You've decided that you are going to get a pet… You're prepared to feed, exercise, train, clean up after, work through problems with, and love unconditionally your pet of choice for the next 10 – 20 years. You have evaluated your lifestyle and know what sort of pet you are looking for (e.g. high energy pet to run with, a low key pet, couch potato pet, low maintenance, large or small size, etc.), and know that you need to seek out desired characteristics in individual dogs, cats or your pet of choice. You also need to keep in mind that a specific breed or species is not a guarantee of sound temperament or likes and dislikes.

Statistics, according to the HSUS, show that one in every four dogs in U.S. shelters is a purebred, so it would be nice if you could start your search there, not only would you feel good about it but you would be helping a homeless pet. Are you aware that most pets lose their homes because of ‘people reasons'… lack of preparation in their decision to get a pet, cost, lack of time, pet outgrows the cute stage, lifestyle changes (new baby, divorce, moving or marriage), or due to allergies, NOT because of something the pet has done or that it is a problem pet. If the shelter does not have what you are looking for then see if, your pet of choice has a purebred rescue group and check there. So, you have tried these two avenues and still have not found “The One” and you're way too smart to buy from a pet store as you are aware that most of those pets come from mass breeding facilities better known as mills. At this point, you have decided to buy your pet from a breeder but have no idea how to identify a reputable breeder as you certainly do not want to support someone who does not have the animal's best interest at heart.

A truly good reputable breeder is concerned with a pet's total package: temperament, health/longevity, ability, breed characteristics and looks. Bad breeding traits are ignoring the standards of soundness, disposition and health. First, you need to know that a good breeder breeds not just to make money and they don't sell their pets to the first person who shows up with cash in hand. In many cases, unsuspecting people buy from breeders or neighbors who have bred their pet to make some money or to have a pet with papers. Often, the result is animals in poor health or there are temperament problems that may go undetected for years. Unfortunately, these new pet families often end up heartbroken and in some cases these problems cost thousands to treat. Remember your pet will live 10 – 20 years so it's well worth investing some time to be sure you are working with a reputable breeder who breeds healthy, happy animals.

You can start your search of a good breeder by asking for referrals from your veterinarian, trusted friends, by contacting local breed clubs or by visiting species specific shows. A reputable breeder will never sell their animals through a pet store or in any other capacity that does not allow the breeder to thoroughly meet with and interview you to ensure that the pet is a good match for your family and that you will provide a responsible lifelong home.

Here is a checklist of what to look for in a reputable breeder:

(Note: These are guidelines and not inclusive of everything you may need to consider nor may all things apply to the species of pet you are going for.)

A breeder will have a lot of knowledge about the parents' background and their pedigrees and show results

Will explain in detail the potential genetic problems inherent in the breed (all breeds have specific genetic predispositions) and provides documentation on health clearances and certifications that the animals parents and grandparents were tested to ensure that they are free of these genetic problems.

They will be very informative on the breed including temperament… they will have animals that are well socialized and are in a healthy and happy state

They will ask a potential buyer a lot of questions about the environment and the home you will provide

The animals are treated as family members at a breeders home not caged outdoors or tied to trees

Offers guidance for caring and training your pet and is available for assistance after you have taken the pet home

They provide references from other people who have purchased from them

They feed a high quality “premium” pet food and are knowledgeable in the nutritional needs of the breed or species

Often they have a waiting list (good breeders are in high demand and most pairs worth breeding have a high percentage of the litter already spoken for)

They are actively involved with local, state and national clubs that specialize in the specific breed. They also may compete in different shows pertinent to their breed or species

They encourage you and your family to visit the pet, if possible, several times prior to taking it home

Has no problem having you visit the area where the animals are housed and that it is in a clean, well maintained area

They breed only one or two types of breeds and is knowledgeable about what are called “breed standards” (the desired characteristics of the breed, such as size, proportion, coat, color and temperament)

Has a strong relationship with a local veterinarian and shows you records of vet visits for the animal and explains the pet's medical history and what vaccinations it will need

Will provide you with a written contract and health guarantee and allows you plenty of time to read it through; they should not require that you use a specific veterinarian

Along with the criteria for a reputable breeder, the breeder should require some things of you too.

They should require you to:

Explain why you want this particular pet

Explain who in the family will be responsible for the pet's daily care

Explain where the pet will spend most of his or her time

To provide a veterinary reference

To provide proof that you are allowed to have this pet on the premises if you rent

To sign a contract that you will provide vet care and in the case of a dog or cat
that you will spay or neuter the pet unless you will be actively involved in showing him or her (applies to show quality pets only)

Have you sign a contract that states that in the event at any point in the pets life, you cannot keep the pet, that it will be returned to the breeder

If a breeder, does not meet this criteria it is advisable to look elsewhere.
Taking the time to find the right breeder will ensure your endeavor as a
responsible pet owner and the lifelong happiness of your pet.

How to Select a Responsible Breeder

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