Designer Dogs: an exposé into the criminal underworld of crossbreeding

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Designer Dogs
Madeline Bernstein's new book, Designer Dogs, features a foreward by Dr. Phil McGraw, and pages of truths behind the fast-growing industry of crossbred canines.

Thinking about getting a “designer dog”? Take some time to read Madeline Bernstein’s new book and learn why trendiness shouldn’t be your first concern. 

Many years ago, you could order a dog from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Luckily, we’ve come a long way since those days, and no longer consider our canine companions “commodities” – right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. While most of us treat our dogs like well-respected family members, others still see them as a possession to be purchased and displayed. This mindset has resulted in an era of disposable designer pets, and Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and author of Designer Dogs: An Exposé Inside the Criminal Underworld of Crossbreeding, is determined to change that.

Bernstein has spent years working as an animal welfare activist. Her passion comes through in the emotionally impactful stories she tells of rescue operations and failed enforcement in her new book, which reveals the scary truths behind the modern-day crossbreeds we’ve grown to love. This compelling exposé traces how people started breeding and selling dogs during the Depression, and goes on to outline the many challenges faced by the American court systems – from keeping up with puppy mills, illegal importation and falsified medical records, and the development of a new industry surrounding crossbred “designer dogs”.

The demand for puppies bred from two purebred parents of different breeds started with the rise of the goldendoodle, whose unpredictability is well documented in Bernstein’s opening chapter. From there, increasingly pint-sized pooches, green-eyed pups and –oodles of all kinds have been gracing the homes of celebrities, the pages of magazines and countless back rooms run by people who see this new demand as an opportunity to drive profit. Determined to put a stop to this dangerous movement, Bernstein teaches readers how to recognize a responsible breeder, and helps them understand why they need to ask more questions than ever before. Finally, and most powerfully, she explores the connection between trend-driven dog choices and overflowing shelters across the country.

Designer Dogs, published in October to coincide with Adopt a Shelter Pet Month, takes a long trek through the aspects of buying a dog that we don’t often consider — the shady lending deals, import schemes and unpredictable breeding experiments. While Bernstein makes it clear that these experiences are not part of every dog’s story, she asks us to remember that they can be, and that it’s up to us to protect those who can’t protect themselves.