As hopeful as I am that at least a few of the readers coming through here will be convinced to adopt a dog rather than to shop for a puppy, the fact remains that many more, will make the choice to buy a puppy instead. If you are one of those people, then as a future dog owner who is looking to buy a puppy, recognize that your responsibility begins here – with your choice of where to buy your puppy.
A conscientious choice not only prevents unethical breeders and puppy sellers from making a profit, it also protects you from making a poor investment (although it is unpleasant to talk of dogs as monetary investments). As an outcome of reading this article, I want you to become discerning about where you go to look for the puppy that you will one day call your own, and understand what impact your choices make in this regard.
Now, since you are buying a puppy, you will likely end up purchasing it directly or indirectly from a dog breeder. As a responsible dog owner, you’ll want to do business only with ethical breeders. What exactly defines an ethical breeder? Here are the qualities that you need to look for:
The Ethical Breeder
- Selective about clients and who they sell puppies to.
- Prioritize the health and welfare of their dogs.
- Treat their dogs as pets, not puppy-making factories.
- Are highly knowledgeable about their chosen breed/s, and will usually specialize in only 1 or 2.
- Regularly tend to and evaluate the health of their dogs and have them health certified.
- Select only the best animals for breeding, however, they do not neglect the health and welfare of dogs that are not of breeding quality.
- Are open about their breeding practices and readily invite potential customers to interact with their dogs to observe their health and behavior.
- Give importance to both conformational and behavioral soundness.
- Raise puppies in a home and family environment because they recognize the impact this has on behavioral development, socialization and future training.
- Keep in communication with their clients to whom they have sold puppies, and are prepared to re-acquire the dog from any client who is no longer able to provide appropriate care for the animal.
Quite possibly, I will incur the wrath of local breeders and pet store owners with the statements made in this article, but all this has to be said. Ethical breeders in the Philippines are very, very few and far between. Even among breeders who claim to have been breeding for years, and that spend considerable amounts of money to maintain their breeding sires and dams, few practice truly ethical dog breeding that prioritizes the health of their dogs and their dogs’ offspring. This is because there are no required licenses or regulations to govern dog breeding in the Philippines, and our animal welfare law is very poorly enforced. In addition, dog breeding is frequently promoted as an easy and profitable business, especially in light of the growing popularity of pet ownership among Filipino households. Many Filipinos are quick to jump on the bandwagon to start their own breeding business. The result is a multitude of backyard breeders, and – on a larger scale – puppy mills who aim to mass produce puppies to supply to an ever-growing and yet undiscerning consumer demand.
How can dog breeding be harmful?
You might ask: What could be so bad about the average entrepreneur-minded Pinoy breeding for puppies if there is no shortage of buyers to purchase them and provide them with a home anyway? Let me enumerate several ways how unregulated, unethical breeding can be harmful or detrimental to the welfare of dogs:
Unethical breeding is harmful to the breed
Unethical breeders do not care or even know anything about breed standards, or about producing puppies that are conformationally and behaviorally sound. They only care about producing puppies that look fit enough to sell to the average consumer who has no knowledge about breed standards and soundness anyway. Take for example the German Shepherd. The German Shepherd is genetically predisposed to develop a condition called hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia (HD) describes a poor conformation of the ball and socket hip joint, which results in frequent if not constant joint pain and lameness of the affected hindleg. To prevent HD being passed on to the puppies, an ethical breeder would submit their dog for screening and certification so that only HD cleared dogs would be bred, reducing the incidence of HD in puppies. Not so with unethical breeders, who quite possibly are unaware of the condition, or do not care that the puppies they are selling have HD. An unwitting buyer who purchases a dog with HD does not realize that the dog under their care is suffering from chronic joint pains. Or if they do become aware, this owner will then have to spend quite a large amount of money for treatment, while the dog endures painful procedures to correct the condition (assuming that the owner would even be willing or is capable to spend that much).
Beware of catch phrases
“Rare Imperial”, “Princess Type”, or “Cute Teacup” are advertising catch phrases applied to the runts of litters of many toy dog breeds to increase their perceived value to buyers who have no knowledge that they are purchasing a puppy that is possibly frail and weak. They are not any special variation of the breed as many buyers are lead to believe. This demonstrates that unethical breeders will breed and sell even those puppies that do not meet the breed standard in health, conformation and temperament. While the runts certainly deserve as much care as the next puppy in their litter, they absolutely should not be passed off as possessing desirable traits, nor should they be bred because doing so would be detrimental to the breed.
“But my puppy came with papers!”
Below are screenshots of ads selling and buying pedigree papers online, possibly from a deceased dog or acquired by other underhanded means. A deceitful breeder or seller will pass these off as belonging to a puppy other than the one that is actually named in the document.
An important point I want to make here is this: papers of pedigree and vaccination records mean little coming from unethical breeders. As you can see, they can be easily forged or acquired through unscrupulous means. Even if authentic, papers of pedigree are not a guarantee that you will be buying a healthy puppy, especially if they are not accompanied by verifiable health certifications. Veterinary records should be signed by a licensed veterinarian whose contact details should be made available by the breeder.
Unethical breeding is harmful to the breeding dogs
The objective of unethical breeders is to spend minimally, while maximizing their profit from the sale of puppies. In the worst cases, they keep their dogs confined in small spaces, feed them the cheapest dog food, and do not provide proper veterinary care when it is needed, attempting instead to medicate and vaccinate dogs on their own without proper knowledge or training.
Furthermore, unethical breeders overuse their breeding dams. Females are forced to mate and produce puppies as frequently as possible, while disregarding her physical ability to sustain another pregnancy. The dam is unlikely to be allowed to rest and is bred whenever she comes into season. This results in dire consequences to her health as well as to the health of the puppies that she produces. These consequences may not be evident in the puppies in the early months of their life, so that the breeder is able to sell the puppies passing them off as healthy and unaffected by the mother’s deteriorating condition.
Unethical breeding is harmful to the puppies
As mentioned, puppies born from sickly bitches are also likely to develop health problems that may be evident at birth or that will develop later on in life. But aside from their health problems, backyard- or mill-bred puppies are also at risk of developing behavior problems and social retardation. This may be because of poor selection for good temperament, and/or because from birth, these puppies are kept in isolated spaces with minimal human social interaction causing many to develop into dogs that are not social, easily frightened and with a high tendency for aggression. Puppies reared in these conditions are also likely to be difficult to potty train because they have gotten used to urinating and defecating in their sleeping places.
Unethical breeding contributes to the number of neglected, abused, abandoned and stray dogs
Unethical breeders are not selective with their clients. They will sell to anyone who has enough money to pay for their puppies, regardless of that person’s knowledge of the breed and their ability to properly care for a dog. Many of these unfit dog owners eventually become either neglectful and even abusive to the animals they own. Some abandon their dogs because of the inability and unwillingness to continue caring for them. A few of these abandoned or stray dogs are rescued off the streets by shelters and rescue organizations, but even so, their chances of getting adopted into homes that can care for them are reduced because of the availability of puppies produced by backyard breeders and puppy millers.
To be clear, these unethical practices are not just confined to the breeding of purebreds. Even the welfare of crossbreeds (also called “designer dogs”), mixed breeds and even Aspins (Philippine native dogs) can suffer because of these. If you buy from a breeder with these unethical practices, you show them that there is a market for their “product”, and that there is a profit to be made. This prompts them to produce more puppies so that they can make even more money off of other buyers such as yourself. Your responsibility as a potential buyer is to be discerning about where or from who you buy your puppy.
Where are backyard- and mill-bred puppies sold?
There are three common outlets for puppies that are produced by backyard breeders and puppy mills, none of which you should consider for where to buy your future puppy:
1. Market/Sidewalk Vendors
Strike off your list the popular pet markets where scores to hundreds of puppies can be found on display. Here, puppies are sold daily to unwitting buyers who are reeled in by cute puppy faces and cheap prices. Should you find yourself in a place like this and be tempted to buy a puppy from there, just remember that the puppy’s mother is probably suffering in a cage somewhere, forced to mate and reproduce. Another version of the market vendor is the sidewalk vendor who commonly peddles puppies for sale at cheap prices along busy streets and under foot bridges.
2. Pet stores
Pet stores in malls are no improvement over street or market vendors. The storefront may be fancier but the product is the same. No ethical breeder would sell their puppies to an outlet such as this, because ethical breeders carefully screen their prospective buyers. You should never go window shopping for a puppy because as with street/market vendors you cannot tell anything about the breeding conditions, or the parents’ health and temperament just by looking at the puppies. A store clerk might be willing to answer your questions but they will likely have little knowledge on what a conformationally and behaviorally sound dog looks like.
BEWARE: Saw this posted on Facebook in December 2016. It seems the latest modus is for puppy sellers to pose as shelters that are adopting out abandoned dogs. They claim that the “adoption fee” they charge is meant for the care of the dogs. While as of now this has not been proven, I am highly suspicious that these puppies come from mills just like most pet store puppies. Be discerning. If someone is claiming they are adopting out puppies, try to find out what organization they are affiliated with and proof of the legitimacy of these organizations, and also ask about their detailed adoption procedures and policies.
3. Online sellers
These days anything can be bought and sold online, and sadly, this includes even dogs and puppies. Browsing through online ads may seem the most convenient way to search for a breeder or puppy seller, but again, what can you tell about how a puppy was bred and reared from looking at a photo on the internet? The only classified ads that might be worth considering are from breeders that invite you to view the puppies at their home. Even then, you will still want to thoroughly investigate under what conditions these puppies are reared and if the person selling them fits the ethical breeder profile. NEVER agree to have a puppy delivered to your home or via a meet-up.
An ignorant breeder is an unethical breeder
The more distressing issue is that many of these breeders who breed for profit are not even aware that their practices are detrimental to their chosen breed or to dogs in general. They sincerely claim to be dog lovers and welfare advocates, some will even spend huge sums of money to build special housing and facilities for their breeding dogs, and the dogs will actually look well-cared for and are really loved as pets. Even so, because of their ignorance, many if not most of these breeders fall short of the standard of true ethical breeding and do inadvertent harm to dogs as a consequence.
Where can you find an ethical breeder?
So where then should you look to find a good puppy from an ethical breeder? The truth of the matter is that it is much easier for me to tell you all the places where you should not buy a puppy than to give you advice on where you ought to look for your puppy. As I’ve said, ethical breeders are in themselves a breed that is quite rare in the Philippines. And yet they do exist. But you have to know who to ask and where to look. Generally, ethical breeders are accessible only by word of mouth and do not openly advertise puppies for sale. Pet professionals will have breeders in their clientele though not necessarily of the kind we are looking for, and so I would caution you again to be discerning when approaching breeders that they know of and recommend.
The best place to begin your search, in my opinion, is among people who you know to be truly responsible dog owners. Among those, it’s a good idea to approach the ones who are also active in training their dog for performance or for show. And among those, you should be able to find ethical breeders themselves or dog owners who have purchased a puppy from them.
Take note that while you may be screening for good breeders, good breeders will also take measure of your ability to own a puppy that comes from them. You can also expect that a puppy from an ethical breeder is more expensive. But this is because the breeder has invested a considerable amount of time and resources into caring for his/her dogs to ensure that they are truly well-bred and healthy. However, it does not necessarily hold true that expensive puppies are an indication of ethical breeding practices.
It seems a daunting task, doesn’t it? To find an ethical breeder, to stay on the straight and narrow path of truly responsible dog ownership? But I do hope you exert every effort to find an ethical breeder and only buy a puppy from them. Failing to find one, you could always adopt a puppy or dog from your local shelter. Therein, you would be making not only a responsible choice, but also a truly compassionate one. I hope that this information serves you well in your hunt for a good puppy to call your own.
A final word for those that have already bought a puppy:
Some of you may have already bought a puppy, and have realized, after reading this article, that you may have acquired your pup from a less than ideal source. The puppy that you have now is part of your family and deserves all of your love and best care. However, deeply bear in mind the possible negative implications that your seller or breeder choice has on the health and welfare of other puppies and dogs. Please remember to be more discerning should you ever choose to buy a puppy again in the future, and maybe consider making a donation to your local animal shelter to provide support to animals that await adoption – their chances sorely slimmed as elsewhere puppies are being sold and bought.
I have yet to discover informative documentation and exposés of unethical backyard breeders and puppy millers in the Philippines. But, make no mistake, they do exist in our country. This video, although produced in the UK by the RSPCA, adequately sums up what has been discussed in the article above and will help you visualize the plight of dogs living in the worst conditions under the wanting care of unethical breeders.