Monday, May 16, 2016

Responsible Breeders are Part of the Puppy Mill Solution

Realistically rescues don't serve everyone's needs. If you want to end puppy mills, you need to provide that group with the means to find a responsible, ethical breeder to meet that need. Shaming people so that nobody does more than whisper they got their dog from a breeder or only discusses it in closed areas where they know they won't be harassed is short sighted. If the goal is to end puppy mills than teach people how to avoid them. How do they find that reputable breeder? What questions does one ask? How do you research, check references, understand the health information you are getting, etc. I'm not qualified to write those articles, but there are plenty of people out there in our community who are, but avoid doing so because of the heat they get in return from those who believe rescue is the only way to legitimately acquire a dog.

Rescue is a great option for many people. It isn't for everyone. In today's post I'm going to discuss three of reasons the rules rescues and shelters have for adoption create a need for responsible breeders. The focus of dog rescues should be finding the best forever home for a dog. I'm not disputing that. Nor am I even arguing with the most of the rules. Their experience and resources have made them create the rules. However, these rules often leave a large percentage of people looking for dogs. This means these people will be looking for breeders. You can leave them swinging in the wind and hope they don't end up with a puppy mill or you can choose to educate them and hope they choose a ethical, responsible breeder.

The Rules:

Age restrictions:

Many, not all, shelters restrict adoptions to families with children. The ages I've seen at which they will start adopting to families with children range from 6-12. Recently as I've been researching adoption options I've even noticed restrictions for people who have grandchildren or those who even have children who visit. I get that rescues have their reasons for restricting adoptions with children. This can be a reason for failed adoptions and surrenders. However, most people aren't going to wait until the youngest child reaches middle school to adopt a dog. They will search for an alternative. We can teach people how to find a responsible breeder or risk them finding a puppy mill. I won't argue with the shelters/rescues that want to keep age restrictions in place, but with those restrictions comes a need to educate those families who don't qualify to adopt on how to find a dog from a breeder. Don't assume they will wait because shelters/rescues don't feel comfortable sending their dogs into homes with children.

I was raised in a large family and I don't ever remember not having a dog in the house. Having a dog was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. My brothers and sisters would have been long gone from home, some with families of their own before we'd have qualified to adopt a dog under these restrictions. While it may make sense for the shelters to have these restrictions, if the goal is to end puppy mills, we have to help families who can't meet shelter's age requirements to find a breeder who can help.

Fenced in Yard

I will always be grateful that Bailey's foster Mom agreed to letting us adopt him while we worked on finishing our fenced in yard. It is not a cheap process and while we wanted it done because it is a much easier method for getting our dogs out and exercised, it wasn't something we could do all at once. In fact it was several years before we were able to afford the fence we wanted and now have in place. We started with what we could afford and replaced it as we had more money. However, if she'd been firm on the rule, we'd have missed 13 amazing years with Bailey.

Again I won't argue with the restrictions shelters/rescues place. They have the right to restrict as they choose. However, there are plenty of very happy dogs who are walked, go to dog parks, compete in agility, sports, and lots of other activities that don't have a fenced in yard. These dogs are loved and provide important companionship and support to their owners. The dogs often improve their owner's health because both need to get out and walk. You can't assume dogs are let roam free because a fenced yard is not available. Many responsible pet owners find ways to make it work. This is another group that need education on how to find a responsible breeder to avoid the puppy mill trap.

The other point, rescues don't need to be snarky. I was visiting one site the other day that was rather rude about the whole fence issue. I get it you have limited time to respond to people and you want them to read the directions. However, even having a fenced in yard, with that attitude I didn't want to deal with them. You can be firm and polite. Rudeness doesn't just chase away the people you want to leave it sends away qualified people, too.

Accept if you are going to restrict adoption to people who have fences, these people will search for alternatives.

Own Your Home

In this area I can understand this restriction. It is hard to find dog friendly apartments. It is the reason I waited to get dogs until DH and I had a house. You can find one great landlord, have to move and be stuck. However, even places that will adopt to apartments can make the hoops ridiculous. A pet friendly lease and a letter from the landlord is not always enough. Some want an interview with the landlord. Honestly, I've had landlords I never spoke with during my entire lease and it was a blessing. While some landlords are fine with pets, not all want the hassle of dealing with an in depth interview from a shelter regarding the tenant, the building, etc. Again this is why people in apartments do turn to getting dogs from breeders. Sometimes it is much easier than the hassle of dealing with a shelter.

I restricted this to my top three because it already makes for a long post. Feel free to post your own. I'm not done with this topic. It is time we were honest about promoting rescue where it works, but recognizing that even rescues acknowledge they can't service everyone's needs, thus they create a need for responsible breeders. That is why if we are serious about ending puppy mills we need to have more open discussions about what makes for an ethical healthy breeder.


  1. I agree with everything you say here. I believe shelters and rescues have the right to set guidelines and rules for their adoption practice however, when someone doesn't qualify but very much wants a dog, many end up with a puppy mill dog. Educating about how to find a pet from a reputable breeder is just as important!

  2. We agree WholeHeartedly.... We guess folks need to learn ..
    Everything in Moderation and not to belittle Others for THEIR choices... we may not know the WHY behind that choice.

  3. I completely agree. My husband and I both work full time, we have too, we need the money. We stagger our schedule but we still must work. Our dogs are along about 6 hrs which is one reason why we go for calmer breeds. We keep them in our puppy proofed kitchen and have never had any issues. When we are home we spend almost all our times with our dogs. They get walked daily and get great care. I wish they had someone with them all day but it just isnt possible A lot of rescues want a person home mid day, or all day or half day, we cant do that as we commute to work. I dont begrudge shelters their rules but they often make it difficult for dogs to get good homes

  4. Thank you for a beautifully written post. The subject is large and controversial, but those are 3 great points.

    1. Sadly this part of it shouldn't be controversial. Even shelters acknowledge they can't service everyone and keep the best interests of their animals at the heart of their mission. Therefore if the goal really is ending puppy mills we do have to help people find the alternative, which is ethical responsible breeders.

      The slogans may sound great that nobody should buy a pet until every shelter is empty, but the realities just don't work. Pet adoption is only part of the solution.

  5. A very thoughtful piece and you definitely bring up some good points. Thanks for sharing! I guess we are fortunate to live in a community with many different shelters - some with very strict adoption rules and others with little to none. I lean tosswards somewhere in the middle - not so strict that it prohibits adoption, but also some guidelines so people make thoughtful decisions. I always favor rescue, but absolutely support everyone's right to make the decisions that are best for them.

    Most of our pets (with the exception of Ruby) have been rescued right off the streets, which presents a third alternative

    1. There are lots of viable ways to get your next dog and street rescue can work, but it isn't always the solution for everyone.

      That is why I'm an all of the above person when it comes to educating people about how to get their dogs. Rescue in all forms works for some, but not for all. If we want to end puppy mills, we do need to help those for whom rescue isn't a fit by providing education on how to find an ethical breeder.


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