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Proper Breeding, Responsible Care and Appropriate Genetics for French & English Bulldogs

by J. Benedict Hunt

Greetings everyone, and welcome to StarStruckBullyz’ first discussion blog, which we hope to provide new topics for discussion on a weekly basis. Part of the reason we wanted to begin this blog, is to bring awareness to a few topics that are important to us. We would also like to spare others some of the pain and frustration that we’ve had to endure. Namely, the improper care of animals from irresponsible breeders, and the subsequent emotional and financial burden it causes. Unfortunately, this is a subject with which we have personal experience. If we can spare just one person or family the heart-ache and stress from experiencing such a situation, then we feel it is more than worth our time. Puppy-mills and backyard breeding has become a real and prevalent problem today, these so-called breeding operations cause not only extreme health and welfare issues for the animals in their custody, they also cause greater problems within the local and global -community of responsible breeders. A simple search of Backyard Breeder on Wikipedia yields some short yet surprising results, and isn’t limited to just canines, but the greater animal world as a whole.

One main factor that contributes to the vast number of these puppy farms, is the ease with which they can turn a quick buck by exploiting the current ‘fad’ so easily spread by todays mass media. For example, a young person sees one of their favorite reality stars in possession of a cute and adorable ‘pocket dog’, and within an hour thanks to social media, thousands of other children are begging their parents to purchase the same animal. Now we all know that with today’s fast paced society, it’s close to impossible for parents to make the ethically and morally correct choice 100% of the time. Let’s face it, most parents make the choice to please their children if no immediate red flags are raised. Add to that, depending on the local environment we were raised in, some of us may have never resided where proper living space for animals was even an option. One bedroom apartments, no-pet policy landlords, siblings with animal allergies, etc. So are the parents at fault for trusting another person who provides reassurance, guarantees, seems knowledgeable, and generally appears to have a pleasant and well-mannered demeanor? Can we blame them?

The answer to that is ambiguous and unclear. Most certainly some homework needs be done before purchasing any animal, regardless of size, type, color, etc. But make no mistake, the person or persons that manage these types of operations are professionals in the art of subterfuge. They will promise anything, say anything, guarantee everything under the sun, and more often than not, provide it all in writing. So how is one truly able to know they are purchasing from a qualified breeder who keeps the animals’ health and welfare as their priority? While certain paperwork from specific organizations such as the AKC and UKC can be a general guideline to follow, they are themselves no guarantee of ethical treatment or qualifications. Nearly anyone can obtain the proper paperwork with little effort, or completely forged documents. Anyone with a computer, printer, and a basic knowledge of photoshop has everything they need to obtain either fake or genuine documents from a reputable organization. There are also organizations that exist solely for the purpose of providing legitimate appearing documents to assist in assuring the consumer they are purchasing a quality animal. So how does one tell the difference between a proper breeder and a backyard breeder or puppy farm? The truth of the matter is, there is no guaranteed way of weeding out the good from the bad, but there are certain steps you can take to protect not only yourself, but the animal’s welfare as well. As much as we would like to completely rid the world of these types of operations, this will realistically never happen. To further illustrate our point of how damaging these types of animal warehouses can cause, I’d like to take a quick opportunity to disclose two incidents that befell us.

Our children had been quite interested in getting their first puppy for some time, so we decided to attempt this venture the proper way, or what we imagined the way responsible parents would; Google, information from the AKC, and word of mouth from others. So we began our research into the canine world, not only researching the best breeds for a family with children, but also taking into account the ‘cuteness’ factor. After much debate, it came down to two choices, either a French Bulldog or English Bulldog. We finally chose the latter. I began researching local breeders, regional breeders, and even a few international breeders. I researched proper care, how to spot potential health problems, choosing an animal with the right disposition, among many other factors too numerous to mention. The decision finally came to rest on a regional breeder I had found using everyone’s favorite search engine, Google. The website looked professional, came complete with pictures of the animals, the kennels and living quarters, and even included some images of well-groomed dogs at play in a well maintained yard. Everything looked good, sounded great from the phone calls I made, and looked legitimate overall. The only thing that struck me as odd, is when I requested to personally visit the kennel area to get a better look at all the animals, I was informed the kennel was off-site and for insurance purposes I was not allowed to visit the kennels. In retrospect, that should have set off huge red-flags, but being a business minded individual myself, I thought it was a feasible answer. I didn’t think much more of it, so I moved on to seeing the litter I was able to pick from. Great I thought, let’s move on to the best part, getting to choose a cute, cuddly, adorable little puppy to take home to my children. After seeing the little puppies, hearts melt, eyes tear up, kids go nuts, and two puppies end up leaving with us. We ended up purchasing two female English Bulldogs, which we named Cookie and Bianca. They instantly became an integral part of our family, the kids adored them, and they in turn showered our children with love and affection. Everything seemed great, and destined to continue. It wasn’t long however until small problems started appearing.

Nothing abnormal occurred for the first four months, it was then that Cookie began having issues walking correctly. It almost appeared as if she had been partaking too many martinis on her extended lunch breaks. She couldn’t walk a straight line, she would stumble frequently, a serious problem was very apparent. I decided a visit to our local veterinarian was a necessity. After a thorough examination, the vet diagnosed Cookie with hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. I immediately notified the breeder, provided the necessary paperwork from my veterinarian providing in detail the genetic examination results. I made frequent calls and emails to the breeder, with no return correspondence. Understandably, these are genetic malformations that can be hard to prevent and diagnose at an early age. At the time, we chalked it up to a non-avoidable genetic error, so we took our Cookie home assuming we could provide palliative care, and she would be in relatively good health. It wasn’t long after her return home that things started taking an even worse turn. Her health began to deteriorate even further, vet visits and surgeries became the norm, and I knew things were fast approaching an ugly end. I knew the end had arrived when Cookie began nipping and snarling at everyone in the house but myself. As heartbreaking as it was, I knew the humane thing was to have our Cookie put to sleep, and so it was.

We returned home thankful that at least we had one of our beloved dogs left, Bianca. For the next eighteen months, Bianca appeared to be in excellent health, extremely well-mannered, and eager to show love. At this time, we made the decision that we were going to attempt breeding Bianca, hoping she would her sweet disposition would pass on to puppies, so we began the process of insemination. We took things slow, chose a sire very carefully, took her for regular check-ups, and were quite confident that the incident with Cookie was just natural selection rearing its ugly head. Very soon after Bianca’s first insemination, she became very ill. We cared for her as best we could, bolstering her diet with supplements, ensuring she had more than adequate amount of fluids at all times, and increasing our amount of affection we showed her. Her illness continued to worsen to the point I was concerned enough to rush her to our local veterinarian. His examination results that day was the worst outcome any dog lover could imagine; terminal cancer. Once again, I found myself forced to make a decision that feels terribly wrong on the face of it, but morally and ethically right deep down. I had to make the choice to have her to sleep, and so it was with Bianca as well.

Proper breeding selection, removal from the gene pool via neutering/spaying, and responsible animal care could have prevented both of these animals from suffering, and the resulting emotional pain caused to my family. It’s for this reason that puppy mills, animal warehouses, backyard breeders, and any animal wholesale operation has become the complete bane of my existence. In order to ensure we as a community can take a stand against improper care and practices, we as a company are taking certain precautions, obtaining certain certifications, providing any and all information upon request, and passing this information along to anyone we come in contact with. The first step we took is selective breeding. Any animal found to have certain genetic defects able to be passed to subsequent generations, is surgically rendered sterile, the same applies to our studs. Those animals that have been safely and humanely rendered unfit for breeding, are sold as pet animals only. We have a zero tolerance policy for any in-breeding within three generations of the original hereditary line. We breed and rear our canines in our home, and amongst our family including children. We have a stringent policy we adhere to for acceptable homes when placing an animal. Health maintenance and immunization records are also part of every puppy placement. And although AKC and UKC registrations are in no way a guarantee of quality, in today’s animal world it’s become close to a requirement, we also only provide AKC registered animals. Each animal comes with a health guarantee contract, and an informational packet including the health related items listed above. And as mentioned before, although contracts are in no way a guarantee of responsible animal care, we hope the level of information we provide will help you in making the correct decision in purchasing an animal from a responsible breeder. Whether it be from us, or another responsible breeder, take your time in finding the correct place to purchase your animal from, do some homework, ask questions, or join a few discussions from dog breeders. We can help point you in the right direction, and feel free to discuss or comment on anything you’ve read here.

 

 

Bianca Cookie

 

               Left to Right – Cookie and Bianca

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