NELSON Mandela Bay animal rescue shelters say they are fighting a losing battle against "backyard breeders” who rear purebred pets with the intent to sell them, exacerbating the overpopulation of dogs in the city.
The shelters complain that illegal breeders are behind the decline in pet adoptions from struggling animal shelters, because people would rather pay reduced prices for purebred dogs than buy cheaper, mixed-breed pets.
Save-a-Pet manager Natalie Dil said a purebred pet could cost between R3500 and R4500, while backyard breeders were charging between R1500 and R2500 for popular breeds such as boerboels, rottweilers and Yorkshire terriers. She said people would rather pay more for a purebred pet than adopt a mixed-breed dog from a shelter for R600.
She said many backyard breeders were not registered to sell animals and were also not spaying their bitches.
She said owners of unspayed bitches could be fined R1000.
"Some of the puppies sold by these breeders are not sterilised or vaccinated and run the risk of catching illnesses and breeding unwanted litters,” she said.
The Animal Anti-Cruelty League’s Patsy Wagner urged the municipal dog control unit to fine more owners of unspayed bitches.
"We are working our butts off, but it is like trying to empty the sea with a tea cup. People point fingers at us because we are putting down unwanted pets, but what other choice do we have? Every day we pick up unwanted dogs roaming around, and dead dogs that have been knocked over [hit by vehicles].”
Buyers should rather adopt pets from shelters than support backyard breeders who were operating illegally, she said.
"If you adopt from a shelter you know you are getting a healthy pet that is sterilised and vaccinated,” Wagner said.
Save-a-Pet, a "no-kill shelter” which does not euthanise animals, has nearly 190 dogs, some of them more than 10 years old.