In the midst of hashing and rehashing all this purebred pet stuff lately at the Purebred Paradox conference (and handling literally hundreds of comments and e-mails on the subject), I received a question from a writer over at PetSugar.com: What should prospective purebred pet owners ask breeders before buying a pet?
Below is the list I came up with. But I’d like YOUR opinions, of course, seeing as I’ve got zero direct breeding experience, and, sadly, because I tend to deal with clients after they’ve made the wrong decision to buy a purebred puppy or kitten from a less-than-reputable source.
So here goes:
1. Are you a member of your breed’s parent club? Can I verify that somehow?
This question basically asks how actively engaged a breeder might be with the health and welfare of his or her breed. Breed club members share information on best practices and tend to be on top of things.
2. Which genetic tests have your parents undergone? Can you show me the results?
This question assumes that you’ve done your own research and know which genetic diseases should be tested for in your breed of choice.
3. Do you have a policy regarding lifetime returns?
All high quality breeders I know will always take a puppy/kitten back, no questions asked, for the entire lifespan of the animal. OK, so they might ask, but they’ll never say no. Ever.
4. Do you require sterilization for your "pet quality" puppies/kittens?
Not all great breeders do, but if they do it’s a pretty good sign they’re serious.
5. Do you compete?
Again, not all wonderful breeders will, but the ones that do can give you great insight into how they care for the animals in their care. It’s a definite plus.
6. Can I come visit?
Anything less than enthusiasm should engender skepticism.
7. How many litters do you raise each year?
A few do lots, if they’re exceptional, but most have only one or two litters a year. More than five could be problematic and deserves more digging.
8. Do you have a waiting list?
You’d think they would if they’re that good.
9. Do you have happy owners you’ve placed pups/kittens with that I can talk to?
It’s worth asking to see how quickly and unreservedly you get an answer.
(and the clincher...)
10. Do you have a veterinarian I can speak with about the health and welfare of your animals?
Again, a breeder prepared for the question won’t hesitate, though I can imagine some aren’t used to an interview this thorough. Still, a great breeder will want to talk to your veterinarian, so they should be prepared to give as good as they get.
Now, there are a zillion-and-one ways I can imagine an irresponsible backyard breeder, puppy mill or distributor getting around these questions, but I’ll bet most would want you off the phone after question 3.
And I know plenty of you (like most of my clients) are thinking I’m crazy to expect you to ask these often-uncomfortable questions, but here’s how I defend them: While it may be uncomfortable to pose Q after Q, a great breeder will make them easy to ask by answering without hesitation. A loser will give you a hard time. And guess what? You can always hang up on the duds.
Dr. Patty Khuly