ATTRIBUTES OF A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER

THE VAST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER AND A PUPPY MILL OR BACKYARD BREEDER

THE VAST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER AND A PUPPY MILL OR BACKYARD BREEDER AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE!


There is a lot of information widely available today about the horrific conditions endured by dogs treated solely as breeding machines in puppy mills and breeders who breed solely for profit and do not have the integrity of their breed(s) at the forefront of their breeding programs. Puppies from these Puppy Mills are sold solely for profit to the first people who show up and pay the price they demand for these puppies or are sold to pet brokers and they end up in pet stores. They are sold with no health testing on either sire or dam and with no health guarantees whatsoever.  Puppies and their parents are typically kept in deplorable and filthy conditions, it’s not uncommon for puppies from these mills to not survive their first several week of life. Because this information is so available, this often brings inquiries from responsible pet owners seeking a puppy to members of their National Breed Club. I am a member in good standing with the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States and Piedmont Kennel Club where I've faithfully served on the Board of Directors. As a member of these clubs, I have signed both of their Code of Ethics which contains many aspects that I abide by which include; the Health of my dogs, Responsible Breeding Practices, Appropriate Placement of Puppies, Keeping Appropriate Records and Conduct.


Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States Code of Ethics: http://www.rrcus.org/pdf/RRCUS_Code_of_Ethics.pdf


Many irresponsible breeders are very clever and have very flashy websites and do their utmost to appear as ethical breeders. There are many distinctions between a responsible breeder and irresponsible breeder if you know the signs to look for:


Responsible breeders... 


* Do not sell their pups to or through pet stores. Instead, they personally screen and select homes for their puppies, advise people on caring for the breed; turn away people whose lifestyle, commitment or home situation is not a good fit for the breed, test for and guarantee the health and temperament of their puppies, have detailed documentation of their pups' lineage, demonstrate knowledge about canine health, genetics, socialization and development, and take back their animals at any time and age if the buyers cannot keep them.


* Do not sell multiple breeds of dogs, since they specialize in one or two breeds at most.


* They do not sell 'fad' breeds such as "____ doodles", specialize in 'rare' colors that are usually a disqualification of the breed standard or breed extremes such as exceptionally small or large variations of a breed.


* Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the breed's history, traits, temperament, and conformation. They have years of experience with the breed.


* Are actively involved in the showing of purebred dogs with reputable clubs; in the United States, this only includes the AKC for Conformation Shows. This can take the form of respected dog shows, locally and nationally, and competitions involving obedience trials, sport and athletics. Show and performance events enable responsible breeders to ensure that their dogs display the desired physical and behavioral traits desired for the particular breed. Every litter of show puppies has some dogs that will never compete in the show ring, often because they have physical traits that do not totally conform to exacting breed standards. However, these pups have been raised with as much planning, medical attention and socialization as their show-quality littermates and make wonderful pets. While ranked dogs are a plus, rank itself is not a sole indicator of quality. It is desirable for the parent dogs to have earned titles on both ends of the dogs' names (Ch. and CGC/TT/TDI at the other end).


Note: AKC registry alone does not guarantee a healthy dog or even one that conforms to breed standards. AKC staff does not visit breeders to view the pups; registration is typically done through mail and involves the honor system.


* Keep their dogs as house pets, and raise their litters in a home environment with proper socialization so they know that the offspring will be good pets as well.


* Ethical breeders value their reputation for seeking to improve the breed. They do not sell pups as a for-profit business. Indeed, many reputable breeders lose money, since breeding and caring for puppies in a responsible, quality-focused manner is typically expensive. They breed only dogs that are themselves good pets and fine representatives of their breed.


* Evaluate the health of their pups using sound, standardized genetic and other testing recommended for the individual breed. Tests include OFA (hip and/or elbow x-ray certification), CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) or OFA Eye certification, Penn-Hip (hip joint laxity), SAS (subaortic stenosis, a heart defect common to some popular breeds), thyroid and other measures. They also test dogs for sexually transmitted diseases, like Brucellosis, prior to breeding a litter. Thorough genetic screening enables responsible breeders to minimize their chances of producing a health-compromised puppy. They only breed dogs that have passed their health tests.


* Provide full, lifetime written guarantees covering genetic disease.


* Take back the dog at any point in his or her life for whatever reason the purchaser no longer wants or can care for the animal.


* Place all puppies with a contract and pet quality animals with a stipulation requiring the purchaser to spay/neuter the pup at an appropriate age for the breed.


* Provide advice and guidance to purchasers. Interview and usually visit the homes of prospective puppy purchasers, placing pups only with people who demonstrate they can provide safe, responsible homes.


* Has the mother dog on premises and allows prospective purchasers observe her health and behavior. Responsible breeders breed their female dog to the best male that compliments the dam and moves their breeding program forward, not the most convenient one so often the sire will not be on site, however, the breeders will have detailed records on him that was provided by his owner.


* Breed only dogs over 2 years old after they have passed health-testing described above and breeds them only a limited number of times; not every heat cycle until she can no longer produce.


* Lines up qualified buyers in advance of the breeding of a litter and rarely ever advertises.


* Does not separate a puppy from their dam and litter mates before 8 weeks of age. Also de-worms and vaccinates their puppies.


* Can provide references for happy puppy buyers.


* Last, but certainly not least; an ethical breeder never bashes the quality or reputation of another club breeder. Doing so is a clear violation of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the Unites States Code of Ethics Section V and is detrimental to the breed as a whole.


Puppy Mill or Backyard-Breeder Puppies…


* They usually breed more than one breed and/or specialize in 'rare' colors or sizes (extremely large or extremely small). They often breed mixes, 'fad' breeds such as "____ doodles". They advertise on puppy brokerage sites and will sell puppies over the internet having never interviewed to met the potential family.


* Will often have terminology such as "Parents on Site" in their advertising - this seems well-intentioned but is in fact a large red flag. Only the most established breeders will keep males on site that could compliment their females. In most cases the sire of the litter lives somewhere else and could be states away; the breeding taking place with extensive travel or artificial means.


* Will use terminology like "Champion Lines" instead of breeding Champion Parents! If your sire and dam do not have an AKC Conformation Championship, BEWARE! Dogs that have obtained their AKC Championship will have a CH title in front of their name, if they've obtained their Grand Championship they will have a GCH in front of their name. The AKC issues certificates for dogs that have completed these titles and your breeder will have that copy. You can also use the AKC site to check if a title on a dog is valid or if the information that has been provided to you have been faked: MyAKC

The websites for Puppy Mill or BYB breeders will rarely contain show photos of every dogs they are breeding.


* Will use terminology such as "Vet Checked" instead of having genetically Health Tested parents they can provide OFA links or proof of passed tests. These phrases cannot mean anything more differently, but are often confused for the same thing. A Vet Check will check the general health of a dog at the time of the examination. Health Tested parents have undergone genetic testing either by x-ray, lab testing through blood serum or other scientific standardized tests administered by professionals and a grade or result given. This grade or result is permanent except in cases where tests need to be administered on an annual basis such as thyroid, eye exams, etc.). Breeders who health test the parents of their puppies are dedicated to producing the healthiest offspring possible. Unsound breeding practices can predispose dogs to hereditary afflictions like hip dysplasia, dislocating kneecaps, eye problems, and aggression, as well as genetic conditions such as liver and heart diseases, autoimmune disorders, and seizures. Puppy Mills and BYB usually do not provide full information on genetic disorders prevalent in the breeds they sell, or copies of documents such as Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) on the hips and/or elbows of both parents and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) or OFA Eye certification on the eyes of both parents. Dogs who have had genetic testing done, their results are searchable on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website.


* Puppy Mill or Backyard Breeders will breed females every heat cycle and often discard them in shelters or on the roadside once they are unable to produce puppies for them any longer. If you visit a breeder and they do not have any senior dogs, this is a warning sign of epic proportions.


* Will price puppies solely for profit and with no guarantees like reputable breeders do, or limit their health guarantees to anything less than lifetime or require you to feed a specific supplement to honor their health guarantee. They often charge more expensive prices for females or charge additional fees for "papers" or "breeding rights".


* Puppy Mill and Backyard Bred parents and puppies are often raised outdoors in barns or sheds and are not exposed to a home environment. The puppies rarely receive the proper and critical socialization needed before they are sold to unsuspecting families.


Note: AKC registry alone does not guarantee a healthy dog or even one that conforms to breed standards. AKC staff does not visit breeders to view the pups; registration is typically done through mail and involves the honor system.


Brokered or Pet Store Puppies…


* Pet shops typically buy from brokers who get animals from puppy mills, which are commercial breeding establishments that mass produce dogs for resale. Many puppy mills and brokers are based in the Midwestern U.S. and Pennsylvania, but they are located across the country.


* Puppy mills and pet shops often do not properly socialize their puppies. Many pet shop puppies lack fresh air, exercise, play, and sufficient positive human contact, which help a puppy become well-adjusted.


* Unsound breeding practices can predispose dogs to hereditary afflictions like hip dysplasia, dislocating kneecaps, eye problems, and aggression, as well as genetic conditions such as liver and heart diseases, autoimmune disorders, and seizures.


* Pet shops usually do not provide full information on genetic disorders prevalent in certain breeds, or copies of documents such as Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) on the hips and/or elbows of both parents and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) or OFA Eye certification on the eyes of both parents.


* Pet store pups and animals from backyard breeders typically are not tested for genetic disease and are not adequately protected from illnesses such as parvo, as documented in news reports and in Animal Court cases. Thus, countless families have endured the heartbreak of seeing their pet store pups eventually become crippled by hip dysplasia, lose their sight due to progressive retinal atrophy, lose their hearing due to congenital deafness, die of cardiomyopathy or suffer from many other breeding-linked disorders from allergies to patellar luxation.


* Pet shop puppies can be prone to parvovirus and distemper. For example, parvovirus symptoms are not immediately detectable, so a puppy with parvo may share a cage with a healthy puppy. Symptoms may not appear for several weeks, and by then the puppy might be in a new home.


* Pet shop puppies typically come into contact with numerous animals at puppy mills and brokers' holding facilities, during transportation, and at pet shops, often exposing them to illnesses and parasites. Transportation stress can make them more susceptible to disease.


* Puppies can also be exposed to disease, infections and parasites at the pet shop/kennel.


* AKC registration does not guarantee proper breeding conditions, health, quality or claims to lineage. AKC staff does not visit all breeders and facilities; instead, registration is done primarily through mailed forms.


* State licensing and USDA approval does not mean good conditions, merely minimum business requirements.


* A number of the trucks used by commercial breeders to transport their live "merchandise" have been caught transporting puppies in inhumane conditions, as revealed in local newspaper stories this year and in past years.


* Pet shops do not typically screen buyers. Impulse buyers may not have prepared sufficiently or have a suitable environment for a puppy. Pet shops do not take back and rehome dogs from customers who later realize they cannot or do not want to keep the dog for life.


* Will price puppies solely for profit and with no guarantees as stated above. Will charge more expensive prices for females or charge additional fees for "papers" or "breeding rights".


Because it only takes a single generation and a single untrustworthy individual to take a well-bred puppy and irresponsibly breed it is why ethical breeders will only sell puppies on spay/neuter contracts. I will only consider selling a show potential puppy with full registration to a home that exhibits the highest of ethics and intentions; with individuals who will join the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, thereby signing the Code of Ethics and committing themselves to the standard of responsible breeding and ownership.

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