These new stamps are beautiful and encourage adoption. But I will not purchase them.
I believe these stamps will have a genuinely harmful impact on animals. Let me explain:
Twenty years ago I would have enthusiastically supported stamps encouraging adoption. Since then, HSUS, PETA, ASPCA, and others have been waging a very effective propaganda campaign to manufacture the illusion that adoption and breeding are contrary. They have been so persuasive in creating the societal notion that rescue is moral and responsibly purchasing a well-bred pet is immoral, that I am no longer comfortable going along with propaganda that reinforces this misconception. While I continue to advocate for adoption/rescue in some situations, I also advocate for responsible owners doing research and supporting good breeders in many situations. (Note: good is not synonymous with purebred) It is a simple truth that if you make it impossible for good breeders to survive, all that is left are the “bad” breeders. I believe these stamps will contribute to the already overwhelming anti-breeder sentiment in this country, and that directly hurts animals.
There is a reality in which people breed animals because they are too lazy to avoid it, to make a buck, or to show their kids the miracle of birth. A reality in which people acquire dogs and casually dump them when they become inconvenient, or neglect them in their yard, or abandon them. Rescue is a vital component of this reality.
Just as real, however, is the world in which serious breeders devote incredible amounts of energy, knowledge, and money to improving their chosen breed. They screen homes carefully, take back animals, fund research, and are deeply dedicated. Their animals are generally sold to owners who are similarly responsible and committed. Within this group are most people within the fancy, most serious competitors in animal activities, even the people who think their pets are surrogate children. These are people for whom animals matter profoundly and whose lives revolve to a large degree around animals. Not only do the people in this reality not generally contribute to the shelter population, they actively adopt or rehabilitate pets and work to educate the casual public. Their work protects not only the animals of the future, but the owners as well. When we persuade people that the place to get a pet is from a responsible breeder, then we can make real inroads into eliminating irresponsible breeders, and by extension most animals in rescue, because there will be no demand for their puppies.
If every home in America WANTS to “rescue” a puppy from the shelter, we have destroyed the market for well-bred dogs and created demand for precisely that which we ostensibly want to eradicate. We need to eliminate the bad breeders, not the good ones, and making shelters the only politically correct place to acquire a dog does just the opposite.
The problem is that the “Don’t Breed or Buy While Shelter Animals Die” propaganda ignores this dichotomy entirely. Not only ignores it, but seeks to destroy all breeders by painting them with the same destructive brush. And they have been VERY effective. Most non-animal people are absolutely certain that there is a huge pet overpopulation problem caused by the fact that breeders are greedy and evil, and that the solution is to boycott breeders, pass mandatory spay/neuter and and number limit laws, only adopt pets, and send money to HSUS. This message is already being shouted so loudly that the vital reality of responsible breeding is being lost in the noise.
Additionally, pro-adoption campaigns tend to be so zealous in their desire to get pets adopted that they forget the even more important objective of keeping pets in their homes. By sugar-coating rescues as wonderful, appreciative pets, they can persuade more people to adopt pets, but many of those pets will be back in the system in a few years. While there are many wonderful animals in shelters, there are also many unhealthy, poorly bred, unsocialized animals with behavioral or training issues that may take years to resolve. We should be educating people and helping them to look at ALL their options to find the pet that is best suited to their lives and will be likeliest to thrive and remain with the family. This includes looking at rescues and purebreds, and most importantly it included explaining the downsides of any pet to a potential home.
I am all for reminding people to consider rescue when looking for their next pet. I am merely opposed to attacking every other option in pursuit of driving people to rescue. We also need to increase awareness of the remarkable people who are doing a truly great job preserving and nurturing healthy happy dogs and who are being destroyed by the same propaganda machine that is producing these stamps.