If you are interested in purchasing a purebred animal, you’ll want to ensure that your new family member is healthy, socially well-adjusted and free of genetic diseases. For those reasons and more, the careful selection of a responsible—as opposed to “backyard”—breeder is critical.
In explaining the differences between the two, generally speaking, responsible breeders breed primarily to improve their breed. Typically, they breed only occasionally—maybe once every couple of years—because they are waiting to find just the right genetic match. “Backyard breeders” may have many cats and dogs who are kept pregnant as often as possible to the detriment of the bitches (female dogs) or (queens) female cats.
Responsible breeders realize that breeding is not much of a moneymaking proposition but an enjoyable way to ensure the health, disposition and beauty of their particular breed. They invest time, love and considerable expense into their animals. Backyard breeders think in terms of quantity not quality and don’t have much invested in time, love or possibly even a good nutrition and other healthcare. (Backyard breeding can very well be responsible for the weakening of many breeds. Simply put, they are in business for money and view the animals they breed as inventory—producing far more animals than there are homes. This could be one reason that 25% of the animals in our local shelters are purebreds.
Both kinds of breeders may be registered with TICA or CFA, if they breed cats, or the AKC, if they breed dogs. However, this registration is not a guarantee that the breeder is honorable. Breeders should also be licensed with the State of Georgia if they are selling a certain number of puppies or kittens. Of course, you’ll receive papers showing your pet’s family tree from responsible breeders; you may also get them from backyard breeders, but we would not put much stock in those. In addition, responsible breeders guarantee their animals, and some will take back any animal no matter how old they are if a situation ever warrants it—not so for the backyard breeder.
Bottom line: responsible breeders love their animals and want to know that everyone who leaves their care will have a loving home, receive quality veterinary care, eat nutritious food and live a long happy life. Be assured that these breeders will take as much time as needed to go over care and feeding instructions and will recommend veterinarians, groomers, etc. They’ll probably follow up with you and you may want to send an occasional card and photo to let them know how your pet is doing.
As you can see, the choices are as much practical as ethical. We implore you to educate yourself as much as possible when choosing a pet—especially if you are a first-time pet owner. With millions of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens euthanized every year, along with countless homeless animals that never make it to shelters, our society simply cannot afford more uneducated pet owners, no matter how well intended they are. It’s just that simple.
Now that you know how to spot a responsible breeder, how do you find one? First, skip the local papers and internet ads. It’s not worth your time and effort to go through dozens of ads trying to figure out who the better breeders are. Good breeders don’t need to advertise—typically, their puppies and kittens are already spoken for even before birth. We recommend going to dog and cat shows and speaking to various breeders and contacting breed specific clubs or rescue groups for good referrals. When you speak to breeders don’t be afraid to ask them for references or to visit their facilities.
Lastly, another way to identify a good breeder is if they ask you lots of questions—be very wary if they don’t, they ask to visit your home or if you rent, to contact your landlord to ensure you are able to keep pets. They might ask if you have sufficient income to handle a medical emergency. You’ll probably be asked to sign an agreement to spay or neuter your pet in a timely fashion (unless you have made other arrangements) and you may be required to have a fenced-in yard or to keep your kitty in doors. Please don’t feel defensive: this is just further proof that they are the kind of breeder you can trust.