In the past month, we have had to report on two local puppy mills that were shut down due to severely neglecting their dogs. The dogs were seized and rescues are currently nursing the dogs back to health. As a former Corgi breeder and current dog fan, it breaks my heart but also makes me furious that these places operated for as long as they did under such unlivable conditions.
Here at Townsquare, we are strong advocates for all of our local rescue groups. We assist them in their fundraising efforts and try to help them find great homes for as many animals as we can. There are so many unwanted animals out there that need homes and there are some who argue that breeding is irresponsible since there are so many animals in rescues. But, there's also a place for reputable breeders. What would our world be like if there was no such thing as a cute corgi butt - or obedient police dogs - or herding dogs to help out on farms?
When you begin your search for a pet, there are usually certain qualities you have in mind that you want. Most people start with the type of pet - dog, cat, bird, rodent, reptile, fish, livestock, etc. I can't have a cow on my property. You can't cuddle fish. And, I have zero desire to clean a cage. From there, you narrow it down to things like size, temperament, energy level, fur, lifespan, and time you have to invest in the pet.
When my last dog passed away, I knew I wanted to find a small, black and tan min pin that was young, housetrained, and liked kids. These were the qualities I not only wanted but that fit well in our family. I got lucky - I used the online shelter pet search PetFinder and happened to stumble upon my little unicorn dog almost immediately. But if you are looking for certain qualities (especially in puppies) or want a specific breed of animal, most people go the route of buying from a breeder.
Oh and if you were wondering - a DNA test revealed my min pin is actually a min pin, beagle, chihuahua, fox terrier. He has a docked tail so was probably sold under the guise that he was full-blooded. And the new owners, without any accountability, didn't bother to pick him up from animal control when he ran off. My good fortune as he's a great dog but definitely not a full-blooded min pin.
Here's the thing though - it can be really hard to find a reputable breeder. There are scam artists galore, breeders who do not do the necessary homework to research breed standards and make conscious efforts to breed in the best qualities, and those who are just in it for the payoff and do not spend the time and investment in the animals to ensure the best quality of life.
So, to help anyone who is thinking about buying a pet in the future, I talked to my friend Tiffani Adams, who has been breeding Mastiffs and French Bulldogs for several years.
What a Responsible Dog Breeder Wants You to Know
-Interview with Tiffani Adams, McCrillus Mastiffs & Frenchies
Tell me about how you run your business.
When I have a litter, I "work" 24/7 with tiny naps. I don't go on vacation, sick days are out. If there is a wedding or birthday ...I miss it. I can't leave them at the beginning, I help with feedings every 2-3 hours. We never leave babies with mommas. They could squish them without even knowing it!
I don't even allow people to put deposits down until three weeks on any puppy so that I know they are all strong and doing well. I've had to tell someone before that I lost their baby and I never want to do that again!
We never let people in our home. I wish it wasn't like that, but I read about these stories monthly on the Frenchie pages I belong to. Breeders are robbed, beat up, and even killed for a dog or money. There's also the threat of people who come in carrying viruses in on shoes. We lost a Mastiff litter of eight to canine herpes virus. I can't 100% guarantee that it was brought in from someone. But I know that it was not and has not been in my home since. So, pretty sure it was. That was the worst three days. I will never get the crying of those babies out of my head!
We've purchased dogs from all over the country and have never been to those breeders' homes and we also have homed puppies from NY to FL, NC to NM and everywhere in between and those people have not been to our home either.
So, how do people "meet" you and their puppy?
I have a Facebook page of six years worth of customers on it. They can give references at any time. They post updates on their babies often. I love those!!
I post weekly pictures as well as random pictures and videos to the page. I can video chat with people to help them feel more secure. I try very hard to give as much info as I can and help them feel as comfortable as I can.
It's a huge decision and purchase. And I want to help make it as smooth as I can. They are bringing a new member of their family home and I don't want them to make a wrong decision that could result in their not wanting to keep their new baby!
What can your puppy parents expect from you?
I offer a one-year health contract and am always available for help and support.
If they can't keep their dog for any reason, no matter the health, age, or condition they come back to me no questions asked. This is to ensure none of my babies end up in a shelter or are passed around from home to home.
I also chip all of my puppies. They are registered to me so, if their first point of contact does not reply in 24hrs, they will contact me!
What are some things you want people to know about responsibly breeding dogs?
So many people are down on breeders and the 'adopt don't shop' thing is big - mainly because the breeders who aren't good breeders get the spotlight on them - like the puppy mills and hoarding situations. A lot of people assume that must be the only place that dogs come from.
Those people let dogs naturally breed, let them naturally whelp, and take care of their babies on their own. They sell the strongest surviving babies who have had little to no socializing, no health testing, and minimal vetting if any.
When you walk through a shelter, you won't find well-bred purebred dogs. And if you do, it's seldom! When you do find a purebred dog in a shelter, they are poor representations of the breed with a ton of health problems and that means they probably have a crappy breeder that doesn't take back their babies.
If breeders stopped, individual dog breeds would disappear. The slogan should be "Adopt or buy from a responsible breeder." I know, that doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well!
What's the process a reputable breeder goes through?
I've heard people say that say breeders are only in it for the money. I do make money, but sometimes I go upside-down on and I'm in the hole on a litter. Once, I lost the litter of eight. After the costs of getting her pregnant and all the vet fees of trying to save babies, we were down almost $11,000. But I'd do it all over again to try and save them!
I have dogs from Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho, Ohio, Kentucky, and here in Indiana. All of my dogs come from genetic health tested parents and I test them as well.
What's the benefit of genetic testing your dogs?
Genetic testing tests them for diseases and defects that affect the breed. Each breed has its own list. The testing costs $200 and up. Then there is OFA, testing (hips, knees and elbows) those are xrays done by your vet who sends them into a board of more vets to study. They then give them a grade of excellent, good, fair or poor. This cost depends on your vet but it will usually cost $500 or more.
Why are pets from reputable breeders more expensive?
Once we find the pairs that complement each other and the female comes into heat, it's time for progesterone testing. This costs $50 to $150 per test.
Actually breeding the dogs also costs a fair amount. It usually takes 3 to 6 PG tests to find the right levels to know when to breed. Then, we either do AI or surgical implants. This will cost between $200-$600 or more depending on your vet. Mastiffs are too heavy to breed naturally and Frenchies are shaped odd and get over-heated too quickly to breed naturally. So, this must be done this way. Then, we wait 30 days then go to confirm with an ultrasound. This costs between $50 to $150.
After the ultrasound, we wait another 30 days and start reverse progesterone testing to see when we should have the cesarean done. Mastiffs will give up and stop labor halfway through and you can lose babies. And Frenchies just can not have a natural birth. This cost is between $900 to $3500 depending on the vet and if you need an ER vet on a night or weekend.
We also have stud fees these are anywhere between $1500 to $10,000. There are also the supplements and food that go into treating expecting mommas extra special.
The litter of three that I have now - progesterone tests at $80 each + $2000 stud fee + $600 SI 3 reverse progesterone at $80 each + $1800 cesarean =$4,800! That's just to get the babies here.
Finally, babies go to the vet at six and nine weeks old. They go home with appropriate de-wormings, first and second sets of vaccinations, and two vet exams.
-Tiffani Adams, McCrillus Mastiffs & Frenchies
What are some things people should ask of a potential breeder?
Whew! There's a lot to it, for sure. It can be overwhelming but if you care about animals and want to see puppy mills and those who employ poor breeding practices go out of business, pet parents need to stop buying from them. The AKC boils it down to ten things you should ask of any potential breeder.
- Ask to meet the parents.
- Have health tests been performed on the parents?
- How long have you been breeding? What is your experience with this breed?
- How do you socialize your pets?
- Are the pets up-to-date on vaccinations?
- Do you provide a health guarantee and a contract?
- When will you be able to take the pet home?
- How can we contact you after picking up the pet?
- What requirements do you have for people looking to get one of your pets?
- Ask for references from other happy pet parents.
Click here to read more about each question.
What are some red flags people should look for?
When you are asking your questions, take notes and look for red flags. According to eriepuppymillawareness.org, there are some red flags you should be aware of when you are shopping for a pet.
- Stay away from buying purebred pets at pet stores. Most large pet stores like PetSmart only offer adoptable animals from shelters but there are still some pet stores that have that cute little doggie in the window. Reputable breeders want to meet their potential pet parents and pet stores are notorious for offering puppy mill puppies.
- If a breeder won't let you meet the parent(s) or show you where they live, take note. Tiffani won't allow people to come to her home but she still offers video chat.
- The breeder doesn't offer genetic testing on parents or a vet record with the pet. Click here for a list of genetic testing available by breed.
- The breeder won't offer a health contract or ask that the pet come back to them in the event that you can no longer keep the pet.
- The puppies are offered for sale or delivery before they are 8 weeks old. Fun fact, it's illegal to sell a dog before it's 8-weeks-old in the state of Indiana. You can offer pre-adoption but puppies learn socialization skills from their mothers in the later weeks of life.
- The animals seem sick or poorly cared for.
- The breeder always has multiple puppies and different breeds of puppies available.
- A super cheap pet that should be expensive. If your breeder is doing everything they should to produce quality, healthy animals, the price will reflect that.
- See MORE red flags here.
What are some ways people who want to purchase a quality dog can go about finding a reputable breeder?
It can be really hard to find reputable breeders but luckily there are some great resources at your fingertips.
- Good Dog is on a mission to connect good with good and improve canine health at both an individual dog and a population level. In that pursuit, we have sought out and worked with some of the top academics and practitioners in the field to develop community standards, which are grounded in evidence-based research and backed by science. While there is no “one size fits all” for what makes a breeding program responsible, we are able to use our community standards to evaluate programs consistently. Every member of our community must pass our screening process and meet or exceed our community standards before joining Good Dog.
- Your vet could be a wealth of information on the care and quality of well-bred puppies in your area.
- Those who show strive for the best confirmation. They can steer you in the right direction of the best breeders.
- There's literally a Facebook group for everything. And people LOVE to give advice and recommendations. Learn from their mistakes and be ready to take some helpful advice.