Hobby Breeders, Show Breeders, Back-Yard Breeders, Puppy Mills, Commercial Breeders, For-Profit Breeders:

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 breederHobby 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.

Comments(7)

  1. Anne Eckersley says

    ALL responsible show breeders register their dogs with the governing registration body for their country – so there is one obvious method of defining a show breeder. In the USA it would be the AKC. Also in the USA we have CKCSC, USA who started the breed here 55 some years ago and offered a registration service at that time when none was available (AKC did not at that time register the breed) and CKCSC, USA still registers litters and requires its member breeders to conform to a stringent Code of Ethics.
    All responsible show breeders show their dogs – maybe not always in conformation – sometimes in Performance as well as Conformation. That’s another definition.
    All responsible show breeders follow the Parent Club’s guidelines for health testing their breeding dogs by the appropriate specialists. If they don’t do ALL the recommended health tests, they would at a minimum clear the dogs of some of the health issues recommended.
    So there you have several ways of separating the responsible show breeders from the back yard breeders/puppy mills.
    You ask what number of litters or puppies sold per year constitutes a breeder. Any person who breeds one litter and registers the litter is a breeder – one-time breeder or small time breeder maybe, but still a breeder.
    AKC inspects breeders who have 7 or more litters per year – or at least they try to inspect all those people. In reality they do not have enough manpower to get to everyone. However, there are breeders who have only two litters a year and they do a horrible job. Yet there are other breeders who have seven or more litters a year and do an excellent job. This is where the numbers game does not work well when your intention is that “minimum standards should be the same for all breeders, large and small. Breeders should have to treat their animals humanely, kindness and follow medical best practices”. If that is truly your intention – to weed out the breeders who do not care well for their dogs, whether it be in a kennel or home, then the only way would be to inspect every person who has ever bred a litter.
    That would be impossible.
    You say “…commercial breeders can’t treat animals as if they were pets in homes like ours” – why not? Why can’t they rotate a few of these dogs into the home for a few days at a time? That’s because that takes effort and they have no interest in the dogs themselves and their characters. And therein lies another difference between responsible show breeders and commercial breeders.
    Whilst I so understand your reason for trying to prevent the likes of the Alabama breeder (and this breeder was inspected by AKC – so one has to think – what happened here?), you need to understand that this is not the norm but it obviously can happen. I believe we need to leave the true commercial breeders to be regulated by USDA (as they are now) because we will never be able to eliminate the commercial breeders and their shills, the pet stores. Regulating commercial kennels is completely different from regulating at-home breeders. The requirements simply cannot be the same.
    Perhaps there would be more success in concentrating on the responsible show breeders, classifying this group as I have explained above and calling for inspections for all of them – not just those with seven litters annually. Perhaps the Alabama fiasco would have been prevented many years ago before 100 plus dogs ended up at the auction.
    The more regulations you bestow upon the responsible show breeders, the quicker they they will stop breeding and then there will be no responsible show breeders – just the commercial breeders.
    The backyard breeders, those who have 3 females and one male and breed them all annually for re-sale, will go underground – you will never find them to inspect or regulate them. So what good is that?
    The biggest problem that I see is the internet sales of puppies – and I have no solution for those at all!!

  2. Joanne Singer says

    If they breed for profit, whether they make money or not, as that is their intent, large or small, BYB, Hobby, show, etc. they should all fall under the title commercial breeder.

    • Susan Schrade says

      I agree

  3. Elizabeth says

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About Puppy Mills

    1) In our modern day of instant access to information it is almost impossible for anyone to raise dogs without being under scrutiny. Those horrendous photos you see in commercials for the “Humane Society” are mostly outdated or a 1 in one million exception to the care given animals by breeders everywhere. The photos are intended to shock and horrify you into giving money. Any photo can be photo shopped into looking really bad. Be skeptical. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes take it with a grain of salt.
    2) All the hobby breeders in this country cannot produce enough puppies to meet the demands of the American market. Recent changes in laws are NOT stopping substandard kennels from continuing. It is closing down reputable breeders who work very hard to produce healthy purebred puppies by making it more difficult and expensive for them to continue in their HOBBY.
    3) BREEDERS are NOT responsible for the presence of dogs in shelters. “Producing” dogs due to failure to be a responsible owner and “breeding” dogs are not the same. We have a problem with a lack of responsible ownership, poor shelter management and poor pet distribution. Education is the key to improvement in this area.
    4) It has been PROVEN there is NO PET OVERPOPULATION. Since 2005 the birthrate for puppies has not been meeting the demand. Many rare breeds are declining to the point of extinction due to anti-breeder laws. According to the USDA more than 300,000 dogs were imported in 2013 from foreign countries by SHELTERS. If the current rate of laws and decline continue within 20 years your only source for a puppy may be a shelter “mutt” from Mexico, China or Puerto Rico with possible behavioral issues and NO health testing. http://www.shelterproject.naiaonline.org
    5) There is no such thing as a “puppy mill”. “Puppy mill” is not a legally defined term, it is slang invented by the “animal rights” extremists to denigrate any and all breeders — small or large, standard or substandard. It’s the “N-word” of breeders. The phrase “puppy mill” has been promoted in the media by the animal “rights” movement, people who want to end all animal ownership. It is applied indiscriminately by these fanatics to anyone who breeds dogs.
    6) There are three main types of breeders: Commercial, Pet and Hobby/show breeders. Every one of these can be a large-scale breeder, every one of these could be a substandard breeder. Commercial kennels are subject to state and/or federal oversight. Substandard care can be found with all types of breeders. It is about the standard of care, NOT the numbers. Most commercial breeders have state of the art kennels that meet USDA standards and the standards of their state laws. They are inspected at least yearly and must meet or exceed stringent standards far higher than those expected of the average hobby breeder.
    7) “Sick” puppies do not sell. It is counterproductive for any industry to produce a defective product and expect to stay in business. Any dog can have health issues. It’s about Mother Nature NOT lack of care or numbers.
    8) Passing laws intended to outlaw “puppy mills” will not solve any problem. Most substandard breeders are already in violation of existing laws and don’t care. New, stricter laws will only affect those who are already working to follow the laws. The only way to have any effect is to provide the funds and manpower to enforce the laws that are already on the books.
    9) A shelter dog is NOT for every family. Shelter dogs come with baggage that can require an EXPERIENCED owner. Shelter dogs have NO health testing and frequently have behavioral issues that take years of training to overcome. Obtaining a dog should be a time for rational decision making–not an excuse for moral preening. If ‘adopting’ a shelter dog makes you feel ‘better about yourself’, you don’t need a dog. You need a therapist.
    10) You are more likely to purchase a dog with health or behavioral issues from a shelter than a pet store.

    For more information:
    http://www.naiaonline.org
    http://www.humanewatch.org
    http://www.nathanwinograd.com
    http://www.saova.org
    http://www.cfodconline.org/
    http://www.exposeanimalrights.com/

  4. Jack D. says

    Elizabeth, , most of what you said is dishonest, poorly reasoned, conjecture,or a combination of all 3. Putting LIES AND ABSURD STATEMENTS in caps doesn’t make it any less full of crap. Since you did this, though, I’ll return the favor. Your post would be more accurate if you titled it 10 FALSE AND ABSURD THINGS ELIZABETH IS SAYING ABOUT PUPPY MILLS
    1. ONE IN A MILLION, that is absolutely ridiculous. ‘See it with your own eyes.” Really, with dogs sold all over the world, how would this be possible.
    3. GROSS OVERGENERALIZATION
    5. “There is no such thing as a puppy mill.” That is a legal technicality. When dogs are kept in cages with no food, water, are never bathed, often left in their own feces, and sold explicitly for their breeding capacities, it’s really irrelevant what we call it. It is a horrible fate for the dogs and quibbling over what definition should be used to describe is as irrelevant and dishonest as it is heartless
    7. THIS IS MANIFESTLY FALSE. See this description of dogs sold at an auction:
    Dog after dog was auctioned to the highest bidder, often with such sales pitches as:

    “Missing an eye, but sees well enough to hit his mark”

    “This girl is only a year old, but she has earned her keep by already producing one litter – now she’s got another on the way – a bonus for you”

    “This bitch has had 19 pups in a year and a half – just the kind you want”

    “If you just sell one of this pregnant one’s puppies, you will make more than you’ve paid for her”

    “Bitch only has three legs – big deal, she won’t be passing that on.”
    8. Pure conjecture. “New, stricter laws will only affect those who are already working to follow the laws.” Ah, yes, the specious argument of the NRA, changed to dogs. when only puppy mills are outlawed, only outlaws will have puppy mills.. And if the laws don’t work, what would be the point of enforcing them?
    9.STRAW MAN- no one has suggested shelter dogs are for everyone.

  5. Susan Schrade says

    I hadn’t seen all of these comments until today. I am glad people are chiming in. It is depressing to learn the reality of how some breeders treat their dogs. I don’t understand the defensiveness of the show breeders and members of breed clubs. I’m starting to think they only care about their dogs, their hobby, their pursuit of perfection and feel no compassion for all those dogs suffering, out in the cold or heat, living in filth. It is easy to say that the Animal Welfare Act covers it all and that USDA should enforce those supposedly sufficient laws. I downloaded the USDA registered breeders for 3 different states. What I saw was disheartening. Most of those who actually are registered with a USDA license appear to be research groups, Universities, Cosmetic companies…all those that use animals in a way that isn’t a good life for the animal. I’m a realist and know that some of this is necessary but the bottom line of this personal research to me is that the real commercial breeders aren’t even licensed with USDA.

    Another point I would like to make is that there is a battle – Breeders hate HSUS. HSUS wants to have media presence with all raids and rescues and they are active with legislation.

  6. Susan Schrade says

    I hadn’t seen all of these comments until today. I am glad people are chiming in. It is depressing to learn the reality of how some breeders treat their dogs. I don’t understand the defensiveness of the show breeders and members of breed clubs. I’m starting to think they only care about their dogs, their hobby, their pursuit of perfection and feel no compassion for all those dogs suffering, out in the cold or heat, living in filth. It is easy to say that the Animal Welfare Act covers it all and that USDA should enforce those supposedly sufficient laws. I downloaded the USDA registered breeders for 3 different states. What I saw was disheartening. Most of those who actually are registered with a USDA license appear to be research groups, Universities, Cosmetic companies…all those that use animals in a way that isn’t a good life for the animal. I’m a realist and know that some of this is necessary but the bottom line of this personal research to me is that the real commercial breeders aren’t even licensed with USDA.
    More to come…

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