Finding a Good Breeder
January 4, 2021
There are many excellent ways to add a new four-legged friend to your family, and we encourage you to start by checking out local rescues and shelters (there are even breed-specific rescues if you have your heart set on a certain type!) That said, sometimes a rescued pet is not for everyone. If you’re looking for a breeder to find your next kitten or pup we are here for you too! Be ready to put in LOTS of research, ask a lot of questions, be prepared to wait, and think with your head, not your heart. For the average pet owner, it’s harder to tell the difference between a reputable breeder and a “backyard breeder” or puppy/kitten mill, so here are some tips to help “vet” your potential pet’s background.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO PURCHASE YOUR PET FROM A REPUTABLE BREEDER
A reputable breeder is someone who takes excellent care of their breeding animals and goes through the effort to produce top notch physically and emotionally healthy pets, before the desire to make a profit. Their animals are not only kept up-to-date on veterinary care, but are tested and certified by national foundations to prove they meet breeding and health standards. These guidelines help to ensure that the offspring will live longer, healthier lives.
The conditions that breeding animals live in make a difference as well; often times, puppy or kitten mills will house their animals in horrific conditions, such as tiny, squalid cages with wire bottoms, sub-optimal food, and little to no veterinary oversight. The animals produced in these circumstances can have a variety of health and temperament issues throughout their lives, as a direct result of the lack not only health care, but proper socialization. And while it’s tempting to want to “save” a puppy or kitten from this by purchasing them, in the end you’re enabling the breeder to continue their unsavory work, causing untold suffering for countless other pets. Because of their poor start, most pets from puppy or kitten mills will lack the basic emotional foundations that makes them sociable, trainable family members, and will suffer from chronic, life-long health issues as well.
HOW TO FIND A GOOD BREEDER
Talk to people! If you see a lovely, well-mannered pet that you admire, ask their owner if they purchased the animal from a breeder, and if so, get their contact info (and if that breeder doesn’t have a litter available, ask if they can recommend someone who does. The pet-breeding world is pretty small!) You can also contact breed and obedience clubs to get more information, answer questions about the breed itself, and possibly direct you to someone who is breeding a litter. If you’re using the internet to do your digging, keep in mind it’s very easy to have an impressive-looking website, which might be a cover for a less-legitimate breeding operation. A good breeder will allow you to visit their home and see the conditions their animals are kept in. You can’t do this with a google search!
WHAT TO ASK A BREEDER
Have the parents been health-tested?
There are several national databases which provide certification for dog and cat breeders, to show the registered animals meet specific health guidelines, which they can pass on to their offspring. This is particularly important when looking at breeds with a reputation for health issues like hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart trouble, and more. There are even genetic tests available to show how often these show up in certain bloodlines.
Do you offer a health guarantee?
If your breeder is using the testing resources listed above, they should offer a health guarantee. Health guarantees offer protection against congenital or genetic health issues. Good breeders also want to be notified of any health issues that may arise in your pet so they can identify any issues within their breeding lines.
Ask about veterinary care.
How often does the breeder have their animals seen by their veterinarian? What care will be done for the litter before they go to their new home?
Ask to see both parents.
This will not only allow you to assess the conditions the animals are living in (which should be clean, healthy, and breed-appropriate,) but you’ll also get a chance to judge their temperament and behavior, so you’ll have a better idea of what their offspring will be like.
Ask if the parents are under training or have been to trials (official events that assess an animal’s temperament and training) You want your new pet to come from parents who are trainable, and happy to interact with people.
Ask for references.
Reputable breeders will have a list of happy and content clients, who can offer their own experience working with the breeder and the animals they produce.
Ask what the ideal home would look like for their animal.
This will help ensure you’re both on the same page for what you can provide for the animal you’re purchasing. Energy levels, grooming, health care – all of these are important questions to consider when looking to get a new pet. If you know ahead of time what this entails, you can plan ahead to ensure the best possible home for your new puppy or kitten.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WORKING WITH A BREEDER
You may end up waiting! Many reputable breeders have waiting lists of people looking to get a puppy or kitten from a specific breeding. This may mean you have to wait months for a litter which meets the standards of the purchasing contract. That’s why it’s CRUCIAL to start this process long before you intend to bring your new pet home.
The breeder may have a list of questions for you as well! They want to ensure their animals are going to caring, informed homes, and will want to ensure you have a thorough understanding of your new pet’s needs, access to good health care, and other resources.
The purchase price may be larger than you expected. A good breeder puts a significant amount of time, money, and energy into producing a litter. Oftentimes, they may end up breaking even when everything is said and done (a BIG red flag is if your breeder is selling litters for profit alone, and isn’t invested in improving the bloodlines to produce better-quality animals.) Be prepared to pay more than you would to adopt from a shelter or rescue.
There will be a contract. The details will vary from breeder to breeder, but you may be required to sterilize the pet by a certain age, and there might be other requirements/contingencies. Read it thoroughly, and ask questions about any part you don’t understand. Communication is – in ALL things – a crucial part of this relationship.
Note: be wary of breeders that dictate what food or vaccines or medications your pet can have. While suggestions and information are always helpful, these are decisions to be made between you and your veterinarian.
Part 1 of 3: Bringing Home a New Pet; Part 2 will cover how to prepare your home, Part 3 – socialization.