Ask a Vet: Warning Signs for Irresponsible Breeders


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: Our New Year's resolution is to get a french bulldog. Where can I get one and not pay billions of dollars for him/her?
A: Nothing about a frenchie is cheap!  I love these tough little snarkling dogs, but they often come with a myriad of medical issues, so save up.  If at all possible, please adopt from a rescue organization or a local shelter.  Here are some sites that may help:

If you’re set on buying a puppy from a breeder, DO NOT BUY ONLINE!!  The Internet can be a good way to find a breeder or information about Frenchies but many of the largest puppy mills have embraced technology as a way to minimize the costs of operating a clean, healthy, and humane facility. Since there is no legal oversight to their operations, these breeders are not held to even the minimum standards of chicken farms and such.  The fact is that reputable breeders insist on meeting hopeful adopters and will never sell their animals on the internet to people they have never met.

If the puppy is being sent or delivered to you, it is likely that you are supporting a puppy mill.  Regardless of the cost, you have to take the time to drive to the breeder and make certain that in your quest to find a lovely  companion you're not supporting a practice which causes immeasurable suffering to millions of dogs. Here are some warning signs that you are not supporting a responsible breeder:

-Willing to sell the puppy to you without meeting you (e.g., internet or phone only)
-Seems to have puppies available at all times

-Is reluctant to show you their facilities; they might offer to ship the animal to you or meet you somewhere to drop off the animal

-Has dirty, unhealthy, and/or unsocialized animals

-Does not have proof of the specific animal’s veterinary visits or vaccinations

-Also sells to pet stores, flea markets, or any other way that does not thoroughly screen the potential owners

Characteristics of Responsible Breeders:

-A compassionate, responsible breeder will want to meet you as much as you want to meet their pups.  Visit the breeder’s facility.

-The breeder should definitely encourage one, if not multiple visits with your entire family before you are committed

-Make sure the animals live indoors and not outside in kennel runs 

-The boarding area needs to be clean and well-maintained

-Observe the animal’s behavior and socialization:

-Puppies are kept clean, warm, fed, vetted and with their mother until weaned

-Puppies appear happy and healthy and they don’t shy away from visitors

-Spend time with the puppy’s parents – at a minimum the pup’s mother –assess their health and temperament.

-Make sure the breeder themselves meet the gold-standard:

-Provides references from previous adopters/customers for you to follow-up

-Screens and counsels potential adopters/purchasers in order to find the best fit for the animal

-Has no more than 2-3 breeds of dogs or cats

-Candid about the positive and negative aspects of the animal or breed

-Ensures animals are weaned before placement (8-10 weeks of age for dogs and cats)

-Provides accurate and reliable health, vaccination and pedigree information which needs to include records of recent veterinary visits

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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