What Do These Terms All Mean?
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I keep hearing all these terms and others used to describe dog-breeding operations. However, there is very little agreement about what some of these terms mean.
Yesterday, for example, I spent 10 minutes talking to a woman who identified herself as a hobby breeder. She was adamant that she didn’t want any regulation of hobby breeders and didn’t want or need inspections. She insisted that if she had the extra cost and hassle of registration and inspections, she would go out of business.
She asked me to define a proper breeding facility. I told her that I could tell her some things that wouldn’t meet the standard of proper breeding facility. I said, “For starters, there shouldn’t be 10 dogs in a 6-cubic-foot area with their feces not cleaned up. There shouldn’t be dogs that haven’t gotten their shots.”
Her response was that deplorable conditions like those I described would make the breeder a backyard breeder, not a hobby breeder. Hobby breeders, she implied, would never treat their dogs like that.
Although I am certain the person I was talking to treats the dogs she breeds with great care, I don’t think the terms we use to describe breeders can be defined in a way that makes everyone in one group a good breeder.
Sadly, I am sure there are bad actors in every group. There are bad backyard breeders, bad hobby breeders, and bad show breeders. Some of the labels carry bad connotations, like puppy mill, for example, but what matters is not what category a breeder puts himself or herself in, but how he or she treats the dogs.
Rather than defining some breeder types as good and others as bad, I think of them all as breeders if they have a profit incentive or sell more than some number of dogs per year. (I am not sure what that number should be).
Some of the small breeders who I have talked to tell me, as this person did, that they should not be required to register or have any regulation because they are not making a profit.
Consider her argument for a moment: She is really saying that because a breeder isn’t profitable, it should not have to operate using best practices for the dogs. With all due respect, that does not make sense. No business should be exempt from doing what is right because it isn’t making money.
Many breeders claim that because they can’t or don’t make a profit that they are not for-profit breeders. Yet, consider, these same breeders are very sensitive to what any additional compliance costs might do to their bottom line. So, is it a hobby or a for-profit business?
Show breeders breed to show their dogs. Do they keep every dog they breed? Most do not. Although there are many good show breeders, there are some bad ones. There are even some breeders who claim to be show breeders but who have not shown a dog in years. A recent breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in Alabama claimed to be a show breeder, and we all know how well she kept her dogs.
I have spoken with many hobby and show breeders over the last few weeks who support registration and regulation as the right way to help control the bad breeders. My next article will be about why breeders should support registration and regulation.
Many breeders live in residential areas that are zoned to prohibit breeding. I understand such breeders are afraid. They fear that once they are registered, they could be discovered because they are violating zoning rules. Although I am not on a witch-hunt for breeders, I believe those zoning ordinances exist for a reason. Dog breeders, like everyone else, should follow the law. A breeder should not be exempt from registering or from being inspected because he or she has chosen to locate in an area that is zoned residential and does not allow dog breeding operations.
Would we love for every dog in a breeder’s hands to get personal attention and regular contact? Of course, we would. Large commercial breeders can’t provide that but that does not mean we should demonize every large commercial breeder. Instead, we should insist that they breed with kindness, that they breed humanely, and that they follow medical best practices. Certainly, some large commercial breeders keep their dogs in conditions far better than the show breeder in Alabama kept hers. And all breeders should be required to register, with penalties for failing to do so.
We think that the minimum standards should be the same for all breeders, large or small. Breeders should have to treat their animals humanely. Every breeder should have to treat his or her animals with kindness. Every breeder should follow medical best practices.
Many passionate owners I’ve spoken with believe that ALL dogs being bred should be treated as if they were family pets in a loving home. We would like that, too. Perhaps a breeder with five or fewer dogs could do it. However, imagine trying to do that for 25 or 30 dogs or 50 dogs.
As much as we would like them to, large commercial breeders can’t treat animals as if they were pets in homes like ours. That said, they can meet minimum standards we will be proposing. And, we should, and will, insist they do.
They can breed with best practices and with compassion. That’s not too much to ask of hobby breeders, show breeders, backyard breeders, puppy mills, or for-profit breeders by any other name.
Getting a good system in states (and cities) to register all breeders who sell a minimum number of dogs per year is the right first step.
This article was written by Ron Sturgeon. Register at our web site to receive no-obligation updates. www.ReformCanineBreedersAndAuctions.com. Join the conversation. Volunteer and help us improve the lives of these dogs! Your help will make a difference.