Cat and dog breeders. These are people that I find myself thinking about often. Maybe it’s because I look around at my mix of 10 purebreds and mixed breeds and wonder how they ended up here and if the people who intentionally or unintentionally produced them even care where all those puppies or kittens ended up. Or maybe it’s because I wonder how so many people can knowingly contribute to pet overpopulation, which in turn, leads to millions of cats and dogs being killed each year.
Except for my labrador Abby, which was an unexpected gift from my parents, that I wrote about here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/my-experience-getting-a-puppy-as-a-gift/, I never get to choose my pets. I don’t go looking in the newspapers or on Craigslist or Petfinder, or anywhere else.
With the exception of taking in one cat that lost her elderly owner and another that had been forced to live in the garage because the lady whose house he showed up at didn’t want him, all of my animals have either just showed up in my yard or Will and I have found them wandering nearby.
Fortunately, unlike some people, I don’t care what breed or mix of breeds my cats or dogs are. Their health and ability to get along with all of my other animals is much more important to me. I’ve taken in, rehomed, and kept a wide variety of breeds over the years and can honestly say I have no favorite. Great cats and dogs come in all breeds and mixes of them.
My single experience (that I can confirm) with an AKC purebred
The only dog I’ve ever had that has had more than the typical (for me and my crew, anyway) health issues is my non-rescue, AKC purebred yellow lab, Abby. While Abby’s a great dog and I love her to death, our journey together seems like it has been filled with one health issue after another for the last eight of her ten years. With so many animals and other things I have to spend time on, it can be frustrating and stressful at times.
Whether Abby’s health issues are the result of poor breeding or just the breed in general, I don’t know. Because of the circumstances in which I got her, (as a surprise and unexpected and unplanned gift), I didn’t have a chance to do any research at all about the breed or choosing a breeder beforehand or what tests to inquire about to ensure I got a healthy puppy. When I got her, I had no idea labs were susceptible to so many health issues, including some pretty serious ones.
Fortunately, despite labs being prone to hip and elbow problems, so far, Abby’s been fine. Doing things the way I did isn’t a gamble I’d encourage anyone else to take, though. Anything that affects a pet’s quality of life, especially in breeds prone to particularly serious health issues, should not be left to chance.
Too many of the wrong kind of breeders has consequences
Breeding cats or dogs isn’t as easy as taking a couple of cats or dogs, either of the same breed or one each of some popular crossbreed, and breeding them. Unfortunately, looking for a way to make easy money, a lot of people believe or treat it like it is. And the results of all that breeding by so many people is disastrous.
The trickle-down effect of all that reckless breeding is a whole lot of unwanted pets and pets with health and behavior problems, which can also lead to their homelessness. The breeders get their money, while the people at the bottom of the totem pole, the animal shelters, rescue groups and individuals like myself, are left scrambling to take care of those animals they’ve so easily made.
Not all breeders are bad
Now before I go any further, let me just say this. I KNOW there are legitimate breeders out there. And we need them. I also KNOW that we need breeders in certain circumstances. Rescue dogs, police dogs, guide dogs, etc., etc. all have to be a special kind of dog to do their job. They have to be the best of the best to do their jobs. I have no problem with those. Or the breeders that carefully screen to try to get the best of the breed.
I also have no problem with the breeders who are responsible. The ones that keep very detailed records of their dogs and their health. The ones that actually care who is buying their dogs and their dogs’ health. The ones that take back any dogs that they sell that have found themselves in a bad spot. Unfortunately, those breeders are the minority.
The breeder that just didn’t seem to care
When my parents surprised me with Abby for my birthday ten years ago, the breeder never asked me who my vet was, if I knew anything about labradors, nothing. She didn’t even get my name. For all she knew or cared, I was going to bring my new puppy home and make puppy soup. She got her money and that was that.
I often wonder where Abby’s 12 siblings ended up. The dirty little secret in dog breeding is that it is not uncommon for there to be leftovers. What happens to those leftovers range from being kept, surrendered to a shelter, sold at a steep discount, to being killed by the breeder.
And you might think that my single experience with Abby’s breeder is not the norm and just a fluke. Unfortunately, I personally know someone who breeds dogs and I know exactly what her thought process is. It is to breed dogs that look a certain way so she can get a premium for them. These aren’t champion show dogs that have competed and won awards or have any amazing attributes that make them worth that $1,500 she asks, but that’s what she sells them for. And she gets it. Most of the time.
Not all breeders are as warm and fuzzy as they seem
Despite claiming on her website the reason for getting into breeding was due falling in love with the breed. The more truthful reality is that she got into it because the guy she was dating used to breed dogs, but that breed was not an easy breed to have. Apparently, they somehow discovered this other breed was gaining in popularity and since the boyfriend (who later became her husband) had all the kennels already in place, they just phased out the other breed, which he apparently only loved to breed until it proved to be too much work, and got one of these popular, easier to breed breeds, and they were off and running.
Her website is filled with pictures of her breeding stock and current puppies she has for sale. There’s a section about her puppies having championship bloodlines and wonderful temperaments and all the happiness and memories they’ll bring. She has a testimonial page where some of her customers have raved about how wonderful the dog they got from her is and how great she is as a breeder.
Meanwhile, I know of at least one instance where she had two or three puppies left over from a litter(s) that she couldn’t sell. Frustrated and wanting them out of her hair, she was going to take them out and shoot them. Her mother stepped in and ended up taking the pups. I don’t know what happened to them after that, or to any other subsequent pups that haven’t sold, but I doubt that little nugget of truth about her operation is anywhere on her warm and fuzzy website.
Indiscriminate cat breeders and overbreeding problems
Luckily, I don’t personally know any cat breeders, and I’m glad I don’t. It’s upsetting enough taking in all the dogs I do knowing there are people out there that I personally know who are producing them as fast as they can without adding cats to that list.
Unfortunately, purebred cats aren’t immune from their own breed-specific health issues that now plague many purebred dogs. In attempts to get a specific look, and too much indiscriminate breeding, the health of these purebreds has also been compromised.
For those that are thinking about purchasing a purebred cat, here’s a list of the cat breeds and their most common health problems, http://www.awcwi.com/CatBreeds. As is the case with dogs, there’s also no shortage of breeders out there willing to disregard the overpopulation problem, health issues, or any other issue, just to make a buck.
Considering that over 70% of shelter cats don’t make it out alive, and as an owner of six wonderful cats that very easily could have ended up in a shelter and in that statistic, if things had gone differently, I’m a very strong advocate for cat rescue. Need more convincing about the pros of rescuing a cat? Check out this article, https://www.thenoseprint.com/article/dear-morris-why-are-shelter-cats-the-best-cats. Here’s another argument against buying a purebred cat written by a vet that I’ll admit, I enjoyed reading, https://www.petful.com/pet-health/dont-buy-purebred-cat/.
Rescues have a lot to offer and some are even famous
It’s always bothered me that people will go buy an expensive cat or dog before even considering giving one that is already here and desperately needs a good, loving home a chance. Especially when I have seen firsthand how smart, healthy, and wonderful so many of them are.
Fun fact about rescues: Many of the great movie dogs like Old Yeller, Benji, one of the dogs who played Marley in Marley & Me, as well as the dog in Mad Max were all rescues. Morris, the picky cat from 9 Lives cat food commercials was also a rescue.
The benefits of rescuing
While I do understand someone wanting a purebred cat or dog, I just wish more people would consider rescuing one first. There are a ton of purebreds out there that were bought and then surrendered for one reason or another.
If the breed you have your heart set on isn’t at your local shelter(s), there’s a rescue group for every breed out there that may have exactly what you are wanting in a cat or dog. Buying a dog already out there keeps from giving those indiscriminate breeders more monetary incentive to keep producing more. It’s a win for everyone.
The added benefit of a slightly older (than puppy or kitten phase) rescue is that their personality is more established, as well as some training and you have a better idea of what you are getting in your cat or dog. Knowing your new dog is obsessed with playing may be a dealbreaker if you just want a mellow dog that prefers cuddling on the couch. And vice versa. Sometimes it just takes opening your mind to the possibility of something to see the benefits.
Some hard numbers of breeders and the homeless
While the problem of too many people breeding cats and dogs may just seem like my skewed opinion, I decided to get some numbers for reference. First, I got together some cities randomly around the U.S. with populations around 15k to use as my basis. I then went on Craigslist and plugged in ‘puppy’ and ‘puppies’ under the ‘For Sale’ section in those cities.
In every single instance, I found backyard breeders breeding anything from boxers, pit bulls, german shepherds, labradors, and even mixed breed/designer dogs, among a few others. After my search, I truly feel like some of these unscrupulous breeders are just throwing together a couple of breeds to make some cute sounding name that they can sell for some ridiculous price.
I also went to Petfinder.com and did a quick search of puppies within a 25 to 100-mile radius of those same cities. I wanted to demonstrate how big of a problem this issue is using small cities. Imagine what these numbers would be in large cities. Even in remote, sparsely populated areas, I ended up with cities that still had a very large number of sellers and/or adoptable puppies. Here were the staggering numbers:
- Westbury, NY – 12 people recently on Craigslist within 15 miles selling puppies. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are currently 421 puppies available for adoption within 25 miles.
- Laurinburg, NC – 2 people recently on Craigslist within 15 miles selling puppies. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are currently 46 puppies available for adoption within 50 miles.
- Lady Lake, FL – 17 people, including someone who appears to be a breeder posting multiple puppies, within 15 miles. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are 33 puppies within 25 miles available for adoption.
- Overland, MO – 10 people recently selling puppies within 15 miles on Craigslist. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are currently 125 puppies within 25 miles available for adoption.
- Los Lunas, NM – 6 people within 10 miles selling puppies on Craigslist. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are currently 22 puppies within 25 miles available for adoption.
- Sheridan, WY – 1 person within 40 miles selling puppies on Craigslist. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there are currently 5 puppies within 25 miles and 7 puppies within 50 miles available for adoption. As a side note, Wyoming is the 2nd most sparsely populated state in the U.S., with an average of 5.85 people per square mile.
- The Dalles, OR – 8 people recently on Craigslist within 25 miles selling puppies. Meanwhile, on Petfinder, there were 159 puppies within 100 miles available for adoption.
I do not know anything at all about any of these cities, except that they are pretty small and spread randomly all over the country. As you can see, despite their size and geographic location, there is no shortage of people selling puppies or puppies waiting to be adopted.
While I didn’t include them in the above chart, there were also breeders of cats selling their kittens on Craigslist in every city as well. There is no shortage of kittens in shelters or anywhere else anywhere in the U.S., so I didn’t even include them in my numbers above. Also, like the purebred or designer dog breeds, purebred cats also have rescue groups available.
The devil is in the details (or lack of)
The several Craigslist ads I clicked on did not discuss health, a guarantee, or anything. Most didn’t mention, let alone show parents and when a parent was shown, it was usually just the mother. These people are asking hundreds of dollars or more for these kittens and puppies too.
One of their favorite tactics, probably more to avoid having their listing flagged, seems to be to portray their kittens/puppies as just needing homes, or advertising having a kitten/puppy, when in reality, if you click on the link, you’ll see they are selling an entire litter.
Keep in mind, the numbers I showed are just the puppies in the shelters through Petfinder.com. I didn’t even give you the numbers for the young, adult, or seniors available or those through any rescues not affiliated with Petfinder.com. Hopefully, these numbers alone will help you see why the whole issue of so many people breeding dogs bothers me as much as it does.
Buying a kitten/puppy is like buying a car
If buying a kitten or puppy is in your future, please make sure you do your homework. Find out everything you can about the breed, including health and behavioral issues the breed is prone to. Make sure you are up to the requirements and commitment for exercise, training, preventative care, and maintenance costs for the breed.
Keep all that time and cost involved in mind before you purchase that 10-20 year commitment. Look at it like buying a car, except with a breeder. You research, shop around, make the purchase, perform maintenance, and go back to the dealer if there’s a problem.
Make sure before you take on the huge responsibility of pet ownership that you also account for current or new human family members possibly being added, resources available for training, health costs that will undoubtedly unexpectedly arise, and possible moves in your decision. Don’t overlook your workload, either, as you’ll need to have plenty of time, especially in the beginning to train and socialize your new kitten or puppy.
Getting a new kitten or puppy is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Obviously, the numbers of homeless pets out there speaks volumes to a lot of peoples’ commitment, unfortunately.
Researching the breed and the breeder thoroughly
While researching the breed, make a list of questions to ask the potential breeder(s) based on your research, including if they do any testing to rule out genetic problems. I also recommend that you avoid purchasing your new kitten or puppy off of Craigslist. I didn’t see a single seller that looked legitimate and that I’d want to encourage to keep breeding by buying any of their high dollar questionable babies.
Don’t be fooled about the honesty or integrity of possible breeders by flashy websites or in some cases “down-homey” ones. Despite seemingly important and giving a sense of reputability, don’t put too much stock in boasts about “championship bloodlines” or “AKC”. When it comes to the health, temperament, or anything other than bloodline, those words mean absolutely nothing.
Here’s a good article I found about what AKC means as far as quality goes, http://www.dogplay.com/Breeding/akc.html. During my research, I ran across some golden retriever puppies on Craiglist advertised as being CKC registered, which I was unfamiliar with and had to research further.
This article describing the difference between AKC and CKC was an interesting read as well as the comments from people who were wanting to start breeding their dogs, http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-cks-and-akc/.
While I know there are responsible breeders out there, there are a ton more who aren’t and their greed is putting unhealthy kittens and puppies out into a world that is already so overpopulated, millions are being killed every year. With 25% of dogs entering our shelters being purebreds, and 70% of cats being euthanized, it’s obvious we have a problem here in the U.S.
The only way to make things better for these innocent animals is for each of us to do our parts to use responsible breeders, be responsible owners, including being prepared for all that taking on a pet entails, being educated, spaying and neutering, and choosing to not give up our pets when life doesn’t go as planned or things get hard. It’s the least we can do for animals that only want our love and to give us theirs.
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