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People should adopt from shelters, refrain from adopting from breeders solely for purebreds

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It’s National Love your Pet Day on Feb. 20, and as I cuddle next to my dog, Emma, I can’t help but be reminded of when it all began. Ten years ago, I entered the shelter hoping to get the dog of my dreams: an American Eskimo. Yet, as I walked around, I couldn’t find that breed; in fact, I couldn’t find any recognizable breed. The shelter was filled with different mixed breeds, and up until then I only knew of purebred dogs. But, I still found the love of my life: a German Shepherd-Boxer mix who would become my best friend.

The history behind why purebreds are favored in comparison to mixed breeds is dark. In fact, when competitive dog shows started gaining popularity in the 19th century, dog breeds were used to stratify social classes. According to Michael Worboys, a specialist on the social history of pedigree dog breeding in Victorian Britain, women weren’t allowed to show their dogs, and most competitions made working-class pet owners show their dogs after their richer counterparts. It’s because of this that some breeds were bred solely for aesthetics and maintaining the “purity” of their bloodline, which came at the expense of their health.

In fact, because of dog breeding we’ve drastically decreased the gene pool of dogs. A 2008 study from the Imperial College discovered that although there are around 10,000 pugs in the United Kingdom, the gene pool is so small that it is the equivalent of just 50 distinct pugs. These large-scale “in-breeding” tactics have led to the development of major genetic disorders such as deafness or health complications like respiratory disorders.

Yet despite this dark history, we still promote such a system through different breeders who aim to maintain the purity of certain breeds. Such a market blooms because of the huge demand to own a dog we think is “aesthetically” cute and recognizable. It’s a different kind of prejudice; we ignore dogs that don’t have the cute characteristics we so desire. So as a result, dogs in need are often ignored—mixed-breeds constitute 80% of all dogs in shelters. But mixed-breeds aren’t any less special than purebreds. Rather, they tend to be healthier, better behaved, and live-longer due to their genetic diversity. 

It’s time we stop endorsing this inhumane, outdated system and start cherishing dogs simply for being our loyal companions. Stop searching for the “perfect breed” and start searching for those in need. Dogs aren’t objects to show off; they are amazing animals that can save lives, find food or simply put a smile on our face. So let’s give back and adopt, not shop.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Leah Tan at [email protected]

To see more of Leah’s works, click here.

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