By Karin Krisher
A controversial topic isn’t always easy to write about. I had to think long and hard about even using the phrase “backyard breeder,” which is generally considered a derogatory way to describe someone who might simply be very misinformed, and not intentionally malicious.
Backyard breeder refers to people that breed puppies, often in their homes, with little knowledge of emotional and physical safety procedures, and little concern for the overall wellbeing of the dogs bred and the puppies born under their care.
So yes, the name is derogatory. But the name itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that over decades of modern dog breeding, there has emerged a large enough group of irresponsible breeders for us to classify them as a “group” to begin with. The problem is backyard breeding itself, not the name it has been given.
What Is a Backyard Breeder?
Motivated by profits, someone who owns two dogs (at least) will breed them to produce litters, sometimes multiple times right in a row. Some backyard breeders even believe themselves to be well-intentioned, and may simply breed the family dog every once in a while.
But responsible breeding is a difficult, time-consuming task that requires ample knowledge (about genetic screening, inbreeding, recessive traits, etc.), and when a person lacks that knowledge, every dog they breed and every puppy born is at risk of sustaining emotional and physical damage.
How Can You Help?
If you are a dog lover but not a veterinarian, you can help by talking to any of your friends who might purchase a pet. (Of course, I would always suggest rescue animals, but even then, your friend — or you — should know about the issues you might face if the pup was raised in a puppy mill or by a backyard breeder.)
You can also contact local animal rights organizations to report possible incidences of abuse or neglect in these situations. Many backyard breeders’ efforts for profit are legal. There is a fine line between legality and safety, though, and you can influence efforts of local organizations by remaining vigilant and reporting suspicions of cruelty.
If you are a veterinarian, you have a huge role to play in this process. People bring you all sorts of animals from varied backgrounds. Genetics and upbringing both play important roles in animals’ current health issues. Inquiring about these things may help to diagnose certain illnesses or behavioral patterns, and bring to light the issues around puppy mills and backyard breeders. If your client has purchased a puppy from a backyard breeder and is having concerns or mentions conditions to you, reporting it could save dogs’ lives. You can also simply educate the animal-owning public by including literature on this type of issue in your office reading material.
Ending backyard breeding is a must for animal health advocates. Whatever your involvement in the efforts, education is the most important tool for anyone to wield. Know your facts when you talk to friends or clients about backyard breeding, and enter the conversation with an open mind to creating awareness, rather than passing judgment; as I said, even the most well-intentioned people might not have the correct information or research skills to be aware of the problem.
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