Breeder Registration is Bollocks

It doesn’t take long for those involved in animal welfare circles to hear arguments for the implementation of breeder registration. Many advocates of breeder registration argue that such a scheme would cause some breeders to ‘reconsider’ breeding, and one less breeder is seemingly desirable to these animal advocates.

There seems to be a lot of faith and enthusiasm for such a scheme, despite breeder legislation never having been shown to achieve anything, that if affects ‘good’ and ‘bad’ breeders equally, impacts on rescues, and is difficult to police. Further, it seems to be targetting the mythical ‘overpopulation problem’, and not the actual issue of pound poor-performance.

So let’s address all the reasons why breeder registration is not the holy grail of animal welfare legislation.


No Evidence

There is no research that indicates that breeder registration reduces impounds/euthanasia, or improves the welfare of dogs in breeding establishments. For example, the Gold Coast Breeder Scheme is widely considered to be a flop, and has been discontinued. If there is no evidence that breeder legislation works, why would we be invest funds in establishing a scheme? Breeder legislation is a poorly qualified solution to animal impoundment, as much as BSL is a poor solution to dog bites.

It’s been tried before, and failed before, so why repeat the same mistakes?


Australian Shepherd puppies playing in a ball pit.

Decline in Ethical Breeders

The hallmark of most breeder registration schemes is a breeder having to pay in order to be ‘registered’.

The problem is that ethical breeders are (largely) not making money from their breeding, and therefore may not be in a financial position to pay for registration. Ethical breeders may choose to cease breeding due to expense. How do we ensure that responsible, ethical breeders are not discouraged from producing wonderful pets?

As most of these schemes require breeders to pay in order to be registered, what breeder registration effectively does is limit (legal) breeding to those who are making money from the practice. What I mean is: breeders who don’t make money are are probably the ‘ethical ones’, and are probably less likely to be able to afford registration. Are these the individuals we want to perturb from breeding?

Furthermore, there is those that breed dogs in working fields, like guide dogs, customs, and so forth. Any restriction on breeders would also cause more expense and process for those producing animals for these roles.


Unethical Breeders Unaffected

On the flip side of this, those who are most likely to be able to afford registration is puppy farmers themselves. Those running a business, profiting from the sale of puppies, are going to be able to afford registration, and continue breeding puppies.

If a breeder is raising puppies in conditions that are undesirable and outside of welfare codes, they are going to avoid registration, and simply remain unnoticed and unpoliced.

Or, alternatively, a breeder may pass all the codes as they meet physical levels of care, but they neglect the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies.

Basically: Unethical breeders are not going to be deterred by a breeder registration scheme.


Association with Code of Practice

Whenever breeder legislation is suggested, it tends to appear alongside a Code of Practice. A Code of Practice attempts to specify the way animals should be maintained. The biggest problem is that it effectively obligates breeders to keep their dogs in a kennel situation, which many would argue is in contradiction to the best interest of dogs. I discussed these problems in my article called Clean and Kennelled.

Basically, if you have a breeder registration scheme, it goes hand-in-hand with a prescribed approach to animal management and handling, which is counter intuitive to animal welfare goals.


Mandatory Desexing Overtones

Any breeder registration scheme has overtones of compulsory desexing for dogs. Not only are there legitimate reasons to keep dogs entire, mandatory desexing also has negative social factors. For example, mandatory desexing is often associated with increased surrenders (e.g. “I can’t afford to desex my dog, so I need to surrender it instead so I don’t become a law breaker”).

The Saving Pets blog does a good job of describing how mandatory desexing has never worked. Furthermore, I’ve blogged before about how mandatory desexing is hard to define (unless we desex everything and eradicate the species). Mandatory desexing is also often associated with early age desexing, which has its own welfare implications. And there’s evidence that making desexing mandatory increases surrenders, as people aren’t able to pay for the surgery and so are left with no other choice. And, on top of that, desexing is a medical procedure, which should be implemented by medical professionals based on the individual animal at hand – not policy makers.

Further, mandatory desexing seeks to categorise people who have an entire dog as ‘breeders’, when this may not be the case. That is, non-breeders may be forced to become breeders according to legislation in order to comply with the law.



Mandatory breeder registration often excludes key groups: ‘backyard breeders’, ‘working dog breeders’, and greyhound breeders. These breeders produce a lot of dogs and dogs that are, seemingly, more likely to end up in the pound system.

A dog is a dog. We can’t argue that breeder registration is for the welfare of dogs owned by a particular group of people. Legislation needs to apply to all dogs, or none at all.

And, when you make this breeder registration compulsory, you need to consider the impact on rescues.  As rescues occasionally take in pregnant dogs, they may be deemed as breeders, and may have to pay breeder registration too. The last thing we need is for rescues to be further out of pocket due to the introduction of unfounded legislation. I could list twenty things that rescue could be better suited to spend their funds on.


No Policing

I’ve blogged before about how many dog-related policies are not policed.  In South Australia, we have the Animal Welfare Act and the Dog and Cat Management Act. I see constant violations of both these acts as it currently stands. So what are we doing bringing in new legislation, when our existing legislation is under enforced?

Without enforcement, legislation is just tokensitic. Arguably, if our existing legislation was enforced, we wouldn’t need further legislation. Our existing legislation is pretty good legislation. If it’s not enforced, then puppy farms can flourish.


Poor Focus

My biggest rejection of this is that there isn’t a population problem. We don’t need to reduce the number of dogs in the world. Shelters need to market and promote animals in their care better. Breeder registration doesn’t have anything to do with shelter euthanasia rates.

While we’re busy spending all our time going after breeders, we will still be watching shelters killing a great number of dogs. While you might take issue with people breeding their dogs, I take bigger issue with shelters killing dogs in their community. What’s the greater problem here?


Further reading:

Just Stop Breeding Until the Pounds are Empty

Why I Don’t Want Oscar’s Law

The Fallacy of Mandatory Desexing

What is the answer? (To puppy farms)

Rescue Vs Breeders


How to choose a rescue or shelter to adopt from

Purchasing a dog or puppy: What to look for in a rescue or shelter


Congratulations on choosing to add a new dog or puppy to your family.

It is great that you are considering adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. However, not all rescues/shelters are created equal – indeed, some facilities are merely posing as rescues and are more like an animal-broker than an animal-rescue.

It’s not a ‘black and white’ matter, but here are some suggestions that will hopefully help you when you’re looking at adopting a pet.


Green traffic lightNecessities

Do not purchase a dog from a shelter unless the facility:

  • Shows concern and regard to the physical health of their dogs and puppies
  • Shows concern and regard to the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies – either in providing enrichment on site, by frequently taking their dogs ‘out and about’, by using Dunbar’s methods of raising puppies (with toilet area, kongs, socialisation), and by providing training to dogs with behavioural problems
  • Is willing to provide life-long support to you as a purchaser, and is willing to take their dog or puppy back if things don’t work out. (There should be a trial period of anywhere from 1-12 weeks where a refund is provided.)
  • You feel comfortable approaching the rescue or shelter for advice, and feel they would be supportive and give you clear advise you can understand.
  • Sells all dogs and puppies microchipped, vaccinated and sterilised (or on contracts to have these procedures performed at a latter date, or with a medical certificate exempting them from these procedures)
  • Gives you some time to ‘think about’ adding the dog/puppy to your household



It’s ‘nice’ if a shelter/rescue does these following things, but not a deal breaker.

  • The rescue/shelter asks you lots of questions about your household and what you’re looking for
  • There is a sales contract
  • The rescue/shelter seems to have a great deal of knowledge about dogs
  • The rescue/shelter uses foster carers so they know what the dog is like in a house (instead of just living in a kennel)
  • The rescue/shelter has had the dog in care for at least 10 days, to serve as a quarantine period
  • Friends, family, or other shelters and rescues have heard of this rescue and have positive things to say
  • Identifies as ‘no kill’ or ‘out the front door’ or as ‘saving 90%’


Red Flags

Have some concern about the shelter or rescue if any of these events take place.

  • The rescue/shelter seems overly concerned about the purchase price
  • The rescue/shelter puts the hard sell on – “I might sell her next week if you don’t take her today”, or “I’ll give you 10% off if you buy her now.”
  • The rescue/shelter sells puppies together to the same pet family
  • The rescue/shetler is willing to sell a puppy/dog to you without you even meeting the dog/puppy to assess it for yourself


Do Not Buys

If the shelter or rescue does any of the following things, then walk away and source a dog from an alternative source.

  • You cannot meet the dog or puppy before sale
  • Dogs/puppies are not microchipped – in most states of Australia, this is a legal requirement
  • The dogs or puppies seem unhealthy or in poor condition (dirty, matted, skinny, fat)
  • There seems to be no plan to improve the socialability/behaviour of dogs that have problematic temperaments
  • The rescue/shelter is not willing to show you all the dogs in their care


Is there anything you would add to the list?


Further reading: See How to Find a Good Dog Breeder


How to find a good dog breeder

Purchasing a Dog or Puppy: What to look for in a breeder


So you have made a decision to add a dog or puppy to your family. Congratulations!

But how do you make sure you’re getting a puppy from an ethical source?

It’s not a ‘black or white’ matter. There is no definitive issue that makes a breeder ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Instead, here’s a guide which talks about necessities, niceties, and red flags.



If your breeder doesn’t do this then walk away…

  • Breeder shows concern and regard to the health of dogs and puppies – either in health testing or in the studs used (e.g. choosing old studs that show they’re healthy, using DNA testing, using x-rays, and other relvant tests)
  • Breeder shows concern and regard to the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies – either in providing enrichment on site, by frequently taking their dogs ‘out and about’, by using Dunbar’s methods of raising puppies (with toilet area, kongs, socialisation), and preferably a combination of these methods.
  • The breeder has a clear purpose in their breeding program that goes beyond ‘breeding pet puppies’ – they may enter their dogs in dog shows, participate in agility or obedience with their dogs, or have dogs that compete in working dog trials
  • The breeder’s dogs approach you in a friendly and sociable way. You are able to interact with and handle all dogs on the property. The mother should be available and should show exceptionable sociable behaviour.
  • The breeder is willing to provide life-long support to you as a puppy buyer – including taking back the dog at any point things ‘don’t work out’
  • The breeder happily shows you all the dogs in their care



It’s nice for the breeder to do any of these things, but don’t be concerned if it doesn’t happen.

  • The stud dog is on site
  • The breeder asks you lots of questions about your household and what you’re looking for
  • There is a sales contract that goes beyond simple money exchange
  • The breeder can show registration or affiliation to an organisation with a code of conduct/ethics
  • The breeder can recite pedigrees and seems to be oozing with knowledge about the breed


Red Flags

If any of these items take place, you may want to reconsider purchasing an animal from this breeder.

  • The puppies are not vaccinated
  • The breeder seems overly concerned about the purchase price
  • Not all adult dogs are sociable and friendly
  • Part of the breeder’s sales pitch is ‘lots of colours available’ or ‘will grow up big’ or ‘will stay tiny’ or ‘rare!’
  • The breeder asks for deposits before a bitch is mated
  • The breeder sells puppies together to the same pet family
  • The puppies are crossbreeds which seem to have no real purpose (ask, how do they fit into the clear purpose of their breeding program?)
  • The puppies are crossbreeds and are given a fancy name like ‘labradoodle’ or ‘spanador’.
  • The breeder does seem to be putting the hard sell on you – they’re saying “if you put a deposit down today, I’ll take $100 off the asking price” or “If you don’t buy him now, I have someone coming at 2 o’clock who will buy him”.
  • The breeder breeds more than 3 different breeds of dogs

stop sign


Do Not Buys!

If a breeder performs any of the following points, then do not purchase a puppy and look elsewhere.

  • You cannot meet the mother or father in any circumstances (e.g. ethical breeders, even if the stud dog owner is interstate that should be able to say ‘you can meet them if you really want to go interstate’)
  • Puppies are not microchipped – in most states of Australia, this is a legal requirement
  • The dogs or puppies seem unhealthy or in poor condition (dirty, matted, skinny, fat)
  • The adult dogs are not sociable and friendly, especially if many of the adult dogs are not friendly
  • The breeder is unwilling to show you all the dogs at their home


Is there anything you would add to this list?


Further reading:

Red Flags: Warning signs when dealing with a breeder

How to tell if your dog breeder is responsible

A puppy ‘with papers’ from a ‘registered breeder’

Select, select, select

Dog Breeders: Don’t produce lemon puppies


Vaccinations Last At Least Three Years

ResearchBlogging.orgWhen reading Terrierman he made reference to the work Schultz has done on the duration of vaccines. Intrigued, I decided to read one of his articles. I dug up a review Shultz wrote on the duration of vaccines. It looks at available research on vaccines and their ‘duration of vaccinal immunity’ (i.e. how long they last).

Whether a dog has immunity can be determined either by antibody titres (a ‘titre test’) or a challenge study (e.g. deliberately exposing the dogs to the pathogen).


For distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus the published data suggests an immunity period of 3 years or longer minimum.

Using blood products to test immunity, it seems that vaccines last 3 years or longer.  When using challenge studies, dogs that were vaccinated 11 years ago did not contract the virus.

According to this article, if a cat or dog is:

  • Vaccinated with core vaccines at 12 weeks of age or older,
  • Is revaccinated at 1 year old, and
  • Receives a vaccination “not more often than every 3 years”

then this would be as protective to the pet as annual vaccination.

However, non-core vaccinations last a year or less.

Table 1 shows estimated minimum duration of immunity for the 4 core canine vaccines.

How long does a dog vaccination last?

Shultz concludes, “Extending the revaccination intervals for canine and feline core vaccines does not place the animal at increased risk to developing vaccine preventable disease, but it does reduce the potential for adverse reactions”

He also recommends using titre tests to ensure that a puppy’s final vaccine enduces an immune response – and to revaccinate if the titre does not indicate that an immune response was produced.

Oh, and on cats? According to this paper, feline vaccines less researched, but feline parvovirus, calcivirus and herpes seems to last at least 7.5 years. Exception is feline leukemia which provides immunity for 1 year or less.


Ronald D. Schultz (2006). Duration of immunity for canine and feline vaccines: A review Veterinary Microbiology, 117 (1), 75-79 DOI: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2006.04.013


Dog breeding isn’t always pretty.

It is no secret that I breed border terriers, and that I have experienced public scrutiny for partaking in this hobby.  As such, it’s not surprising that this blog often shares posts that are in support of ethical breeders.

So, today, I share a story from another Australian breeder on breeding a litter of golden retrievers, and how it went anything but according to planned. It’s a story on how ethical breeders struggle through hardship, and again illustrates that there is no money to be made from ethical breeding.

It’s funny because I have had dogs all my life, been a dog groomer for 16 years and this was always a dream to have a litter of my own. Well at least I can say I tried. It was a shame because I did what I set out to do and that was breed something for the show ring that was better than what I had which is what we all do, try to improve the breed. But I couldn’t keep the puppy, every time I looked at him I cried and it brought back the memories and I thought it wasn’t fair on him. It is so lovely to see photos of them all and how happy they are with their new families. That is the best part.

Well my first breeding experience was horrible . It has been three months and I still wake up in the middle of the night crying sometimes. There were great times and I ended up with 10 amazing puppies who are each adored by their new owners and I have had so many updates with the owners raving about how great their puppies are socially, at training and to live with. I am proud so proud of that.

However I am still so emotional every time I think about the experience as a whole. Here is a brief overview. I have been planning this litter for four years. I own both the bitch and stud dog and they are from amazing kennels that I have admired for over 15 years. I did every test and they passed with flying colours and had brilliant hip and elbow scores. They both have done well in showing and complemented each other well.

Zena at day 58.

Zena at day 58.

We had a great mating and a text book pregnancy until 58 days. My bitch seemed to double in size over night. Within 24 hours we were at the vet having an ultrasound. We thought there were six pups and the vet was worried about the pups heart rates. We went home and were on watch for signs of labour. We went back for a scan and the heart rates had picked up but my bitch hadn’t. Another 24 hours and my bitch wasn’t looking well and her joints had started to swell. I was syringing lectade into her as she wouldn’t eat or drink.

She couldn’t get comfortable and I felt she was trying to be brave when I was with her so as heart breaking as it was I sat outside the door and left her to try and settle. It broke my heart to hear her try to lie down. She stood the whole time!! I kept calling the vet and emergency vet to ask questions and thank goodness for the emergency vet at 3am talking to me or I would have gone insane! Everyone kept saying “just watch her it sounds like she is in labour”, “any time now, just be patient”, “the first stages can take a while”. I was home on my own and wanted to be strong for my girl so would go outside and sit down and just sob, wipe my eyes and go back into her with a huge smile and tell her what a great job she was doing. I rubbed her back and tummy and made a sling to try and hold her belly to give her a little relief. We both didn’t sleep for two days.

The next day I couldn’t take it and knew she had had enough too. I took her into the vet and we decided to give her a cesarian. This is the part I feel so very terrible about. I started to have chest pains, a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe and was shaking terribly. My girl kept looking at me and I was falling apart. The nurses made me go outside for a walk but I felt so dreadful leaving Zena alone. I had done this to her, I had wanted this litter and I had made the commitment to do this with her!! The last thing I said to the vet was “Whatever happens, save my girl”.

I couldn’t go in for the cesarian and stood outside the door. Then I heard the last thing anyone wants to hear. “Holy shit, get more help.” Time just slowed as every horrible possibility went through my mind. After what felt like an eternity the most amazing sound, second only to the cry of my own children, was the scream of a tiny little baby being born. That’s when the tears of the last couple of hours came and with every cry of another puppy being born I felt the pain in my chest ease. I heard them count and say there were 10 puppies! 10! I was expecting 6 not nearly double that! I had the courage to go in and help with the puppies but no one would say anything about Zena. All I was told was it wasn’t good and they were doing everything they could.

I couldn’t bring myself to look into the theatre but the vet talked to me through the door. He said he had got her back but it was still to early to tell. What????? What do you mean got her back? It turns out the vet thinks she had a condition called maternal hydrops and said each puppy was surrounded my approximately 1-2 litres of fluid! No wonder Zena was so big with 10 puppies that is almost 20 litres of fluid and she was a slight golden retriever to begin with! After the pups she looked like a skeleton. What had seemed like a good healthy weight gain had just been a huge belly of puppies and fluid.

Her heart had stopped beating twice on the table and they had to shock her to bring her back. With that much fluid around it was very dangerous I am told. She was then monitored very closely as her heart beat was extremely rapid. It was decided to take her to the emergency specialist vet for overnight observation. Due to recent parvovirus outbreaks in the area I couldn’t leave the puppies so took them home with me. It was now midnight, and my birthday, happy birthday to me.

Zena's newborn puppies.

Zena’s newborn puppies.

I now had to learn how to hand feed new born puppies. Not to mention toilet them and burp them. I didn’t even know puppies burped! Thank goodness for my ‘bible’ by Dr Karen Hedburg. I had read it cover to cover and was set up for most just in case scenarios so had some bottles on hand and cotton balls for toileting. It took me 1.5 hours to hand feed all 10 puppies and I had to do this every two hours. After three days of no sleep it is a miracle they all survived. The next day I was able to bring Zena home and thank goodness for friends coming over to help for a couple of hours and my vet doing house calls and checking on the puppies at home.

Zena and her 3 day old babies.

Zena and her 3 day old babies.

Zena was a brilliant mum but after her trauma there was no way I was leaving her. I slept on the couch next to her whelping box for three weeks.

Surely there can’t be more?? Yep, two bouts of mastitis with me doing massage, hot packs and cabbage leaves. Zena was on antibiotics so I had puppies with the runs on and off for five weeks and nearly loosing three of them with an unknown virus. There were many nights I went to sleep sitting up on the lounge with a puppy or two down my shirt to keep them warm and hope when I woke up they were still with me. Then there were the times all of them would somehow escape their run in the garage and 10 puppies had had a ball pooping and weeing all over the garage and rolled in it.

Then there was the great times! They all weaned without a problem and thrived. We would all play outside for hours rolling around in the grass with 10 happy fat puppies. We found amazing homes for each and every one of them and they all were perfect little balls of fluff who were nearly fully toilet trained by 8 weeks when they left us.

Zena's puppies at 6 weeks old.

Zena’s puppies at 6 weeks old.

So would I do this again? Absobloodylutely NOT! Everyone says I will change my mind but I just can’t see it. I am proud of the puppies I produced. All the research I have done says it is a rare condition that is suspected to happen when two lines don’t blend well and most bitches go on to have a normal second litter. I have had breeders of 30 years who say they have never had a litter with so many issues. I don’t see how I could ever put Zena through something like that again. I did this alone as a single mother of three children. There were lots of people that said they would help me but when it came down to it people had their own lives and it was very lonely and exhausting.

I was scared to say anything thinking that I must have done something wrong but going over everything I can see it was just a case of bad luck.

My question is has anyone had a traumatic litter? How long till you got over the trauma of it? Zena is perfectly happy and healthy and loving life jumping on the trampoline and wrestling with the other dogs but I still struggle with the memories.

I wouldn’t wish this experience on any responsible breeder but I wonder if a puppy farmer’s first litter cost upward of $6k if that would deter them!!



Further reading:

I haven’t made any money from dog breeding.

The Sin of Breeding Dogs