Bad options for pet puppies

Andrew Robinson
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SPCA and Humane Services not fans of puppy mills and backyard breeders

Cindy McGrath of Humane Services for the city of St. John's cautions people about buying puppies from backyard breeders. She suggests doing some simple research before acquiring an animal.

Whether its puppy mills or backyard breeders looking to sell puppies, both the St. John's SPCA and the city's Humane Services Division have the same message for potential pet owners - don't use them.

"We would definitely advise people not to buy puppies from such an operation," said Lynn Cadigan, president of the St. John's SPCA. "The risks to the individual are that you could end up with a dog that has serious behavioural or medical problems because the breeders are not testing or screening for health and temperament."

Neither the SPCA or Humane Services receive many complaints about puppy mills or backyard breeders. Humane Services supervisor Cindy McGrath said puppy mills are more commercially-oriented and often use stacked kennels.

"The dogs are not usually out of the cages. They're not socialized. They're specifically used for breeding. They don't have any care whatsoever, no vaccines or anything like that, and usually they're not in the house. With a backyard breeder, usually they are in the family home. Again, not a good situation, but a backyard breeder ... they do live in the home. Often they have way too many (animals). But again, they are doing it for financial gain."

McGrath said some complaints have been made to Humane Services about backyard breeders operating in the city, though they have been infrequent.

"Certainly, our city compared to other cities, we probably have no problem, but one is too many in my opinion."

In one case, McGrath said a resident had 20 dogs in the home for breeding. The animals were then advertised through different forms of media.

"Obviously, if you have a house that has 20 dogs, they're not neutered, they're not spayed obviously ... so the males are spraying in the house. A lot of them are not house trained, so living conditions for the residents can actually be quite deplorable."

In the case of reputable breeders, Cadigan said they typically do not need to advertise their animals and will likely have a waiting list of people looking to purchase a pet.

McGrath said a veterinarian had visited the dogs in the example she spoke of and they were being fed.

Some were later sent to the SPCA and Humane Services, she said.

By using a backyard breeder instead of a breeder of registered animals, McGrath said one encourages the backyard breeder to continue their work.

"These so-called breeders are selling these puppies as purebreds with no papers. There's no such thing as a purebred animal with no papers. If you're going to a reputable breeder, both parents are registered."

Thus, the buyer may inadvertently support cruelty and neglect of animals, according to Cadigan.

"If people stop buying from them, then they don't stay in business. And business is a key word, because the motive is primarily profit and money. It's not the welfare of the dogs."

There are several instances that should raise alarm bells for potential buyers, according to Cadigan. Buyers should be required to visit the premises and expect to be asked questions by the seller about their own home.

Offering to deliver a puppy or meet in a public place to complete the transaction is another red flag. People should also be concerned if they are unable to see where the parents of the puppy are kept.

McGrath said registered breeders operate in a responsible manner and focus on more than just selling animals to make a profit.

Under the law, Cadigan said there is a limited amount of action that can be taken when a backyard breeder or puppy mill with less-than-adequate living conditions is identified. Unless animals are without adequate food, water, shelter, or are visibly sick or in pain, nothing can be done.

"Even though it looks terrible to you, if the animals are not in distress, that's where legally it ends."

When adopting from an animal shelter, McGrath said, people can rest assured the pet they take home will have been vaccinated, treated for fleas and dewormed. Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Humane Services Division

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Moxie
    April 10, 2012 - 10:15

    some backyard breeders will charge as much as a registered breeder because they say the parents are CKC registered. But getting the information from them on both parents may be difficult. The proper information on the parents should be available upfront. It shouldn't be a case of well let check into that after the fact.

  • doglover
    April 10, 2012 - 09:47

    There is room for both rescues and purebred dogs. Keep in mind that ckc registered breeders have to follow a code of ethics from both the ckc and from their national breed club. Those pedigrees are very important if you want to know that all the dogs behind your puppy were health tested and are genetically sound. A good breeder will have a contract and will enforce it. Many include a stipluation that the dog must be returned to the breeder if it cannot be kept. They will never end up in a shelter or spca. If all breeders did this then there would never be a need for an spca or a shelter. Anyone who breeds a dog is responsible for it for it's lifetime, not just until it's sold. Rescues can be wonderful pets but there's a reason it ended up in a shelter.

  • Just another point
    April 10, 2012 - 07:00

    Where do you think the dogs come from that are at the SPCA or Humane Services? They are from the puppy mills and the back yard breeders. Any Reputable Breed will take back a dog or at least help the owner find a new home for puppys that they have bred. Most Reputable Breeders keep in touch with the puppy buyers and assist with problems with training and anything else that comes up in the puppy/dogs life. They back thier products! Much more that backyard breeders or pet stores. Alot of byb's don't want to ever see you again. Thank about that one. That is way there are so many dogs at the SPCA. If people were more responsible with the animals and get them spayed or neutered, there would not be so many dogs (or cats) without homes.

  • Marie
    April 09, 2012 - 12:01

    Just because a dog has 'papers' and is purchased from a registered breeder does not mean the animal has been treated any better than a dog from a puppy mill. I visited a local breeder who sells their puppies as registered, I would never buy a dog from them, both owners were smokers, there were many dogs in the house all caged, I would much prefer to buy from a backyard breeder who breeds occasionally, as such probably pays much more attention to the litter and the health of the parents because it is not a money making way of life for these people and it becomes an experience that they want to ensure goes well.

  • Australian Shepard Wise
    April 09, 2012 - 11:54

    As someone who purchased from a supposedly "reputable breeder" on the Avalon, with papers, I've found out since that this is our Puppy Mill....who would have thought...from a great looking kennel...lots of room to roam....clean space...friendly breeder.... of Aussies, Goldens, border collies, and 1 or 2 others. Here's what to look for...several breeds being bred by the same breeder...puppies avail ever 6 months, inbreeding which can cause blindness in one eye...seizures....hip problems, high strung dogs. I purchased 3 dogs from this person the 1st two were beautiful dogs who died of cancer....the 3rd has full grand mal seizures.....we've spent close to $7,000. on this dog who is not yet 3yrs old... The breeder said he would give us another dog, no compassion, couldn't recall if he had that problem before...the Vet, once she found out where the dog came from told me she had to put 2 others down because they were in such bad shape from if they were going crazy. We had no idea this was happening. The breeder takes no responsibility, he should be banned from breeding, its a business for him which provides money, that's it. Be wise check out many owners of a particular breed from that breeder ask their opinion on the breed and the breeder. The SPCA and the Can Kennel Club should put him on the "do not buy from list".

    • DogGirl
      April 09, 2012 - 15:39

      Things to look for in a GOOD dog breeder: 1) usually will have only 1 or 2 different dog breeds they are active in breeding; 2) usually has only a few litters per year; 3) usually bombards potential puppy buyers with MANY questions about knowledge of dogs, lifestyle, etc., and reserves the right to refuse any potential owners; 4) ALWAYS provides evidence of health testing of parents (eyes, hips, and any specific issues in the breed- e.g., thyroid); 5) usually is a member in good standing of the CKC and all puppies are CKC-registered (although this is not a guarantee of a good breeder, sadly); 6) usually is a member of the national breed club (e.g., Basenji Club of Canada); 7) is ALWAYS willing to provide potential puppy owners with references from families who own dogs they have bred. IF a breeder doesn't fit with this checklist, then you may end up with a heartache. If you want a purebred dog, do your homework!! Contacting the local kennel clubs and/or visiting breeders at the dog shows can help, too. Breed clubs also run national rescues, so check out all your options before deciding on adding a dog to your family- it is a long-term commitment!

  • newfygirl
    April 09, 2012 - 11:41

    So what happens to these puppies that do not find homes in a backyard breeder environment? Do they drown them? Drop them off ont he side of the road? There has to be a better solution than just stopping buying these little creatures.

  • Paul
    April 09, 2012 - 08:42

    not all 'back yard breeders' are all bad. My wife and I did a litter with our chocolate lab. we were careful of the male we selected, we were confident that our female was healthy and had no bad genetics (we know something of her siblings and parents), we were careful of who we sold the puppies to as well. we may never do another litter again either, since we feel responsible for the puppies even after we sold them... the point is , not everyone doing a litter is motivated only by money. on the other hand , the 'breeders' charge so much for their pups, they create this secondary market...and if the 'breeders' were so concerned about unwanted puppies, they might reduce their prices.

    • bea real
      April 09, 2012 - 09:30

      breeders generally have high prices to attract people who are serious about getting a dog. the costs of genetic testing are high and need to be recouped in the cost of a puppy. it is always irresponsible to backyard breed, even in such a case as you described. without proper pedigrees, there's no telling what relation your dog is to the dog it's being bred to. this could lead to difficulties with inbreeding. a dog can carry genetic defects even if it 'seems' like a healthy dog. if someone is interested in being a breeder they should carefully select a breed and go through the proper channels. honestly, if everyone bought their dog by the book from a breeder there wouldn't be such an excess of neglected dogs out there that aren't fixed. if someone is unable to pony up $1000 or $1500 to purchase a dog, how are they going to keep up with vet appointments, kibble, toys, obedience classes and all of the other expenses associated with having a dog. also, buying a dog to leave alone at home 8 hours a day is totally stupid. the number of 'intelligent' people i see doing this is crazy. if you live in a house where everyone works full time and nobody can drop home at lunch to see the dog, get a cat.

  • Ruth
    April 09, 2012 - 08:29

    Just as a sidebar, I myself did just adopt a puppy from the SPCA and we both ouldn't be happier!

  • Kent
    April 09, 2012 - 08:22

    Why would anyone purchase a pet from a pet-store or breeder when there are so many great unwanted animals available from Humane services, Begable Paws, Havenly Creates and the SPCA.

  • Yvette Butt
    April 09, 2012 - 08:22


  • Ruth
    April 09, 2012 - 08:21

    Maybe if the ridiculous prices these breeders were charging would come down, more people would be inclined to support them and their work. And don't say if you can't afford $1600 or more for a dog than you shouldn't be considering it. Pet ownership was never for the rich only. Just remember all the happy mutts when you were growing up that had wonderfull, full lives and couldn't have been loved more in their modest homes.

    • Nik
      April 09, 2012 - 11:45


    • NIK
      April 09, 2012 - 11:49

      The reason behind the prices is the cost of breeding the dog. i have English Bulldogs and my vet has nothing but good to say of the way we take care of our dog and puppies. To give you an idea to breed an English Bulldog from the C-Section to the micro chip of the litter is $3156.00 so this is why !!

  • Yvette Butt
    April 09, 2012 - 08:20

    Simple rescue one dog at the pound, SPCA, humane services or rescue and you save two lives.....because you free up space for another homeless soul....Dont breed or buy while others die.....RESCUE IS MY FAVORITE BREED....MUTTS RULE.

  • bobbi lynn
    April 09, 2012 - 07:06

    I agree that people who run puppy mills and home breeders that continuously breed numerous dogs should be stopped.. on the other hand, i have had many encounters with "reputable breeders", where both parents have papers, and the pups have many health defects. The pups come with a warranty.. return the dog and they will give you another one.. get real, people get attached to dogs very fast, and most people would not trade them. The sad part about dogs with papers are you are often limiting the gene pool so much, you are passing hereditary conditions on. Hips, enzyme deficiencies, blood disorders, etc... I believe you can get a good "pure breed" without papers, you just have to be careful and investigate the family/Home from which the dogs come. Like it or not.. dog breeding is a business, we need to improve our animal cruelty laws to deal with the people who mistreat animals.. and yes there are dog breeders out there with their papers that mistreat animals as well.

    • Stef
      April 09, 2012 - 07:38

      On the contrary, Bobbi Lynn, reputable breeders are looking to better the breed and do their best to breed dogs that are not predisposed for hip/elbow/eye/cardiac/etc issues. If the parents have health defects, then you are not dealing with a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders will breed dogs that have all health clearances and will have the appropriate documentation to back that up, and they will look far back into the familial line for health defects as well. For any puppy buyers out there, be sure to ask the breeder for documentation for all clearances, and if they don't have them, look elsewhere. Also do your research and know the health issues specific to the breed you are looking at so you know what appropriate questions to ask your breeder about those clearances. For example, if you are getting a Labrador or a German Shepherd, be sure to ask about hips and elbows! This is not to say that all dogs from a reputable breeder will not have health problems, but they have done their best to reduce the liklihood of it. Also, it does not mean that all dogs from a backyard breeder will be sick. There are many that come from BYBs that live full and healthy lives, however if you knowingly go this route you are taking a serious chance because you do not know the history of the parents/grandparents/etc.