Few citizens experience scrutiny as significantly as the President of the United States. In addition to any actions related to his job, the President (and I’m talking about the person holding office in general, not just our current one) is dissected and discussed the world over about just about anything one can find to talk about: a haircut. A tie. Hobbies. And, of course, the choice of family pet.
This week marks big news in Presidential Pets: Bo, the affable Portuguese water dog currently residing in the White House, has a new sibling. Sunny, also a Portuguese water dog, just arrived in DC this week. Although some may criticize the First Family for choosing not one but two purebred dogs, I have no problem with their choice or the message it is sending about pet ownership.
For some people, the only acceptable form of pet ownership is through adoption. While I support their commitment to ending pet overpopulation through rescue and adoption, I don’t think that is the only way one can be a responsible pet owner. To me, responsible choices encompass so many different factors: what is right for the pet, right for the family, and ethical in terms of animal welfare.
I think most of us agree that puppy mills, large scale breeding operations carried out with little regard for animal welfare solely in pursuit of a profit, are reprehensible. The reason these mills continue to proliferate, however, is because the demand for purebred dogs is out there and will always be out there. I see nothing wrong with that; people desire certain traits such as size and temperament that lead them to have a preference for one breed over another. I love Chihuahuas, for example, but they are absolutely the wrong choice for my family.
The Obamas have stated in the past that Portuguese water dogs appeal to them because their daughter has allergies and it is one of the few breeds she can tolerate. By all accounts this is a thoughtful reason to choose carefully. I wish all families put enough thought and research into a new pet before making a rash decision to take a pet home from the shelter out of a sense of obligation or pressure, only to realize that the pet is not suited for their life and now must be disrupted again with the shock of being returned to the shelter.
Don’t get me wrong: rescue and adoption are a very noble endeavor, one I encourage everyone to at least research when thinking about getting a new pet. Research, of course, is the key word here. Research breeds and lifestyle requirements and cost, and the difference between a responsible breeder who produces one litter a year that is hand raised versus a dog one purchases over the Internet, who most likely was born in squalor in a cage somewhere. Anyone who has been interviewed by an eagle eyed breeder will tell you, there are few people more committed to putting the right dog in the right home than they are.
Had the Obamas mentioned they purchased their dog at the local mall one day after school, you bet I’d be the first one at the gate with a pitchfork. Thankfully, that is not the case, and by all accounts the Obamas will join the Bushes, Clintons, Reagans, and other presidents all the way back to George Washington in a long line of dog loving Chief Executives. I join many in wishing Sunny a long and healthy life with her new family.
Image: cynoclub via Shutterstock