How to spot a good breeder
So you've decided to get a new puppy or kitten - congratulations! Welcoming a new furry friend into your home is such an exciting experience, and it's great that you're doing some reading before making such a huge commitment.
Where to buy a puppy or kitten in Australia? Perhaps you've been looking for a puppy on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace, or checking rescue pages for a suitable pet. When it comes to actually finding a furry friend, your three main options are to: a) adopt from a shelter (this is our top recommendation!) b) Buy from a pet store or online marketplace (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder.
What about pet stores and online marketplaces? Usually this is one of the worst ways to buy a pet, as it may directly or indirectly support the inhumane or unregistered breeding of cats and dogs, particularly in businesses unofficially known as 'puppy farms'. Puppy farms usually breed their animals as frequently as possible in substandard conditions to maximise their financial profits. While there are certainly ethical breeders who advertise online, it can be incredibly difficult to be sure.
The third popular option is going directly to a breeder. If you need a pet to fit specific requirements it is generally better to go with a registered breeder rather than find someone online. Good breeders socialise their animals properly, select for healthy traits, and will breed for desirable temperaments. This may be a necessity for families with small children or elderly members.
This article is designed to help you in identifying whether you have a good, genuine breeder or if they are a "backyard breeder".
First things first - Pay them a visit!
Never purchase a pet without inspecting the breeder's home first. In times of 'puppy droughts' when popular breeds are in high demand, it can be tempting to purchase an animal as soon as it's available, without completing any prior inspections. Try not to give into this temptation to 'panic buy' - it’s absolutely vital to visit the puppy or kitten in the place where it was born first. Try to meet the mother (and father too, if he’s around) and have a good look at the conditions.
While you're visiting, consider asking the questions outlined below.
1. Are they a Legally Registered Breeder?
Genuine breeders will be registered in accordance to the state and local laws, and an accepted member of the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). In many states, it is actually unlawful to sell animals for money (particularly if they are not desexed) unless you are a registered breeder. Any person who breeds an animal need to comply with set guidelines when it comes to each animal's welfare and participate in property inspections.
When Breeders in New South Wales register they’ll be issued a Breeder Registration Number (BRN), so you can ask your breeder to provide this. Their BRN should be listed in any of the breeder's ads when selling a pet. Being a registered breeder also means they are exempt from the new requirement to desex puppies and kittens born after 1 July 2018.
By law, Queensland Breeders should have both a Supply Number and Membership with their State ANKC Body, except in the case of certain working dogs.
Find out more about laws that pertain to your state in RSPCA's Guide to Companion Animal Breeding Laws.
2. What are the living conditions like?
The living conditions of the animals should be the first and foremost consideration when you visit a breeder. Ask to see the area where the animals are kept. There should be adequate space for the number of dogs or cats, and it should be clean. Additionally, every animal should be provided with sufficient bedding, accessible water and toys for stimulation. Watch how the animals interact with each other and people. A good breeder will socialise their pets so that they are friendly and happy, not aggressive or anxious.
You will need to find out what food is being fed. The breeder should be able to give you advice on feeding schedules and quantities. They should also inform you where the puppy is up to date with medication as well as coverage from fleas, ticks and worms. Puppies and kittens need their first vaccinations at 6-8 weeks old and your breeder should get this done before you take them home. You should be provided with the details of received shots and they should advise you when they are next due.
3. Does the breeder care about Animal Welfare?
Impeccable animal welfare is an obvious requirement for a good breeder, and they should ultimately love the breed they specialise in. A good breeder should have a high regard for their pet's health and happiness. Backyard breeders or those in the business just to make money often have very little affection towards the animals.
A good way to find out is to ask what happens to their older dogs that are retired from breeding. Do they put them down, rehome them or keep them? Good breeders love their animals and consider them part of the family, they will not rehome them once they are no longer profitable.
Avoid breeders that rehome older cats or dogs, and definitely avoid those who euthanaise older animals. Similarly ask about the puppies or kittens that they can't find homes for. A good breeder will hold onto them until they can find the right home for them or they will keep them.
4. Was the litter planned?
Planning ahead is imperative for a good breeder and you should ask how they ended up with the litter. If your breeder says the litter was an accident, this is an instant red flag. Responsible breeders are very careful to separate animals while the female is on heat, until they wish to breed a certain pair. They want to ensure each one is going to a good home and will not breed puppies or kittens without any interested buyers.
5. Are they asking YOU lots of questions?
Deciding to get a pet is a big commitment, as they can live for 10-20 years. A good breeder should put you through the ringer. They should ask you about your current situation, if you will be away from home a lot, if there are kids or elderly members in the house, how much exercise you can give the pet or where they will sleep. A good breeder will be honest and put the animal's interests before their desire to sell - if they don't think you are suited to the dog or cat, they should suggest going with a different breed.
6. Are they willing to share details?
Transparency about the puppy or kitten's history, lineage, mother and father's living conditions, and overall health is essential from a breeder. They should be able to tell you any details of received vaccinations, medical history and veterinary documents if requested. They should allow you to meet at least one of the parents and discuss their temperament and personality.
7. Are they picky about breeding healthy animals?
Good breeders are finicky when deciding which pets to mate. They will be aware of breed specific genetic disorders and screen for imperfections. If a poor gene is detected in one of their dogs, a good breeder will retire them from breeding. They will also be conscious of family relations to prevent incestual breeding which often causes genetic disorders.
Ask the breeder why they chose to breed certain animals and what screening they have done to avoid health conditions common in the breed.
8. Do they offer post-purchase assistance?
Post-purchase help such as New Pet Guides, take-home packs, and a contact phone number for ongoing advice will be offered by good breeders to help you during the first few weeks. Not only will this help make your life easier, but it will help ensure the new pet is being cared for properly. (And animal welfare should be the breeder's number one priority!)
9. Does your pet come with a guarantee?
Yes, a puppy or kitten guarantee is a real thing. If your pet develops a severe health condition shortly after coming home caused by a genetic defect, your breeder should have a guarantee in place. Similarly if you and your pet are exceptionally ill suited to each other, your breeder should be able to take them back within a certain time frame. Some breeders even have lifelong conditions, which means that if you are unable to care for your pet you must return them to the breeder and not surrender them to a shelter.
10. Are references provided?
Any decent breeder will be able to provide references upon request, and should have a wealth of good reviews online. These may be from existing buyers, letters from their vet or local breeder organisation.
Identifying a good breeder is essential when buying a new pet. Not only do you want to avoid funding irresponsible or immoral breeders, you want to ensure the pet you are buying is healthy and will have a good temperament. These tips are to help you with identifying good breeders who love dogs they are rearing and take care in producing defective free pets to join your family.
Want to read more? Check out our other articles:
The Complete Puppy Checklist
The Complete Kitten Checklist