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TIPS ON PUPPY BUYING

NAVIGATING THE PUPPY MARKET WITH 2006 TOOLS AND AVOIDING PITFALLS

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As two households in our dog-loving family are now without dogs and one has recently acquired one over the Internet, it seems timely to give you all some background on the vastly changed pet market as it has evolved since the last generation of family dogs were puppies a dozen years ago. Pets are a huge business in the USA, a business which has been expanding exponentially in recent years. The demand for family dogs is enormous. Legitimate breeders of purebreds cannot begin to fill this demand. The combination of the post 9/11 need for comfort with the Internet and the rise of the chain pet warehouse stores and Animal Planet has driven the pet market to a frenzy of activity and attracted a bell curve of pet sellers, ranging from squalor through exquisite to outright piracy. As we want to stay at the top of the bell curve, I shall try to navigate the curve for you, so that you can avoid the ignorant and/or unscrupulous and point out some changes in the animal markets. Although I have a well known preference for purebred dogs, I love all dogs. What bothers me is the hype, misrepresentation and dishonesty in a process that has at it very core, the heartstrings of nice families. Whether you are looking for a purebred or a pound puppy, the dog buying decision should be based in fact. A dog, after all, is a family member who will be with you for a dozen years or more. Don’t be put off by a long list of pitfalls here. In any enterprise where large amounts of money meet the public, there are going to be pirates and, these days, hype-hype-hype.

 

The major areas of change that you will find if you start to look for a new dog will be:

 

The Impact of the Internet and using the Web constructively

The Animal Shelter Supply Crisis and Petfinders.com

Imported Shelter Dogs

Hurricane Katrina Refugees

The “Designer Dog” Phenomenon

 

The traditional sources around for many years still apply also:

 

The Responsible, Knowledgeable breeder

Breed Rescues

The Backyard Breeder

The Pet Shop, selling dogs produced by commercial breeders

Shelters

 

The Internet:

 

The Internet has revolutionized the pet market as it has all forms of commerce. Most people now at least partially shop for a new pet online. This has caused a major identity crisis in the dog world, and given rise to a whole new type of dealer: the Internet Puppy Mill. The difference between a responsible breeder and a commercial breeder used to be easy to determine. Legitimate breeders sold retail one dog at a time with contact through networking and commercial breeders sold wholesale to pet shops, often through brokers. Backyard Breeders sold retail locally, claiming their puppies “family raised” in newspaper classified ads. The Internet has made it possible for anybody to sell retail directly to the public which easily confuses the pet buyer who can’t tell the difference between a professional commercial breeder or puppy mill website and the site of a responsible breeder. E-bay even further confuses and already chaotic market scene by also giving backyard breeders access to the Internet, making them very small puppy mills. Have a look at the following websites, which are Internet commercial breeder/puppy mills for breeds often sold on the Web, the German Shepherd, the Chihuahua and the Bulldog, as examples of sites that can confuse pet buyers:

 

http://bulldogally.com/home

http://tiny.azpuppies.com/

http://www.leerburg.com/

 

 

 

The differences between the knowledgeable/responsible and commercial breeder/puppy mill, as they appear on the web, are multiple and subtle. A dog person can tell the difference instantly, but most potential pet buyers cannot. Not all of any type of breeder will have all the characteristics below all of the time, which is what makes identifying them tricky for the pet buyer.

 

Dog breeding is a science and an art form, and it takes a large measure of both to produce a really fine specimen of any breed. The single identifying factor that makes a good breeder standout, therefore, is the quality and condition of the adult dogs in the kennel. Regardless of the age of dog the buyer is seeking at the moment, it is the adult dog which will be part of the family for many years. For these reasons, the adult dogs in a kennel should be evaluated carefully before the buyer even begins to look at puppies.

 

BREEDER CHARACTERISTICS ONLINE: KNOWLEDGEABLE vs COMMERCIAL vs PUPPY MILL

 

>>The adults from a good breeder are beautiful versions of the breed in good health and condition. The Puppy Mill adults, if you see them at all, are of inferior quality. Puppy Mill Websites focus on puppies often with minimal or no reference to adult dogs at all. Responsible breeders concentrate on the accomplishments of adult dogs, often in multiple venues, such as the show ring, performance, and therapy.

 

>> A responsible breeder’s motivations are passion and excellence. Commercial Breeders are running a business and are driven by profit. Commercial breeders can be professional and knowledgeable and/or they can take significant shortcuts to save on expenses while maximizing profit, which negatively impacts the quality of puppies provided to the public. To me, the number and degree of the shortcuts help identify the differences between a good breeder, a professional commercial breeder and a puppy mill. The shortcuts to most watch for are the quality of the adult breeding stock; the breeding practices; the appropriate health screenings for both adults and puppies; puppy rearing environments; how puppy buyers are pre-screened and the breeder’s ethics particularly after the sale. The squalor often associated with the term “puppy mill” is not on my list here, because it is not going to show up on a website. A puppy worth a couple of thousand dollars is presented online by a puppy mill sparkly clean and cute to enhance its value.

 

>>To make a profit, a Commercial Kennel or Puppy Mill has to breed at high volume. Be suspect of a website that routinely lists many puppies and puppies with different birthdates available at the same time and has puppies available all through the year with extra large numbers for holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Also be wary of a breeder with multiple breeds or puppies born at multiple locations, especially if other for-profit elements are present. Volume is only one factor and not always possible to identify with only one or two visits to a website. Numbers by themselves do not tell the buyer what is excessive. Look beyond volume for other characteristics to be sure.

 

>>To make a profit, Puppy mills sell puppies at or above the price responsible breeders will charge for them. It is up to the buyer to know what a fair price for a puppy is. Puppy prices and information on deposits are prominently featured on Puppy Mill websites. Some Puppy Mills take credit cards and or PAYPAL. Legitimate breeders don’t list prices on their websites. The sale of a puppy for them involves personal contact.

 

>>Puppy Mill websites are always right up to date and tend to look very smart. The photography will be first class and the site focuses on the cuteness of the puppies with seasonal accessories such as Christmas ornaments or Valentine hearts. Each puppy will have a cute name and the site will use familiar rather than registered names of the parents. A beautiful website can easily distract a buyer from the important issues of puppy quality and health.

 

>>Kennel websites may discuss how puppies are raised. Knowledgeable breeders raise puppies according to sound developmental principals, providing the correct environment for each developmental stage during the critical early weeks of life when puppies are still with their littermates. There are periods when the puppies are challenged and other times when they access to them is restricted, all according to what is appropriate for each growth stage (Rule of 7’s, for example-- see note #2 below). During these weeks, the good breeder studies puppy personality for the purpose of matching each individual with the right family. This is a very different process from a puppy mill breeder who does not spend quality time with puppies or create a quality environment during the early weeks and also radically different from a breeder who gives the kids unlimited access to a young litter and calls them “family raised”, which is not quality time at all.

 

>>Knowledgeable breeders place puppies at the correct developmental age for that breed and each individual puppy. There is a range here in accepted practices from as early as 8 weeks for a retriever to 9-11 weeks for a Collie to 12 weeks and older for a toy breed. Not all the individual puppies in a litter may be developmentally ready to leave for new homes at the same time. Puppy Mills place puppies as early as possible regardless of breed and individual readiness.

 

>>Both Knowledgeable responsible breeders and puppy mills will claim expertise and experience on their websites. Both may offer breed history, testimonials and FAQ’s. This is an area of extreme confusion for pet buyers.

 

>>Puppy Mill Breeders operate in isolation from the community of their breed, though they may be connected to other puppy mills through marketing groups (all bulldogs: http://www.puppydogweb.com/breeders/bulldog.htm or multiple breeds: http://www.puppydogweb.com/kennels/kennels.htm).

 

Responsible Breeders operate with close connections to the communities of their breeds. Look for memberships and participation in dog events, dog clubs, canine health foundations, breeder associations, and therapy organizations and links to National Breed Clubs and health foundations as signs of a fully engaged breeder. (see note #4)

 

>>Responsible breeders screen potential puppy buyers carefully and require that the buyer visit the kennel or be checked out by a knowledgeable representative of the breeder. I routinely do home visits for breeder friends who are negotiating to place dogs close to me. Puppy Mills will sell to anybody who can pay the price, usually on a first come-first-served basis.

 

>> Puppy Mills routinely ship to the buyer at the buyer’s expense and shipping info is featured on the website.

 

>>Puppy Mills often use imported dogs and foreign or obscure registrations. They will claim they do this because imported dogs are superior, but actually, the dogs are cheaper and/or available to people to whom a good US breeder will not sell a dog. As the price of purebred puppies has risen, it has become profitable to import puppies, in spite of shipping costs, from places such as Russia for sale to American buyers, and kennel oversight has caused puppy mill breeders to leave the AKC and create their own registries. Responsible Breeders use American Kennel Club registrations for all stock.

 

>>Responsible breeders will sell all companion puppies on AKC Limited Registrations with spay-neuter contracts and a good one will take the dog back at any time during the lifetime of the dog. Responsible breeders will follow-up on dogs that they place and be available to answer owner questions. The closer the breeder is to the buyer, the more effective this mentoring can be. Puppy Mills tend to offer warranties rather like what one would get when buying a toaster.

 

>>Puppy Mill breeders will offer show puppies at a greater price. Responsible breeders will not offer show puppies to the general public on a website at all, because they know how rare a true show puppy is and the considerable resources it takes to raise one. They will only make show dogs available to proven people privately and then only with complex detailed show contracts specifying buyer’s responsibilities to dog. Dog Showing is a complex sport. New people need a great deal of help to get started in it. Responsible breeders know this and plan to stay closely involved with any show dog that they place.

 

>>Puppy Mills tend to cluster in states without much enforcement of legislated kennel standards and with economies with large agricultural components such as Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, the St Louis-area of Missouri and neighboring Illinois, Oklahoma, Arizona, the Carolinas and the upper Midwest, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc. Responsible breeders are spread out fairly evenly across the country. Families who live near canine commercial breeder centers find it even more difficult to tell a legitimate breeder from a puppy mill.

 

 

Smart Shopping On The Internet:

There is a safe Internet shopping route, however, that can lead you through the quagmire:

1. Use the Internet only for your initial browsing. Once you start to narrow down your search to a specific breed and read the background information on that breed, get off the computer and start using the phone and in-person contact and get some expert advice. There is most likely something available within a reasonable time close to home in any breed you might choose where you can easily get follow-up mentoring for the life of the dog. Start serious shopping close and widen the search geographically gradually.

2. Do not start your computer shopping by googling a breed’s name. Google will highlight website construction and marketing skills rather than dog breeding excellence. The American Kennel Club has the best concentration of high quality information available all in one place, so start your browsing at AKC.ORG. Click on “Breeds” on the homepage, which will bring up a wealth of information:

 

Breeds by Name

Breeds by Group

Complete Breed List

FSS Breeds

Breed Contacts

National Breed Club

Breeder Referral

Breeder Classifieds

Breed Rescue

More Links

AKC Magazines

 

Next click on either breeds by name which will bring up an alphabetical list; or breeds by group which will bring up lists of breeds by original job description: Sporting (hunting dogs), Working (draft and guard dogs), Hounds (scent and sight), Herding, Terrier, Toy, and Non-sporting (this is a catch all miscellaneous group that contains a mixture). Click on the drawing of the dog you would like to see on either list and that will bring up a page containing the breed standard, a photo gallery and a video with links to the national breed club for that breed.

 

The National Breed Club for each breed is charged with maintaining standard and the health and welfare of each breed, and it is the epicenter of wisdom about the breed. The National Breed Club maintains facts about the breed and the code of ethics for the membership, all of which you can read on its website. The National Breed Club should be the next stop as you browse and through its links, you can move to local contacts in your area.

 

This is about as far as it is advisable to go with the Internet. Turn off the computer and pick up the phone to start networking.

 

 

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The Animal Shelter Supply Crisis

 

The huge demand for dogs and the Internet impact shelters and rescues as well as the purebred puppy market. There is a ton of hype around about the huge number of excess animals in shelters. Actually, there are no solid census figures and the Animal Rights Activist Community is quite creative in making this stuff up. Here in the Northeast particularly, people tend to take good care of their pets so there is actually a scarcity of good family dogs of the right age and size and of stable temperament as strays for shelters and rescues, compared with other parts of the country. There is nothing wrong with a mix from a shelter, but there are a couple of pitfalls to watch out for. To supply the demand there are a couple of major strategies to be aware of: the naming of mixes for the purpose of curb appeal and imported dogs.

 

Naming: There are essentially two types of shelters: city/town shelters and private shelters. Many of the dogs in municipal shelters are mixed breeds of uncertain parentage. To give these dogs curb appeal, the shelters list them as combinations of various purebreds that sound attractive to pet shoppers. Some of these misnomers are almost criminal in that they hide aggressive components which potential adopters should know about. The most common curb appeal name-of-convenience is “lab mixes” which are often black Pit Bull, German Shepherd or Rottweiler mixes. True Collie mixes are, in reality, extremely rare especially in densely populated areas, and a real Collie mix does not have the characteristic “Lassie” white markings. Often, shelter dogs that are called Collie mixes are Akita mixes. Many shelter dogs are listed on the online shelter resource, PETFINDERS.COM. If you have a question about a mix, send me the URL and I’ll have a look at the photo and tell you if the naming is accurate or if there might be some hidden risk.

 

Importing: The other major strategy used by shelters to fulfill the demand for family dogs is the importing of dogs from other parts of the US, particularly the South, or from offshore places such as Puerto Rico, often by private shelters. Many of these dogs are young puppies. These shelters often bill themselves as no-kill shelters, which they can afford to do because they are highly selective about what they accept. Here in metro NYC, the most well known of these shelters is The North Shore Animal League on Long Island and the Mt. Pleasant shelter here in NJ is similar. The first thing to know about the young puppies from shelters such as North Shore is that they are not all legitimate strays. They are purposely produced for this market and the shelter is essentially an animal dealer. Sentiment here is used as a marketing tool to attract the pet shopping public. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting a shelter puppy from any place, but cut through the save-the-puppy hype and look at the puppy rationally on its own merits. Shelters such as North Shore use Petfinders.com with photos of very cute puppies, but with a disclaimer that the pictured puppy may not still be available. This is the same marketing strategy the car dealers use in their advertising to get the customer in the door--- a bait and switch, as it were.

 

The second and most important thing to be aware of is that these shelters have been experimenting with a practice called infantile neutering where puppies and kittens are fixed at just a few weeks of age. I have seen numerous cases of urinary incontinence from this practice and the practice can influence how a puppy grows. If you are thinking of a puppy from a shelter like this, consult with your own vet about infantile neutering first; negotiate an alternate neutering schedule with the shelter; and never give a second look to a puppy who pees on the floor, especially in excitement. This is true, by the way, of any puppy or adult dog from any source by the way—just don’t go there.

 

Petfinders.com (http://www.petfinder.com/) has given the pet shopper direct online access to available dogs without visiting a shelter. Dogs of all ages, sizes, and varieties are listed there with photos and contact information for a mixture of shelters, private individuals and different types of rescues. The name-of-convenience game detailed above is played on Petfinders with great creativity. In numerous visits to the site, I have never found more than 1 or 2 in each group of 25 dogs listed as Collie Mixes actually had any Collie at all. Many of the organizations listed are hardworking legitimate shelters and rescues, but there are camouflaged animal dealers mixed in. With “adoption” fees running to $300. and more, it is profitable to start a backyard rescue.

 

As with purebred websites, it is very easy to make claims on site such as Petfinders that are difficult or impossible to substantiate. Claims and/or hype range from sad stories, heroic stories to abuse stories and the information about the dogs may not be accurate. Unless a puppy, a dog’s age as well as the breeds in the mix is often not what is claimed. It is not uncommon for a dog to be quite a bit older than what is claimed. The Bischon Frise, for example, is a breed that lives a very long time and, therefore, has a long old age. Old Bischons and Bischon mixes are often abandoned because of age issues, and because they are white, the old age does not show as easily as in a dog of another color.

 

Eventually the online shopper will meet the prospective dog(s) in person. At that point the dog needs to be evaluated on merit without undue influence of the claims—whatever they are. Snappiness or aggressiveness with people or other dogs, extreme shyness or fearfulness, peeing on the floor in excitement or general housebreaking issues, and separation anxiety are all problems that are very difficult if not impossible for pet owners to solve regardless of the dog’s history or the person’s good intentions. Choose something happy and outgoing and friendly which is a manageable size for your family for the best possible dog owning experience.

 

Hurricane Katrina added a whole new dimension to the shelter situation in 2005. Literally thousands of animals were rescued along the Gulf Coast, far in excess of the area’s limited resources. These animals have been dispersed all over the country for adoption now that the chance of ever getting them back to their original owners has faded. If you are thinking about adopting a Katrina Refugee, don’t take the kids shopping with you. Have your own thorough vet check done before ever taking a dog home where the family will bond with it. Heartworm has long been endemic in the Deep South along with other serious diseases, and the animals were exposed to some very nasty stuff as a result of the hurricanes.

 

 

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The Designer Dog Phenomenon

 

There are always types of pets, especially dogs, that become trendy for one reason or another—because they appear in films such as 101 Dalmatians’ or Lassie or because people think that a certain breed will be easy and not have domestic impact. The single most important thing about finding a match between dog and family is temperament. People who choose trendiness or perceived domestic impact over temperament can all-too-easily get mismatches, which causes heartache for them and a lot of work for rescue. The current most trendy dogs raise the misrepresentation bar to a whole new level. While there are always trendy purebreds, the current dog du jour is the Designer Dog, which is an intentional mix of two or more purebreds, one of which is usually Poodle. To sketch out the nomenclature: if the Poodle component of a mix is a Toy Poodle, the mix is a “Poo”. If the Poodle component is a Miniature or Standard, the mix is an “Oodle” or “Doodle”. The names get very silly sounding as you might imagine.

 

Intentional mixes have actually been around for a long time. The original was probably the Cockapoo and there have been many others especially toy sizes initially produced accidentally, later intentionally by commercial breeders and sold in pet shops. The recent history that kicked off the current trend of larger Designer Dogs started in Australia as a legitimate attempt to breed an improved guide dog for the blind by crossing the Standard Poodle with the Labrador Retriever. The Labradoodle was not successful as a guide dog because the mix was physically inconsistent and because the temperaments did not lend themselves to guide dog training. The resulting marketing caused a proliferation of oodles of Doodles all over the civilized world.

 

There is a common list of marketing misrepresentations about Doodles, Poos and other intentional mixes as superior and sometimes “perfect”, dogs some of which are:

 

Claim: They are Designer Dogs

Truth: This is clever marketing, as most folks tend to think of anything “designer” as high end

and produced with the finest skill, creativity and materials. The only designer element in

the term Designer Dog is the marketing expertise—not the dog at all.

 

Claim: They are brand new “breeds”.

Truth: They are not breeds at all; they are mixes. Becoming a breed is a long complex process

involving scientific breeding and record keeping over time to produce a consistent,

predictable result. Doodle-poos do not breed true as a purebred must, and the people producing them have not even begun the process of founding a studbook for them.

 

Claim: They will soon be registered by the American Kennel Club.

Truth: Until the above criteria are met, neither AKC nor UKC (United Kennel Club) will ever

register Doodles as purebreds.

UKC has always had a registration for mixes who wish to compete in UKC performance events.

 

Claim: They are produced because they are superior.

Truth: They are produced because they are profitable. Designer Dogs are often priced at

twice the price of either of the purebred parents.

 

Claim: They are better than either of the breeds making up the mix.

Truth: Quality of offspring is directly related to the quality of the parents. As doodles are not

produced using the best individuals from each pure breed, they are not better at all.

People with high quality purebreds don’t cross them, and the retrievers and poodles are all grand dogs in their own right.

 

Claim: They have hybrid vigor.

Truth: Scientifically, hybrid vigor has two essential components: genetic diversity and selection

in which unsuccessful individuals are discarded from the breeding stock either by natural selection or selective breeding. The Doodle phenomenon eliminates selection so the principal does not apply.

 

Claim: All the health problems of the purebred parents are solved.

Truth: Breeds making up Doodles have similar health problems, so crossing them doesn’t

eliminate the problems. Using parents that are poor specimens of their breeds without proper health clearances makes the offspring more inclined to the health problems in both breeds in the mix than good quality purebreds of either breed.

 

Claim: They have a perfect temperament and don’t require training.

Truth: There is inconsistency here too, but Golden and Labra-Doodles, especially if the Poodle

part is Standard and even more so if the puppy is male, tend to be wild creatures with a slow development and very poor focus. This is a difficult to almost untrainable temperament, especially in the first 3 years as the dog grows up. The ones based on Miniature Poodles have a much more laid back temperament, and a double-back-min I met recently, where a min-goldendoodle was bred back to the miniature poodle, is a delightful dog, almost as nice as a purebred Min Poodle.

 

Claim: They don’t shed.

Truth: These mixes are not consistent. Some of them shed a lot and others don’t.

 

 

Claim: They have no domestic impact.

Truth: They have moderate to huge domestic impact depending on the size a of the poodle

component. Standard Doodles are large dogs that chew and crash around the house leaping on people, dig holes in the yard, and can be yappy. They tend to mud wallow and roll in unpleasant things and when wet smell doggy.

 

Claim: They require no maintenance.

Truth: They require lots of maintenance: professional clipping at a grooming shop every 6-8

weeks, ear cleaning, frequent bathing and routine brushing.

 

 

Claim: They are hypoallergenic.

Truth: Allergies are triggered by enzymes which are present in saliva most of all and to some

extent dander. Poodles are quite low on allergenic scales because their lips are tight

fitting and they have standing grooming appointments away from home, but retrievers are very high. Doodles are inconsistent in this regard also: some are serious allergy triggers; others are moderate triggers. The larger the doodle, the more potential allergy triggers there will be. Even a very moderately triggering Doodle will be more allergenic than one of the smaller Poodles. There is really no such thing as a non-allergenic dog because dogs go outside and bring stuff back with them Any allergic person should consult a physician before acquiring any pet, and a seriously allergic person with breathing difficulty symptoms should not own a dog at all.

 

Claim: They are cool looking in a grunge-chic sort of way.

Truth: This is true. Some of them are really cute to downright pretty—a Cockapoo whose

parents are a parti-coloured cocker and a white poodle, for example.

 

There is nothing wrong with acquiring one of these mixed breeds as long as the buyer is realistic about what is dog and what is marketing; and careful about what went into the mix. One should be aware of health issues with their appropriate screenings in the breeds that make up an intentional mix and evaluate the parents of a doodle or poo as individuals before looking at puppies, just as one should with a purebred. All purebreds have health concerns in their gene pools as do all mixes and generic dogs. The difference between the purebred and the others is not that mixes are healthier but rather that that we know more about the health issues of purebreds, because breeders have studied and identified them. Use the links on the AKC site to check health issues through the national breed club and/or health foundation of any purebred that makes up a mix you are considering. Some of the concerns to get you started that I have seen in doodles in my classes are: Be aware of things such as the age of the parents: a dog must be at least 2 years old before OFA will register an X-ray for hip or elbow dysplasia (http://www.offa.org/) which are concerns in both Retrievers and Poodles. If a litter’s parents are under two years of age, therefore, one cannot certify that they have sound structure. In addition to hips and elbows, check the tooth alignment of both parents and puppies, as malocclusion is a concern in poodles and affects the long term health of any dog. If you are considering a Cockapoo, evaluate the spaniel parent carefully for temperament. There are major issues with cockers that the responsible breeders have been working very hard to breed out: cataracts, submissive urination and nasty cocker syndrome. If either parent is snappy, walk away. Luxating patellas is a concern in toy breeds, and toys can be very difficult to housebreak. Retrievers can be prone to allergies, thyroid imbalance, epilepsy and heart problems. Some time spent on homework by the buyer can avoid lots of difficulties later.

 

 

Traditional Pitfalls:

 

 

With all the new characteristics of the pet market, the same old players are still around.

 

The Pet Shop: or mall or highway puppy store is still around and up to its old tricks. A common but not-widely–known pitfall here is that the puppy purchased as a purebred is either not a purebred at all or not the one the buyer thinks he is buying. Many small and toy breeds are hard to produce in commercial quantities, because they have very small litters and/or are delicate and/or are rare to begin with. Many breeds resemble eachother as young puppies. As pet shoppers usually don’t know the difference between breeds or mixes whose puppies look similar, it is very easy to cheat them. These shops have puppies that change breeds several times per day depending on what the customer requests. The same puppy will be a Maltese one minute and a Bischon Frise the next or a Havanese one moment and a Shih Tzu the next and actually be a white or spotted poodle cross or none of the above.

Some of the commercial breeders who supply pet shops are more professional and the puppy will be what the shop says it is. Hunte Corp is the most well known of these. Hunte puppies are microchipped and sold under AKC registrations so that, as long as the shop gives the buyer the puppy’s own registration, the buyer can be sure that the dog is the breed the paperwork says it is. The AKC requires DNA registration of breeding stock, and the DNA-- ID number of each parent will appear on a puppy’s AKC registration certificate. The unscrupulous pet shops and their puppy mill suppliers invent their own registries to get around AKC registration rules and AKC Kennel Standards. Imported puppies with foreign registrations are becoming more common in puppy shops as well. Even an AKC registration does not guarantee quality. It is up to the buyer to know how a high quality individual in his breed of choice should look and act both as an adult and as a puppy.

An exception the above comments on AKC registrations of puppy shop puppies is the Poodle. The three sizes of Poodle have a single standard, and so it is easy for the pet shop to substitute one variety’s puppy for another without having to fudge the paperwork. The difference is re-printed below in note #3.

 

Of course, the biggest problem with a pet shop puppy is that the buyer has no way of knowing anything about the puppy’s parents (in general quality, temperament and health) or the environment in which it was raised. All puppies are cute, but they grow up very quickly. A family looking for a dog should fall in love with the adults of the breed, rather than just puppies. The family’s new dog will only be a puppy for a short time, but it will be an adult for many years.

 

 

There is a general caveat emptor involved here beyond the caution that a puppy store is about the worst possible place to acquire a dog

 

KNOW WHAT THE PUPPIES OF THE BREED YOU WANT LOOK LIKE AND BUY AN AKC REGISTERED PUPPY

 

 

The Backyard Breeder:

 

People who are breeding a litter to recoup the price they paid for the parent or to give the family the experience of birth and puppy rearing can easily fall into the same bad habits as a puppy mill: they are using adults of inferior quality; they are shortcutting the health screenings; and they don’t really know what they are doing. Backyard breeders tend to advertise in newspaper classifieds or on E-Bay with as text such as:” cute puppies”; “family raised”; “parents on premises”, “paper trained”

 

 

Good Luck Good Hunting

 

Candy Wisnieski

Upper Montclair, New Jersey

January 2006

 

 

 

 

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<<Other Notes:

 

Footnote #1

 

TIPS FOR BUYING PETS ONLINE
from USA Today

>>Buyers should visit the breeder in person.

>>Obtain the names of and call people who have bought dogs from the breeder.

>>Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau in the area where the breeder is located.

>>Use one of the online escrow services to withhold some of the fee until the dog arrives and can

be checked by a veterinarian.

>>Study the contract, health guarantees and return policies posted on the breeder's Web site.

>>Obtain copies of the dog's veterinary records.

 

Also, CCW adds:

>>Know what you are buying.

>>Know the appropriate health screenings for what you are buying.

>>Know a fair price for what you are buying.

>>Be aware of Lemon Laws in the state where the pet is sold.

>>Verify any claims on a breeder website from several sources.

>>Read fine print in puppy contracts carefully. For example:

If a puppy is guaranteed for structure for 24 mos

from date of purchase, and OFA will not certify X-rays til 2 years of age, there will only be

a short period in which to get the dog’s X-rays certified before the warranty expires.

 

Many warrantees require that the dog be returned to the breeder in order for refunds to be paid—most families cannot part with the dog.

 

:

Footnote #2: One of the most commonly referenced developmental methods of early puppy socialization is the Rule of 7’s

The Rule of 7's  

By the time a puppy is seven weeks old he/she should have:
 

  • Been on 7 different types of surfaces:  carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl, grass, dirt, gravel, wood chips
  • Played with 7 different types of objects:  big balls, small balls, soft fabric toys, fuzzy toys, squeaky toys, paper of cardboard items, metal items, sticks or hose pieces
  • Been in 7 different locations:  front yard, back yard, basement, kitchen, car, garage, laundry room, bathroom
  • Met and played with 7 new people:  include children and older adults, someone walking with a cane or stick, someone in a wheelchair or walker
  • Been exposed to 7 challenges:  climb on a box, climb off a box, go  through a tunnel, climb steps, go down steps, climb over obstacles, play  hide and seek, in and out of a doorway with a step up or down, run around  a fence
  • Eaten from 7 different containers;  metal, plastic, cardboard, paper,  china, pie plate, frying pan
  • Eaten in 7 different locations:  crate, yard, kitchen, basement, laundry  room, living room, bathroom

 

Pat Schaap, Shenanigan Shetlands,
Clarksville, Maryland.

http://www.echowyn.com/Ruleof7.html

 Footnote #3

 

From the Official Standard of The Poodle at AKC.org (refers to adult dogs):

 

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size
The Standard Poodle is over 15 inches at the highest point of the shoulders. Any Poodle which is 15 inches or less in height shall be disqualified from competition as a Standard Poodle.

 The Miniature Poodle is 15 inches or under at the highest point of the shoulders, with a minimum height in excess of 10 inches. Any Poodle which is over 15 inches or is 10 inches or less at the highest point of the shoulders shall be disqualified from competition as a Miniature Poodle.

The Toy Poodle is 10 inches or under at the highest point of the shoulders. Any Poodle which is more than 10 inches at the highest point of the shoulders shall be disqualified from competition as a Toy Poodle

 

****************************************************************

 

Footnote #4:

 

An individual cannot have a membership in The American Kennel Club. The AKC is a central organization made up of a central administration and Board of Governors and delegates from member national breed clubs and local kennel clubs. The AKC maintains studbooks for purebred dogs, maintain rules for and supervises canine competitions; does kennel inspections; supports a health foundation, provides education to the public; and in general promotes the sport of purebred dogs.

 

 

 

References:

Background on lemon laws:

 

Hi Francine-- 

I do not understand Lemon Laws well enough, esp. as they apply here in the Northeast where states are small and it is common to have people cross state lines to buy puppies from all kinds of breeders.   If a family lives in NJ but buys a puppy in PA, CT or NY, which state's Lemon Law applies? 

 

Thanks

Candy

 

Candy: To answer your question, the Lemon Law of the state where the puppy was sold would apply.

                                                                                                Francine Toor, Atty At Law

 

**************************************************************************************************

 

Forwarded Message: from Joan Miller. Legislative liaison Cat Fanciers of America:

 

Subj:

USA Today article - PAWS 

 

Date:

12/5/2005 8:42:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

 

From:

JMillerArt

 

To:

cfa-list@yahoogroups.com

 

BCC:

AWisnieski

 

 

From the CFA Legislative Group

Appropriate forwarding is appreciated.

 

Fanciers;

 

In the Weekend Edition of "USA Today" Newspaper, December 4, 2005, there was an article about the PAWS bill - below.  It is the first article that has expressed some opposition in a public forum.  The Gannett News Service (owns USA Today) noticed the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) opposition ads in Roll Call publication on November 8th.  The PAWS bill is difficult for the media to understand, and the supporters continue to mislead the public/media and legislators as to what the legislation would do - this article suggests that PAWS provisions will rectify genetic disorders of dogs.  The Animal Welfare Act has to do with the environment of animals in commercial facilities and it assures minimum standards of care - the PAWS bill does not include husbandry matters, genetic soundness or behavioral issues. 

 

I was interviewed on behalf of CFA but I did not say "there are no kitty mills".  I did say that there are very few large commercial breeders selling cats either to the pet trade or directly to the public.  I said that the threshold established in the PAWS was arbitrary and based on what the dog fancy considered to be a "large volume" breeder and that it had no relevance in the cat fancy.  Cat breeders who raise 7 litters/year and/or sell 26 kittens may only own 4 or five breeding female cats since cats sometimes produce more than one litter per year depending on their heat cycles and what is determined to be best for their health.

 

The side bar, "Tips for Buying Pets Online", includes some good information. 

 

I stated to the reporter that the Internet actually helps to educate potential pet buyers as well as those who adopt from shelters or breed rescue groups.  Be aware of what we do offer to the public if you have the opportunity to talk with your Congressional members or their aides.  The CFA website has excellent guidance on selecting and buying a kitten - see the Cat Breeder Referral Service (CBRS) Welcome Page. (Breeder Referral left side button on the home page). 

 

http://cfa.org/cbrs.html

 

The Gannett News Service provides articles for many newspapers all over the country.  Let me know if this story is run in your local paper.  Please be ready for editorial responses and let us know of further media interest in the PAWS bill or in the topic of Internet selling of cats.

 

In between Christmas cards remember to send a short letter to your Senators and Representative asking them to NOT cosponsor PAWS or to withdraw their name if they are on the cosponsor list.  Instructions are on the CFA Website - PAWS Alert link.  A call or visit to your congressional members' local offices over the holidays would help also.

 

Joan Miller

CFA Legislative Coordinator

JMillerArt@aol.cm

**************************

<<

Bill aims to regulate online pet sales
By Bill Thoebald, Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — Thousands upon thousands of the cutest little puppies and kittens are just a mouse click away on the Internet.

Daniel Morris and his girlfriend, Tracy Lum, play with their pet bulldogs, China, left, and Bam Bam in their Martinez, Calif., home. (photo)By Kim Kulish, GNS

But sometimes what people see on their computer screen is not what ends up in their arms when the shipping crate arrives. Severely sick animals leave their new owners with awful choices: return the pet and possibly have it euthanized or pay thousands of dollars in veterinary bills.

Animal welfare groups say some large breeders, dubbed puppy mills, are exploiting animals and pet owners by using a loophole in federal law to avoid licensing and inspections by selling directly to the public. Now only breeders who sell at wholesale are subject to federal regulation.

An unusual menagerie of animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, and breed groups such as the American Kennel Club has united in support of legislation intended to plug the loophole.

Opponents — including many smaller breed groups, hunting dog enthusiasts and cat fanciers — say the problem the legislation is designed to remedy has been overblown. And the legislation is so poorly crafted, they argue, that it would virtually shut down small hobby breeders and animal rescue operations.
 

 An estimated 150,000 dogs are purchased through the Internet each year, according to a survey released this spring by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. No estimates are available for the total number of dogs purchased or adopted each year, but the survey found nearly 74 million dogs are kept as pets.

Daniel Morris, 30, of Martinez, Calif., fell in love with a bulldog puppy from a Missouri breeder while searching on puppyfind.com. He wanted a companion for China, a healthy bulldog he'd purchased for $1,800 over the Internet in 2003.

A few months after Bam Bam arrived this spring, Morris noticed that the dog's hips were popping out of joint. His veterinarian diagnosed hip dysplasia and blamed it on poor genetics, Morris said. Bam Bam, who cost $1,500, has had one $6,000 surgery and may need more.

Morris filed complaints against the breeder, Jessica Rutherford of Bruner, Mo. Her husband, Geoff, said his wife sells about 35 to 40 dogs a year. They have never had any other complaints, he said.

Geoff Rutherford said they offered to exchange Bam Bam for another dog but heard nothing.
"There is no way I could do that," Morris said. "We already had bonded with the dog."

The legislation, called the Pet Animal Welfare Statute of 2005, would require anyone who sells more than 25 dogs or cats in a year to be licensed whether they sell directly to the public or to a wholesaler.

The bill also would require dealers and pet stores to keep records of dog and cat sales and would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture greater enforcement authority.

The law is needed, proponents argue, because of horror stories like the scene authorities found this year at a Maine kennel that was selling puppies over the Internet. Police, who seized 119 dogs, said they found 2 inches of standing dog urine in some places in the home and thick feces covering the floor. A dog was found eating a dead puppy.

Many breeders are reputable, Norma Worley, director of Maine's animal welfare program, testified at a hearing last month on the PAWS legislation. "Unfortunately for every one of those lawful and ethical kennel owners, there are as many, if not more, who see the animals simply as a commodity and a way to make a quick buck," Worley said.

Conservative Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is the sponsor of the PAWS bill. A companion bill has been introduced in the House. Santorum's bill has attracted a who's who of co-sponsors in the Senate, including Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Republicans Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania also have signed on.

Santorum's spokesman, Robert Traynham, said the senator would probably try to move the legislation through the Senate Agriculture Committee next year.

One of the legislation's leading opponents, Bob Kane, founder of the Sportsmen's and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance, said the bill would subject all hunting-dog sellers and small rescue operations to federal licensing. The Cat Fanciers' Association also opposes the bill because the breeding limits were set based on dogs and not cats, and there are no kitty mills, said Joan Miller, chairwoman of the association's legislative committee.

Kane pointed out that although the number of Internet dog sales is large, it amounts to less than 0.5% of all dog acquisitions and that the large seizures of poorly treated dogs are anecdotes, not proof of a problem.

"There is no documented evidence that there is a problem here," Kane said. "People want to extend the reach of the federal government into people's personal lives."

>>

(Sidebar)

<<

TIPS FOR BUYING PETS ONLINE

Humane organizations say buyers should visit the breeder in person.

Obtain the names of and call people who have bought dogs from the breeder.

Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau in the area where the breeder is located.

Use one of the online escrow services to withhold some of the fee until the dog arrives and can be checked by a veterinarian.

Study the contract, health guarantees and return policies posted on the breeder's Web site.

 Obtain copies of the dog's veterinary records.

 Written by Candy Wisnieski,  Awisnieski@aol.com

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