Sunday, September 25, 2011

Breeders, My take on them

I know that I am supposed to try to be very PC (politically correct), but I am honest. It’s sometimes hard to be both. So when I question which side of the line to fall on, I always look deep down and ask myself, “what is best for my patients?” Because when it comes right down to it, that’s my job. To take care of your pets*, (I always add a little asterisk here because I also have to look out for my clients health and safety too, but short of that I am here to take care of your pets).
Today I thought I would throw in my two cents about breeders. If you look in the vet publications you will not find any veterinarians writing about this topic. Vets are viewed by the public as being well respected and having integrity, but I would add sometimes we are cowardly too. For too long we, the shepherds of care for animals, have let public opinion and prejudice decide whether or not we will take a stance. I challenge any vet to argue factory farming and puppy mills with me at anytime. 
I know a lot of clients who spend a lot of time researching breeders to find the pet they want to purchase. I have to admit that almost all of them come to me with their new pet and say that they “spent a long time researching the breeder before they purchased.” I will now admit that many of you with the best of intentions want to believe so badly that your breeder is fabulous, when in my opinion MOST of them are merely good at looking like they are what you already want them to be, great breeders. Now I will clarify and admit that I think most of these breeders truly care about their bitches/queens, etc., but MOST of the breeders I know do not bring their pets to the Veterinarian regularly. So when you go to purchase your next pet from a breeder I would recommend that you ask for references. Those references should be from an owner (preferably 3) who purchased a pet from their last litter, and the Veterinarian that the mom and dad go to for their annual physical examinations.  
Then when you call the vet(s) have these specific questions:
Introduce yourself first,
Ask the veterinarian if they would be willing to answer some questions about one of their clients because you are interested in purchasing one of their kittens or puppies, etc? Many will say "yes", but some will say "no". If they say "no", explain that you are trying to decide if they are good breeders/owners because you are interested in buying a pet from them. If they continue to say "no", then ask the vet if they will talk to you after the owner gives them permission to talk to you. Vets often don’t want to talk about clients without the owners’ consent. Any good client will happily give consent, and most Vets are upfront and honest. We Vets don’t want to be affiliated with bad breeders either. You can always ask the Vet or their staff members “If you were looking for this breed of pet would you buy one from this breeder?” that way you aren’t asking the Vet to say anything potentially hurtful about them, but you will get a straight answer.
When you talk to the Veterinarian try have specific “yes” or “no” questions ready. (Once again we don’t want to be accused of slander, so a "yes" or "no" is more comfortable for us to answer).
The specific questions that I think you should ask the Veterinarian are;
                Did this breeder bring the mother of this pup/kitten to you before breeding?
                Is this mother up to date on all of the vaccines that you recommend?
                Would you recommend this breeder to a family member?
                Do you feel that this breeder takes excellent care of their personal and breeding pets?
Do you feel that this breeder is providing all of the necessary care needed for happy healthy pets?
If they do not answer “yes” to all of these questions find a different breeder. I will admit that the further away from your home the breeder resides the more likely you are to not know the full story on your pet. Unless you have first-hand personal knowledge of them.
Ask the breeder to provide you with copies of the medical records of the parents of the pet you are thinking about purchasing.The “self-proclaimed wonderful breeders” are few and far between
I am also saddened to hear clients coming in to say “we got her from a puppy mill, once we saw her we couldn’t leave her there, we saved her.” To this I reply you saved her to have another poor puppy or kitten fill her shoes. These places will never stop unless they don’t have any customers to buy their “goods” any longer. The buck speaks louder than the law. “Don’t feed the greed” is the new catch phrase. I know it is hard and heart breaking to see an animal in deplorable conditions, but please don't purchase them, please report them to the appropraite authorities if you think an animal is being neglected, cramped, mis-treated,etc.
In closing, a great breeder invests about $1000 in each puppy, and $300- $500 in each kitten, if you aren’t paying double that then the breeder can’t cover their costs and they are skimping something somewhere.  For many it is a business, and they are in this business to make a profit. The pups and kittens are a product. There are some breeders in this business for the love of the breed. They will stand behind their pup/kitten and offer a full refund, (for any reason). They will also stand by you in the adjustment of having a new pet, allow you open access to their medical records, have any and all of the recommended tests done, (many breeds suffer from specific diseases which can be checked before they are breed, therefore lessening the chance that they will pass this disease onto their young), and you should never have one odd feeling or red flag when you meet them or see what their facility looks like.
I am also a huge advocate of adopting from a shelter. Most of the sweetest, gentlest, loving, healthy pets I have ever known were cast-aways. So please always shop at the shelter first. Then there is the whole shocking, cruel, unbelievable statistics of how many pets we euthanize every day of every month of every year. It is truly appalling how many people love animals and how many pets still die because we don’t have enough homes for them.

Sharing your life with a pet is one of the greatest joys of life. It is a big decision and a life-long committment. Do your due diligence in making a smart decision fro your lifestyle, your budget, and your beliefs. And as always, don't be afraid to ask your Vet for help. That's what we are here for, every step of the way.

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