Too often people pick their pets in an offhand manner, and as the animal grows, the owners find it’s not what they imagined. The cute little rabbit bought as an Easter bunny isn’t as desirable as a full grown rabbit that the kids won’t take care of. The adorable puppy bought from a guy on a street corner from a pen full of dogs has expensive medical problems when it gets older. This often leads to the animal discarded by abandoning on the street, given to someone else, or turned into an animal shelter and euthanized. None of these options are fair to the pet. At best, raising a pet from a baby to an adult is a challenging task not for everybody. While this article refers to dogs and dog breeders, any other pet can be substituted for dog.
Breeders: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Breeders raise and sell purebred animals with genealogy papers. Reputable breeders keep these records and turn copies in to the breed’s national organization and make them available to the purchaser. They carry an aura of providing the best examples of the breed, but the animals breeders produce cover a wide range of health and excellence.
Puppy mills are a term used to identify pet breeders that raise animals with the object of producing animals to sell for the most profit without regard to the animal’s health or the customer’s satisfaction. Puppy mills sometimes keep the animals in small areas with little room to run or associate with other puppies. In extreme cases, some of the mothers used to produce the babies may be deformed because of cramped and unhealthy living conditions.
Puppy mill offspring can produce health issues because of low quality food, lack of exercise and little or no medical attention. Without social interaction with other pups, behavior problems are common because they are not properly socialized with animals their own age at the proper time in their development.
Animals from these puppy mill breeders are common in in mall pet stores where they are sold as purebreds giving the animal prestige and an aura of quality. They may be purebred and pedigrees can be had for an extra fee. While presented as purebreds, they may not be. This happened with our rescued miniature beagle who became a beagle-basset hound mix when an adult. She turned into a great dog, but wasn’t a purebread miniature beagle as advertised to the original owner.
So, how to find a reputable breeder? A good place to start may be at the humane society. If they don’t recommend a breeder, they can give information on local clubs specializing in the breed you want who will be glad to help.
Another way is to go to a national club such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) for dogs. Most pets have a similar group that defines the ideals of the animal. These organizations can direct you to specific breeds groups that will recommend reputable breeders. Reputable breeders are proud to show their kennels and operation. If a breeder doesn’t want visitors, that’s a sign you don’t want their animals.
Reputable breeders will have animals that are as advertised. The animals will be healthy, given shots and care as required and have blood lines the breeder will be willing to share without smoke and mirrors.
Beware of fad pets. After the movie, 101 Dalmatians, parents bought the breed at their children’s request. Dalmatians are great dogs, but not the best pet for all families. After a few months, many were turned into animal shelters. Be sure to do diligent research on the pets you are interested in.
Some animals are fine for pets that aren’t normally considered pets. Pigs can be great companions, but the owner should be aware what they are getting into. Disreputable breeders will sell pet owners miniature pigs that become full size adults. Of course, the breeder couldn’t be found at that time to get his definition of miniature, or a refund. People buy pets like pigs and when the animal becomes an adult, the owner doesn’t want him for a pet. Rescue groups are establishing sanctuaries for these abandoned pigs.
Rescue Groups and Clubs
Most breed clubs have a rescue group or method of placing their breed that owners have discarded. Animal shelters agree to notify the club when one of their breed comes in. The club takes the animal and places it in a foster home until it can be adopted. The club may evaluate a prospective owner to see if the new owner is a good match for the dog. Fees vary and are reasonable considering the animal is examined for health and condition issues.
Rescue groups are common in small breeds as well as large breeds such as Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, Great Dane, Mastiff and similar breeds. People see a small cute, fuzzy pup and don’t realize this will be a 150 pound adult. Club members are more than willing to show off their dogs so that the prospective adopter can see what an adult will look like.
These clubs generally have a veterinarian examine the animal, provide shots and give a medical evaluation. When you get one of these animals you will know the best and worst about their health. Sometimes they have complete health records. There will be a fee for the animal, but it will include veterinarian check as well as support and advice from the club members. Club members are always happy to give advice and talk about their breed and brag about their pets and tell how much better their breed is when compared to others.
This is probably the best option if you want a purebred as a pet. It is cheaper than going through a breeder. The pet has been rescued, possibly from a shelter, from someone that has given them up for a variety of reasons. Drawbacks are that the pet may have been mistreated and have some issues because of that. The original owner may have not treated the pet well which would make it hard for subsequent owners to train or interact with.
One of the challenges with adopting from rescue groups is that they view few people as good enough to take their animals. This is true of many dog, cat, and bird groups that have a low adoption turnover rate because of rigid adoption standards.
The humane society or local animal shelter is possibly the best place to buy a dog, cat, or other pet. Shelter animals find themselves there after having become lost and picked up as strays, been turned over by their owners, or taken from a home for over population or other reasons. Shelter vets evaluate the animal for health before releasing them for adoption. They are normally observed for several days in the shelter before they can be adopted. This is an excellent way to find a great pet and the price is reasonable. If you aren’t worried about papers or breeding adopting from the shelter is great. It’s not unusual for animal trainers that provide trained animals for movies and TV shows to find their animals at shelters. Moose, the Jack Russell known as Eddie on Fraiser, is an example of this.