Recent media exposure on the horrific conditions of puppy mills has led to widespread public awareness, but far less attention has been paid to the practice of backyard breeding. The truth is, backyard breeders are one of the leading causes of shelter overpopulation, often leading to the mass euthanasia of these unwanted pets.
A backyard breeder can have any number of reasons for producing litters. Some backyard breeders are attracted by the idea of “easy money” after seeing how much legitimate breeders charge for pups. Others mistakenly believe that every dog needs to produce at least one litter in their lifetime to truly feel fulfilled. Perhaps the most common reason is the one with the greatest of intentions: the loving owners of a family pet feel that their dog is so wonderful and so loved by everyone who meets it that they should produce litters of its offspring. That way, everyone could enjoy a pet as fantastic as theirs!
Unlike puppy mill owners, who operate high-volume breeding programs in squalid living conditions, the term “backyard breeder” (or “BYB”) can apply to any number of situations. Some backyard breeders, particularly the ones operating under the goal of financial gain, share similar characteristics with puppy mill owners. They may produce high volumes of litters, generally of many different breeds, or the pups may be kept in sub-standard living conditions such as rows of small or dirty cages.
However, other backyard breeders can be difficult to spot or may seem harmless, breeding only a litter or two and keeping the puppies indoors in the family home. Perhaps both parents are even on-site and you’re welcomed in to meet them and see the area in which the puppies are raised. When you’re greeted at the door by a family pet with tail wagging and presented with a clean and spacious living area in which to meet the pups, it can be difficult to imagine that you might be dealing with a backyard breeder – the truth is, most backyard breeders have only the best of intentions and don’t even realize that they’re doing anything wrong.
So what is the harm in backyard breeding? Well for starters, legitimate breeders have years of experience and knowledge in raising their chosen breed. They have some working knowledge of genetics and are able to breed for desirable qualities while reducing unwanted traits. A legitimate breeder also has health records of multiple generations of dogs and can carefully screen for the possibility of serious genetic problems such as hip dysplasia.
A backyard breeder, on the other hand, usually only knows the history of their own dog and will make assumptions based on what they know. However, there may have been a genetic predisposition toward hip dysplasia in her dog’s line that she is unaware of. Because backyard breeders lack information regarding the traits of previous generations, puppies often have health problems that can cost new owners thousands of dollars to deal with – or worse, temperament problems that lead to the dog being abandoned at a shelter or even euthanized.
Backyard breeders also produce litters without any thought as to where the pups will be placed – or whether there is even a demand for them. Legitimate breeders, on the other hand, never produce a litter until potential buyers have been screened and a deposit has been paid to ensure that all of their puppies will go to appropriate homes. Most reputable breeders will also restrict breeding rights, asking buyers to sign a contract to ensure that they will not breed their pups, thus contributing to overpopulation or the production of litters that do not meet breed standards. Many will even offer a partial refund to buyers who provide a spay/neuter certificate from their veterinarian.
So how can you ensure that you’re not dealing with a backyard breeder? Of course, I would always recommend that prospective dog owners adopt a dog or puppy from their local animal shelter – there are so many pets in need, waiting for their “forever homes”, and many shelters are home to even purebred pups. There are even multiple dog rescues devoted to specific breeds. However, if you have your heart set on purchasing your new pup from a breeder, keep the following tips in mind:
1) Reputable breeders do not place ads in newspapers or on Kijiji. Demand for a puppy from one of their litters is high and they will sell out before their dogs are even bred. Make a deposit early!
2) Ask why the puppy is available. Remember – reputable breeders do not breed their dogs until they have enough demand for a litter. However, occasionally a buyer may back out at the last minute, or a litter may be larger than expected.
3) Ask how many litters are produced each year. Most reputable breeders will not produce more than one or two litters per year. A higher answer than that should raise warning flags.
4) How many different breeds does the breeder work with? It takes a lot of experience and training to become an expert in any breed. Some breeders may work with two similar breeds, but again, more than two breeds may indicate a backyard breeder or a puppy mill.
5) Ask what steps are taken to ensure the puppy is healthy. Backyard breeders will often provide the first set of shots and nothing more. A reputable breeder has health records for the parents, has taken the mother for ultrasounds, and will offer a health guarantee.
6) Finally, remember that a backyard breeder wants to make a sale, and a legitimate breeder wants to make the right sale. Don’t be put off by pre-screening – this is a good sign.Powered by Sidelines