DEAR DIDI: I keep hearing the term “backyard breeder”. What exactly does this mean? -Grandma in Manteca
DEAR GRANDMA: This is touching on one of my biggest pet peeves in the dog world. If proper statistics were even possible to keep from all the private dog rescues, non-profit rescue groups, good Samaritans and city shelters, we would likely find that hundreds of thousands of dogs are in need of a home each year in the state of California alone. The worst part is that this is completely preventable.
The internet has helped backyard breeders and puppy mills proliferate and exacerbate the canine homeless problem. Puppy mills, which equally contribute to the problem, are illegal and Animal Control can do something about them. Puppy mills produce hundreds of animals in a mass production, warehouse type environment. A percentage of their animals are frequently sick or dying due to unhealthy living conditions and cramped quarters. Crates and crates of animals are stacked upon each other and cleaning of feces and urine is not a priority. They are just a production line of dogs.
Backyard breeders span a wide variety of situations. Backyard breeders are people that allow dogs to reproduce without any education, knowledge, or concern about the genetic disposition of the animals. The term covers people who have two dogs and make money from selling their puppies, to the reputable family that allows their dog to “have just one litter”. Either way, we now have up to 14 more puppies that need to find homes. They may have health or genetic issues because the owner didn’t realize that their dog was a carrier of a defect but just didn’t actually have the issue. Color and cuteness is never an excuse for breeding and should never be the main reason for someone to purchase a dog.
Dogs are still considered “property” under the eyes of the law. No different than your cell phone or refrigerator. Therefore, letting your dog breed is not punishable by law. The term backyard breeder is said with some form of disgust because of the implications and impact on the homeless canine situation. If we truly want to do something about dogs needing homes we need to create oversight on breeders. There needs to be licensing and repercussions for allowing it to happen. As long as people can let two dogs procreate and sell each puppy for $200 they will continue to do it. In their minds, no expenses, no effort and $2000 of income if there are 10 puppies in the litter. You can help by not purchasing from these people! Yes, some puppies will not have homes in the short term, but if there is no profit in it, they won’t do it again. By buying their puppies you ensure that the dog will be pregnant again in her next heat!
Backyard breeders aren’t careful about the genetics of animal temperament, so now we have thousands of dogs that are not stable minded and solid. Dog bites and other aggressive behaviors are on the rise. Some dogs are incapable of being potty trained. Others are so nervous they become destructive if left alone for even a few minutes. Owners must then make very hard decisions about what to do with that puppy/dog they thought would be the loving companion they imagined from dog food commercials but in reality are impossible to live with. Talk to your representatives. Let’s start a movement to cut this problem at its source instead of running around trying to save all the dogs that backyard breeders produce.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.