For the record, Web-DVM favors rescuing animals in need of homes when one wishes to adopt a family pet. This is as simple as going down to the local animal shelter and picking one out, or if one is bent on a pure bred dog, rescue organizations for virtually any breed are usually easy to find through simple key word internet searches, or asking local veterinay clinics or rescue groups. Having stated our position, if you still feel differenently an very much want to still purchase an dog or cat, please read this page thoroughly and let it serve as a template to guide you through your search for a pure bred pet, helping you to weed out good sources for these animals from the bad.
As a general rule, pet stores are a lousy choice for dogs and cats. These puppies and kittens often come from dirty, cruel rearing farms that practice unscrupulous in-breeding. Therefore, generally speaking, it is preferable to purchase through a dog or cat breeder. However, realize that anyone can call oneself a breeder, and that any canine or feline breeder can be just as bad as any puppy/kitten mill, both in terms of animal wellfare, and genetic quality of pets.
So, you have decided to pursue obtaining a purebred dog or cat from a breeder. How do you now differentiate a good breeder from a bad one? The first important tip is to not even look at the puppies or kittens the breeder has to offer until you investigate further. The reason for this is that animal lovers have such big hearts, and as soon as they gaze upon all the little furry babies, they will come home with one or more, no matter how bad a breeder may be. They immediately fall in love, not accepting any other position then to “rescue” the poor babies.
To some degree, this is true. What animal lover can leave these animals in the clutches of a backyard breeder, or left to be adopted by less than honorable people? Many have experienced this predicament/moral dilema. However, by doing this, we need to realize that we contribute to the propagation of these breeders, continually giving them license to pump out litter after litter of unhealthy and/or unhygienic puppies or kittens. For this reason, meet the breeder only and resist the temptation to see ANY animals until you ask the important questions.
By asking questions, asking the breeder to provide “papers” is not one of them. So many prospective canine/feline pure bred buyers make the erroneous assumption that, because a pet comes complete with a pedigree, then it MUST be of good quality, and come from a respectable facility. WRONG! Please realize that ANY dog or cat can get AKC registered and issued “papers.” AKC doesn’t care what a breeding operation looks like, or if the lines are pure and/or of good quality. All they care about is their registration money.
Here are the most inportant questions and documentation you need to ask for and demand, before purchasing a pet:
1.) How old are the sire (tom) and bitch (queen)?
The reason this is an important question is because many congenital diseases are not severe enough to show clinical signs until 2 years of age. These diseases can be structural or systemic and include: abnormalities of the skeletal system, cardiac disease, autoimmune disease, and allergies, among many others. Many do not rear their ugly heads until two years of age or even older. It is, therefore, a big mistake to purchase a puppy or kitten from parents that were bred before 2 years of age.
2.) Are the sire (tom) and bitch (queen) OFA certified?
OFA stands for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. With regard to the skeletal system, becoming OFA certified for a particular bone/joint system, means that x-rays of the utmost quality were taken, and the x-rays passed the scrutiny of a board certified radiologist. This guarantees that a given pet does not have clinical or subclinial signs of common congenital orthopedic diseases. OFA certification cannot be obtained until a pet is 2 years of age, for reasons listed in question 1.). OFA used to apply only to the skeletal system, but now has extended into certifying the heart, thyroid, and more, through ultrasound and blood testing.
Basically, the more systems of the parents that are OFA certified, the better the likelihood that their offspring will be free of congenital disease. At a bare minimum, all breeding large dogs should be OFA certified for their hips amd elbows, due to the prevalence of hip and hip dysplasia in these breeds. All breeding small dogs and cats should be OFA certified for hips and patellas, due to incidence of hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. If you are purchasing a Persian cat, the tom and queen should be OFA certified for shoulders, hip and knees, as Persians are commonly genetically (often severely) orthopedically compromised. And again, the more systems OFA certified, the more likely responsible a breeder, the more likely that you are buying a healthy pet.
OFA now even has DNA testing for many other breed specific genetic diseases. For more info on this and more, refer to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Website.
Avoid ANY breeder that does not have their breeding animals OFA certified.
3.) Have the puppies or kittens been examined by a veterinarian and given a clean bill of health?
Based in Florida, Web-DVM cannot vouch for any other States, but Florida state law dictates that no animal is to be sold before a veterinarian issues a USDA health inspection certificate. This means that the animals have been seen and examined by a vet, and deemed healthy. Even if it is not law in your state, you should not ever purchase a puppy or kitten that does not have this.
Also, don’t accept just the breeder’s word that the puppy/kitten has been seen by a vet. If this is true, and the animal passed a veterinarian’s scrutiny, then the breeder should have the proper USDA form in hand.
4.) Are the parents of the puppies/kittens aggressive, skittish, or excessively nervous; or are they well adjusted,
playful and docile?
Any good, scrupulous breeder should not just be breeding to increase the physical quality of a breed, but for the sake of the animal and the people that adopt them (and the vets that have to treat them), they should also be gearing their breeding toward mental stability. To this end, even if an animal is an impecable physical specimen, it should not be bred if showing any signs of aggression, skittishness, or nervousness, as these traits are passed on to the offsrping. Even if they are not apparent as little babies, bad mental traits commonly arise later on during the developmental stages.
You can ask the breeder this question and hope their response is truthful, but the only way to know for sure is to meet and greet the sire (tom) and bitch (queen) personally for yourself. Any signs of these bad mental traits in the breeding animals means that the offspring could end up like them, and that the breeder is not doing the right thing by breeding them. Aggressive or excessively nervous dogs can be a danger to people, especially children.
Finally, our last tip really has nothing to do with breeders, but more on your selection of pet. Be smart and don’t go paying for crossbreeds. By this, I mean yorkiepoos (yorkie/mini poodle cross), maltipoos (maltese/poodle cross), labradoodles (labrador retriever/standard poodle cross), there is even a shih tzu, maltese, poodle three way cross called a teddy bear . . . the list goes on. Sure these crosses make good dogs, but remember, THEY ARE NOT BREEDS. What amazes is truly incredible is that people are paying several hundred dollars to over $1000 for some of these dogs. The amazing thing about it is that when you purchase one of these crosses, you are basically buying a mutt. Mutts make great pets, but why pay all that money, when you can go down to the local shelter and pick out a mutt for free. You even have a good chance of finding these crosses.
It is almost comical when people bring these dogs in to the vet and they are so very excited by their new and novel “breed” of dog. When they are told that they just paid $800 for a mutt, they proceed to whip out the pedigree to prove that the dog is what the breeder said. In essence, not only have they purchased a mutt, but they have the papers to prove it!
Follow the guidelines discussed in this article, and you give yourself the best chance of adopting a healthy pet, while helping to weed out the bad breeders from the good.