Labradoodle Creator Believes He's 'Created A Lot Of Problems' For The Breed, Including Puppy Mills
Wally Conron rues the day he created the Labradoodle. The 85-year-old Australian dog breeder says he isn't happy with the chain of events that followed his breeding a Labrador retriever and a standard poodle in the late 1980s.
At the time, Conron didn't know that by meeting the requirements a Hawaiian couple had for a special dog breed, he would unleash "a designer dog craze." The couple needed a new kind of dog - one that could attend to the wife's vision problems and the husband's allergies. After a lot of trial-and-error, Conron created the Labradoodle.
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Although the Labrador cross was a personal triumph, it wasn't necessarily a success outside of the lab. "I was very, very careful of what I used, but nobody wanted Labrador crosses," he told The Associated Press. "I had a three-to-six-month waiting list, but everyone wanted purebreds. So I had to come up with a gimmick." He came up with the name Labradoodle, and "all of a sudden, people wanted this wonder dog."
The designer-dog craze initiated by Conron has triggered a reckless demand for exotic puppies, and is difficult to rein in as puppy mills are flourishing into a cottage industry. "I've done a lot of damage, I've created a lot of problems," Conron told the AP.
Labradoodles' popularity skyrocketed when celebrities like Tiger Woods and Jennifer Aniston added the dogs into their family. Before deciding that a Portuguese water dog would be the First Pet, President Barack Obama's family actually considered a Labradoodle. "When I heard he was thinking about a Labradoodle, I wrote to him and said to make sure he checked its pedigree," Conron told the AP.
Much of the exotic-dog craze has been blind to the severe health problems inflicted on the poor animals while living in puppy mills - the mill's owners typically produce more dogs than they're able to handle or care for, all to make a quick buck. "Instead of breeding out the problems, they're breeding them in," Conron said of the puppy mills. "For every perfect one, you're going to find a lot of crazy ones," Conron said.
Conron has long been aware of the issues tied to his creation, saying that he opened a "Pandora's box" by creating the Labradoodle, which he called a "Frankenstein." For his concern, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) expressed appreciation.
"Breeding 'purebred' or 'designer' dogs for exaggerated physical characteristics such as flat faces or sloping hips can cause them severe health problems. The kindest thing that anyone can do for dogs is to adopt them from a shelter, and make sure that they are spayed or neutered," Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA's senior vice president, told the AP.
Although Conron stopped breeding Labradoodles 20 years ago, and he never had one of his own, he cannot help witnessing the unintended consequences of his creation.
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