Responsible Breeders

Of the estimated 200,000 responsible, law-abiding breeders in the U.S., fewer than 5% have more than a few female dogs and breed more than one or two litters a year. Many of these breeders show their dogs in local and national dog shows or train their dogs to perform their historic functions like hunting, herding or protection. Many breeders specialize in breeds that are perfect for fun sports like agility, obedience or dock diving. These “show breeders” or “hobby breeders” are not legally permitted to be licensed or inspected by the USDA because they keep so few female dogs and they primarily sell their dogs directly to the public.

There are currently many breeders who are licensed and inspected by the federal government. These USDA Licensed Breeders are allowed to sell dogs to pet stores.

What Is a USDA Licensed Breeder?

US Federal law requires USDA licensing for any breeder with four breeding females and selling at least one pet dog sight unseen. “Sight unseen” means when the sale of the pet dog is not a face-to-face transaction. These breeders are governed under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Licensed breeders must meet or exceed the standards set forth and enforced by the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) as spelled out in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The Animal Welfare Act provides standards for the humane care and treatment of animals and requires compliance in the following areas, among others:

The Animal Welfare Act provides standards for the humane care and treatment of animals and requires compliance in the following areas, among others:

  • Proper record keeping of veterinarian visits, protocols, health checks & certificates, vaccinations and de-worming
  • Housing (indoor, outdoor and sheltered) is checked for soundness of construction, impervious nature of materials, ventilation, temperature, adequate size, flooring, lighting, enclosures, walls and safe surfaces
  • Proper sanitation of animal waste
  • Compatible grouping of dogs for safety and socialization
  • All animals must receive adequate exercise, daily feeding & watering, and be housed in a clean and sanitized environment
  • Up-to-date pest control
  • Proper identification of all animals
  • Adequate space, ventilation and containers for shipping
  • Documentation of pets purchased or sold with proper age records
  • Properly trained staff

How Many Irresponsible Breeders Are There?

There are still hundreds if not thousands of people who do not comply with the law and who either choose not to provide for the health and well-being of their dogs or are incapable of providing the necessary care because of mental or physical illness.

These breeders try to avoid Federal or state government regulation by not selling dogs to pet stores and by not registering their dogs with legitimate purebred dog registries like the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club.

These breeders also try to avoid regulation by not letting buyers visit their homes or the kennels where their dogs are live.

Some of these breeders are really hoarders who are not capable of providing the care that their animals require. Others were once responsible breeders but have fallen on difficult times, physically or mentally.

The images often shown of “breeder raids” are of these illegal operations. Their continued existence points to the need for additional resources for enforcement by the government, greater consumer education by pet stores and breeders, and a stronger commitment by consumers to purchase from law-abiding breeders and pet stores.

If you suspect that a person is keeping dogs in an illegal, inhumane manner, you should report this to your local animal control officer and contact the following government and non-profit organizations: