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Columns: No Limits, No Kidding!




How can hobby breeders compete with puppy mill websites without bringing on local law-zoning-sales enforcement?


Dec 2015 |

Col. Sam Harper, Dogsport Reconnaissance


My training was to spot the enemy but my duty now is to my daughter. Purebred dogs are her passion and truth be told, I still appreciate a blooded hound, one with a voice and a nose. So when she said “Daddy, I’m scared to advertise my puppies” she had my attention. I nodded for her to continue. “I CARE about my breed and developing a bloodline to show and I finally have puppies on the way but the internet is full of those slick “puppies for sale” sites!”


She sighed “I don’t want to ‘list my litter’, it just isn’t done.” I lifted an eyebrow and as we talked, it became pretty clear that show breeders have a problem.


It seems that so-called Animal Rights groups and publicity-seeking politicians make hobby dog breeders go underground, hiding from APHIS, local animal control, zoning restrictions, etc. She rattled off a surprising list then, throwing her hands in the air, she said “shelters that used to save strays are now selling purebred dogs!”


Remembering the old barn they called a “shelter” way back when, I listened as she brought me up to date. Then we started looking online and were blown away when Google listed 442,000 animal shelters hawking purebred dogs and only 478,000 “purebred dog breeders.” {1}


Hobby breeders need to wake up. You guys are invested in purebred dogs, especially if you show in obedience, agility, or other “performance” events. She tells me those are no longer limited to AKC registered purebred dogs. Something about any mutt that resembles a breed can be a PAL (Purebred Alternative Listing) and compete right along with her generations of “carefully created pure bred dogs” as she calls them. She said going after the mutt market is a betrayal of what AKC used to signify.


So we talked some more. The buyer market is as strong as ever. Has to be or there would be no incentive for direct-to-buyer puppy mill sites and shelters would have no one to sell to. Everyone wants a dog for the kids, for security, for company, or just something to love. I get it. So, I did a little more research. Those shelter ads on the internet, which by the way, the U.S. military invented and our President seems determined to control, all stress the moral high ground as a reason to “adopt from a shelter”.


I even found shelters that put it right in your face with this clever slogan “if you buy a purebred dog, you kill a shelter dog”. While I was thinking how to counter that, over my shoulder my kid said “tell surfers purebred dogs have generations of love and genetic screenings for good health, something like that…?” She turned back to her laptop and guess what? Dozens of shelters stress that they have purebred dogs! Something called Global Animal says over 25% of shelter animals are purebreds. We tossed that around and she said “well still, they can’t say those dogs are genetically programmed for health and or any other desirable characteristics.”


I wondered aloud how many lonely people or new families that want a dog for the kids really think about that?


We dug deeper. She was flying on her keyboard while I patiently scouted the snippets. She thanked AKC for being at the top of her search to “find a purebred dog”. She said she finally got through all the forms and clicks and agreed to terms on the AKC site but could not find a puppy of her breed within 300 miles of her zip code. I offered “Hey, that’s a good thing, no competition for you” but she didn’t think it was funny.


We got 11 returns for our state. We agreed that the two that came up first had to be puppy mill outlets. The most impressive one seemed to cater to what she called “backyard breeders who don’t care who they sell to.” She was right, buyers sign up and for a fee, they get a veterinary checked purebred puppy and lifetime support with pet counselors, insurance, and tracking if the dog ever gets lost!


We just looked at each other. She sighed and said, “let’s take a break.”


I stared at the fireplace, wishing it was cold enough to light, while she made sandwiches and coffee. We munched quietly. Finally she said “Dad, we learned a lot, let’s make a list and you write about it.”


Bottom line, we learned the best way to reach the public is to advertise where people looking for a purebred puppy go. I called to ask if they had a dog breeder listing. Denise said “That would be, hold on...” We could hear her typing and then she said “There’s 3,520 dog breeders listed in the dog-e-directory.” What’s that? Laughing, she said “Dog breeder yellow pages!”{2} and told us she’d send a link. When I hung up my daughter moaned that she’d forgotten all about that directory thing. She wondered if they block puppy mill listings. Then she gave me a heads up.


“All of the dog magazines, even Dog World, have folded. Gas went up and people learned everything was online, even puppies.” Chin in hand, she was quiet for a minute, something that rarely happens at our house, then she said “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that… TheDogPlace doesn’t sell puppies but it’s a good place to get found. Thanks Dad, you’ve been a great help.” With that, she grabbed her pricey laptop like it was a sack of bread, bounced off the sofa and headed for her room.


What do I know? Here’s hoping she gets those about-to-be-born puppies sold.


{1} Animal Shelter Marketing

{2} Dog Breeder Yellow Page Listings





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