When trying to decide from which kennel (breeder) you wish to acquire your next family member, there are a few important points to keep in mind. All of these points are covered under “The Breeder’s Code of Ethics”… a checklist for identifying a good breeder
This code is not enforced by any laws or by any rules laid out by breed registries. It is simply a collection of practices that promote the breeding of only the healthiest, happiest, and worthy examples within any given breed.
With so many animals being euthanized in shelters on a daily basis (and yes, many of these dogs are pure bred), it is very important to discourage the random breeding of “pet” dogs and cats.
A “Back Yard Breeder” or BYB, is anyone who breeds their pets for profit (or any other reason) instead of breeding only the finest examples of the breed in order to improve the breed as a whole. BYBs contribute massively to the pet over population problem in this country.
Some examples of a BYB are:
- Someone who breeds dogs, registered with a kennel club or not, for no other reason than to make a profit.
- Someone who breeds their pet because “he is just the most wonderful dog…”
- Anyone who has an accidental litter.
- Anyone who allows there dog to breed because they think it’s “good for them”.
- Anyone who, for any reason, breeds any dog that is not titled in conformation or other dog sports, is not health tested for genetic issues, and does not sell pet dogs on spay/neuter contracts.
- Breeders who produce large quantities of puppies. Most ethical breeders only breed on occasion and only to produce a puppy for themselves. Extra puppies are sold to show homes, or to pet homes on a spay/neuter contract.
The Breeders Code of Ethics
Section I: Introduction & Mission Statement
Introduction: The material presented herein is to serve as a guide for breeders and reference tool for potential buyers seeking out breeders. The goal in presenting this Code of Ethics is not to promote breeding, but rather to discourage indiscriminate breeding, poor breeding practices, and support of unethical breeders.
Mission Statement: The ethical breeder shall always hold paramount the future of the breed. A desire for betterment and preservation of the breed should be the sole driving force behind a breeder’s choice to produce puppies.
1) The breed’s future: because of irresponsible ownership, criminal animal abuse, and a surplus of dogs, all breeds are at risk. Prior to planning a litter, a breeder should ask himself/herself if the litter will jeopardize the future of the breed by contributing in any way to these problems.
2) Betterment of the breed: the goal of the ethical breeder should always be, first and foremost, to better the breed through the production of puppies that are as good as or superior to the previous generation. Production of dogs that ideally represent the written breed standards of legitimate canine registries such as the United Kennel Club (UKC), American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), American Kennel Club (AKC), American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), etc. should be considered the pinnacle of a dog breeding program.
3) Preservation of the breed: ethical breeders should work to preserve the breed as it was, is, and should be. Means to achieve this goal include: protecting the integrity of the breed through adherence to the Standards; careful culling (via sterilization, and/or humane euthanasia when necessary) of sub-standard stock; meticulous record-keeping, DNA profiling, microchipping, and pedigree research; studying to achieve a scholarly knowledge of breed history, temperament, health, structure, and genetics.
Section II: Actions of the Ethical Breeder
Note 1: For simplicity’s sake, “dog” will apply to both sexes. “Breeding stock” will apply to any dog or dogs that the Ethical breeder will breed, allow to be bred, or pay for the breeding services of.
Note 2: The pedigrees (previous generations) of all breeding stock should be considered as important as the breeding stock itself.
Note 3: Proper care, management and training are beyond the scope of this document. However an Ethical Breeder keeps their dogs well trained, in good health, in clean quarters, provides daily exercise and mental stimulation, and does not keep more dogs than can adequately be provided for.
The Ethical Breeder chooses breeding stock based on several criteria:
a) correctness of temperament (see #2)
b) health and vitality of the individual dogs (see #3, Item 3, and Note 3)
c) conformity to the applicable breed standard of the recognized registry (see # 5)
d) qualities the individual dogs may offer to future generations
e) qualities the pedigrees of the individual dogs may offer to future generations
The Ethical Breeder holds “A” and “B” above paramount over all other considerations when choosing breeding stock.
The Ethical Breeder:
1) has an extensive knowledge of their breed (history, genetics, the Standards, care, training), as well as a strong understanding of breeding practices, canine health, and dog behavior/training
2) chooses breeding stock that is temperamentally sound and representative of the Standards. In addition, the Ethical Breeder does not breed any dog that is not “temperament correct.”
3) health tests all breeding stock prior to breeding, and certifies health of breeding stock prior to breeding where such certifications are available. Tests and certifications shall be conducted and processed prior to any dog being bred. Required health tests and certifications may include: hips, elbows, thyroid, and heart (evaluated and certified by organizations such as Orthopedic Foundation for Animals [OFA] for hips, elbows, thyroid, and heart, or PennHip for hips). Dogs should test negative for Brucellosis and von Willebrand’s Disease. Additional testing may be conducted for the following health abnormalities: Spinocerebellar/Hereditary Ataxia, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) with subsequent registration with Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) encouraged for dogs free of PRA. Results and certifications of any and all tests will be made readily available to potential buyers if tested and certified dogs will be bred. In addition, immediately prior to each breeding, all breeding stock should pass a basic veterinary health examination and be determined to be in good health.
Item 3: No dog with unsatisfactory health tests and/or certification results shall ever be bred. Unsatisfactory results would be (among others):
a) OFA hip ratings below fair
b) OFA elbow ratings that indicated elbow dysplasia
c) PennHip ratings that show abnormal joint laxity
d) thyroids that do not test normal; thyroids that test TgAA positive
e) hearts that are not found to be clear of murmurs or other abnormalities upon examination with a Doppler (ultrasound) exam by a Board Certified Cardiologist
f) positive tests for Spincerebellar/Hereditary Ataxia
g) positive tests for PRA
h) positive tests for any other hereditary/congenital/genetic disease
Note 3) No dog that has ever been diagnosed with a hereditary/congenital skin disease (including demodectic mange) shall ever be bred. A dog with chronic health problems (such as skin allergies) and/or weaknesses, and/or immune weakness shall never be bred. A dog that has torn anterior cruxiate ligaments (ACL) shall never be bred unless the torn ligaments were damaged because of conceivable stress and/or injury which indicate normal environmental causes and not hereditary/congenital/genetic weakness.
5) chooses breeding stock that conforms to the Standard(s) of the applicable recognized registry.
6) registers breeding stock and produced litters with a recognized registry.
Item 1: For the sake of this Code of Ethics, recognized registries will be considered the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association, the American Kennel Club, and the American Rare Breed Association. These organizations are the oldest and hold breed standards that are most sought after and followed.
7) only breeds mature (over 2 years of age, or whatever is applicable to the specific breed) dogs. Does not breed elderly bitches, nor does the Ethical breeder breed any one bitch more than once every 24 months.
8 ) seeks validation of quality of breeding stock through competition in organized dog sports and subsequent achievement of titles and certifications such as:
a) UKC, ADBA, AKC, ARBA conformation, obedience, agility, and performance titles
b) certifications such as the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC), American Temperament
Test Society’s Temperament Tested (TT), Therapy Dogs International’s Therapy Dog International (TDI), and other similar, valid certifications.
c) events, titles, and certifications offered by other valid organizations.
9) breeds less than 3 litters every year. Should ideally breed no more than 1 litter a year.
10) breeds when there is a specific demand for the puppies, and owners for puppies have been predetermined before birth.
Section III: Puppies, Placement, and Care
Note 5: Section III also applies to adolescent dogs and/or adult dogs any breeder may have in their care and potentially place.
1) chooses homes based on ability to properly care for and handle the specific breed, and acts as match maker between puppy/dog and potential owner to ensure compatibility.
Item 4: The quality of the home any puppy or dog is placed into should be of great importance. The Ethical Breeder only considers a potential owner that:
a) has already done good breed research. Asks good questions. Shows willingness to learn more
b) is realistic about breed challenges
c) shows a stable, mature, open-minded personality
d) is happy to be interviewed and receive a home inspection
e) is physically capable of handling the breed
f) wants an indoor pet as a companion animal/family member
g) has had some dog experience and knowledge of basic training.
h) is prepared to satisfy dog’s daily exercise needs
i) owns a home or has a secure rental that will allow the breed (should provide proof in lease)
j) can provide safe containment: tall, secure fences if yard is present and working latches on gates.
k) lives in a household (includes roommates, children, seniors) that is involved in the decision to bring a dog into the family and is able to help manage a dog
l) has other pets in the home that are a good match
12) socializes and conducts basic training with all puppies before sending them to their new homes.
13) microchips all puppies prior to sending them to their new homes.
14) does not place puppies under 8 weeks of age.
15) does not place puppies in areas where breed specific legislation that would endanger the puppy’s life or quality of life exists (when applicable).
16) provides legally-binding, non-expiring contracts upon purchase that protect buyer as well as puppy. Contract certifies health (congenital, genetic, hereditary) and temperamental soundness of puppy. Assures puppy is disease-free prior to placement through records detailing proper veterinary and health care. Contract includes clause that requires new owner to relocate with the dog, or return the dog to the Ethical Breeder in the event that breed specific legislation that would endanger the puppy’s life or quality of life is enacted in the new owner’s city/state (when applicable)
17) takes responsibility for any puppy produced, during any point in the lifetime of that puppy, should the original home become unable to care for the puppy or grown adult dog.
18) sends puppies home with papers from the recognized registry to allow the new owner to register the puppy in his/her name; unless the puppy is pet stock and is not spayed or neutered prior to going to new home, in which case, the Ethical Breeder will withhold papers until the new owner can provide proof of spay/neuter. It is strongly advised, however, that the Ethical Breeder spays/neuters all pet stock prior to placement in new homes.
Item 5: “Pet stock” is any puppy that is not or would not potentially be bred by an Ethical Breeder, and/or any puppy that will not potentially be shown in conformation events.
19) after sending puppy home, offers support indefinitely to new owner by way of breed counseling, training/behavior advice, health care information, referrals, etc.
20) recognizes that breeding is not a money making venture, a business, nor a means to bring in extra money. Stud fees and sale prices of puppies should reflect the costs of ethical breeding. The ethical breeder does not see a profit at the end of the year, but may actually see a loss.
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It is easy enough to look in the classified adds, either in the paper or on-line, to find a litter of puppies for sale. Consider this: most people who sell puppies in the classifieds are BYBs. They are not necessarily bad people, but not only do they contribute to pet overpopulation, the animals they breed are usually bred with no consideration to health, temperament, or genetics.
A BYB dog may be cheaper to purchase, but frequently costs more down the line in vet bills for congenital health issues, and you will be on your own if anything does come up.
If you buy from an ethical breeder, you are guaranteed to have a healthy companion. An ethical breeder will give you a refund, or another dog if yours comes down with any genetic ailments.
A BYB dog may be temperamentally unsound, as many BYBs do not know the proper temperament for the breed, or don’t care. You could end up paying for a behaviorist to help you “fix” your dog. You may end up with a lawsuit from a dog bite, or you may end up having to put the dog down.
An ethical breeder breeds only dogs that display the ideal temperament for the breed. And if your dog does have any temperament issues down the road, they will refund your money, or replace the dog.
Most BYB dogs are physically poor examples of their breed. Compare your average pet (unfortunately most pet dogs are back yard bred) to the dogs you see at a dog show. Many are so far away from the standard as to be unrecognizable as the same breed.
Since ethical breeders breed to the standard, their dogs are regularly physically closer to it by far than BYB dogs. Your pet from an ethical breeder may not be “show quality” but most likely only because of some minor fault that may be invisible to the untrained eye…Maybe he holds his tail too high, or has too much white in his coat, or his ears don’t sit quite perfectly on his head. Besides…wouldn’t it be nice to be able to brag that your pet legitimately comes from champion lines?
The majority of BYBs don’t really care what happens to their dogs once they have their money. They will sell to anyone with the cash, and once it’s off their property, it’s the buyer’s problem.
An ethical breeder makes sure their puppies go to the right homes, and are there for the new owners for any advice or problems that may come up throughout the dog’s life. An ethical breeder will take the dog back if you are unable to keep it for any reason. They will do everything in their power to keep any dogs they produce off the street, and out of the pound.
More importantly; when you buy a dog from a BYB, you encourage them to breed again, producing more sub-standard dogs to die in our country’s shelters.
Since your dog will be a part of your life for the next 15 or so years, it makes sense to take your time locating the right source. You may be able to get instant gratification from the classified adds, but you will probably pay for it down the line.
Please, take your time…find the breed that is right for you, and when you do, take some more time to locate an ethical breeder that you feel comfortable with. You may have to look out of state to find what you seek, but many breeders will ship…Besides, visiting a kennel to pick up your new puppy is also a fantastic excuse for a road trip!
To learn more about pet overpopulation in the US, please visit: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/overpopulation_estimates.htmlhttp://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/overpopulation_estimates.html