Catherine de la Cruz
Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California

A major difference between Humane Societies and Breed Rescue services lies in their respective attitude toward breeders. As a matter of policy, Humane Societies tend to lump all producers of animals - whether serious breeder, back yard producer or puppy mill - into the same pot and tar them with the same brush. Breed Rescue recognizes that part of its role is to educate breeders about their lifetime responsibility to the puppies they produce, to assist them in carrying out that responsibility and to use peer pressure where necessary to encourage compliance with ethical precepts.

The conflict that happens between Breeder and Rescue occurs when each is seriously trying to carry out their respective roles and communication gets garbled. I am not speaking here of the puppy-mill producer - they neither deserve the name "Breeder" nor behave in any ethical manner. Nor, in most cases, am I speaking of the back-yard producer - the one that has a couple of litters because he happens to own a couple of dogs. This person may be educable and we should at least try to do that educating. But in our zeal to "do right" by a dog, we may unwittingly be violating someone's legal rights - and that can cause a backlash of lawsuits or other legal action against the rescuer and his/her Club. At the very least, it produces hard feelings and damages the reputation of both Rescue and the rescuer.

The Great Pyrenees Club of America does no actual rescuing of dogs; that is left to the individual clubs. What the parent club does do is act as a clearing-house of information about Rescue and pass that information on to interested members of both the GPCA and the Affiliated Local Clubs' rescues, such as theGPRNC

Under AKC rules, no Club may own a dog, therefore all Rescue is technically done by individual club members or by a separately incorporated Rescue organization associated with the local Pyr club. According to an attorney whose wife is active in her own breed rescue program, an individual is usually presumed to be acting in good faith if they are following a procedure formally adopted by their corporate Board of Directors. To that end, most Great Pyrenees clubs have adopted some form of Rescue Policy and adapted various forms to suit their needs.

Under the law, dogs are classed as "personal property", in much the same way a car or a piece of furniture is. And unless there is a written contract to the contrary, or a formal charge of theft, the person who has control of the dog is presumed to own it. (There are special rules for such places as boarding kennels and veterinary hospitals where an animal may be left under an implied contract, but the bill not paid.) The problem that can occur between Rescue and a Breeder occurs at the point Rescue accepts a dog surrendered by its presumed owner. I say "presumed" because that is what we do when someone presents us with a dog and asks us to find it a home. And it is at that point that the Rescue representative must do some careful questioning and reading.

Although some areas rarely see a dog whose breeding is known for sure, other areas find a large percentage of the dogs handled are voluntary owner-surrenders and the full history of the dog is knowable. If the dog comes with its AKC Registration Certificate, check it carefully to be certain the person named on the Certificate is the same one that has presented the dog to you. If there is a co-owner, you must get that person's written permission to place the dog. (There are specific legalities about notifying owners,elapsed time, advertising - check with your local county or Animal Control or an Attorney.) If the dog has no registration papers, check to see if there is a sales contract available for the original purchase. Is the dog fully paid for? Are there terms of the contract still un-performed - such as showing, breeding for puppies-back or neutering - without which the breeder still retains title to the dog? Whether you personally agree with such terms or not, you not only risk antagonizing the breeder, you leave yourself open to potential legal action if you don't have a policy for this contingency and follow it.

Most clubs have a transfer form for the person relinquishing the dog to sign. It says, in effect, "I certify that I am the sole and legal owner of this dog and that there are no encumbrances to my title to it." The form should then contain spaces for the name and AKC number of the dog, sex, birthdate and a brief description. If the dog was not purchased from a pet shop, some clubs have a form to send to the Breeder. It describes the dog, lists the reasons for it coming to Rescue's attention, and gives the breeder options to respond:

  1. The dog may be returned to the breeder at her expense
  2. The Breeder will support the dog until Rescue places it
  3. The breeder cannot afford to support the dog, but will send a donation for its care
  4. The breeder is not interested
The form is sent certified mail, return receipt requested. It nearly always gets some response.

Even if no response is received, the return receipt proves that the breeder was notified. A standard printed or photocopied form (the Rescue representative who sends it keeps a photocopy on file) along with the signed returned receipt (or the envelope marked "Unable to deliver"), shows intent to inform the breeder.

Most breeders, particularly those that live at a distance, are glad to know a responsible person, familiar with their breed, has found a new home for their dog. Some respond with a donation, some with just a "thank you" - and some are never heard from.

But, occasionally, there is the breeder who claims that the dog you just neutered and placed was a "show-quality" animal, that she still owned breeding rights to it and you have deprived her of "valuable property". Of such things are law-suits made. So cover yourself, and your club, with carefully written forms; use them, get everything dated and signed, and keep copies.

The other part of Rescue-Breeder interaction is education. There are many breeders who are themselves active in Rescue and their experiences are invaluable for any breeder, particularly a novice, to consider. Advice on contracts - particularly ones which contain "return to the breeder" clauses - tips on evaluating potential buyers, perhaps by use of a rescue-generated "Home Evaluation Questionnaire", recommendations of knowledgeable people who can help evaluate a distant buyer's home - before the pup is shipped --- all these are ways in which Rescue can help the Breeder.

And how can the Breeder help Rescue? By breeding, and selling, carefully. By giving puppy-buyers a list of owners and/or club members in their area to whom they can turn for help; by staying in touch with the buyers so they know the breeder is really interested. Remember, to the new buyer, the Breeder is the great "Expert", and they "don't want to bother" the expert with their "silly" questions. The Breeder needs to take the responsibility for staying in touch. With the proper support, that pup will never need the services of Rescue. Since novice breeders, with their first or second litter, seldom feel they know enough to really help their buyers, those breeders need to know there is someone to whom they can turn for help - and that someone is often to be found in Rescue.

The relationship between Rescue and Breeder need not be an adversarial one. It should ideally be one in which the needs of the dog are placed first and egos are left locked in the drawer.

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