Catahoula Issues » Shelters, Pet Shops & Puppy Mills  

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Shelters were started with the idea of getting unwanted, feral dogs off of the street for the health and safety of the public, and placing those lost and wandering specimens that displayed good temperaments into loving homes. A good idea gone awry! There was a time when shelters would examine a dog, not just to ensure its health, but to look deeply into the depths of the dog's attitude and temperament. After an examination and evaluation, a decision would be made as to whether this were a healthy specimen both in mind and body that could be in a family environment or one that should be destroyed; killed; put to sleep; put down; euthanized (mercy killing). In other words, dead, so as not to proliferate the problem and continue to be a public nuisance. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that all dogs should be saved. Irregardless of the future consequences, the dog should be taken into the shelter, cared for, and unless it displayed a vicious temperament while in the shelter, it should be spayed or neutered, and then allowed to be adopted.

There are some dogs that display the problems of aggression, that even if they are slight, will be put into a situation where they will be viewed as adoptable dogs that are misunderstood. There isn't much time spent looking into the background of the dog, or studying the dog for any offensive displays of temperament. The unsuspecting adopting family will take the dog home, not knowing its background, and will begin playing and working with it to make it a part of their family. If the dog shows signs of not being what they wanted, they may contact the shelter and be told by the shelter that the dog needs time to adjust. How much time does he need? Well, it depends on the dog and his environment. Normally, about two weeks.

In the Shelter's defense, there isn't a lot of time allowed for studying backgrounds or indepth temperament studies due to the numbers of discarded, abandoned, and dumped animals that fill the shelters. Breeders are blamed for this problem by many people who are not familiar with breeding or breeding ethics. Most breeders will not breed unless there are customers waiting for pups, or, to benefit their breeding program. This involves keeping most of the litter and studying the pups. Those pups that are worthy of bettering the breed will be kept or placed where they can be studied. The remainder that are not suitable for families or breeding will be put down. This requires time and a substantial cost to the breeder. The problem is not dedicated breeders, but the backyard breeder, who just want their dog to have a litter or produce a litter. These are the true culprits in a great majority of those dogs that end up in shelters. They have no clients, and will give away the pups along with any responsibility for what they have done. Yes, there are a few unfortunate breedings that may go awry, but a responsible breeder will not knowingly release those offspring to an unsuspecting public.

Some shelters make claims that dogs are of a specific Pedigree or pure bred. Unless the dogs are turned in with papers, there is no way of telling the actual breed. DNA testing will only certify the parents, if they are known, and cannot determine the true breeding of the dog. They may compare its appearance to a particular pedigree, but that doesn't make it that breed. It may look like a specific breed, but there is no identifiable way to tell positively. If the shelter personnel know that this is a pedigreed dog, that information should be given to the adopting family. They don't have to release the name of the previous owner or breeder, but they could make a positive statement as to breed type, and not just what they perceive it to be. I am contacted daily with requests to identify an adopted dog by its picture. Most of these requests are from owners that got their dog from a shelter. I'll look at the picture and give my opinion on the visual possibilities, but I qualify it with the facts written above. There's no way to tell for certain. I don't care if the dog acts like this breed or fits all the explanations written by some authors, there is no way to tell for certain unless you have the paperwork from a responsible breeder, know the pedigrees of the parents, and have viewed the mating and birthing processes.

There are some rescue groups that are doing a really fine job of saving the breed of dog they have chosen. Some of these rescues have gone to the limits of acquiring paperwork and assurances that the breed they are trying to place is a true specimen of the breed they represent. This is not always an easy task, and not all unwanted dogs are taken in by these groups. They are very careful to ensure that the dog's temperament is one that will allow it to be moved from one type of environment to another. Shelters don't take that time, nor do they have the time when considering the placement of their wards. If you have the money and sign the agreements, you get the dog. Not so with rescues. You have to fit their respective profile prior to the dog's being placed, and the dog has to fit the adopting family's environment, or it does not get adopted. This places a burden on the rescue groups, but they continue caring for the dog until it can be placed with the proper family.

This brings us to Pet Shops and Puppy Mills. There is no respectable breeder that will place their puppy in a Pet Shop to be sold. Why? Well, I feel the answer to that question was best written by Adam Katz, of In his book, the Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer, published by Morris Publishing, he writes:

1. When buying any puppy...even one from the best genetic're taking a genetic crap shoot that the pup will turn out to be the type of dog you want. But when you adopt a puppy form inferior breedings, you're really playing with the house odds against you!

2. Regardless of what the pet store owner tells you, and regardless of the fact that the dog they're selling has AKC (American Kennel Club) papers...dogs sold from pet stores ARE from puppy mills and NOT from quality breeders. And I'll prove it, from an economic stand point alone:

The Economics of Breeding Puppies!

Let's say you want to breed quality puppies. We'll pick a fairly standard and common breed...the German Shepard dog.

Well of want to start out with a brood bitch (your foundation breeding female) that is a super quality dog. Now, even if you purchase a puppy from a top breeder, you're looking at spending between $1000 to $1500. Factor in the first two years of raising, feeding, grooming, vet bills, and training...and bills accumulated for that brood bitch (remember...we're feeding her premium food, and keeping her in good shape)...will come to approximately and additional $3000. ($1500 a year, multiplied by two...a fairly conservative estimate). So now, you're into just a brood bitch for approximately $4000. And she's not even pregnant yet!

The next step would be to locate a suitable stud dog. Remember, we're talking about a quality breeding! Of course, you can breed her with the German Shepard dog who happens to live across the street, but this would make for irresponsible breeding. (The chances of finding a dog that lives across the street who's bloodlines compliment your bitch's bloodlines are HIGHLY unlikely! If you breed your bitch to this dog, you're increasing the chances of genetic mismatching and the likelihood of producing puppies with hip dysplasia, bad eyes, elbows, skin problems, etc...)

In order to really produce a quality breeding, you must find a stud dog who's bloodlines compliment your bitch's bloodlines. And to do this you'll need to: 1.) Cough up a stud fee – usually around $1000. 2.) Possibly fly the dog in from the state he lives in – cost: $250, plus boarding fees if necessary. Now, if all goes well, your bitch gets impregnated. If she doesn't, go back to square One.

"Okay, Now You've Got Puppies On The Way!"

So now your bitch is pregnant. Factor in at least three veterinary visits, at an average of $30 per visit. That's $90.

And a number of weeks later, she finally gives birth. According to Joe Lucerno, owner of an American Badogge Breeding Program, the cost of each puppy, after shots, worming, veterinary check ups, and time put into all of the other extraneous stuff, ends up at an approximate cost of $180 a pup. (And that's over and above all of the other stuff we've mentioned!) So, an average litter of 10 puppies comes to $1800 for just expenses in this category.

If I add up ALL of the expenses, I arrive at a total of $7140. For a total cost per puppy of $714.

And when you've spent this much time and energy into breeding and raising puppies, you're going to make damn sure that you place those puppies in good homes.

But let's say you're just in it for the money. (Of course, you'd cut many more corners if you're in it for the money, but we'll get to that in a moment!) You don't care who finally buys the puppies. Instead, you drive down to your local pet store and sell the pups for an average mark-up of 50%...which means you pocket a profit of $357 per dog. In other words, the pet store owner has just bought your puppies for an average price of $1071 a dog.

In order to make a profit, the pet store owner must mark up the puppies by AT LEAST 100% to make money, and in many cases even more when he considers that some of the pups won't be adopted out and will be sold at a loss. So now the price of the pup, if you were to buy a well-bred dog in a pet store, would be at an average price of $2142.

The Big Monkey Wrench In This Whole Calculation Is That Pet Stores Usually Sell Products At A Mark-Up Of Roughly 4 to 5 Times!

Not to mention the fact that there is a tremendous "Pain In The Butt" factor when it comes to keeping live animals (especially dogs) on th premises of a pet store! So there's more expense which we won't tally here in the hidden cost of paying employees extra money to clean and care for the pups while they're on the premises.

So, to really make the venture worthwhile, or comparable to the shelf space of carrying other products...the pet store owner must also mark th puppies up 4 to 5 times his cost. This would mean that each German Shepherd Puppy should be sold for an astounding $4284!!! Remember, pet store owners are in business to make MONEY!

Here's the Kicker: I've Never Seen A Puppy Sell For This Much In A Pet Store! Why...? Because There'd Be No Buyers

But I have seen many puppies sold in pet stores for between $600 and $800. And many times less. And if you do the math can see how somewhere along the line, someone in the process is doing a lot of scrimping!

But let's say you've bred your bitch before, so we can subtract the cost of the brood bitch...(7140 minus $4000=$3140...or the cost to breed each puppy comes to $314) After a 50% mark-up to the pet store, the price of the puppy for the pet store owner reaches $471. And with only a modest 100% mark-up, you come to a price tag in the window of $942. A somewhat high, but still reasonable price, right? Wrong! To compete with the shelf space of other products, you've really gotta mark the pups up by 4 times... which leaves us at a price of $1884!

But...if you're the breeder...and you've done a quality breeding with exceptional bloodlines and can sell the puppies yourself for $800 to $1000 a dog. Sometimes more! So, why would you sell your puppies to the pet store for $471, when you can sell them yourself for $800??

That's Right! The only way this whole "Let's Sell Puppies In The Pet Store" Economics works is if you've got puppies form poor breedings. Why? Because when you can buy the puppies cheap enough, you can still sell them at prices which are close to market value and make a profit!

And how do you get really cheap puppies if you're a pet store owner? You buy them form Puppy Mills!

Puppy Mills indiscriminately over breed dogs in an effort to produce as many puppies as possible, in as short a time as possible, with one incentive: PROFIT!

Imagine, dogs barely out of puppyhood themselves, being bred together! The results are horrific! Not to mention the fact that your puppy will be spending his most formulative weeks (what we professionals call the "critical stares) behind a window in a high stress environment...a pet store!...rather than being properly socialized in a low stress environment, in a loving home.

So what's the bottom line? Avoid pet stores that sell puppies if you're in the market for a new dog.

Now, I know some of you are asking, "How do Puppy Mills get their dogs?" Well, they buy them from anyone they can convince to sell. They will pose as caring owners that are interested in owning a particular breed. They will travel far out of their areas to acquire the dogs that are wanted or needed. I've had a dog from my kennel end up in a Puppy Mill, and I've done everything that can be done to stop them. Still they continue to breed. I've written to the registry and asked that they not register dogs from that particular person or from that particular dog, only to have them say that they will watch for it. But it never happens. As a matter of fact, that same person has applied for, and been given the credentials of a Certified Breeder by the Registry. I was first made aware of the situation when I received a call from someone in Arizona telling me that they had one of my dogs, or a dog from my bloodline. When I checked my records, it did not show me selling to them. I was then told that they acquired the dog along with his registration papers from a Pet Store. Nothing was done to stop this procedure, even though the registry agrees that Pet Store Puppies should not be registered.

If there were a way for me to get that dog back, I would do it. Short of breaking other laws in another state, I can't get the dog back, nor can I stop her offspring from being registered or placed in Pet Shops.

If no one purchased Pet Store Puppies, you would eliminate one of the major outlets for Puppy Mill Breeders. If they have no outlet for their operation, one of two things will happen:
1. They will go out of business and stop breeding.
2. Become legitimate breeders intent on bettering the breed.

The decision on all of this is up to you, the buyer. If you want a pedigreed dog, buy one from a reputable breeder or rescue network. If you just want a dog for companionship, or can't afford to buy a pedigreed dog, then by all means research what the shelters offer. But don't try to make it something it is not. If they tell you it's a mixed breed, then accept it. Researching the various breeds involved in the particular dog you choose may help you to identify the mixes, but it will not tell you what genes are dominant or recessive due to the mixture. Most importantly, you certainly can't tell which traits will be adopted from the mix.

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