It seems innocent enough. You want a puppy so you pick up the classifieds or log onto craigslist. On any given day of any given week, you'll find every breed and their designer mixes, from English bulldogs to Labradoodles, all for sale locally in the paper. The ads all say the same things, CKC registered parents, raised in a family home, first shots done. If you decide to add one of these pups to your family, the process is easy enough. Simply call the number, meet the pups, pick one and pay for it and bring it home. But what is the price beyond the money that is being paid for this market?
A "backyard breeder" is someone who breeds their dogs but who isn't an actual breeder. Reputable breeders breed a line of dogs of a certain breed for wanted characteristics, temperament and health. Females are carefully bred, and the breedings are limited in her lifetime. She'll be genetically tested, along with the father, to rule out unwanted disorders and health conditions. They are vetted and cared for throughout the whole process and when the puppies are born, they will be cared for medically as well.
When mom gives birth, she'll be in a warm, safe place set up just for her, and she'll be eating the best food money can buy. She'll raise her pups to around 12 weeks, ample time for her to teach them to be well rounded, good dogs when they leave her side. And when they do, the breeder will carefully screen the new homes, being sure that they are going to the best home possible. And finally, if at anytime the home is not working out, the breeder will take the pup back and be sure it is taken care of.
The backyard breeder breeds their dogs for any number of reasons, but their dogs are usually bred often and with no experience. Sometimes, the focus is on breeding dogs for a certain look, like trying to achieve a litter of pit bulls with large heads. Perhaps the focus is on trying to cash in on a certain fad, like designer mutts as we see with the Labradoodle craze.
With little care being placed on the temperament, health and placement of these pups, it is certainly not uncommon for them to end up in homes where they outstay their welcome. After the novelty of the puppy wears off, the couch has been chewed and the rug has been peed on, puppy ends up looking for a new home or in the shelter.
For example, meet Isis. Isis' owner has given her the best in life. She's happy, healthy and well taken care of. She lives with other dogs, eats good food, goes for walks and at the end of the day she has a warm bed to sleep in. When Isis tore her ligament in her back leg, her owner, Tammy, paid for it to be fixed, giving her proper vet care. When it happened to the other leg, Tammy fixed that as well. Isis has never known a bad day, but for her, it was luck of the draw that Tammy picked her from the litter.
This is Casha. Casha is the sister of Isis. Born on the same day, to the same mom in the same place, how different could their lives be? A lot about Casha's last 6 years are unknown. But we know for sure that about a year ago she turned up at the Victoria SPCA with a bad leg from an old, untreated injury. Scars on her face, legs and chest paint a picture of a hard life. After having her leg removed, Casha spent 6 months at the SPCA. After being bred herself and living a hard life, the shelter was possibly the first caring home Casha had, the SPCA staff her first loving family.
Casha now, the bad days behind her...
Here's another example. My friend Illona stumbled upon an ad for a worn down, dirty terrier. He was afraid, sleeping in a barn and was the cast off from a backyard breeder. For whatever reason, Merrik was no good to them now, and he was tossed aside like a bit of garbage. Thankfully for Merrik, Illona has a soft spot for the scruffy ones, and wasn't afraid of a diamond in the rough. She met him and brought him home, if for no other reason than the fear of what would become of him if she walked away without him.
It would be impossible to imagine the amount of puppies that Merrik helped produce, simply to line the pockets of the people who had him. I doubt any of the people who bought those pups asked to see him or gave him any thought when they answered ads for puppies in the paper. It is a shame, because this is an epidemic, and we are all responsible. Merrik is thriving now, thanks to the countless hours of love and patience on Illona's part to bring him out of his shell.
you can see more of Merrik and his rescued sister at Illona's photography blog, just click here
The only way to really truly save dogs like Merrik and Casha is to stop them from ending up in these situations before they become cast offs. If you purchase a dog from a backyard breeder or pet store, you are encouraging this treatment of animals. Of course, not EVERY backyard breeder is treating their animals like this, but these are not isolated cases. Please, if you are looking for a puppy, contact your local shelter or rescue group.