My wife purchased our english cream golden retriever from the Brubakers "kennel" in December, 2009. She had gotten his name from a popular puppy-find web site. When she went to pick up our puppy, she was told by Mr. Brubaker that Cooper was the "runt of the litter", weighing all of 5 pounds at 8 weeks of age. Then before she left, Mr. Brubaker showed my wife Coopers parents that he retrieved from an outside cyclone fenced in area that housed within it, many dog houses, apparently where they keep the dogs. My wife did say that their home was beautiful, as Mr. Brubaker alluded to in his rebuttal to a previous complaint but she doubted that the dogs were kept inside, once she saw the outside facilities.
The vet health check consisted of the vet stating, "no obvious abnormalities noted." We did, however, almost immediately notice, once we got Cooper back to New Jersey, that he had an odd gait, that when he stood, his front paws deviated outwardly and he would occasionally limp, especially after being active. Our vet said it was probably "just a funny gait" and the limp was just "growing pains." He suggested that we have the dog x-rayed but since it would require general anesthesia, he recommended doing it concomitantly when the dog was neutered, at around 1 year of age.
We did have him x-rayed at the time of his neutering and was dismayed to learn from the vet that he had very severe, bilateral elbow dysplasia and only with surgery would he have any chance to live a "relatively" pain-free life yet the surgeon cautioned us that, even with the surgery, Cooper would never be normal and he would always have some degree of lameness and that since elbow dysplasia is a progressive disease, he may eventually become disabled. He had bilateral elbow arthroscopies and now two stem cell transplants and he has done well, but now at three, we have to limit his activity.
I take offense to part of Mr. Brubakers statement in his rebuttal that "We have gone great distances to find beautiful dogs with champion and good genetic lines." While there is no doubt that Cooper is beautiful, anyone having any knowledge of ED would know that the part about the Brubakers "going great distances to find dogs with good genetic lines" is absolutely false. ED is a genetic disease and in 2013 as was true in 2009 when Cooper was born, the ONLY screening test available is a four-view x-ray of the dogs elbows. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is the nation's leading authority on ED. They recommend that not only should all sires and dames used for breeding have their elbows x-rayed but as much of their pedigree should also be x-rayed and that only ED negative dogs be used for this "selective breeding" to prevent the bad genetic material from being passed down to the puppies in an attempt to eliminate ED. When I learned of Cooper's diagnosis, I called Mr. Brubaker to inform him that Cooper was diagnosed with severe ED and he would require major surgery. Mr. Brubaker's response..."oh that's too bad. He is the only dog I ever had with bad elbows" since they only breed "healthy dogs." I asked him if the parents were x-rayed prior to being bred since he goes to such "great distances to find dogs with good genetic lines"; he did not. When I asked him why not, his response, "none of my dogs have any problems. We have 7 acres and they all run around here like crazy." He did tell me that the sire had a preliminary screening of his elbow and they were normal. When I told him that it was the OFA's policy that for a dog to have its elbows officially certified, the dog had to be at least 24 months of age and that any dog that had a prelim evaluation should have repeat x-rays once it turned 2 years. He, of course, did not know this even after breeding goldens for more than 20 years. As Jerold S. Bell, DVM, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts and a leading authority in canine genetics and elbow dysplasia, has written, "in today's environment, not testing for documented, breed-related hereditary diseases is irresponsible breeding." ED afflicts 1 out of every nine golden retrievers.
ED is just one of the genetic diseases prevalent in golden retrievers, the others being hip dysplasia, eye problems and heart problems, all of which, the Golden Retriever Club of America, recommends that the parents and pedigree should be tested for, BEFORE being bred. To allow the bad genetic to be passed down to the puppies, may be subjecting them to a life of pain and even worse, severe disability.
I would imagine many of Mr. Brubakers puppies are healthy or at least they do not manifest signs of lameness, even if they are afflicted with the disease; or they may carriers and if bred, could pass the bad genetic material to their puppies. However, as Dr. Bell so aptly stated, to not test for hereditary diseases equates to irresponsible breeding. Mr. Brubaker can include as many glowing comments about his dogs as he wants but by not testing for genetic diseases, he is an irresponsible breeder. I would not trade Cooper for one hundred ED negative dogs but my next golden will be purchased only from a breeder who does health screening.
I invite anyone with any questions or comments to contact me. I also look forward to Mr. Brubakers rebuttal as I am prepared to provide him with numerous comments from leading authorities on ED.