In recent years, the plight of puppy mill dogs in both Canada and the U.S. has garnered much attention as the public becomes more aware of these commercial breeding programs and the horrendous conditions these dogs are forced to endure. Although the attention drawn to puppy mills in Canada has helped to ignite a fight against these breeding practices and for stronger animal laws, this exposure has duped the public into believing that avoiding puppy mill breeders ensures that they are participating in ethical breeding practices. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

The leading cause of pet overpopulation in Canada, and in turn euthanasia rates, is currently the public's purchase of puppies from backyard breeders. These are breeders that are producing puppies for financial or personal gain, rather than the advancement of a single breed. They are often involved with several breeds and produce multiple litters to maximize their profits. Unlike puppy mills, backyard breeders often operate out of their home or smaller scale facilities, but like mill breeders, they do not selectively breed for the health or genetics of a dog and they frequently breed their personal companions or inbred dogs. Backyard breeders are not all 'bad' people ~ in fact, many are families that wish their children to see a litter born, feel their dog should experience being a mother, their dog is accidentally impregnated or they just want one litter from their dog. While these breeders might have honest intentions, they have devastating effects on the overpopulation of pets in our country.

Backyard breeders, although incredibly common and very accessible, are not always easily identified by the undiscerning public. I remember chatting with a guest at a party, who was relaying to me how she acquired her precious Poodle puppy. She explained how she had found the breeder on Kijiji and called to make arrangements to see the litter that afternoon. The directions brought her to a rather dilapidated apartment complex in Toronto and her nerves were immediately on-edge. This anxiety was enhanced when the 'breeder' met her in the front foyer with the puppies in a laundry hamper, saturated with the smell of smoke. I remember this guest telling me that she "basically rescued" the puppy from that environment, by paying the breeder, picking her puppy, and going home.

What is unfortunate about this story, and rather heart-wrenching to dog rescuers everywhere, is the knowledge that this puppy was not saved, but rather by paying the woman, this family guaranteed that she would continue to breed dogs. The same principle applies to backyard breeders across the country ~ your money ensures that they will continue to practice unethical breeding because it can turn a considerable profit for the breeder. It also places a further strain on rescue organizations due to the increased overpopulation.

The following is a list of tips and guidelines for avoiding backyard breeders:

  • Avoid purchasing a puppy from a breeder advertizing dogs in a newspaper, on Kijiji, Craigslist or any similar site. Reputable breeders do not use these practices.

  • Be wary of breeders who do not have the parents on-site or are hesitant for you to meet them.

  • Avoid breeders who do not perform necessary health clearances on their breeding dogs or provide health guarantees.

  • Avoid purchasing from a breeder that produces a variety of breeds. Reputable breeders commit themselves to the advancement of a single breed.

  • Walk away from a breeder if your gut tells you something is 'off'. If you feel it, it most likely is!

  • Do not purchase from a breeder who meets you and is willing to sell you a pup right away or who gathers little or no information about you. A responsible breeder wants to know as much about you as you do about them and their dogs.

  • Avoid breeders that do not provide you with ongoing support with your pup or are not willing to take a dog back should the puppy not work out in the home.

  • Avoid breeders that do not belong to national and provincial kennel club/breed associations or cannot provide proof of CKC registration for their breeding stock and puppies.

  • Avoid breeders that cannot speak confidently as to why they bred two specific dogs to improve their lines.

  • Avoid breeders that have certain dogs 'left' or do not know who will be purchasing their dogs. Reputable breeders most often have approved homes lined up before they produce a litter.

  • Avoid being duped or persuaded by flashy sites that provide pictures of cute puppies for sale but little information about the breeder's experience with the breed and their lines.

  • Avoid purchasing a puppy that does not appear clean, healthy or well-socialized.

  • Avoid a breeder that is willing to sell a pup younger than a MINIMUM of eight weeks old.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of tips, by following these guidelines, a family can greatly reduce the chances of supporting a backyard breeder and contributing to the pet overpopulation in Canada. Unfortunately, a large percentage of backyard breeder puppies will end up in shelters and rescue organizations across the country and only a lucky few will find a forever home. The promotion of ethical breeding and responsible purchasing is vital to lowering the number of homeless pets in Canada. By avoiding these breeders, we can greatly reduce the number of dogs in need of homes and take overwhelming stress off rescue organizations.

Finally, you can help to end the rampant problems of backyard breeders by spreading the word and being a part of a necessary change!

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not!" - Dr. Seuss

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