Sunday, December 13, 2009

No Puppy

So, a couple of days ago, my Dad and I took the girls down to Middle Of Nowhere, Indiana (Population: Depends, how many people are in your car?) to see some beagle puppies that had been advertised in the paper by a guy named Larry*.

They were so cute, but ALL puppies are cute. A responsible mother pet owner can't base her decisions on the cute.

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.


whymommy said...

For talking about this, and for making the right decision, you are my hero.

Thank you.

Amy said...

Awww! Thank you!! That really means a lot to me!

And thank you for helping me make the right decision.

Donna said...

For the rest of my life, I will only get dogs from a shelter. That's how I found my present dog, Sadie. She's a gem.

Amy said...

Donna - our Max is a mixed breed shelter dog, too, and she's AWESOME. However, she was supposed to be 50 - 60 pounds, and she topped out at 90. She was such a hyper, huge puppy that it wouldn't have worked out if we had had small kids when she was young. It just happily worked out that she had time to get old and chill out before the pretty babies came along.

While the kids are small (4 and 2), it's probably best to go with a predictable dog - one that we can accurately guess the size and temperament of in advance. But we also want Max to teach the new dog how to be awesome, because she is seriously the best dog ever.

Thanks for dropping by!!

Heather said...

Have you considered reporting this guy for investigation? There are laws about how dogs are supposed to be cared for in breeder kennels, and this guy, while he certainly sounds like he's making *some* effort, also sounds marginal and like he could be making more of an effort.

If nothing else, there's probably some kind of penalty for selling dogs as "purebred" if they aren't.

Regardless, I think you made the right decision.

Amy said...

I am thinking about it, Heather. I'm not familiar enough with the laws to know whether or not they're being broken. It's not illegal to keep dogs outside, or to have dozens of dogs (in the country).

I'm going to go talk to the humane society though, and see what they think.

The Moniak Family said...

Good for you for walking away from this one. I am a firm believer that breeding should be left to well-educated, responsible, and experienced professionals. This guy just doesn't seem like he fits the bill. The best breeders are usually the kind whose dogs and puppies are snoozing comfortably on the owner's couch! ;)

RobMonroe said...

Good decision, Amy. :o)

I would argue for the Shelter as well - or better yet find someone who rehabilitates the shelter dogs. My sister is doing it and it's a great system - plus it keeps her occupied while she "finds herself" 3.5 years into her 4 year college education. Oops, wrong topic. :o)

Anyway - they take dogs like the caged ones and housebreak them and get them acclimated to other pets/children/people.

Plus, they are typically a little older, and thus a little calmer.

angel0199 said...

You made the right choice. And normally I would agree with everyone saying get a shelter dog, but it is different when you have kids. We got a dog at the shelter when Sammi was little. The vet thought they guested the breeds way wrong and the person who dropped it off lied about why they were leaving it. I think it had been abused and it grab my husband by the throat. I kept thinking what if it had been the baby? It just happened so quick and we were all right there, but that is all it would have took with a small child. If we didn't have kids we might have been able to work with it, but I couldn't risk my daughter so that dog went back.

Our current dog is a Lab and he came with papers that I didn't ever file because I promptly got him fixed and had no intention of breeding him. But because I got him as pup I don't have to worry about unknown history and because I know his breed I had a good idea of what temperament and physical characteristics he would have.

He came from a wonderful breeder who only had two breeding age females at the time. His maternal grandmother was a family pet who had the whole run of the farm and greeted me when I pulled in the drive. The puppies were kept in a barn where they had the whole run of the (heated) barn. They were able to give me copies of there shot records.

When the kids are grown we will probably go back to getting dogs at the shelter, but for now I like knowing what I am getting. There are good breeders out there just keep looking. Plus a puppy in the spring is so much nicer to housebreak than a puppy in December. Do you really want to be standing out in a foot of snow at 3 am waiting for him to piddle?

JessicaAPISS said...

My sister adopted a beagle puppy in Texas from a backyard breeder. She knew this was the case, but she fell in love with the adorable runt.

After treating her for allergies and cuddling with her every night, her puppy died suddenly at 4 months due to congenital deformities - the heart and kidney (there was only one) could not support the puppy as it grew.

My sister was devastated. She was offered a replacement puppy. She declined.

She is now the dog mom of a lemon beagle adopted through rescue when very young.

Auntie Ann said...

We got Bogey from a Sheltie breeder in Ky and he is a great dog even though he has devoured many socks. Beagles bark ... a lot.. and might have driven you nuts. You did the right thing by walking away. The right dog is out there. It will find you.

Cathie said...

You may not want some of the risks associated with a shelter dog, but you could consider a dog from a rescue group. You could contact a Beagle rescue group if that is the breed you want. With rescue groups the dogs live in foster families' homes. So, the group/foster families know about the dogs' temperaments, whether they are good with kids, house broken, etc. Also, with most rescue organizations, the fee you pay to adopt the dog covers everything. The dog will be current on vaccines and be spayed or neutered. We've done both, adopting from a shelter and from a rescue group. We'd do either again. However, the rescue group, did a home interview to make sure they were fitting the right dog with our family, so they get brownie points for that. You can find rescue organizations in your area on Hope this helps.

Rhonda said...

I agree with the recommendation to try a rescue group. We have adopted two Rhodesian Ridgebacks through and they have been awesome dogs.

Have the T-shirt said...

The story of that 'breeder' just burns my toast. While you feel for all the dogs under his care, you would be brininging a complete unknown into your home. I'm glad you chose not to. He deserves to be reported.

I agree with those who have encouraged you to look into beagle rescue groups. These are people who KNOW the breed and take such care when placing a dog.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good for you for resisting the cute puppy, Amy. I'm questioning your choice of a Beagle. A former boyfriend had one, and the barking was very obnoxious -- neighbors complained, etc. Also, the dog needed miles-long walks/jogs/runs twice a day in order to keep his behavior under control back in the house. He needed a LOT of exercise, and I'm not sure spending hours every day on dog walks fits your family's lifestyle. At least, that's what that particular Beagle required.

Cate said...

Just want to officially post that you are my top pick for "Best Blog Award". Feel free to snag the picture from my blog to repost! :)

Anonymous said...

I'd vote for a shelter dog. The best dogs we've had have been from the shelter. Only once did we get a purebread with papers. It turned out to have more problems than the others.