Thu, Mar 01, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Feature: Red poodles just another here-and-gone fad

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

"It's over for red poodles," dog breeder and proprietor of the Master Dog salon Lin Chiu-li (林秋麗) said.

Even in the fickle pet market, the rise and decline of the red poodle was remarkable for its swiftness. Called "teddy dogs" because of the puffy hairstyle they are usually given, red poodles became fashionable when Taiwanese supermodel Lin Chi-ling's (林志玲) red poodle, "Coffee" started appearing in commercials and fashion shows alongside its owner.

Lin Chiu-li, who is a breeder of mostly white poodles and maltese dogs, said the red poodle was "the" dog of 2005. Such puppies sold then at an average price of NT$60,000.

"Some dogs, sold as `mini' red poodles, were fetching even higher sums," Lin Chiu-li said. "We're talking about NT$100,000 and above."

"When demand explodes like that, reputable breeders can't keep up," she said. "Instead, there's a rush into the market to make a fast buck."

Less scrupulous pet dealers began to import or even smuggle adult and pregnant females from countries such as Thailand to satisfy the demand, she said.

"Large dogs, squat dogs ... as long as they were red, they took them all," she said.

"Puppy mill" operators flout the rules of dog breeding when they try to churn out as many puppies as possible -- as cheaply as possible -- before a breed becomes passe, she said.

"Since one male dog can impregnate many females, they would pair females of other breeds to the male they want, kill all the males of the resulting litter and breed the females to a male of the desired breed again," she said. "After two or three generations, they consider the puppies `pure' enough to sell."

Director of the Kaohsiung Concern Stray Animal Association Wang Chun-ching (王春經) said puppy mill operators show scant concern for the well-being of the animals.

"We have been to facilities where dogs are living in pitiable conditions," Wang said. "The dogs all have their larynxes removed. They're caged and bred until they're dead."

Lin Chiu-li blames the uneven quality of dogs sold during the rush for the red poodle's equally swift decline in popularity.

"We started hearing complaints from people that their `mini poodles' were getting bigger," she said.

By the middle of last year, red poodle fever had already started to recede, she said.

Other fashionable dogs have fared even worse.

"Owners usually keep their red poodles or are able to give them away to another family," Lin Chiu-li said. "But many labradors, golden retrievers and other large dogs end up on the streets."

"We have more than 10 golden retrievers in our shelter right now. There are also many labradors and huskies," Wang said.

"Even smaller dogs can be abandoned if it becomes more obvious as a dog grows older that it is not purebred." she said.

"We need more regulation of the dog breeding industry in this country," she said.

"Any time a show or news item features a breed, it can quickly cause a fad," she said. "The Japanese movie Quill made labradors popular. A news item about a husky that supposedly saved a baby from drowning made that breed popular. With hormone shots, breeders can have puppies for sale within a few months."

Lunar New Year traditionally sees a boom in puppy sales, but this year was slower, Lin Chiu-li said.

"In previous years, individual stalls in a night market could move more than 100 puppies over the two-week spring holiday, but we did not see the same rush of orders this year," she said.

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