What is a “professional breeder” and why do I, Executive Director of an animal shelter, support them?

People are sometimes shocked to learn that I personally support and encourage professional, registered breeders.

The first thing to understand is the definition of a professional, registered breeder. This is not a “puppy or kitten mill,” nor is it someone who just couldn’t resist letting their wonderful, adorable dog or cat have just one litter before spaying, nor is it someone who makes their living by breeding random dogs and cats into cute combinations.

This is what I consider to be a professional, registered cat or dog breeder:

1. REGISTERED with a national breeder organization such as AKC or CFA

2. SPECIALIZING in a recognized purebreed (or two), and breeding for conformation and health

3. RAISING all the puppies and kittens in a safe and stimulating home environment, with healthy, vibrant, happy sire(s) and dam(s) on site, and available for potential buyers to meet

4. PLANNING for every single litter well in advance, with the primary goal of maintaining the breed’s standard, and usually having a waiting list for the puppies or kittens; the professional breeder never has more litters than they can properly socialize and care for at any one time

5. GUARANTEEING the health of their litters, by spaying/neutering any dogs or cats that carry any sort of genetic health or conformation problem, and beginning vaccination of every litter at the proper time. All adult dogs and cats receive regular examinations and veterinary care.

6. SCREENING all potential buyers to ensure they understand the mental, physical, and emotional needs of the breed they are considering, and that they have the commitment and means to care for their new pup or kitten

7. PROVIDING all paperwork and pedigree for several generations, along with a contract of sale

8. NURTURING every litter until at least 8 weeks of age, and preferably 12 weeks of age

9. MAINTAINING contact with the owners of each littermate

10. ACCEPTING back into the home any pup/dog/kitten/cat that originated with the breeder, at any time during that animal’s lifetime, for any reason

This level of commitment to a breed requires a lot of effort, and a lot of money. Ask any registered professional breeder, and they will be the first to tell you, they do NOT “get rich” by breeding; it, much like volunteering for an animal shelter, is primarily a labor of love.

How do you know you are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder?

– Are you getting a puppy or kitten from a box outside a big box store, or on a sidewalk somewhere? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

– Does the breeder refuse to allow you to meet the parents or come to the home where the pups or kittens are being raised? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

– Did you find your puppy or kitten from a handwritten flyer at the grocery store? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

– Does your breeder seem to specialize in several different breeds, including “designer” breeds like the “Yorkihuapoo” or “Dachspitterrier”? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

– Did you get your new pup or kitten without any sort of contract or without receiving any sort of written return guarantee? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

– Does the breeder not care at all whether you plan to spay/neuter, or whether the pup or kitten is genetically proven to be good breeding stock? You are NOT dealing with a professional, registered breeder.

I’m sure there are dozens of additional red flags, which I invite both professional breeders and those who may have been taken in by a puppy mill or backyard breeder to share in the comments.

Without dedicated breeders using their own time and resources to maintain (and better) breed standards, our world would eventually consist of primarily 40-50 pound black and brown short-haired dogs, and the basic Domestic Shorthaired Cat in various colors. I believe we need professional registered breeders to ensure that the chihuahua and the mastiff, the border collie and the Labrador retriever, the Persian and the Bombay, remain a part of our world.

Those who are deliberately breeding without providing proper care, without maintaining breed standards, and without screening and following up with every single home… those who are doing it to make $200 each on puppies you feed last night’s leftovers to, mixed with whatever the cheapest dog food you could find, without vaccinating or health-checking… you know how I feel. Shame on you.

What about those who are not deliberately breeding, but through ignorance or poor timing have an “oops” litter?

If you cannot raise your litter by the standards a professional breeder would have (see above), and cannot take the time and effort to find every pup or kitten the absolute best possible home, then please, please, ask a shelter or rescue to take in your litter and find them homes. At Forget Me Not, we take in “oops” litters from all around Ferry County; we will provide food during the time the litter is with your mother cat or dog; we can often take the litter *and* the mother in, returning the mother after the litter is weaned; we spay/neuter, vaccinate, deworm, and microchip every pup or kitten prior to placement; we search for homes far and wide, and will take back a pet if its placement doesn’t work out.

All we require is that you allow us to spay the mother animal after the litter is weaned.

There is a need for professional, registered breeders… and until there are no longer any UNprofessional breeders, no more backyard breeders or puppy/kitten mills, and no more “oops” litters… there will also be a need for shelters and rescues.

The above article reflects the views of the author, and may not reflect the views of the board, staff, or volunteers of Forget Me Not Animal Shelter.

16 thoughts on “What is a “professional breeder” and why do I, Executive Director of an animal shelter, support them?

  1. Anita Sanders

    Outstand post, Kim. Very well thought out and understanding the hows and whys of both the Shelters and the Breed Rescues and why we need reputable Breeders to ensure their Breed continues to thrive in spite of the bab’s and, worse yet, the puppy mills.

    People, please! Before you encourage both of the above to keep breeding by buying a cheap puppy, look to rescue from a shelter or find one on Petfinder. If your heart is set on a bre3ed specific puppy, then save your money, do your homework, and pay the fair price up front instead of in medical care later. You truly get what you pay for.

    Anita Sanders
    Rainy Days Mastiffs
    Long Time Rescue Transport Coordinator

    1. Forget Me Not - Kim

      Thanks, Anita; you make another excellent point. If someone is REALLY wanting a particular purebred, then it should be a planned purchase, done after the benefit of research, contemplation, and saving for the purchase. Adding a family member that will be with you from 10-25 years (and some cats live even longer than that!), whether via a reputable breeder or via adoption from a shelter or rescue, is not a decision to be made on a whim.

  2. MoZeu

    I feel much better about the fact that I seem unable to let go of my longing for a full-fledged spoo (and am willing to find a real breeder and spend the time and money involved) instead of a rescue mutt. I feel so guilty about that, but I simply adore them so much. They are just magnificent, intelligent, graceful dogs.

    1. Forget Me Not - Kim

      MoZeu, all we volunteers at the shelter fell madly in love with the poodles we cared for briefly last year, and your longing is completely understandable – they are a special breed, for sure.

  3. Monica

    Excellent post. A pet buyer really has to think about the motivations of the person selling them their future family member. If it’s money, that’s not who you want to support.

    I would hesitate to recommend a “professional” breeder though, if breeding is their sole profession or job I’d be concerned. Most reputable breeders think of it as only a lucky-if-I-break-even type of hobby.

    1. Forget Me Not - Kim

      Thanks, Monica – you are right, from what I have heard it’s a money-losing proposition if you’re doing it with the best interests of the breed and your individual animals in mind!

  4. Linda

    This could be excellent but there are some significant flaws in your otherwise appreciated post. I breed a rare breed. To have one or more stud dogs on my property and using those dogs exclusively – so people can meet them – would be disastrous to the health of our breed. I have used semen from dead dogs imported from Sweden, sent girls to across North America, in order to find the best match in health, personality and conformation that is important to my breed. This comes at great expense. Buyers need to trust that I do this FOR the puppies and for them. I personally would run away from any breeder who bred to dogs on their property most of the time.
    Also, I keep puppies as long as they need. Many of my medium-sized breed are very ready to head out by 8 weeks. Others need more time with their dam & other adults, plus me, to develop better bite inhibition or overcome silly puppy fears. 12 weeks is no more a magic number for a great puppy than 49 days, the former magic number. Smaller breeds or large breeds will be different.
    And breeding flaws…sometimes breeders are between the devil and the deep blue sea. In another breed I played briefly (very rare), hip dysplasia is everywhere. But these dogs rarely hurt. And if the breeders didn’t breed an occasion “mild” asymptomatic dog they wouldn’t have a breed. Their gene puddle would dry up in a few short years.
    Just a little food for thought. Keep up the good work.

    1. Forget Me Not - Kim

      Thanks, Linda – excellent points, there are always exceptions to every rule. As long as the exceptions are being made by a breeder who is knowledgeable about the breed, the benefits of the exception, and every one of their individual pups, there is no need to worry. It’s the exceptions being made by people who “want to breed my dog with my neighbor’s dog because they are both so cute” and then start selling 6 week old puppies on Craigslist that make my hair stand on end.

  5. Ann

    Kim, Nice article. Thank you for writing On the topic. I would like to point out a couple of misconceptions.

    Breeders are not registered with the AKC, the UKC, etc.. These organizations Register dogs not breeders. The person should go look for a breeder who is a member of the national breed club. These clubs have a code of ethics I wish third-grader agrees to abide.

    Secondly, a good reader will rarely have both the sire and dam on site. Today we are able to import semen from dogs all over the world. This way they breeder can select the dog that desk complements the pedigree of the female. It also widens the gene pool of theirchosen breed. They can also be sure that the sire has all of its health clearances. A good reader will not breed the same two dogs over and over. That is just a sign of someone trying to make money off of their dogs..

    A Professional Breeder. Is someone who breeds dogs for a living. These are the people of puppy mills. A responsible breeder does it for the love of their breed. If a litter is planned and bred and raised correctly very rarely does the breeder break even. They Are involved with their dogs as companions, Showing their dogs at conformation talkshows and at performance events such as agility, rally and obediences.

    They also rarely breed their dog more than once in a year. They want to give the dogs body time to rest and recover. Most will put a limit on the number of litters a dog will have in its lifetime. The dog has to pass health test and those test results are registered with a national organization such as the orthopedic foundation of America. They would never breed a dog of questionable temperaments. Responsible breeders understand that their dogs first job in life is to be someone’s loving companion. Most responsible breeders will not ship their dogs.

    Thank you again for the well-written article. Please do not take my comments as a criticism but just as a way to inform others.

  6. Forget Me Not - Kim

    Thanks so much, Ann! I, of course, am not a breeder and really appreciate your clarifications and distinctions.

  7. Deb Cooper

    Kim – You wrote an amazing article!! Wish every shelter manager operated the way your group appears to!! I’ve run San Antonio Pug Rescue for almost 10 years and I can’t even count the Pugs we’ve gotten from backyard breeders and/or, as you call them, oops litters. We have one area of town that almost every year we get at least 1 or 2 pregnant females from. Everyone of them has tested high positive for heartworms and every one of them has delivered from 2 to 8 purebred Pug puppies!! We KNOW there’s a backyard breeder over there we’ve just never managed to identify who it is!! We’ve also over the years, along with 2 other Pug rescues taken many from the puppymills that are in several states around us. The conditions these poor animals are raised in are absolutely the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen and I would love nothing more than to see every last one of the shut down!!

    Keep up the wonderful work y’all are doing at Forget Me Not!!!

    Deb Cooper

    1. Forget Me Not - Kim

      Thanks, Deb – and thanks for all you do! In a perfect world, no one would give money to a BYB and they would lose the financial incentive to continue their puppy mills. One step at a time!

  8. Anita Sanders

    People, please keep in mind that Kim is using terms she’s familiar with to describe responsible, ethical Breeders. She doesn’t necessarily mean those that are listed with USDA as “kennels”. Rather, those that have proven their merit towards their Breed and to the pet community itself. Again, I am glad for her and Shelter Directors like her that most times put their own life on hold to help the unfortunate. Sarah, I get it and wish we could fix it, but in the 20+ years I’ve been involved with rescue, there never seems to be an end to it. 🙁

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