A Word From from Professional Breeders about Puppy Mills
Puppy Mills and How Things Are Truly Done In Licensed Kennels
in Pennsylvania, and the Stores those Puppies Are Sold In
The Back Story:
Ridgewood was founded by 2 men in the early 1970’s. Since then we have grown from 1 boarding, breeding, and pet store at one location to 5 kennels, and 2 store fronts. Today, everything is run from the children or Grand children of the original two. As a son, I have personally known our breeder kennels for my entire life. We played together as children, still get together on a personal level, and we still exchange Christmas gifts each year. It’s a deep rooted personal relationship 43 years in the making. We’re all dog owners and all dog lovers and I believe in what we do with all my heart. I personally own 2 of our own dogs and 1 from a breeder in Maryland.
At least once every few weeks we’ll receive the question “is this a puppy mill?” or see a facebook post like the one below. This is not an easy question to answer. Well, it is, but it isn’t. The simple answer is “no, we are not a puppy mill”. But who’s going to say “why yes i am, thanks for asking!” So we feel like a detailed lengthy explanation is required. Therefore, we decided to take few minutes to write this article so you know and understand a little bit about us and exactly how we do things. The included post below was real, but we are using it as an example, it was not actually said about our business, but it illustrates public perception driven through untruths and slander.
Typically over the years, myself and other reputable breeders or shop owners have stayed away from responding to these types of accusations, mostly because people who slander and accuse us of untrue things become fanatical and can’t be reasoned with. This time I finally realized I don’t need to argue with a fanatic, all I really have to do is talk to the average, reasonable person, give them the facts, and let them decide. That decision has been liberating, we believe in what we do and I refuse to stand by silent while getting attacked by people with untrue statements.
First thing I thought when I saw this post, was, What kennel is this dog from? What puppy mill did this dog come from? And why isn’t that listed. And what cute puppy store sold this poor dog’s puppies. Also, unlisted. Any time a child is abused or mistreated at a home or school the name of the parents or school is always listed. Even prisoner abuse…the prison and the abuser are always listed. The fact is, the poster has no idea where this dog came. For all we know she could be wild, in which case – if she could – she would have litter after litter. They posted this picture with out any facts to support it. Which is common. But this is fact…the poster is a “Facebook Reposter” for a rescue I won’t mention here today. What that means is they are paid a commission on the “adoption fee” of any dog they post. Most of the posts mention the immediate destruction if the dog isn’t placed right away, when this is not actually the case. The business model is, adopt this dog or we will kill him. Could you imagine my public standing if this were my business model. I’m tired of it and it’s time to start stating facts and dispel some of the rumors.
The fact is, its not 1985 anymore. The state of Pennsylvania is the toughest state in the country on dog breeding. I offer this direct quote from acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding in 2008. “Our state laws governing commercial USDA Licensed kennels are now the toughest in the nation thanks to Governor Rendell and the General Assembly. Imposing higher standards for commercial breeding kennels ensures that happy, healthy puppies will be welcomed into loving homes throughout Pennsylvania.”
USDA Licensed Kennel Regulations:
First, the very term “Puppy Mill” insinuates filthy, neglectful, abusive conditions, and cages stacked upon cages in a dark barn somewhere in an Amish community corner. The following is what you won’t read on that Facebook post.
-USDA Licensed Kennels are required to have central air and heating, regulating the temperature 24/7.
-Ventilation must be approved by and inspected by an approved engineering firm.
-Water is automated…this ensures no one ever forgets to water the dogs.
-Air quality, humidity, and temperature is monitored in real time, via a secured computer and either transmitted or downloaded in person by the USDA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. In other words, there’s no turning down the heat when the inspector leaves, or turning the a/c off to save electric. Everything is recorded by a tattle device and monitored by the Dept of Ag 24/7.
-The requirements for lighting is greater than required in the restaurant you may often frequent. In fact, my own home wouldn’t pass the required lighting, air quality or temperature requirements set forth by the state.
-The size of a cage is determined by the length in inches of the dog in it.. So you can not have a full grown Cocker Spaniel living in the same sized kennel as a Yorkie. For example, a dog that measures 17 inches from nose to tail requires 55 square feet of kennel space. They are not stuck in tiny boxes, and they have plenty of room to run, jump, play and be dogs.
-Cages can not be stacked, period. The dogs also can not live on wire grates. They are on a FLOOR, and are cleaned several times daily. There is an exception to this rule and has caused confusion in the past, so allow me to explain. Cages can be stacked at USDA licensed “store front”. There are two reasons for this, one, the better they can be displayed the faster they can find their forever homes. Secondly, the store front cage banks are temporary, they don’t and won’t spend their lives living in these cages and they are always puppies. It’s temporary. However, all other regulations applied to a USDA kennel are applicable in a USDA store. Which all puppy stores in PA must be. With that said, all puppies (store and kennel) are exercised and socialized daily. And is the law.
-An exercise program and area must be submitted and approved by a PA state licensed veterinarian. All dogs are required daily time and access to this area.
-ALL USDA Licensed Kennels are inspected 4 times a year. Twice by the state, and twice federally. All subsequent inspections are surprise inspections. No one ever knows when they are coming. These inspection reports are public knowledge and available to you, the consumer, on the state.pa.us website
-During these inspections, there are 2-4 inspectors present, and each dog is checked over for teeth and gum health, skin health, grooming, clear bright eyes, any discharge around the nose, clean ears, etc. If a dog is found to be ailing, the breeder has 7 days to fax the inspectors a letter and receipt proving the dog was seen and treated by a vet. This ensures that the above pictured dog, or other deformed and sickly dogs would not come from a Pennsylvania USDA Licensed Kennel or pet store.
-If a dog had tarter on his teeth, that would be considered cruelty to animals. That kennel would be subject to a fine followed by closure.
-When you see the ASPCA commercials with deplorable conditions and sickly mistreated animals, NONE of those videos are from PA USDA licensed kennels. Believe me, if they were they’d be more than happy to tell you so. They are broker kennels, hobby kennels, and/or illegals.
While these regulations ensure a very real “quality control” process, they directly influence what puppies cost. It’s very expensive to be a professional breeder and that is why you pay $900 plus today. If you go to a “kennel” and all of their puppies are $300-$600, they are not putting nearly enough money into licensing, the care of the mothers, fathers and puppies, and therefore are not up to par. But beware, many of the unlicensed kennels have caught on to this, and now ask more.
There are some people who would say the regulations are a joke, they aren’t enforced, no one cares etc.. I would ask why the Show Breeders, Rescues, ASPCA and Humane Societies petitioned for and were granted an exemption from all the above rules and regulations that govern a USDA Licensed Kennel – The very regulations they themselves petitioned for. They have no legal requirements of kennel size, lighting, heating and ventilation..
Only a USDA Licensed Kennel is governed by these regulations. Hobby Kennels, which would be the lady down the road who has several dogs she breeds, the farmer across town who sells his dogs’ “accidents,” which somehow amount to several litters a year etc, also have no regulations.
NOTE: If you have gone to any kennel, claiming to be USDA licensed and you have seen anything other that what you have read in this article, you where probably lied to about their USDA status. Which many of the illegals do. Ask to see the license then contact the PA Dept of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
There are two main types of breeder kennel classifications in PA. Hobby and Commercial. “Cute puppy stores” can’t get dogs from any where except a USDA Licensed Commercial Kennel. Commercial and Hobby Kennels are defined by a specific amount of dogs owned in one year. Hobby Kennels are not guided by USDA regulation. If you’re a Hobby Kennel you’re not allowed to wholesale puppies period. In other words, no store can resell Hobby Kennel puppies. It’s illegal. If you’re a Hobby Kennel and under that amount of dogs each year, which is 26 (including puppies born), you would still be required by law to become a Commercial USDA Licensed Kennel if you wanted to wholesale your puppies to a pet store. This is important, and means only a USDA Licensed and Inspected Kennel can supply a pet store. ALL of our puppies are from our partner breeders, 1 single family and the same family we started with 43 years ago. 3 generations in. ALL are USDA licensed, inspected, and approved. Above, is a list of reasons that this is a GOOD THING.
Puppy Broker Websites:
It is extremely important to note that while the law is very strict and very real, the restructuring of the state’s kennels regulations has come with a price. It has given rise to the Puppy Broker and puppy broker websites. A puppy broker is a site that sends you directly to someone’s farm for your puppy. It used to be that breeders could wholesale their puppies to anyone. If you’ve read above you will know this is no longer the case. Only USDA licensed and inspected kennels may whole sale puppies to pet stores in PA. New York and New Jersey are also now added to that list. This means pet stores are not allowed to buy from just any breeder. They have to be USDA licensed. So what we are seeing now, is all the kennels who couldn’t afford to get up to state and federal regulations, are dividing their dogs up among family members, so they don’t breed more than 26 dogs a year (per address) OR flat out breaking the law by breeding however many they want without a license and therefore not being inspected or regulated. They typically operate until caught or move their dogs from one site to another so they aren’t caught. The biggest problem with this approach is where will they sell them? They can’t sell them to pet stores, they can’t even sell them to pet stores in NY or NJ anymore. Enter the puppy broker. The puppy broker website lists the dogs for sale for them. They send you straight to the farm. By doing this they never actually have possession of a single dog, so they aren’t required a license. Their websites always say how well they vet their breeders, but their disclaimers absolve them of all responsibility. Here is an interesting article by humane-pa on the subject State, Local SPCAs Battle scourge of unlicensed kennels. While your reading that, keep in mind that 90% of the states kennels are unlicensed. When only 10% of the Pennsylvania Kennels are USDA licensed it’s no surprise the public perception is that the laws don’t work. Until the laws are expanded to cover the puppy brokers in the same way that the PA pet stores are regulated, this will not change. And that is extremely frustrating. Read our letter to Senator Lloyd Smucker regarding this matter.
Every time someone gets an unhealthy puppy from a broker site (like Libre) or a kennel gets caught as being illegal, which is often, it continues to shine a negative light on the county and state and the ones that are doing it right. It’s personally very frustrating to believe in and follow the state laws to the letter on this matter and still continue to see this happening. Because we are the ones in the public image, we are the ones that carry that burden and it isn’t fair.
ACA Five Star Program:
Futhermore, ALL 5 of our kennels participate in the ACA Five star program. This is a VOLUNTARY program. That means in addition to USDA licensing requirements you’re ensured that breeders stay in touch with proper breeding techniques. This also means customers searching for certifications, recommendations, and the health of puppies will be reassured by the American Canine Association that they are dealing with an excellent and trustworthy breeder. This system enables us to show you that quality of breeding, ongoing education, veterinary care, and proper animal husbandry techniques, thereby increasing the quality of our pups.
ACA Five Star Requirements:
1. The breeder has an attending veterinarian for the kennel.
2. The kennel is inspected at least once a year by one (1) or more of the following organizations: United States Department of Agriculture; State Department of Agriculture; State Breeder Organization sanctioned by the American Canine Association, state licensed veterinarian, or the American Canine Association.
3. The breeder has in place an exercise and socialization program for adult dogs and puppies approved by their attending licensed veterinarian.
4. The breeder is enrolled and participated in credit hours of breeder-educational courses sanctioned by the American Canine Association per year.
5. All breeding sires and dams have been certified by a licensed veterinarian to be free of at least one (1) or more congenital defects.
6. All breeding sires and dams have points toward their Champion and / or Working Dog titles.
7. The breeder is enrolled and participated in dog shows sanctioned by the American Canine Association per year.
If you would like to learn more about the ACA Five Star program, please follow this link Five Star
One thing I’ve learned over the years is, behind all cause is money. Follow the money. The Human Leagues are all non profit. Let’s be clear. All that means is at the end of the year, you take your earning and pay them out in salary, you then don’t have to pay taxes. Wayne Pacelle is President/CEO of Human Society of the United States his salary is estimated at $500K. His benefit and compensation package is thought to be worth 215k. One guy. Never-mind the Vice President, Board of Trusties, and everyone that falls between them and the Facebook Re-poster. Not to mention the fact that only .05% of that 18 dollars a month they’d like us all to donate is estimated to actually go toward the animals in their care (http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/14/us/animal-charity-investigation). In no way am I saying don’t rescue dogs. We are firm believers in Rescue Clubs, having previously been a part of them, transporting adopted dogs to their new homes up and down the East Coast, fostering them, etc. We even rescue needy dogs now, have an adoption program in place for any of our sold puppies that need to find a new home. Even though we breed dogs, I am saying do not look at USDA Licensed Kennels and Puppy Stores as the reason Rescues exist…bad owners, bad training and unregulated breeders are the reason they exist. (We are available over the phone or through email to help you with any training questions you may have. We have also updated our website with training videos and articles…we want to ensure that you and your puppy have a great relationship, because with good training, less puppies end up going to Rescues.) Do not look at a Rescue as having better conditions for animals than Commercial Kennels or Puppy Stores. It is a simple fact that they do not. Conditions are worse, because they answer to no one.
We are the direct competition to these organizations and for them, business is booming. So much so that Humane Leagues/Societies, Rescues etc, have started bringing dogs in from other countries and worse yet claiming them as military dogs. Iraq is the most noted by the media. (Operation Baghdad Pups) They also have bought dogs from large kennels in the mid west, dog’s whose kennels couldn’t wholesale, for 25 dollars each, kennels in states that don’t have the strict guidelines we now have in place here in PA and since they themselves aren’t required to follow them either, they can procure their dogs from anywhere.
The special interest groups define a puppy mill as “Any commercial dog breeding facility can be considered a puppy mill. A puppy mill’s sole purpose is to produce puppies as inexpensively as possible for maximum retail profit, often disregarding living standards and basic medical care.”
First of all it’s impossible to “disregard living standards and basic medical care” if your at USDA Licensed Kennel when it’s the law. A law that is enforced by the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement under the supervision of PA Dept of Ag, with surprise inspections, with all the regulations. The same regulations in part written by shelter and rescue groups, that they themselves have been exempt from.
Secondly, “produce puppies as inexpensively as possible for maximum retail profit” Our puppies cost what they cost because most of that money goes back into the kennels, partly to upkeep the kennel facilities and partly because we have PAID employees, provide care, shelter, medical, and food for the mommies and daddies – for life. Meanwhile, the SPCA’s adoption fees are as high as 375.00. For Dogs they got for free, don’t have parents to care for, don’t pay most of their employees, all while asking for your donations via web and mail campaigns and paying Wayne Pacelle 500 thousand dollars a year. We don’t profit 375 from any puppy – EVER. Most of it goes immediately back into the care of our dogs.
I want to talk about over breeding. While there are no regulations in place that limit the amount of times someone can or can’t breed a dog, most adult females won’t breed if they aren’t healthy enough for it, this is how they would regulate their lives in the wild. Secondly, let’s look at this from a monetary stand point alone. Let’s assume for just a second we have no morals, and are only in it for the money. Healthy adults produce healthy puppies, healthy adults produce more puppies per litter. From a business only stand point what sense or logic would exist by producing less puppies and unhealthy puppies. It doesn’t make sense to over breed a female for her to only have one or two puppies twice a year. That’s four puppies a year when bred every heat. When bred every other heat if ready, it gives them a chance to recover and regain their strength, and they will produce on average 4-7 healthy puppies a year to 16 months. This is much more profitable for a kennel who is only in it for the money, and even so, it is healthier for the mother and gives her a better quality of life. Any professional breeder that’s been doing this as long as we have been would know that and would only breed a female that’s ready and wouldn’t force breed ever. No artificial insemination happens in our kennels. If a female does not get pregnant, shoulders are shrugged and we say better luck next time. Females not getting pregnant happens EXTREMELY often.
I consider our business very professional, we’ve been doing it for over 40 years and we know what we’re doing. In any other aspect of American culture that would classify us as professionals. We give ALL recommended shots to each of our puppies according to their age, something that is not actually required by state mandate. We give a lifetime warranty, we cover the dog in some aspect for it’s entire life against anything congenital or heredity. This also is not required by state mandate. The State Dog Law only covers your puppy for 30 days, and our lifetime warranty is completely unheard of in this business.. No one anywhere covers their dogs for life and that alone should say something about what and how we operate.
The above Facebook post was not made about our store, and we actually do not have to deal with these types of things very often, as most people see our warranty, and the love that we have for our puppies and understand that we are not a “Puppy Mill.” My point in this article is that everyone is very quick to suspect, slander or accuse Professional Breeders, when USDA Licensed Kennels are the only ones who do it right. When looking for a young, healthy puppy, whose parents do not live in bad conditions, look to a USDA Licensed Kennel or a Puppy Store where the puppies come from USDA Licensed Kennels (In Pennsylvania, Puppy Stores can ONLY buy from USDA Licensed Kennels, otherwise they are breaking the law). When trying to determine who the best of those are, look to warranties, and the care and money that goes into the puppy before you’ve even gone to visit it. Don’t look to Reposters who are out to make money, and have no thought for facts and truth while they make that money.