming to their property to see the puppies’ parents. Sure enough, every person I called cheerfully tried to arrange a meeting at a convenient location somewhere between my house and theirs, and gladly offered to bring an assortment of puppies from which I could choose.
Armed with this verification, I politely responded to all my “fans,” explaining my position which was further informed by 25 years of experience in animal care and humane work, 15 of which were at the County animal shelter where I witnessed the daily destruction of more beautiful, healthy, loveable dogs than I care to remember…but I do remember. I remember each and every one—their trusting faces, their wagging tails, their final breaths. And it is because of those innocent beings who lost their lives due to rampant human irresponsibility, that I continue to fight for them and speak out against unregulated breeding.
At the time of my infamous Labradoodle column, there were very few Labradoodles in shelters. It seemed to my critics that this was solid evidence to the fact that breeding Labradoodles was not contributing to the problem of pet overpopulation. I tried to tell these folks that it is just a matter of time before this changed, but they did not believe me. Now, a little less than five years later, animal shelters take in both stray and owner relinquished Labradoodles. If you do a Google search for Labradoodle rescue organizations (groups or individuals who are trying to save homeless Labradoodles), you’ll get almost 200,000 results. Ironically, the paid advertisements that come up to the right of the search results all offer Labradoodle puppies for sale. It makes my blood boil.
Last week, as I was getting footage of adoptable shelter pets for a local TV program I produce, I saw two Labradoodles being walked by a volunteer. Their filthy fur was matted from their heads to the tips of their tails. Both were females; one was three years old and the other two. And both had been used by a couple of backyard breeders as puppy making machines…along with 50 other Labradoodles and Pomeranians. Through a series of events, these two, sad dogs were rescued and taken to the shelter in Irvine. It wasn’t soon enough for the younger of the two. She was terrified to a degree that I have never seen; she couldn’t stop trembling and her heart was racing. She held her tail so tightly under her legs that she looked like she had no tail! She would not respond to affection and soothing voices. She clearly had never established any kind of bond with a human being. So, I knew she had to be my dog.
She’s been spayed now and after six days of being showered with love, kindness, patience, good food, a comfy bed (mine!), and a family that will treat her like a princess for the rest of her life, she’s beginning to wag her tail. She has no clue what toys are and doesn’t know how to play. She still lacks the joyful, happy-go-lucky attitude of a well-adjusted dog, but that will come with much time as she needs.
Willa, as I call her, is a lucky Labradoodle. Meanwhile, countless others continue to live in unseen, foul, inhumane conditions, until they are no longer able to breed, at which time they are abandoned, relinquished to shelters, or killed.
If you haven’t already figured out the point of this column, it is simple. Backyard breeders will continue these cruel activities until there is no demand for their puppies. Please don’t support them in any way. Adopt from shelters and rescues. Most shelter dogs are still happy-go-lucky and know how to play, in spite of their histories. And if you have the time and heart to save the ones who have been as abused as Willa, they are waiting for you too. Remember, each time someone adopts a dog from a breeder, there is one less home available for those in shelters, and that means more euthanasia of beautiful, loving, wonderful pets. Let’s all work together to put an end to this cycle.