POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 22, 2011
With media attention focused on puppy mills, what might be missed in the discussion is the important role reputable breeders play in providing potential pet owners with healthy, well-tempered, purebred animals.
To clarify, there is a difference between a hobby and commercial breeder. A hobby breeder has litters infrequently (one to two per year) and sells directly to the potential pet owner. A commercial breeder has multiple litters born a year and sells animals wholesale through the Internet, swap meets and pet stores — and in Hawaii can operate unlicensed with virtually no oversight.
Researching a breeder is an effective way to find out if a breeder is reputable. Reputable breeders are breed experts, ask people many questions and may request to visit the potential pet owner's home. This is because reputable breeders care about where their animals end up and want to ensure a lifelong commitment to the animal. Reputable breeders also encourage visits to their home to see the living conditions of their animals and to meet the animal's parents and littermates.
Reputable breeders make no direct profit because proceeds from the sales of any pets go right back into taking care of other animals. This includes voluntary health testing, veterinarian care, training and maintaining affiliations with national animal clubs. Some breeders compete in confirmation and performance events, demonstrating to the public the health, temperament and appearance of their animals.
Giving potential animal owners the chance to select a pet to fit a family's lifestyle is a responsibility reputable breeders take seriously. Reputable breeders require people to sign contracts with stipulations to spay/neuter the animal and return the animal if they are unable to keep the pet.
Most reputable breeders also belong to breed clubs with national affiliations. The nonprofit Boxer Club of Hawaii is just one of more than 50 animal clubs in Hawaii providing animal outreach services.
To accomplish this goal, the club organizes no-cost seminars on Boxer-related health issues, disaster preparedness and canine first-aid. Representatives go to the American Boxer Club national shows to learn about breed developments, which are then shared. Members also assist with animal rehomings, resources for boarding, dog transport, training advice and other Boxer-related issues.
As a reputable breeder and animal-protection advocate, I support laws that hold breeders accountable. Earlier this year, I testified in favor of Senate Bill 1522, a measure to license and regulate commercial breeders who sell more than 25 dogs a year (or who have more than 20 unsterilized females or 30 unsterilized dogs). This bill would not affect small-scale hobby breeders.
I also supported House Bill 243, which would have required pet stores to sell only altered/sterilized cats and dogs. This policy is crucial to controlling animal overpopulation and would not affect reputable breeders who would never sell animals through a pet store.
Magazines such as Ilio, Hawaii Pet Magazine and Island Dog Magazine contain information for breed clubs, many of which provide educational materials on how to identify a reputable breeder.
There are many options when looking for a family pet. Adopting from an animal shelter is an admirable decision and provides a home to an animal that desperately needs it. Breed clubs are another source to help the community when looking for a specific pet with a preferred behavior and appearance.
Pet owners, the community and our animals are best served when animal protection agencies and reputable breeders work together.