Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 28, 2011

A Dilemma – An Appointment vs. A Roadside Puppy Seller

Posted at 02:20PM - Comments: (20)

On Saturday afternoon, I was driving to meet a friend for a hike with our dogs. (She has two and so do I). I was running a few minutes late. I was on the busiest thoroughfare in town when I saw a truck parked on a wide pullout on the other side of the street with a large hand-painted sign on the side: “Golden Retriever puppies for sale, with a phone number.” There were several large dog crates in the back of the truck and I could see (as I slowed as much as I could without getting rear-ended) that there were at least a half a dozen pups in the crates.

My blood just boiled. Nothing can get me madder than irresponsible breeding. Especially when I think about the homes and futures these (probably unvaccinated, surely unneutered) puppies will have with the people who spontaneously decide to buy one, just because they saw the sign. See you in six months at the shelter, puppies!

Remember, I was later to meet a friend, and I had two hyped up dogs in the car who were looking forward to their hike. So I called the police as I drove. The police dispatcher confirmed that such roadside selling is illegal in our town – but said that on weekends, she could call animal control officers out only if it was an emergency. And she said that she could put it out on the radio, and if an officer had absolutely nothing else to do he might go by and cite (or “run off” the seller, she said), but that “honestly, hon, it was unlikely that anyone would.” Argh!

As a member of the Board of Directors of my local shelter, which has a contract to provide animal control services to our town, I was privy to our recent contract negotiations with the city. I know how long (days) we spent arguing about the amount in the contract provided for animal control services that are provided on an emergency basis (before 8 am and after 6 pm on weekdays and on weekends). I understand that if the dispatcher sends our officers out too often, we will be the ones trying to figure out how to pay the officers’ overtime – and it could come out of the funds that we use to keep animals in the shelter as long as possible, trying to find homes for them.

By the time I got to the trailhead and met my friend, I was full of anger and regret. I wished that I had called my friend and cancelled our walk, so that I could have stayed and confronted the person selling the puppies. Actually, I wished I was the kind of person who didn’t think twice about confronting idiots like roadside puppy sellers. I HATE confrontation. I would have been shaky and probably ineffective. And really, is there anything I could have said to change the circumstances or to change the mind of the person who was selling all these pups? Is it likely that someone who had a litter of (purportedly) purebred, eight-week-old puppies would be convinced by some shaky middle-aged lady that producing said puppies for profit was wrong, bad for the puppies and bad for the community and bad for the puppies already awaiting homes at the shelter?

I spent the first half of the walk hashing all of this out with my friend, who listened patiently. Then, I realized how beautiful the almost-setting sun was, lighting up the dry grasses in the meadows we were walking through, and how happy all of our dogs were, galloping along off-leash. I had to let it go for a bit. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

What would you have done?

Comments (20)

I have worked for veterinarians all my life. I rescued dogs before it was "popular", 14 of them. I have always wanted a Standard Poodle, so I tried the resuce group route. Oh and I also have groomed dogs for over 30 yrs. I live on 22 acres on a dead end road which only has 5 houses on it. No group would let me adopt unless I had fenced yard. I knew better not to go to show kennels, since I had groomed for many of them over the years. Most diseases can be traced to specific lines including Addison's, VWD, thyroid and other autoimmune disorders. After 2yrs of searching I found a wonderful breeder who has 2 litters a year by breeding their two females (one litter each) and their male. They did their homework when it comes to bloodlines and made sure their dogs came from lines that were not the top winners in the confirmation classes. I even met people who had puppies from previous litters and were invited to those peoples homes to see their dogs. Every dog I met was amazing. The breeder just didn't sell their pups to anyone who showed up with money. They took the time to learn about the prospective families of their dogs. They educated them on nutrition, training, grooming and many other things that come along with dog ownership. I got a lot of grief from people I know because I bought from a "backyard breeder", but I would recommend doing your homework as well and you may be suprised that wonderful people breed wonderful dogs.

Posted by: Rockinpoodle | December 30, 2011 8:38 AM    Report this comment

"Well, you said you were/are on the board of directors for your local animal shelter. If I had that title and capability, I would have called one or a few members of the animal shelter and BOUGHT ALL of the puppies from that person! At least I would know they would be going to safe homes. Even if I spent the money out of my own pocket."

While that might certainly help those individual puppies, it also encourages the bad breeding practices. If the breeders are able to profit from selling their puppies, then they will likely breed more. The puppies from the shelters are no better of worse than the puppies from these breeders. But for every puppy on the back of that truck, there is an equally deserving pup in a shelter or rescue that needs your help too. Would you rather support the people who are trying to fix that problem or the ones who are causing it?

Posted by: Kathryn S | December 3, 2011 9:07 AM    Report this comment

PupQuest agrees that most breeders are doing it for the money. To minimize the heartbreak to dogs and consumers we have created a list of tips that help differentiate between reputable and disreputable breeders. No indicators are PERFECT. If "breeders" are not screening for common health problems of their breed...walk away.
We also agree that some "rescue" groups are not reputable. Check out our shelter/rescue page and see if you agree with our assessment. PupQuest is not a business nor are we seeking donations, we are all about education. www.pupquest.org
Some rescue groups are what we call... overzealous!! Far too protective of their dogs, few people and situations qualify for adoption. However, we encourage you to be more understanding, most of the dogs in their care have been bounced at least once and they just want to assure it won't happen again. Trying to find "forever" homes for homeless dogs is difficult work. Anyone involved with reputable rescues and shelters can tell you that! www.pupquest.org

Posted by: PupQuest | November 30, 2011 11:51 AM    Report this comment

Also too add, I tried to rescue a Golden Retriever from 3 rescue places and it was the worst nightmare. Because I own a doggie daycare they kept turning me down without even coming to see the facility. I take care of my clients dogs as well as my own better than I take care of myself. I am begining to think that these rescue places have a bunch of Horders running them. They do not want to give up the dogs to good homes. This rusults in people buying dogs from breeders. So it's an unexplainable cycle in my mind. As a result I bought my 3rd Golden retriever from a backyard breeder, I lost my 2nd Golden 4 days before Christmas 2yrs ago and Jan rolled around and my home was empty without a golden. My 3rd golden is soo happy and VERY WELL taken care of.

Posted by: Unknown | November 30, 2011 9:13 AM    Report this comment

I must agree with the person who commented on backyard breeders usually its a one time thing and they are not out to make the bucks on a poor female dog. These so called professional breeders care nothing about the dogs. It's $$$$$$$$ in their minds. I had a litter of Bovier/Golden retrievers all went for a small home placement fee except for one and I still have him available. He is 8 months old. The nine goldens in the truck should have been in crates on a busy hwy. I am sure it was for their own safety against dummies that come see them for purchase, so they don't allow the pup to get hit by a car. Even you said yourself you almost got rear-ended. Not only that usually a mutt lives longer because they are not a part of a cycle of over breeders.

Posted by: Unknown | November 30, 2011 9:05 AM    Report this comment

Actually, the breeder from which I got my $1500 miniature poodle pup would have been listed as a "reputable" breeder on any list. Some of the best dogs in the world are sold from backyard breeders. "Reputable" breeders successfully abolished an initiative to create a registration fee for breeding dogs in Northern California. The "reputable" breeders have no more right to breed than anyone in their own backyard unless there is a law that requires certain criteria and fees. The "reputable" breeder, that has multiple show dogs simply bred hundreds of dogs since only a few out of several hundred are show quality. Really, there is no legal standard that designates some breeders as "reputable" and some as unworthy. Some of the best dogs in the world are sold outside of Costco and some of the worst are from those that show dogs and over breed to get those rare show dogs.

Posted by: Gideon B | November 29, 2011 9:48 PM    Report this comment

Gideon B.......your breeder was NOT reputable! Education is the key, please visit www.pupquest.org to learn to be puppy SOURCE savvy. NEVER buy a puppy sight unseen, always visit where the puppy was born and raised. If consumers follow PupQuest advice they have a much better chance of getting a healthy, well socialized pup from a reputable source.

Posted by: PupQuest | November 29, 2011 9:13 PM    Report this comment

After reading the other comments and thinking about it, I hope I would have stopped and acted as though I was interested in the pups. (Actually, that would be true, in the sense that I work with a golden retriever rescue, but not thinking of buying a pup!) The "catching flies with honey" comment would be the safest approach while you at least felt out what kind of people these are.
"You must really love golden retrievers, to go through the work of having puppies...." might be a good start. Ask about the mom and dad. Do they hunt with them? Where are they kept? How old are they? Do you have any pictures of them? It might give you a sense as to whether these people are ignorant of the things dog people hope to find in a breeder, or whether they are just out to make a buck. Then you could go from there, from advising them that selling the pups where they are is not legal, and they could get into trouble, to getting them to a rescue if they don't all sell as expected, to checking the mom and dad for hip dysplasia, etc. (The rescue I work with got six pups from a "breeder" who couldn't sell them.)
Note to one response above: a professional breeder makes money from the pups. That never makes him/her a responsible breeder. Five or six litters on the ground at once is not responsible; it would be very unusual to find a puppy from a situation like that who has had the socializing that is best for it, and, as you pointed out, the cleanliness aspect can get overwhelming.
And to a different response above--no one is saying the puppies from this litter are in any way "bad." However, they are less likely to have parents and generations of ancestors with good hips, elbows, eyes, and hearts as checked by specialists, which is one reason we don't like to see people breeding indiscriminately and selling to whoever has the cash.
As for the criticism of breed rescue, please remember that we have no time constraint. The dog is not in danger with us, but often it is with us because someone else had a problem with it. The dog is our primary client, not the human who wants it. We choose to do what we feel is best for the dog, and we are not inclined to take risks with that. The dog has already had at least one bad break, and we are cautious about putting it into an environment we can't control. We do not have a fence requirement, but I can see why some rescues do.
Those of us in breed rescue love the breed, and respect the breeders who do what they can to improve on the problems within it.

Posted by: Margaret T | November 29, 2011 5:42 PM    Report this comment

Don't even try to go there with more Laws. Law is there to be broken. If someone really don't want to be responsible, they will find a way to do what they want. It only hurts true responsible breeder and give HSUS an excuse to eliminate purebreed dog. Education is what it takes. Start from volunteering in your child's school to talk about responsible ownership.

Posted by: MARIA C | November 29, 2011 3:34 PM    Report this comment

In today's world, regardless of what approached you used, you could have been shot or worse. Ignorance as well as arrogance runs rampant in the world of dogs. We live on a farm and because we have the "room to run and play" we have 2 airedales, 2 welsh terriers and a wire fox. They are the loves of our lives. We did careful research and took years to find the right breeders - flying to visit unannounced for those out-of-state. Why did we not use Breed Rescue? We tried. Can you imagine the requirement to fence in five acres when the dogs are never outside without us? Not all breeders are bad. Not all people who want a purebred dog are bad people. Obviously the guy in truck was looking to make a buck. People who purchase from him will pay a higher price in vet bills, etc. But also those purchasing may have met with the same unbendable (and sometimes ridiculous) rules we ran into. Common sense should dictate in all situations.

Posted by: Mary H | November 29, 2011 1:34 PM    Report this comment

I have a $1500 dog from a reputable breeder in Northern California. She came to me with multi-drug resistant Giardia and it took me one and a half years to potty train her (several dog trainers have told me this is due to dirty pens for the pups during critical development period where they learn from their mother). It is true, this breeder had 5 to 6 litters at once and only one lazy kennel keeper. Moral of the story is that the "professional" breeder is not necessarily better than a backyard breeder. One idea is for California to enact laws that prohibit breeding and selling without a licence. Although it can't be enforced, it would allow for prosecution in the case you write about.

Posted by: Gideon B | November 29, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Here is what I'd have done: I would have called the friend on my cell & then the cops & stayed there until they got there, plus, would have got his license number & with your cell, you could have taken pictures. This could have been used as evidence. I would have had a BIG confrontation with him. I did once when a woman left her dog in the car while she shopped. I alerted security & we waited for her to come out, & I told her that she should not have left her dog in the car. She got mad & told me to mind my own business. I told her that dogs WERE my business & she raced off mad. There are millions of people who shouldn't be allowed to have dogs & she was one of them. We rescued a little border collie & she has some issues but we love her & take good care of her.

Posted by: Carolgarr77 | November 29, 2011 12:18 PM    Report this comment

I have never dealt with roadside sellers, but in my experience you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. The best thing to do in this type of a situation is to maintain a non-hostile attitude. As a representative of a local animal shelter, you could provide them with education on why backyard breeding is dangerous, and offer to connect them with responsible breeders in the area. If they are selling "accidentally bred" puppies, then you could be even more helpful by offering information on inexpensive spay/neuter services. Sure there's a chance that you will get told to mind your own business, but I think the sellers would be much more likely to tell you that if you were screaming at them and threatening to call the police.

Posted by: Amy O | November 29, 2011 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Well, you said you were/are on the board of directors for your local animal shelter. If I had that title and capability, I would have called one or a few members of the animal shelter and BOUGHT ALL of the puppies from that person! At least I would know they would be going to safe homes. Even if I spent the money out of my own pocket.

Posted by: Regina S | November 29, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

I have another view. Yes, a lot of those who sell their puppies alongside the road are irresponsible. However, some are just dog lovers who want to do what the big breeders do, on a smaller scale. We have had Sheltie puppies in the past (with papers) that we purposely bred. We got them all their shots, had dew claws removed, but did not have them neutered. I am not pro mandatory neutering, but that is another subject. I think it's up to the owner and our energy should be spent on educating people about responsible pet ownership.

Posted by: Andee R | November 29, 2011 10:12 AM    Report this comment

We got our last dog, a Border Collie-Golden Retriever hybrid, just this way, despite having been warned never to get dogs from roadside sellers. She was the light of our life, and after she died a little more than a year ago, despite having acquired an astonishing Golden Retriever puppy from a reputable breeder, we still miss her terribly.

She came with papers documenting that she'd had all her shots, though naturally she had worms, for which we treated her promptly. The people who sold her to us said her litter came from a breeder, to whom the litter was a surprise (they weren't deliberately breeding Border Collie/Golden Retriever mixes). Could have been a story--or it might just have been true. She sure acted like it was true.

This hybrid is also sometimes called "Gollie," one I recommend heartily for those who have the temperament for it. It was fine when our kids were young. This time around we decided we've slowed down too much for the Border Collie part.

She had a loving home, and in fact we were told constantly how spoiled she was.

So be careful about the assumptions you make, that arise from your worldview. Things aren't necessarily so simple as represented in this article.

Posted by: Penny | November 29, 2011 9:33 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately there was nothing you really could do. The caliber of the individual who would be involved in such an endeavor is not someone that you'd want to meet on a dark street or even on a major highway. I have always considered that anyone who can, without thought, harm an animal of any kind, to be equally as capable of harming a human. As long as there is money to be made this practice, unfortunately, will continue. I honestly think that a person who harms an animal has some form mental illness. There is literature from prominent socialists that indicate that a person who will harm an animal is often a person who would harm a human too.
Scary thought!
However, all we can do is try to rescue as many as we can without getting ourselves harmed.
My son just adopted two sibling pups, boy and girl, from a kill shelter in Al. The owner had killed the Mom of these pups after she delivered because "she keeps on gettin' pregnant".
I don't know how you stop that kind of ignorance. Wish I did.

Posted by: Barbara W | November 29, 2011 9:33 AM    Report this comment

Don't feel bad. Most of us would have done exactly what you did and felt equally bad about it later. I work in Greyhound Rescue and have just taken in one more frightened, skinny, escapee of the racing industry. I agree that puppy mills have long, extended consequences that must be addressed. You have used your forum to try to exact change and that is commendable.

Posted by: Diane R | November 29, 2011 9:10 AM    Report this comment

You might have been shot! or at least regarded as a nuisance do-gooder who obviously doesn't understand how difficult it is to pay the food bill these days. I entirely share your anger with these bozos who use dogs to make a buck, but I understand the angst many people feel these days in paying the basic bills. Now that I've vented, I suppose the best thing would be to keep in the car some literature that addresses the issues and hand it out whenever necessary, with hopes that they would or could read and understand it. You could invite these folks to work in a kill-shelter for a few days and participate in the dogs' final moments. Maybe then we could convert them, one small step at a time.

Posted by: Antonia R | November 29, 2011 9:08 AM    Report this comment

I don't know. Probably what you did. These smarmy people know all the 'tricks' to get away with what they do. Living in the middle of Amish country here in PA, we have an ongoing battle with 'puppy mills.' So I know how you feel. I wonder if a Facebook posting would help?/

Posted by: beverly m | November 29, 2011 8:59 AM    Report this comment

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