Kim Campbell Thornton, a MSNBC contributor, recently wrote an article about licensed, legal breeders. Thornton says that even though a breeder is approved by the USDA, this does not necessarily mean a lot.
USDA minimum standards for housing and exercise are bare bones. The agency requirement for cage size â€” the primary enclosure in which breeding dogs live their lives â€” is just six inches taller, wider and longer than the dog inside. That is, a miniature Dachshund measuring 20 inches from nose to base of tail and standing nine inches high might be housed in a cage only 26 inches wide by 26 inches deep by 15 inches high. The USDA waives the exercise requirement of 30 minutes per day for at least five days a week if the dog is housed in a cage with twice the floor space called for by the above formula.
In addition, USDA regulations donâ€™t address socialization â€” the handling and exposure a puppy needs during its first weeks of life to develop properly â€” or the health, temperament and quality of the parents.
American Kennel Club (AKC) or other registration papers also may not mean much. All they certify is that both parents were of the same breed. No dog registry or government agency requires breeders to socialize puppies or health-test their parents for orthopedic, eye or heart problems, or even to be knowledgeable about the breed or dogs in general.
Thornton added that someone’s best bet is a breeder who belongs to national and local breed clubs and has signed the club’s code of ethics.
But James Dalton, a French Bulldog breeder, said that is not even a guarantee, “The French Bulldog Club of America does have a code of ethics that breeders are expected to abide by, but they do not always and the FBDCA has no way of enforcing that code of ethics.”
Here are some of Thornton’s signs of a good breeder: completely answers questions about the breed, raises puppies in the home and not in a pen or in filthy conditions, and has a sales contract that includes a minimum one-year health guarantee against life-threatening or crippling conditions caused by heritable defects.