I’m a major supporter of shelters, rescues, and spay/neuter. However, I recognize the importance in supporting responsible breeders, as well. Sound like an oxymoron? Not quite. Responsible breeders follow a strict code of ethics and take lifetime responsibility for the animals they produce. Responsible breeders produce healthy, well-tempered dogs and educate potential owners about the breed or breeds they specialize in. It’s not hard to define what a responsible breeder is; the real challenge is finding them. Over the past few years, I’ve joined several groups on social media sites, looking for responsible breeders and listening to … well, the rest. What I found was disturbing, at best.
I think one of the problems facing American Pit Bull Terriers today are their popularity. Sounds contradictory, I know, but when something becomes popular, many people decide to capitalize on it and lower-quality products come on the market, as well as knockoffs, if you will. I’ve met plenty of people that have “purebred Pit Bulls,” but they have no papers, can’t tell me if the parents were registered or not, and swear the breed is “full blooded red nose,” which is going to make gorgeous puppies. More than likely, they’re walking a Heinz 57 at the end of that leash. Mutts are wonderful and beautiful things, but they should definitely not be breeding stock.
I’ve also found that pride plays a big part in the “breeding game.” Many people truly don’t have what it takes to be responsible breeders — be it the know-how, the resources, or the breeding-worthy animals — but their pride keeps them from ever admitting it, even to themselves. They almost viciously defend their “right to breed” and their animals. Some of them do admit their dogs have flaws, such as poorly aligned legs and twisted feet, but they claim they are “improving the breed” by breeding their dog to one with lesser faults. This “outbreeding” is supposed to produce puppies without the faults of the one adult. That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Many of these self-proclaimed breeders don’t treat their dogs like true members of the family. Instead, they chain them up outside, often citing aggression between the dogs as the reason they cannot be together. One breeder went so far as to claim the Georgia Department of Agriculture told them the law was that they had to chain their dogs since they did not have concrete kennels.
In the group forums I poked around in, these breeders would offer advice to one another. Not advice on how to turn down buyers they thought wouldn’t take good care of their dogs or how to take better care of their dogs — instead, these breeders were asking for home remedies for problems that should be addressed by a vet, including what looked like a prolapsed uterus. They were asking about cheaper foods to feed their dogs, ways to “bulk up” their dogs faster, and how soon and how often they could breed their dogs.
These are the “breeders” that make passionate advocates cry out for spay/neuter mandates and breeding bans. These “breeders” are most definitely the bad apples of the bunch. They use tools like breeding stands, trade off dogs they tire of and believe that animals have no rights. They leave a bad taste in the mouths of concerned animal advocates and educated dog buyers. The puppies these breeders sell are often mixed or of poor genetic quality, both of which leads to an overall lowering of the bar for the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Some well-meaning advocacy groups have tried to put together a list of red flags to identify bad breeders. These lists often include breeders who stress bloodlines over actual health and structure, as well as breeders who can’t tell you why they bred their dogs, breed for color, and so on. It’s really a lot simpler than that. As linked at the beginning of this article, the ASPCA has drafted wonderful and concise criteria for responsible breeders. If the breeder you’re talking to doesn’t meet that criteria (especially if they get angry when you start asking questions), don’t waste another second on them.
Again, I always encourage adoption as the first option, but if you just have to have that certified purebred whatever, do your homework first. Don’t buy from an irresponsible breeder, as that rewards their behavior and encourages them to continue. Even if you feel sorry for the puppies, putting money in the bad breeder’s hands is not rescuing, it’s enabling. Report them to the Department of Agriculture and your local animal control if you feel the animals in their care are being mistreated.
About Meghan Lodge: A former quiet nerd turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate, Meghan fits the Aquarius definition to a fault. She loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. She’s the proud parent of two dogs (one being very dumb) and two cats (one perpetually plotting her demise).
Have you had any experience with a responsible breeder? Are you a responsible breeder? Share your story below! We’d love to hear from you.
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