Overbreeding (a major animal welfare issue)
Overbreeding involves breeding an animal more than its body can safely handle resulting in detrimental health effects to the mother and her puppies as well as the overpopulation and subsequent euthanasia of many unwanted animals every year.
The health concerns of overbreeding
Dogs are monoestrus breeders meaning that they have one breeding cycle per year, however this can vary between breeds. If a particular bloodline is continuously bred this amplifies both the good and bad attributes of the breed. Common health problems of overbreeding include:
- Eye problems and hearing loss
- Joint problems, such as hip dysplasia
- Respiratory issues, such as in the case of flat-faced breeds
- Birthing difficulties
Multiple litter also pose the risk of hygiene concerns and deadly viruses and parasites such as parvovirus and hook worm which are rapidly spread. The mother can be severely affected by malnutrition, hypocalcaemia (potentially life-threatening low levels of calcium), uterine infections, and mastitis.
Responsible breeding includes being aware of the health issues affecting the particular breed and breeding away from these defects. It also involves the regular worming and vaccinating of the litter, microchipping and ensuring they are supplied with adequate nutrition.
What is backyard breeding?
Backyard breeding is also a term used to describe the irresponsible breeding of animals and usually occurs due to ignorance or neglect. Where breeding is accidental as a result of an owner not desexing their pet, the health of the pet can be put at risk as most owners are unaware of the special requirements of a pregnant or nursing mother and her litter. In other cases, pets are deliberately bred so that the offspring can be sold and it is often these cases where overbreeding occurs.
The term puppy farm is used when breeding is conducted on a large scale and in poor conditions. These intensive breeding facilities fail to meet the dogs’ behavioural, social and/or physiological needs and may involve:
- Extreme confinement in which the animal may never be allowed to venture out of its cage
- Inadequate veterinary and general care, such as grooming and parasite control
- Unhygienic conditions
- Lack of socialisation
Puppy farms and overbreeding represent a major animal welfare issue in Australia with many states introducing new legislation such as the mandatory desexing and/or registration of breeders to combat this serious issue.
What distinguishes unethical backyard breeders from responsible breeders are the standards the breeder meets and whether the demand for a litter is known before the mother is bred. however, as puppies and kittens from backyard breeders may be sold through any means including the internet and online ads such as Gumtree, newspaper ads, markets and even pet shops, the only way to ensure an animal has not been bred in appalling and unethical circumstances is to visit the breeding facility and assess the conditions for yourself.
The consequences of overpopulation
In addition to the significant health concerns for both the mother and her litter, overbreeding is the principal contributor to the already significant numbers of unwanted companion animals resulting in full and overcrowded shelters and rescue groups all across Australia. Sadly, the breeding of pets and the resulting overpopulation leads to the euthanasia of thousands of healthy unwanted animals every year. At Animal Emergency Service, we have hundreds of kittens surrendered and dumped on our doors each year and it breaks our hearts.
But you can do something about it – be a responsible owner, speak to your local vet about desexing your pet, and choose to adopt don’t shop!