Animal workers stress avoiding irresponsible ‘backyard breeders’ when looking for furry companion

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If you plan to bring home an animal from a breeder, AWL CEO Lori Shandor urges you to do your research first

(WKBN) – Bringing a dog into your life is a big commitment. When you do make that decision, however, local animal advocates say it’s important to look out for irresponsible breeders that are just trying to make a profit.

Some backyard breeders might occasionally breed their family pets, while others might be running an operation in which litters are constantly sold to make some cash. 

In either case, without the proper education or care for the animals, advocates say backyard breeding can lead to overpopulation, abuse and an array of health concerns among the dogs.

Mary Louk is the board president of Animal Charity Humane Society. She said backyard breeding is an ongoing issue in the area.

“You can pick any side of [Youngstown] and there’s somebody somewhere breeding puppies in their backyard, that think the pit bull puppies that they’re breeding are worth $300 to $500,” she said.

However, it’s not limited to Mahoning County. Lori Shandor, chief executive officer of the Animal Welfare League, said Trumbull County also has its share of backyard breeders and puppy mills.

“They’re kept in substandard conditions; they’re not receiving the necessary medical treatment,” Shandor said.

In 2018, Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 506, which established stricter rules for large-scale breeding.

Under that law, high-volume breeders need a license issued by the director of agriculture to operate. 

According to the Ohio Administrative Code, a high-volume breeder is an establishment that houses and maintains six or more breeding dogs at a time and does at least one of the following:

  • Sells five or more adult dogs or puppies in a calendar year to dog brokers or pet stores in return for a fee
  • Sells 40 or more puppies in any calendar year to the public in return for the fee
  • Houses and maintains, at any given time in a calendar year, more than 40 puppies under four months old that have been bred on the premise

The law requires that high-volume breeders keep veterinary records of all dogs in their care. They also must be insured, which varies depending on how many animals the breeder has. 

Background checks are conducted on those who apply for or renew a high-volume breeder license. 

They are also subject to inspections to ensure that the animals are appropriately cared for and that kennels are up to code.

Louk does not think that these regulations are enough, particularly for backyard breeding.

“You don’t start getting into regulations until you have so many litters per year, and even then, it’s only if the Department of Agriculture… knows about it,” Louk said.

Irresponsible breeding on a smaller scale can still go under the radar, causing problems for the animals and shelters.

“They’re putting a lot of puppies into the system; they’re not spayed and neutered. They get into situations where they’re abused, abandoned, neglected, and that’s where you get this overabundance of pit bulls into shelter situations,” Louk said.

While this is a prominent issue, Shandor wants to stress that not all breeders are bad.

“Some people are doing it the right way. They’re vaccinating; they’re getting the medical care necessary for the dogs that are being bred as well as the puppies before they go into their homes.”

According to the ASPCA, responsible breeders should make sure the animals are healthy, socialized and going to owners that have been screened and educated. 

They should also screen for genetic defects and provide potential adopters with medical records. 

If you plan to bring home an animal from a breeder, Shandor urges you to do your research first. 

“Visit the facility where the animals are being bred. Ask to meet the parents of the puppies before you take them home,” Shandor said. “Legitimate breeders will do these things for you.”

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