Last week, I told you about Jesuit High School’s annual auction featuring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. This fundraising idea caused such a brouhaha that the event coordinators reluctantly opted to drop the pup from the list of auctioned items.
I asked you to tell me how you feel about this issue, and what a response I received. Your comments were thoughtful, insightful, and adamantly opposed to the idea of auctioning off puppies! I couldn’t agree with you more.
The notion of placing a live animal in a new home based on an impulse decision makes me squeamish to the core. When my children were younger, I was invariably the lone parent protesting at community fairs and school fundraising events where goldfish and hermit crabs were given to children as prizes. Whether or not to accept responsibility for the physical and emotional well being of an animal (be it a puppy or a goldfish or a hermit crab) should be a decision based on significant thought and consideration. When it comes to animal adoptions, impulse decisions tend to create unhappy endings.
If you’ve attended fundraising auctions you’ve no doubt witnessed plenty of impulse buying, perhaps some under the influence of alcohol (the more alcohol served, the higher the bids). How could this possibly be a reasonable way for a pup to land in a stable and permanent situation? What lessons are the adults involved role modeling for their children?
Veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Ann Jones denounced impulse buying in her comments:
We have a local organization that has done this (against my recommendations) for the past four years. “But it is our biggest draw and they expect us to do it. It makes the most money!” This year, the winning bidder took the puppy home and the puppy wasn’t wanted by the entire family. There were extensive medical bills required shortly after the puppy was “won” and the entire situation exemplifies why the bringing of a puppy into a home is a family decision and should not be undertaken during the excitement of a bidding war.
Who provides the puppy?
Like many of you, I’m left wondering where pups who wind up as auction items come from. It is difficult to imagine a responsible/reputable breeder going along with this scheme. They wouldn’t be keen on forfeiting their right to screen prospective adopters. Some of you conjectured that puppy mills are the source. I cannot confirm this, but do feel confident that the breeders involved are either clueless or are motivated more by dollar signs than the welfare of their puppies.
Reader, Jo Ann Weise concurred with these sentiments:
As a breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I am appalled that any breeder would offer one of their puppies for another organization to “raffle” off. No one places my puppies in their new homes but me. As a reputable breeder, our ultimate responsibility is to place our puppies in homes where they have the absolute best chance for a happy and healthy life. A reputable breeder would never, under any circumstances, allow their puppies to be raffled off like a “thing”.
Legalities and ethical considerations
Is it considered legal and/or ethical to auction puppies? I was unable to find a clear answer regarding the legality of this practice. Whether or not auctioning pups is ethical is subject to debate. My kids attended public schools where fundraising for basic supplies was always a necessity. I can understand why concerned parents and officials at financially strapped schools might convince themselves it is ethically sound to generate $4,000-$5,000 via the quick and easy sale of a puppy. I suspect that such folks would be amenable to some ethical realignment if approached in a respectful fashion with a differing perspective. Reader, Sharon Montville had this to say about the ethics of auctioning puppies:
Most parent breed clubs – including the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) have a Code of Ethics which states that breeders will not allow their pups to be auctioned. So why is this?
1. It is not guaranteed – unless the auction is rigged – that the puppy will go to the intended home. The puppy will go to the “highest bidder.”
2. Letting a pup go to the “highest bidder” promotes the concept that all it takes to be a responsible owner is the ability to pay the purchase price of the puppy. This is wrong.
3. People bidding on a puppy when they have not necessarily met with the breeder, researched the health clearances of the parents, etc. promotes the concept that is okay to pay as much – or possibly more – for a less responsibly bred puppy than for a responsibly bred pup. Since it is against the BMDCA Code of Conduct to auction a pup, it is highly unlikely that this particular pup was bred by a responsible breeder.
For the record……
Many of you were bothered by the comments made by Jesuit High School spokesperson Erika Tuenge. This portion of her statement was particularly offensive to me:
Jesuit High School has always carefully and thoughtfully considered the choice of breeds and placement of puppies in its annual auction and has provided suitable loving environments for each dog which is placed in the homes of Jesuit families.
Does Ms. Tuenge mean to imply that any Jesuit home is a good home? Give me a break! Besides, how can the auction committee ensure that the pup winds up in a Jesuit home? What’s to prevent a Jew like me, perhaps invited as a family guest, from attending the auction and placing the winning bid? Would my religious persuasion have been checked at the door? Would I have been instructed to bid on anything but the puppy? I don’t know if Ms. Tuenge’s statement accurately represents Jesuit High School’s sentiments. If so, shame on Jesuit High School. If not, I recommend a crash course for Ms. Tuenge in political correctness.
The auction at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon is not an isolated event. Fundraising with puppies happens round the country in a variety of venues. The only way to make it stop involves respectful, educational dialogue initiated by people like you and me. I encourage you to make this happen.
Are you aware of an organization in your community that includes puppies in their fundraising auctions?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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