What to look for when you’re on the search for a puppy?
Exploitation of the consumer
Honestly, buying anything these days can be fraught with issues. Exploitation of the consumer is rampant in every industry. Human nature can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Elderly grandma’s buying iTunes cards, scam listings online, the Nigerian Prince who emails needing your help. There are plenty of unscrupulous people out there willing to take advantage of an opportunity. I’m going to try and help you when it comes to finding a puppy. This may take a few posts but I hope you'll stay with me and I welcome your feedback.
You may have spent a lot of time working out what breed(s) suit your family. Once you're decided, it's tempting to rush out and get the first one you can find.
Something you may not have considered is WHERE to buy your puppy from. Where that puppy comes from is an important part of how that puppy will turn out. Choosing the right breeder is the very next important step and most people tend to skip it over. This is not the same as picking a new phone or car where the specs are exactly the same, so it doesn't matter what dealership or shopfront you visit.
I want to challenge your beliefs that all breeders are the same and as long as they're 'Registered' that's all the checks you need.
We’re dealing with living creatures. You can do everything else right in your search for a puppy and still get it wrong. There is so much to be heard in what is not said and you need to be able to pick through it.
I’m hoping to convince you that an ANKC Registered dog is the way to go. But it’s also only part of the answer. Welcome to a topic that has so much legislation surrounding it and yet there are still so many traps to avoid: Companion Animal Breeding
What's in a name? The 'Register'.
There is a lot of confusion around what is a ‘Registered Breeder’ in Australia, and in fact around the world.
To start with 'what is a Register?' and how do you get on it? You have Microchip Registers, Council Registers and Pedigree Registers.
Each has a role, but for the love of DoGs, why do they all use the same term? What is meant by the term ‘Registered breeder’ and how do unscrupulous people use the term in a manner which is misleading to the public?
Simply put a Register is a place to store information.
Microchip registers are a beast of a topic and I’m not going to deal with them here. In short, there is no 'National' microchip database, there are a couple of state-government-run registries in some states of Australia, and they don’t all like talking to each other. My advice: get on one or two relevant to your state (or states you visit) and keep your contact info up to date. Okay, maybe it's not a beast of a topic.
Council Registration varies again across the country. Victoria's state government recently overhauled their Animal breeding laws with the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farm and Pet Shops) Act 2017 and i'm more familiar with it, so i'll use Victoria in these examples. Please note, most states in Australia have implemented/are implementing similar rules and definitions though the terminology is different
Companion Animal Register: All companion animals (cats and dogs) are legally required to be registered in their council. This simply identifies that the dog belongs to you/your address and helps reunite you if your pet is ever found roaming. The register is used in updating the Councils' Animal Management plan (ie Cat curfews, Cats vs Wildlife, Dog parks: numbers and locations, Employment of Rangers, etc).
Business Register - 'Breeders' who aren't part of the ANKC and have 3+ females are required to register as a breeding ‘business’ and are given a permit or licence depending on state requirements. In Victoria, this has two levels: Domestic Animal Breeder (Council approved) and Commercial Animal Breeder (Minister approved). CoP for the Operation of Breeding and Rearing Businesses (2014)
'Breeders' with 2 females aren't required to register as a breeder anywhere and are termed 'Micro-breeders' under Victorian state legislation.
Small ANKC ‘hobby’ or 'Recreational breeders' (Vic government term) aren’t required to have council breeding permits (unless they have >10 breeding age females) and don't follow the CoP above. The ANKC have their own Rules and Regulations to abide by, which in some instances are stricter than the council rules. These rules and compliance reports are reviewed regularly by Victoria's state government.
Regardless of the title 'Business', 'Commercial', 'Micro' or 'Recreational' breeder, all dogs are to be registered with the council on the companion animal register.
That leaves Pedigree Registries. What exactly are they? When shopping for a puppy, should that be the only criteria? The short answer is No.
What is the difference between an ANKC Registered dog/breeder and one who is not?
A Pedigree Register is an official list made up of entries which record the birth and lineage of a dog. That’s it. It is not a measure of quality, morals, ethics or ideals.
In Australia, the ANKC is the only Pedigree Register that is internationally recognised.
The ANKC set national guidelines, Rules and Regs for Purebred, Pedigree, Preservation breeders and dog enthusiasts and cover all things Dog: Canine Health and Welfare, Dog Sports, Dog Shows, Developmental Breeds, International agreements and Breeding. Due to the complexity of government laws in each state and territory, the ANKC allows each State to use those guidelines to build their own Codes, Rules and Regulations under their own branch organisation called Canine Councils (CC’s,) colloquially known as Dogs ACT, Dogs NSW Dogs NT, Dogs QLD, DOGS SA, Dogs Tas, Dogs Victoria and Dogs West. These State CC Rules, Regulations and Codes are built around Government laws and generally set the minimum standard.
Each State CC then allows for specialised Breed Clubs to set further guidelines specific to their breed, whilst still adhering to both Government and Canine Council regulations.
Why register a dog at all? The same reason that you might search your family heritage on ancestry.com.au. To know the history, lineage, bloodlines of your family (the pedigree). To identify traits, characteristics, health issues or diseases, etc.
Registration allows a neutral third party to officially record the lineage of a specific animal. It allows a breeder to record a multi-generation family tree. To make an independent record of what they’ve created for future generations to utilise.
If you intend to breed your dog and do it well, a pedigree registration certificate is essential, both in order to register the offspring of your dog, but fundamentally to research and trace those traits, characteristics, health concerns and diseases behind your dog. Ultimately and ideally, bringing forward the ones you want, and leaving behind the undesirable. To be able to verify the parentage of your dog, and therefore better predict the offspring.
But if you don’t want to breed your dog how helpful is registration? It can aid in proof of ownership along with the microchip registration. But aside from that, registration is just a piece of paper, right? Telling you what you already know. Your dog is a Finnish Lapphund. Yes. and No. Hold that thought.
The same way you don’t know what your Great Great Great Grandfather was like, a registration certificate does not tell you what kind of dog he was. You don’t know if he was mean, friendly, energetic, shy, impatient, a larrikin etc.
It is simply data. It records Name, Sex, DOB, Colour, Microchip, Titles and health results (overseas – ANKC does not include health data yet). It also records the breeders' details.
The unscrupulous annexing of 'Registered'
In the push to close puppy factories, and for the public to have better-bred pets, there have been many education campaign efforts by the likes of pedigree breeders, the RSPCA and various animal rights groups.
Whilst the greatest push for ‘Adopt, don’t shop’ is probably well known, later the fine print often contained a disclaimer along the lines of ‘if you can’t adopt, at least buy from a registered breeder’.
as comments often came from the public that they wanted the predictability of temperament, size, coat and exercise requirements that comes from a purebred/pedigree dog.
What the RSPCA and Animal Rights groups meant was, “Please find a responsible, ethical, educated, ANKC registered preservation breeder” and not a Backyard or Commercial breeder. Initially ‘Registered’ was enough. But Backyard Breeders, Commercial breeders and Puppy Farms cottoned on and started to use the word ‘Registered’ as well.
Some Commercial operations used the technicality of being ‘registered’ as a domestic/commercial breeding business, which means they got a permit or licence from council/minister approval. The requirements vary by state but have more to do with buildings, kennelling and staffing arrangements than how a puppy is raised.
Backyard Breeders wrongfully use the registration of their pets with council tags or the microchipping of their pets on the microchip register to call themselves ‘registered’. It's not them who is registered. The dog is.
Some people even went so far as to set up an alternate dog breed ‘Register’ because they had been expelled or suspended from the ANKC for breaches of the Codes of conduct or simply didn’t like their rules (The ANKC does not allow the breeding of crossbreeds unless in an approved breed development program and, in a recent example in 2017, the ANKC established a Task Force to uncover fraudulent breeders of French Bulldogs which sent them to the alternate registers in droves). There have been several extra registers over the years. A means for others to call themselves ‘registered’ and deceive the public into thinking they are the 'registered breeder' advocated by the RSPCA, ANKC and animal rights organisations.
Each register is different. Some of them even go so far as to have attached a Code of Ethics, Rules and Guidelines.
Some providers of puppies even managed to infiltrate the ANKC to ‘go legit’ in order to use the ‘registered’ buzzword. Unfortunately, until they’re found out and expelled, they can operate under the radar with the added legitimacy of membership.
You now know that there are several registries and we know they’re not all the same, barely in the same ballpark.
So what is a Registered Breeder? - There are so many individuals, businesses, groups using the term 'Registered Breeder' that it's really lost all meaning. You should now realise that the term ‘registered’ tells you very little and as a Puppy Buyer trying to research to find your puppy, it’s not enough to just ‘Find a Registered Breeder’. You need to probe a lot deeper.
In my opinion, what makes the difference in the quality of the puppy being produced isn’t the registry, it’s the breeder.
A good breeder can make all the difference between a well-bred dog and a dog of the same breed with few of the qualities you expect.
A good breeder will be able to expand on the details of that pedigree and tell you what your puppies ancestors were like, why they chose the parents, and what to expect from your puppy.
A pedigree certificate is just a piece of paper, it takes a good breeder to tell the story written between the lines.