Pet shops give many people the impression of happy, eager, and healthy puppies that are in desperate need of a home and family. Sometimes people feel bad for the animals stuck in the small cages and decide they’re going to save or rescue them. People who buy these animals don’t realize that they’re supporting the commercial dog-breeding industry. Commercial dog-breeding facilities treat animals as a product; they are concerned with quantity and the profit they’ll receive instead of quality and the animals’ health.
These facilities need to be banned for three reasons: to prevent further health deterioration of the animals; to preserve the lowering of breeds’ genetic traits which result from unregulated breeding; and they give reputable breeders a bad name.
Before we examine specific issues surrounding professional dog breeders, first we should define some terms and give a general background of the problem. Many people have heard about the animal cruelty behind puppy mills; however, they have no idea about commercial dog-breeding facilities.
The term “puppy mill” is used to describe large-scale dog breeding operations that place income over the animals’ welfare. Puppy mills don’t breed responsibly and the conditions they keep the animals in are generally illegal. Commercial dog-breeding facilities are also large scale breeding facilities that place the well being of animals below making a profit, yet these facilities are subject to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulating and enforcing of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) laws and regulations.
The USDA regulates the breeding facilities with the minimum standards for the animals’ health; these are the same laws that are used for chickens, cows, pigs and other animals, which are slaughtered.
The law requires that each animal is provided with “adequate housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather and temperatures” (USDA Animal Welfare Act). The USDA does not have the funds or proper training to enforce these laws, so most commercial dog-breeding facilities continue to thrive while their animals are suffering. The USDA also does not have any regulations for the facilities if they sell directly to the public, which includes online sales. These loopholes in the system cause for an unbalanced, irresponsible, and unhealthy system of dog breeding.
Having seen that commercial breeding in general is a problem, let’s examine the first specific issue, that of the deterioration of dogs’ health at these facilities. Commercial dog-breeding facilities don’t keep the dogs’ health in mind, even in severe and life threatening cases. When it comes to animals’ health in these facilities, there are government rules and regulations with punishments for violators and repeat offenders. Inspectors must visit commercial dog-breeding facilities at least twice a month; if there’s a violation, they file reports and give out punishments to those who have violated the laws. A May 2010 audit report filed by the United States Department of Agriculture uncovers the truth of inspectors’ visits to commercial dog-breeding facilities: “Expecting that the dealers would improve their standards of care, the agency chose to take little or no enforcement actions against most violators” (USDA Animal and Plant Health 10).
Inspectors wouldn’t choose to give any stipulation to violators, even when they were repeat offenders. Inspectors never followed up visits to ensure that the proper changes were made, nor did they make the proper amount of check ups required per year. The conditions of commercial dog-breeding facilities are disgusting and irresponsible, and the dogs are not properly brought up and cared for. The May 2010 audit report filed against USDA inspectors mentions an Oklahoma breeding facility that had numerous dogs infested with ticks; pages 11 and 12 feature shocking photos of the dogs taken by the inspector. The breeder had no records of any medical treatment ever given to any dogs, and if a re-inspection were to be given then there would be no way of knowing if the animals were really treated or euthanized.
The inspector cited the breeder for an indirect violation, despite excessive ticks being a direct violation in the Dealer Inspections Guide. He told the breeder to take only eight of the infested dogs to the veterinarian. The inspector didn’t require any documentation of the treatment nor did he indentify which dogs needed treatment, so there is no way to know what happened to the dogs in the pictures mentioned above (USDA Animal and Plant Health 11-12) The dogs kept for use as breeding stock live their entire lives in the small cages, being bred too early, too frequently, and for too long. These dogs generally have the most severe health and behavioral problems.
Franklin McMillan, DVM, is well known for his studies on animals affected by trauma; one of his studies compared dogs that were used as breeding stock in commercial dog-breeding facilities to dogs owned by the general public. The dogs were put through the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), which rate many psychological behaviors and their intensity. The C-BARQ is given an average of two years after the breeding stock dogs have been in their adoptive homes, with 76 different breeds and both sexes included. The breeding stock dogs were compared to a sampling of the dogs owned by the general public by matching their breed, sex, age, and neuter status.
This test was conducted to see if the breeding stock dogs do actually consistently “display persistent behavioural and psychological abnormalities” (McMillan, Duffy, and Serpell). The results confirmed that the former breeding stock dogs did indeed have considerably higher behavior problems. It’s often argued that dogs used in commercial dog-breeding establishments have psychological issues and this has now been confirmed by this study. The dogs that are used as breeding stock are forced to spend their lives solely for production of profit, and when they no longer can produce they are usually euthanized.
Commercial dog-breeding facilities do not provide the dogs they keep with adequate care; they leave the facilities unkempt and dirty, and don’t allow the animals exercise. The dogs not only have physical side effects but also psychological ones after being in crowded cages isolated from human contact. The inspections that are supposed to make sure the facilities are keeping up with the USDA regulations provide no help for the situation. It’s a rare case to have inspectors following the Dealer Inspections Guide with follow-ups, citing when necessary, and issuing violations. The inspectors have many weaknesses; there was no enforcement against violators, the inspectors didn’t follow procedure, they rarely provided any documentation or evidence, and they delayed telling breeders to send suffering animals for treatment (USDA Animal and Plant Health). Commercial dog-breeding facilities don’t keep the breeding stock dogs or puppies in sanitary conditions or keep them healthy; this is a direct violation of USDA regulations.
Now let’s examine the second major issue surrounding dog breeders, which is that they lower the standards of the breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the largest purebred dog registry in the United States; people may pay up to thousands of dollars for purebred dogs that are AKC registered. The issue is that these AKC papers’ value is not what it seems; they do not guarantee that the dog is purebred, healthy, or within proper breed standards. Leslie LeFave, writer and dog enthusiast, states how breeders obtain AKC papers for their litters:
Breeders send to AKC for a litter application. They then fill out this form with who the mother and father of the puppies are, with their AKC registration numbers, date of birth, and certificate number[…]The breeder then sends this paper work (litter registration) to AKC to add these puppies to their database and the breeder gets AKC papers and numbers for each puppy. No questions asked. (LeFave)
The AKC papers only guarantee that an application was filled out and payment was received; the AKC does not check the breeders’ claims, including the breed, health, and number of puppies born. The AKC continues to hand out registration papers as the checks come in and more puppies are sold with AKC registered papers that don’t necessarily belong with them.
Many people choose purebred dogs because of a specific look, and certain traits they desire in their companion. Commercial dog-breeding facilities’ only goal is to make money, so they will breed any dogs that match the certain looks typical of the breed without taking care to prevent diseases and inbreeding. This way of breeding only multiplies the chances of serious genetic disorders in each puppy and leaves the personality traits not even considered. LeFave explains how a responsible breeder chooses which dogs to breed: “Having quality dogs requires a breeder to invest money and time in their dogs. A good breeder does genetic health testing if available for their breed, and spends hours going over pedigrees and learning all they can about their breed.”
No commercial dog-breeding facility cares about the long-term health of the animal; they will not check for serious diseases in the dogs used for breeding stock or in the puppies they’re selling. Commercial dog-breeding facilities are not responsible breeders; they produce unhealthy animals and deteriorate the breeds’ genetics and standards. Purebred dogs are more susceptible to genetic disorders because the large breeding facilities don’t take care to make sure the breeding gene pool is large, diverse, and free of the disorders common to which breed they’re breeding; therefore, many disorders carried, even those that are recessive, are amplified.
Carrie Allan, a writer for All Animals magazine, has found in many studies that 30 to 70 percent of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (a small toy breed) will end up with Syringomyelia, a serious life threatening disorder. Syringomyelia is a disease in the spinal cord in which cavities fill with fluid near the brain; sometimes even the dog’s brain will swell past the skull. This is not uncommon for a purebred dog; they have many serious genetic diseases that the buyer is unaware of until their dog starts suffering. Commercial dog-breeding facilities do not screen for the common diseases or breed to prevent them. They are irresponsible, reckless, and create long-term problems with breed standards and traits.
The third major issue with commercial dog breeding facilities is that their practices often bring disrepute onto reputable breeders. Responsible dog-breeders do exist, and they produce healthy and happy puppies that are true to their breeds’ standards. These breeders also know of the horrible situations commercial dog-breeding facilities keep their animals in, and they are also in the fight against them; they cause responsible breeders to lose more money, give them a bad name, and deteriorate the breeds of dogs they love.
The law requires breeders to have kennel or vendor’s licenses, but many states and counties cut commercial breeding facilities breaks, not requiring them to have these licenses. The small responsible breeders, who only produce about twelve puppies a year, do not get any break, they must have licenses, and they must pay their taxes on the dogs. For example, in Ohio a report was given by Michael W. McKinney, the Public Information Officer for the Ohio Department of Taxation, on these vendors: “None of the 410 known dog breeding kennels in Holmes County with 11,033 dogs, including 41 with more than 50 breeding dogs each, have a vendor’s licenses.” (Allen). The state is not helping any small backyard breeder, but the large commercial ones, who should be required to have a license so that their dogs can be tracked and give an idea of their profits. When responsible breeders breed two dogs, they put a lot of effort into which animals they choose; they look at their family trees, they raise them in a suitable environment, and they make sure the animals are going to a home that’s a good fit.
Purebred dogs have a significantly higher chance of carrying diseases, which is why good breeders make sure that the common diseases in the dog breed that they’re producing doesn’t end up in their litter. They have tests done to be sure the diseases aren’t present in the dogs they’ll breed; they make sure that the animals are healthy, then breed them, and also check each puppy before they sell them to ensure they’re healthy. For example, golden retrievers have a significantly high chance of developing hip dysplasia, a disease which causes improper developing of the hip joints, and a good breeder will prevent this as best as they can. Not only do puppies from reputable breeders have lower chances of carrying diseases, but also they are mentally healthier as well.
When a dog is brought up in a family environment with daily exercise and its mother to raise it, it has a solid foundation to grow on. A dog that hasn’t been properly socialized can create many problems for an owner, which can include being aggressive to people and other animals. If the puppy were properly socialized then other people and animals would only be something the puppy has seen before and can coexist with. These breeders take a lot of time to make sure the puppies are brought up properly and don’t want to be associated with commercial dog-breeding facilities, which don’t provide the proper amount of care to their puppies.
The reckless commercial dog-breeders give the wrong impression about the industry as a whole, and they cause high taxes for reputable breeders who aren’t doing it for profit but who want to see the breed they love thrive. Responsible breeders want their dog breed to be healthy as a whole; they don’t like having to see many beautiful, perfect dogs go to waste because of careless breeding, which produces a higher chance of disease in the breed. Large facilities make dog breeding seem like a product, while small, responsible breeders take great care to raise these animals for families. Commercial dog-breeding causes great stress and problems for responsible dog breeders, which are in it for the dogs, not a profit.
We have seen that puppy mills and many large “government inspected” dog-breeding businesses produce ill dogs with degenerated breed traits and cast a negative light on the entire industry. Nevertheless, many people purchase puppies from these facilities because the canines are cheaper and the buyer feels he or she is “rescuing” the puppy, as if it were in a dog pound. Some people feel that commercial dog-breeding facilities may have negative sides to it but a responsibly bred purebred puppy is too expensive.
Yes, many quality puppies can be up to thousands of dollars, and there is a reason for that. Responsible breeders don’t have a large-scale operation that shoots dogs out quick enough for a huge profit; they run their business out of their homes; they raise puppies with their family and put as much time and effort into breeding the right dogs as they do into raising them in the first weeks. The dogs from responsible breeders will not only have papers, but they’ll have papers that actually match up to them. These dogs will be healthy and of good genetic background, and that is what you’re paying for.
If the problem is entirely money, then a shelter dog is the right choice; they are priced not for profit but for affordability and sustaining the shelters ability to stay afloat. From personal experience, I know that the local pound, Danville & Boyle County Humane Society, a non-profit organization, provides animals at a very reasonable cost with many benefits for the owner. Not only is the buyer saving a life, but also all animals come spayed or neutered, de-wormed, with rabies vaccinations, and for dogs, they have the Bordatella vaccination (for kennel cough), and Distemper vaccination (for parvovirus). These vaccinations are for the most common diseases that leave animals at a very high risk of death. All of this is provided with your puppy for only $100, and for dogs and cats $75.
Compared to the price of dogs from pet stores, online sellers and commercial breeders, that’s an unbeatable price, especially when they provide the animals already with proper health records. And many shelter animals are also purebred, not just mixes. A shelter is the perfect spot to go if you want an inexpensive and healthy animal. There is no reason for money to be the issue in acquiring an animal from a commercial dog breeding facility. If you don’t have enough, then a shelter or rescue organization is the perfect place, healthy and inexpensive. If you care about the background of the animal and want to show it, then dogs from a responsible breeder are much better suited for show; they will be able to provide you with a much better representation of the dog’s breed than a large scale breeding organization.
You can see how those who believe that commercial dog-breeding facilities do not supply animals with the best living conditions, but provide them cheaper than reputable breeders are in the wrong. In the long run, dogs from large-scale facilities could end up with very expensive healthcare, having to buy a new dog, or even facing the heartbreak of being forced to euthanize it. Money is a big deal in our world right now, and buying a dog isn’t something that should add to that. Shelter dogs are cheaper, and dogs from good breeders are healthier, with much lower vet bills.
In summary, commercial dog-breeding facilities are operations to produce maximum profit and leave the animals to fend for themselves; commercial breeders are leaving the important and necessary aspects of a good business behind. They are not making sure the animals involved are healthy and happy, they don’t mind when their “product’s” name is diminished, and they don’t care about other businesses, people, or animals harmed from their actions. Many of their dogs are euthanized, or have painful and serious diseases from their reckless breeding. Responsible breeders are getting a bad name from these facilities and shouldn’t be associated with them because they’re quite the opposite.
And while buying a dog from a reputable breeder is more expensive than getting one from a puppy mill or online, the healthy dog will cause you much less in vet bills, and will be able to stick around till it’s old. Other options are shelter dogs, which are generally mixes and are much healthier dogs than purebreds, and rescue organizations, which can give you a cheap purebred with a much clearer background of where it came from. Commercial dog-breeding facilities don’t offer benefits to anybody involved in the industry; they provide unnecessary harm to many animals and people who don’t realize where their cute puppy actually came from. Not only are these facilities harming animals, but also our country as a whole, because they get tax breaks and are an unstable, unreliable industry that does shady work. These large-scale operations should be stopped and prohibited from business before more puppies are harmed, people are ripped off, and the country’s laws are ignored.
Allan, Carrie. “The Purebred Paradox.” Humanesociety.org. The Humane Society of the United States, May/June 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
Allen, Laura. “Ohio Giving Commercial Dog Breeders a Pass on Taxes.” Animallawcoalition.com. Animal Law Coalition, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
LeFave, Leslie. “About AKC Registration Papers and Pedigrees.” Itsmagicmaltese.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
McMillan, Franklin D., Deborah L. Duffy, and James A. Serpell. “Mental Health of Dogs Formerly Used As ‘Breeding Stock’ In Commercial Breeding Establishments.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 135.1/2 (2011): 86-94. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.
United States Department of Agriculture. The Animal Welfare Act: An Overview. USDA. May 2006: n.p. Web. 13 May 2012.
United States Department of Agriculture. Office of Inspector General. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Animal Care Program: Inspections of Problematic Dealers. Washington: USDA, May 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.