How Important is it to Adopt from a Reputable Breeder or Shelter?

This article has been written to explain the importance of finding a responsible breeder when searching for a puppy; why you should consider adopting from a shelter if a young puppy is not a priority to you; and why you should never, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or retailer of any kind.

If you ever thought that this was not a problem in your neighbourhood, city or province, think again. Puppymills and backyard breeders are all around us and the sad fact is that the numbers are growing.

A Few Statistics:
  • According to the Ontario SPCA there have been steady and significant increases in its investigations statistics. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of animals rescued by investigators more than doubled — with 3,095 animals rescued in 2000 and 7,267 rescued in 2004. In addition, the number of animal cruelty charges laid by the Ontario SPCA and its affiliated Humane Societies increased seven-fold between 2000 and 2004 — From 97 charges in 2000 to 695 charges in 2004. While the majority of cases prosecuted involve neglect on individual animals, more and more, cases involving large numbers of animals are being seen. In 2005 alone, 80 seriously neglected Golden Retrievers were removed in Lanark County; 60 Labrador Retrievers were rescued from the Quinte area; 50 dead farm animals were found on a property in the town of Georgina; 31 abandoned horses were removed from a farm in the Peel regions; and 27 cats were rescued from a St. Thomas area residence — just to name a few.[1]
  • In 2004, the BC SPCA conducted 8,200 cruelty investigations and removed 1,087 animals from dangerous or neglectful situations; executed 102 warrants under the Criminal Code of Canada, the PCA Act and the Offense Act; and submitted 39 charges of animal cruelty and neglect to Crown Counsel.[2]
  • In 2003, New Brunswick SPCA inspectors responded to 1,969 calls, compared to 1,036 calls in 2001. This represents a 90% increase over a two year period. Of these, several investigations resulted in charges being laid, and convictions obtained under the Criminal Code.[3]
  • The S.P.C.A. in Montreal employs 3 investigators. The entire Province of Quebec has only 8 investigators. In Montreal alone, they receive an average of 30 to 40 calls per day and approximately 300 calls each year concerning abusive treatment by breeders (puppy mills). In Quebec, the only territory in North America, there are no laws in effect to ensure animal welfare and safety. Therefore, it is impossible for SPCA investigators to enforce norms and standards which do not exist.[4]

Whether or not the statistics are rising because animal cruelty is on the rise or whether it is because more and more reports are being made is unknown. However, the fact remains the same either way — there is an incredible need for animal protection in this country.

The following are just a few real cases:


Ontario SPCA removes 43 dogs and puppies from Ripley-area property

NEWMARKET, ON, (March 8, 2006) On March 6, 2006 the Ontario SPCA removed 40 adult dogs and three young puppies from a rural property located near Ripley, Ontario in the Township of Huron-Kinloss.

Acting on a complaint from the public, investigators from the Ontario SPCA, accompanied by a veterinarian and two Ontario Provincial Police Officers, executed a search warrant on the Ripley-area property. The investigation of the property found the 43 dogs and puppies living in inadequate conditions, confined mostly to small cages or crates — some were so small that the dogs could not fully sit up. Many of the crates and cages were in disrepair. On the written recommendation of the attending veterinarian, the dogs and puppies were removed from the property. Also removed was one sugar glider that was being kept in inadequate conditions.

The dogs are of various breeds including Bichon Frisé, Papillion, Pomeranian, Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, poodle-type and spitz-type. The majority of the dogs were found cold and shivering in crates in the basement. Some of the dogs had filthy, matted and feces-encrusted fur.

The dogs have been undergoing veterinary assessment, treatment and grooming at the Ontario SPCA Provincial Animal Centre in Newmarket since being brought to the facility Monday night. Continued care and rehabilitation will be provided by Ontario SPCA veterinary and animal care staff as needed.

The investigation is ongoing and the dogs are not currently available for adoption. The Ontario SPCA will notify the media and public if and when they are available to be adopted.

To make a donation to the Ontario SPCA, please call Cathy at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) extension 322.

To report suspected animal abuse call the Ontario SPCA at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 1, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated humane society or police.


Smiths Falls-area woman receives house arrest after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charge involving 80 dogs

SMITHS FALLS, ON. (November 21, 2005) — Gloria Bennett of Montague Township, near Smiths Falls, pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice, Smiths Falls, on November 18 to the Criminal Code of Canada charge of failing to provide suitable and adequate food and care to 80 retriever-type dogs that were removed from substandard conditions at her Harper Condie Road property in September 2004.

On September 16, 2004 an investigator with the Lanark Animal Welfare Society (LAWS) executed a search warrant at the Bennett residence after investigating complaints from the public. The investigator observed 54 golden retriever-type dogs inside the residence in extremely unsanitary conditions, which included urine and feces soaked floors and walls. They were confined to three rooms, the living room, kitchen and a back room. All of these 54 dogs, as well as three others that were kept in an outside kennel, were removed from the property. The dogs, a combination of adults and puppies, were suffering from parasite infestation, eye and ear infections, severe matting that was encrusted with feces, emaciation and many other ailments.

Investigators returned to the property on September 23 to ensure compliance with an Ontario SPCA Act Order that had been issued at the time of the September 16 visit for the veterinary care of a number of dogs that remained on the property. The remaining 23 dogs — 21 golden retriever-type and two black Labrador-type — were removed because of a hookworm and roundworm infestation.

Living conditions within the kennel had also deteriorated greatly since the removal of the first group of dogs, making it impossible to eliminate the parasite infestation. It was therefore necessary for the dogs' well being to remove them from the environment. The owner was given the opportunity to find another location for the dogs, but was unable to do so.

Of the 80 dogs removed, 65 have been adopted, and, sadly, 16 had to be euthanized due to severe aggression and various serious health conditions.

Justice Stephen March sentenced Gloria Bennett to 90 days house arrest, followed by three years probation and two years prohibition. During each of these consecutive periods she is not allowed to live with, care for or have control of any animal. Ontario SPCA investigators were also granted inspection rights to her property to ensure compliance with the animal prohibition portion of the sentence.

"The public needs to be aware that if they are obtaining a puppy from someone who will not let them see the puppy's parents or the kennel environment, nor let them choose a puppy from observing the whole litter, a huge red flag should go up and they should just walk away and report the incident to their local humane society," says Larry Wilkinson, the Inspector leading the investigation for LAWS. "By obtaining a dog from a disreputable breeder, the cycle of abuse is perpetuated. The best option is to visit one of the many animals shelters across the province where there are lots of wonderful animals waiting for a second chance in a new home."

Photos of the dogs at the investigation scene are available here.

To report suspected animal abuse call the Ontario SPCA at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) extension 1, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated humane society or police.


Ontario SPCA removes 35 dogs and puppies from Lucknow property

NEWMARKET, ON, (November 2, 2005) — Ontario SPCA investigators removed 35 dogs and puppies yesterday from a property in Lucknow, located near Ripley, Ontario in Bruce County.

Acting on a complaint from the public, investigators from the Ontario SPCA, accompanied by a veterinarian and two Ontario Provincial Police Officers from the South Bruce Detachment, executed a search warrant on the Lucknow property. The investigation of the property found 23 adult dogs, six puppies estimated to be about three to four months old, five nursing puppies, and one deceased dog for whom the cause of death is still to be determined. The dogs are of various breeds including poodles, Pekingese, Shar-peis, West Highland terriers, and Jack Russell terriers.

The veterinarian at the scene determined that the dogs and puppies were suffering from various medical issues such as dehydration, low body weight, dental disease, and suspected leg injuries on a couple of the dogs. The longer haired breeds had matted fur and some of the dogs had feces encrusted in their feet. Investigators could find only a half bag of dog food for the entire group of dogs and puppies and many of the dogs were without water. The veterinarian checked the two nursing mother dogs and could get only a drop of milk out of one of them.

Some of the dogs were kept in the main house while others were housed in a garden shed that was converted to a kennel. There were also a number of dogs roaming the yard. A dog that was found in the basement was without bedding, food or water.

The dog that was found dead at the scene will be sent for an autopsy. The other 34 dogs and puppies are currently at the Ontario SPCA York Region Branch where they are receiving care and any necessary medical attention. Medical tests are being conducted to determine if they are suffering from internal parasites.

The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.

To report suspected animal abuse call the Ontario SPCA at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 1, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated humane society or police.


Quesnel Resident Prohibited from Owning Animals After SPCA Seizes 62 Animals in Distress

October 4, 2005. For immediate release. A judge has ruled that Quesnel resident Robyn Seddon be prohibited from owning animals for a period of one year after SPCA cruelty officers rescued 56 dogs and six chickens from Seddon's property west of Quesnel. The animals were seized in March, 2004, in various states of physical distress due to lack of proper shelter and ventilation, dehydration, and serious dental, husbandry and grooming issues.

"The animals were confined in filthy and unacceptable conditions," said SPCA special constable Debbie Goodine. "They required extensive veterinary and grooming care, but have now all been adopted out to good homes."

Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA, expressed serious concern over the light penalty handed down in the case. "This was a case of extreme neglect involving a large number of animals. The fact that Ms. Seddon received just a one-year ban on keeping animals and no other penalty is an unfortunate indication that crimes against animals are still not taken seriously in this province," says Moriarty. "It is difficult for our cruelty officers to do their job effectively when our courts offer so little deterrent for those who inflict pain and suffering on animals."

Under BC law, individuals convicted of animal abuse and neglect may be sentenced to a fine of up to $2,000, up to six months in jail and a prohibition on owning animals for a period of time determined by the judge. "These penalties are not severe in comparison to other jurisdictions, yet even in the most horrific cases of animal abuse the maximum penalties are rarely handed down in BC," says Moriarty. "We call ourselves a humane society, yet animals are violently abused every single hour in this province and offenders get off with a slap on the wrist."

Moriarty says the SPCA is working hard to address the inadequacies of BC's current approach to justice for abused animals.

Further information:
Special Provincial Constable Debbie Goodine, 250-562-5511;
Lorie Chortyk, Community Relations Manager, BC SPCA: (604) 647-1316, 1-800-665-1868, or 830-7179 (cell);


Kamloops Breeder Faces More Animal Cruelty Charges

April 21, 2005. For immediate release. A Kamloops breeder is facing more charges of animal cruelty following a second investigation by SPCA animal protection officers. Crown Counsel has approved charges against William Pieper under the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after SPCA officers removed 15 English mastiffs from his rural property north of Kamloops in November 2004. Last October Pieper was charged under both the Criminal Code and the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act relating to an SPCA seizure that occurred in July 2004. In that investigation, SPCA officers removed 35 domestic animals in distress, including 29 large English mastiffs, from Pieper's custody.

BC SPCA Special Provincial Constable Kathy Woodward said the animals were removed because of inadequate food, shelter and untreated medical conditions. "Their living conditions were extremely filthy, with poor ventilation and injurious objects in the area." The dogs received on-going medical treatment while in the care of the SPCA and were re-homed with families experienced in raising English mastiffs. English mastiffs are commonly known as 'gentle giants' because of their easy-going nature and large size (adults weight between 160-260 pounds). Loving homes were also found for ten puppies born to Toshi, one of the seized mastiffs, during her stay at the Vernon SPCA shelter.

If convicted of the animal cruelty charges, Pieper faces up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $2,000 and a prohibition on owning or keeping animals.

Further information:
Kathy Woodward, Special Provincial Constable: 250-258-2511;
Lorie Chortyk, Community Relations Manager, BC SPCA: (604) 647-1316, 1-800-665-1868, or 830-7179 (cell);


Animal rescue group charged with cruelty after SPCA discovers 42 sick and emaciated animals

March 11, 2005. For immediate release. Crown Counsel has laid multiple charges of animal cruelty against the owner/operators of Big Dog Rescue, a group operating in Likely, BC, east of Williams Lake. Charges were laid under both the Criminal Code of Canada and the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act against Charles, Beth and Charlie Butler after BC SPCA animal cruelty investigators discovered 38 emaciated and sick dogs and four badly neglected cats on the property on December 20, 2004. All of the animals were suffering from untreated medical conditions and did not have access to adequate food, water or shelter.

"The condition of the dogs was just horrific," says Senior Animal Protection Officer Kent Kokoska. "They were emaciated and suffering from severe hair loss and skin conditions. Many of the dogs were restricted in crates far too small for their size and all of the areas where the animals were kept were heavily built up with excessive amounts of feces and filth."

In addition to an accompanying veterinarian, SPCA investigators from Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Prince George, Kamloops and the Lower Mainland assisted in the removal and transport of the animals so that they could get immediate veterinary care. The animals have since been rehabilitated in the care of the SPCA and adopted into loving homes.

Each of the cruelty charges laid against the Butlers carries a potential fine of up to $2,000, up to six months in jail and a prohibition or owning or keeping animals. The accused make their first court appearance on April 13th in Williams Lake.

Further information:
Kent Kokoska, Senior Animal Protection Officer, BC SPCA: 1-866-901-7722, 250-828-6751;
Lorie Chortyk, Community Relations Manager, BC SPCA: (604) 647-1316, 1-800-665-1868, or 830-7179 (cell);


Judge orders house arrest and lifetime ban on owning animals in BC's largest puppy mill seizure

February 10, 2005. For immediate release. A judge has sentenced Princeton resident Allan Materi to six months of house arrest as well as a lifetime ban on owning animals in what is believed to be the SPCA's largest seizure of puppy mill dogs in BC. Materi was convicted on February 8th of one count of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada and one count of causing distress to animals under the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

On May 29, 2003, BC SPCA animal protection officers seized 87 dogs, seven horses, and one donkey from Materi's custody. Twenty-four of the 87 dogs removed from the property were puppies, and pregnant females rescued from the property gave birth to an additional 31 puppies while in the custody of the SPCA. Among the breeds of dogs rescued from the property were golden retrievers, basset hounds, pugs, miniature pinschers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers, and Shih Tzu's.

"We are extremely pleased to see the courts taking this kind of offence seriously," says Marcie Moriarty, General Manager of Cruelty Investigations for the BC SPCA. "We have to make it clear to those who profit from the pain and suffering of animals in puppy mills that there are consequences to their actions." She adds that the BC SPCA also urges people to be wary of purchasing puppies through the Internet, newspaper ads and pet stores who cannot provide full documentation about their animals. "The SPCA works hard to shut down puppy mills, but as long as there is a market for puppy mill dogs, unscrupulous breeders will continue to operate." The BC SPCA has rescued more than a thousand abused and emaciated dogs from puppy mills in recent years, but suspects there are at least a hundred puppy mills still operating in BC.

Special Provincial Constable Kathy Woodward, one of the lead animal protection officers in the Materi seizure, says the dogs were suffering from a wide range of medical problems, including broken and fractured limbs, and serious ear and eye infections. "Many of the dogs needed intensive rehabilitation for behavioural problems stemming from their conditions as well as on-going medical treatment," says Woodward.

The SPCA has since found new loving homes for 117 dogs either removed from the property or who were born following the seizure. Homes were also found for the other animals rescued from the property.

The BC SPCA is a not-for-profit organization that relies on donations from the public to fund its work in cruelty investigation, emergency rescue, sheltering, and other services to help animals. Donations are always urgently needed - if you can help, please visit this page to donate online or call 1-800-665-1868.

Further information:
Kathy Woodward, Special Provincial Constable, BC SPCA: (250) 258-2511;
Lorie Chortyk, Community Relations Manager, BC SPCA: (604) 647-1316, 1-800-665-1868, or 830-7179 (cell);

According to statistics, there are 52.9 million dogs living in the United States. Of these, 2.9 million are euthanized in shelters annually. Every year, 20% of the total number of dogs whelped come from puppy mills; 1% are the result of feral dogs mating on their own; less than 12% come from reputable and responsible breeders; and an incredible 67% of all dogs born annually in the United States are produced by backyard breeders. In Canada, statistics are comparable.[2]

Based on these statistics, it is easy to see that the backyard breeder is the greatest cause of pet overpopulation. Sadly, the majority of purebred dogs for many of the popular breeds are produced from this type of breeder and the majority of purebred dogs in shelters today are as a result of the backyard breeder.

In many instances, the backyard breeder is not necessarily breeding with bad intentions. It is more a case of ignorance to the facts. Backyard breeders may be breeding with the belief that they can make some extra money; so that their children can experience the "miracle of birth"; under the mistaken belief that every dog should have at least one litter; or quite often by accident because they did not have their dog neutered or spayed. Whatever the reason, the fact is, the backyard breeder does not put much thought into the lives of these new puppies nor do they have the knowledge to properly raise a healthy litter.

So what happens to these puppies? Some will be sold to people who have not taken the time to learn about the importance of buying from a responsible breeder; others will end up in pet shops; and still others will end up at the local shelter and become another number in the growing population of unwanted dogs. Even those that do make it to a new home may very well end up at the nearest shelter simply because the puppy ends up being not quite what the buyer was looking for and, because the puppy came from a backyard breeder, that breeder's responsibility ended the minute the pup left the driveway — there is no one to take the puppy back to; the breeder did not do his/her research to ensure that the puppy was going to a loving and forever home; there is no alternative for this puppy other than to become another statistic in the growing number of unwanted dogs.

So what does all of this have to do with the crossbreeds/mixed breeds? The fact is, a responsible breeder has only one real goal in mind and that is the betterment of the breed. Proper research is done to find a qualified match of sire and dam to produce the best possible litters. The responsible breeder always ensures that available testing has been done on all of their breeding stock to help ensure that genetic disorders are not being passed through the generations. The responsible breeder is always there for you and is extremely careful as to whom the puppies are sold to. The responsible breeder is an indispensible source of information for their breed. The fact is, the crossing of breeds does not produce an exotic new breed. It takes several decades and many generations for a new breed to evolve and breed true to type. When two separate breeds are bred together, the result is a mixed breed, a mongrel, a mutt, or whatever you would like to call it. The crossing of breeds is simply that, a mix of breeds. These are not exotic new breeds bringing together the best of two breeds. There are some wonderful mixed breed dogs in the world today but the sad truth of it is that these all came from backyard breeders, puppymills, or accidental matings. Responsible breeders do not breed mixed breeds or crossbreeds.

The term cross-breed, meaning the mating of one purebred breed of dog to another purebred breed of dog, does not make for a healthier breed. While the gene pool becomes mixed when crossing two first generation dogs, cross-breed dogs are still predisposed to particular genetic disorders. Unlike purbred dogs, where you can be fairly sure as to what your puppy will look like as it matures, with a crossbreed (or a mixed breed for that matter), there is no way of knowing the temperament, the size, or even the exact appearance of the mature dog. Often, the Poodle is used as a breed to be crossed with several others — some reasons for this include: Poodles come in three different sizes; Poodles are known to be an intelligent breed; and Poodles do not shed quite often making them the ideal choice for those suffering from allergies. However, as an example of an emerging breed now well beyond the "crossbreed" status in Australia. The Labradoodle, was originally bred as a cross between the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle in Australia. The purpose for the breeding was an attempt to develop a breed that would be an excellent candidate for use as a seeing eye dog (the Labrador) but that would also be non-shedding (the Poodle) for those who needed a guide dog but also suffered from allergies. After several attempts, the project was abandoned mainly because the guarantee of a non-shedding seeing eye dog could not be established. Today, the Australian Labradoodle breed has undergone several changes with other breeds introduced to develop a new and distinct breed — this is not the same as the Labradoodle cross and should not be confused. This is a new and developing breed that is breeding true to type and not a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle.

[1]     Reference: Ontario SPCA - Media Release, October 3, 2005
[2]     Reference:

Stop Puppy Mills

So What is a Backyard Breeder? — The back yard breeder is the single greatest cause of pet overpopulation.

The Responsible Breeder vs. The Backyard Breeder

Choosing a Responsible Breeder

Information for the New Puppy or Dog Owner

Finding that Special Puppy (or Dog)...

Prisoners of Greed Prisoners of Greed — "Hundreds of thousands of dogs suffer in puppymills in this country. They are prisoners of greed. The dogs are locked in small cages. They freeze in the winter and swelter in the summer. They never get out of their prisons. They are bred over and over again until they die. The only way to free them from their misery is to eliminate the demand for puppies by refusing to buy a puppy in a petstore and boycotting those stores that sell puppies. When the demand ends, the misery will end. The state and federal governments do not enforce the laws to protect the dogs. The commercial breeders and brokers have huge well-funded lobbying efforts. Please join this fight to free the prisoners of greed. The only person who is going to make a difference for these dogs is you. You, the people, can free them."