They were so cute, but ALL puppies are cute. A responsible
Larry had over 20 dogs. Probably closer to 30. The dogs that he kept didn't have names. He had a 12 month old female (selling price - $50) and an 18 month old female (price - $35) that he was "willing" to sell (he wouldn't say why - were they infertile? Bad hunters? Barky? Not cute enough?), but they didn't have names, they weren't potty trained, and they'd lived their entire lives in elevated wire cages (they each have a bed area where they can get off of the wire floor, if they want to). I don't know how one could begin to house train a dog that had been raised that way, much less get it to the point where it could be trusted with children, particularly if it had been trained to hunt.
The puppies were kept in more gentle accommodations. They were with their mother. At the end of the mother's elevated wire pen there was a ramp into a plastic doghouse full of hay. The father was on site, too. Those were points in Larry's favor.
It was also clean, and it didn't smell, in spite of the fact that he only had about an hour's warning that we were coming that evening. I don't guess that he was out in the rain cleaning up on my account. The place was probably as clean as it usually is, and it was cleaner than our yard would be if we had 20 or 30 dogs!
On the other hand, about half of his dogs were outside in elevated wire pens. They barked like it was the end of the world when they saw us coming. I said something like, "Boy, it's about time to move these guys in for the winter," since it was a cold, rainy night. "Oh no," Larry replied, "They stay out all year. They're used to it."
Used to it. With those thin beagle coats. I began to wonder if Larry might be the kind of person that puppies get rescued from. Not the sort of breeder that I want to buy a dog from.
What kills me is that it wouldn't be at all difficult for him to make room for the other dogs inside. About half of his space, indoors, was wasted on walkways. I wasn't going to get into a discussion of geometry with him though. Particularly after I saw a mouse in the barn.
He lets the dogs go home at 6 weeks old. 8 - 10 is more reasonable. His puppies ("pure bred") were only $100. Susan pointed out that if he were taking proper care of them, at that price he'd be selling them at a loss.
So, for a lot of reasons, we've decided not to bring home that particular puppy. Even though she's too young for the conditions to really have much of an impact on her, I don't want to support a "backyard breeder," with my money if he's going to take shoddy care of his dogs. I'd rather wait and find someone who treats their dogs like pets, not like livestock.
I realize that some of this may be cultural - he'd probably be appalled that I let my 90 pound dog live inside the house, sleep on the couch, and eat peanut butter. There's a difference in the way that farmers/country/rural folks and suburban/city dwellers treat animals... I know. Also, Larry probably thinks that he treats the dogs just fine. He's probably better than a lot of backyard breeders - his place was clean, and there was only that one mouse. He seemed sort of affectionate toward the dogs, I guess. He handled the puppies gently. I didn't see any signs of overt abuse - the dogs didn't appear sick or injured in any way. It was the mother's first litter, so I didn't get the impression that he over-bred the females. On the other hand, I know how much Max's vet care costs per year (upwards of $400) and I don't see how someone who has no other job (besides puppy selling) could possibly make enough money to support himself and his wife and properly take care of so many dogs. The math just doesn't add up.
When it's time, the right dog will make her way to us. This was not the right dog for us.
I used some of the following references in making my decision. If you've come upon this article while looking for information about backyard breeders, puppy mills, responsible pet ownership, etc, may I recommend the following:
Wikipedia - puppy mill.
Wikipedia - backyard breeder.
What Is A Backyard Breeder?
Reputable Breeder vs. Backyard Breeder. (Google's Cached Version - I'm having trouble with the website tonight.)
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
* Not his real name.