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Advice for Nonprofits
Our Special Friends
For Shelter Directors
Working with Breeders and Rescues
Information About Working With Breeders, Rescue Groups & Shelters
The Pet Fund encourages all potential pet owners to seek out adoptive animals
from shelters or 501(c)3 rescue groups. However, if you choose to purchase
an animal from a breeder, the following recommendations will help you to
avoid purchasing an animal with serious health problems. The following checklist
for purchasing a dog or cat from a breeder represents the minimum requirement
for the definition of a good breeder.
1. Be extremely cautious if you purchase a dog or cat from a pet
store. Good breeders rarely sell animals to a pet store. Some pet
store animals come from puppy mills or other abusive backgrounds. These
animals are likely to have major medical issues and purchasing them helps
to perpetuate a cycle of abuse by the puppy mills that breed them.
2. A good breeder will provide the purchaser with a contract of
sale which states that if any genetic defects or preexisting diseases are
found that the breeder will refund the purchase price and/or or pay for
treatment. Many states have laws which require breeders to be responsible
for genetic defects and preexisting disease. Be aware of your state’s laws.
Be aware that purchasing a puppy outside of your state may nullify this
protection. When you purchase an animal, be aware that you are taking personal
responsibility for that animal and be prepared to pay for its medical expenses.
3. A good breeder will always allow prospective
pet owners to tour the breeding facilities. These should be clean
and spacious with adequate shelter from both heat and cold, and no breeder
should have more animals on the premises than they can safely care for properly.
Good breeders have nothing to hide with respect to their breeding facilities.
This is also a reason to never buy animals sold from the back of a truck,
in front of stores, or anywhere where the facilities are not viewable. When
used, cages must be spacious, clean, and well bedded. Animals should have
adequate exercise time outside of the cage.
4. A good breeder will always provide you the paperwork for your
dog or cat, which must include not only breed registration papers but also
paperwork from a veterinarian demonstrating that the animal has had an examination
as well as all the appropriate vaccinations and dewormings. For
large breed dogs, breeders should also provide proof that a veterinarian
has examined the parents of the puppy for hip dysplasia. Do not pay for
the animal unless you receive the paperwork at the same time, including
a copy of the medical history. Good breeders often have a list of references
of previous clients whom you may call.
5. Good breeders will often want to get to know you before selling
you a puppy or kitten. Although it may seem intrusive, good breeders
feel responsible for the animals they are selling and want to make sure
they are going to a good home.
6. Beware of “discount” pets sold online or from ads in the paper.
Good breeders will charge more for animals whose pedigree warrants the expense.
Backyard breeders who sell dogs and cats cheaply are not able to afford
proper care for those animals and may possibly sell you an animal with
serious medical problems.
7. Good breeders bring their animals to vets
to receive vaccinations and exams. Beware of breeders who claim
to have vaccinated the pets on their own. Your cat or dog may not have received
the vaccines at all, or may have been inadequately vaccinated. Also, if
you need to board the animal for any reason, you may be required to re-vaccinate
the dog or cat because you will have no proof that a vet provided the vaccines.
8. Good breeders are aware of the potential genetic issues certain
breeds face. If your breeder is not serious about screening for
hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, for example, they have not researched
the problem sufficiently and are likely to evade responsibility for treating
the dogs if the problem arises. Work with a breeder who is educated enough
to be able to implement good breeding practices.
9. Do not agree to become co-owner of a dog or cat with the breeder.
While some breeders may insist on this clause in a contract, agreeing to
this situation may bar you from having legal rights to your animal and may
prevent you from being able to make medical decisions on behalf of your
animal. You may even lose permanent custody of your animal if you agree
to this arrangement.
10. It is illegal for a breeder to sell or give away a cat or dog
under 8 weeks of age. If you encounter a breeder selling animals
younger than 8 weeks of age, contact Animal Control Services and report
11. Good breeders will provide you reliable and current contact
information. If a breeder seems unwilling to provide a phone number
or is in the process of moving, do not work with them. If you need to find
them later to deal with medical problems, it will be much harder to locate
12. Avoid making your decision based solely on information from
a breeder’s website. A bad breeder may have a good website and
13. Do not “rescue” an animal from a bad breeder. Paying
a bad breeder for a dog or cat who is clearly being abused may save that
animal, but will ensure that the breeder continues to profit by abusing
or neglecting other animals. Instead, contact Animal Control Services in
your area and try to adopt the animal from the shelter if the breeder’s
animals are impounded.
How to Find a Good Breeder
1. The easiest and best way to get a referral for a good breeder
is to ask your vet, or ask a local veterinarian. Good breeders
bring their animals to the vet for medical care, and bad breeders do not
bother to provide care.
2. Get a personal referral from a pet owner who has had a good experience
with a breeder and whose animals are healthy and free of genetic defects.
If a breeder provides referrals, feel free to contact them for information.
Just remember that they may not be reliable sources of information about
the breeder, so make sure to review the checklist above before purchasing
the animal. Spending time researching the breeder before purchasing your
animal will save you significant expense later on and will help to avoid
supporting abusive breeders. Doing your homework about the breeder ahead
of time will also help to stop the suffering of animals raised in puppy
What to Do If You Have a Medical Problem with an Animal Purchased
From a Breeder or Pet Store
1. Get a letter from your veterinarian stating the medical problem
your dog or cat has, and ask them to specify if is a preexisting or congenital
2. Call or email or write the breeder, include a copy of the letter
from your veterinarian, and ask that they pay for the medical care needed.
If they do not respond, send a certified letter asking that they take financial
responsibility for the medical treatment as outlined in your original contract.
3. File in Small Claims Court for maximum amount allowed by law
in your state. Research the dog “lemon laws” in your state to determine
the maximum amount of damages you will be able to claim in court. The Humane
Society website has an online link to state-by-state listings of dog lemon
Filing in Small Claims Court is very inexpensive, no lawyers are required,
and your claim may be heard within 1-2 months of filing. Even if you lose
your case, the breeder’s name will appear online associated with the case,
so future potential clients will be able to see that they were sued in court.
4. If medical neglect or animal cruelty is involved, call your local
District Attorney or State Attorney General as well as your local Animal
Control Services agency. Breeders and pet store owners have been
arrested and convicted of animal cruelty for selling sick animals or for
running puppy mills.
5. Call your local media resources, including television stations
and your local paper. They may wish to run a story about your experience
with your breeder or pet store. This may encourage your breeder or pet store
to take responsibility for the animal’s medical care needs rather than face
public scrutiny and possible criminal charges.
Working with a Rescue Group
1. Make sure that the rescue group you want to work with is a 501(c)3
nonprofit organization. You can check a nonprofit’s status by looking
on the IRS website under “Charities” to search by name. A real nonprofit
will have a 501(c)3 number from the IRS allowing them to function as a charity.
Remember that only a nonprofit can legally accept donations, so if you are
working with a rescue group that is not a legally incorporated nonprofit,
technically they may be liable for medical issues with the adoptive animals,
just as a breeder would be. Read over your contract carefully.
2. Make sure that the rescue group has adequate facilities for the
number of animals they are attempting to adopt out. Sometimes would-be
rescuers are actually animal hoarders. Even if they have a legal charity
distinction they are still responsible for the welfare of the animals. No
one person or entity can properly care for too many animals at one time,
so if you visit a “rescue” where one person has 50 cats in one house, that
is an example of a badly run rescue operation and possible hoarding situation.
These animals are not likely to receive adequate medical care.
3. Legitimate rescue groups may want to visit your home or get referrals
for you in order to adopt out an animal. This is standard practice
for rescue groups and you should view this as a good practice and possible
sign of a well-run nonprofit.
4. Read over the rescue group’s website for information about the
nonprofit’s purpose. Make sure that the nonprofit’s stated mission
is being followed by the group’s practices. For example, no real animal
rescue group will ever be involved with breeding or other for-profit venture
Working with an Animal Shelter
1. Ask if the animal you wish to adopt has any known medical or
behavioral conditions. If you adopt an animal knowing that they
have special medical needs, you will be financially responsible for the
cost of all medical care.
2. Be sure to adopt a breed that is appropriate for your situation.
If you want a specific breed of dog or cat, research the exercise, feeding
and medical needs for that breed ahead of time. Also, be aware that some
breeds may have behavioral issues which you will need to consider before
3. If you feel the shelter is not providing adequate care, contact
your local City Councilmember and request that they review the shelter’s
practices. There is foundation funding available for shelters to
become no-kill shelters. The “For Shelter Directors” page of The Pet Fund
website has information about this funding source.
4. Examine the animal you wish to adopt before adopting.
If the animal seems to have medical issues, for example, if the dog or cat
is limping, bring the issue to the attention of shelter staff before adopting.
When working with a rescue group or animal shelter, take time to select
the right breed and animal for your situation, and make sure that the animals
are well cared for.
And finally, spay or neuter your dog or cat to ensure that they
have the best start for a long, healthy life.