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7 Tips on How to Find a Responsible Breeder for Any Pet

Nicole Cosgrove

You’ve decided to add a pet to your family—a new and exciting chapter is about to start for everyone in the household. Adding a pet is not to be entered into lightly as there are many factors you’ll need to consider before making a decision. What type of pet do you want? Do you have other animals or young children in the household to consider before throwing another pet into the mix? Most importantly, how do you go about finding a responsible breeder?

Regardless of the type of animal you’re looking for, you need to make sure the breeder is legitimate and not someone looking to make a fast buck in lieu of the pet’s safety. In this guide, you’ll discover tips to spot a responsible breeder and what to do if the breeder is short of trustworthy.

Below, we’ve asked and answered the top seven queries we get about how to nail down the best breeder for your next housemate.

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1. What makes a breeder responsible?

For starters, a responsible breeder will have a clean living environment and treat the animals humanely. Your potential pets will have plenty of space and not be locked up in small kennels or terrariums. A responsible breeder will also stick to one or two breeds instead of breeding multiple animals, and they will have extensive knowledge of the particular breed. If you ask to visit the home where they breed the animals (which we highly recommend), they should encourage a visit. A responsible breeder will meet you face to face so they can ask you the appropriate questions to ensure the right fit.

 A responsible breeder is not going to hand a pet over to you unquestionably. A good breeder will have you sign a contract stating that you’ll return the pet to the breeder if it doesn’t work out. They’ll also want to meet your entire family to make sure the animal is a good match. They will also have vet records on all animals, including the parents, and inform you of any possible medical conditions or genetic problems. It’s also a good idea to have a checklist when looking for a breeder, so you don’t forget any crucial requirements.

breeder carrying siberian husky puppies
Image Credit: David Tadevosian, Shutterstock

2. How do I go about finding a responsible breeder?

An excellent place to start is with your local veterinarian. Veterinary practices will have a good knowledge of reputable and responsible breeders because good breeders have strong relationships with local vets. As we’ve mentioned, a responsible breeder should have vet records on the animals, and if they don’t, that’s a red flag. They also should never advertise “free to a good home.” That is not a good breeder’s standard practice. 

3. Is the breeder’s home clean and sanitary?

A breeder should have a safe, clean, and well-maintained area for the animals. It should be free of clutter, and the animals should have plenty of space for play and exercise. Clean water must be present at all times, and the animals should look happy and healthy. The animals will have clean beds and toys, and the yard should be free of numerous excretions. The same idea applies to any reptiles in a tank or animals living in a cage, like birds or marsupials.

ragdoll and kittens
Image Credit: Tatyana Vyc, Shutterstock

4. How do I tell if a breeder is scamming me?

A responsible breeder will NEVER ask you to meet them somewhere besides their home. If they refuse, that usually means they have something to hide. Another red flag is if a breeder demands any payment (partial or full) upfront. A responsible breeder will want to meet you and ask questions about why you want the pet, who will be the primary caregiver, and so on.

Technology has changed the way we shop, and pet purchases are no exception. If a puppy is what you’re on the hunt for, knowing the right questions to ask will help you avoid falling prey to a scam artist (these same questions can apply to everything from a ball python to a ferret). Remember to always meet the breeder in person, even if you’re looking online.

5. How do I screen a breeder?

If you’re dealing with a responsible breeder, getting at least two references should be no problem. Check with your vet for one, as well as people who have acquired animals through the breeder. Every state has its own set of laws for breeders, and you should familiarize yourself with the breeder laws in your particular state. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires standards of care, and your breeder will abide by these laws if they are legit.

Australian cattle dog sold by breeder to new owner
Image Credit: kukurund, Shutterstock

6. How can I tell if someone is a backyard breeder?

One sure sign of a backyard breeder is they sell to pet stores or advertise on Craigslist. Reputable and responsible breeders run their breeding business out of their homes. Another way to tell is if money is the first thing on the breeder’s mind. Backyard breeders have no care about the animal; profits are the name of the game, most often at the animals’ expense. They have little to no experience or knowledge of breeding, and they let the females have multiple litters. They don’t let you visit where they keep the animals, and they don’t ask questions. Responsible breeders will want to know if you have a fenced yard, rent or own, or are you home often, etc. If it seems unethical, it’s a definite red flag.

Another way to spot a backyard breeder is weaning mammals like kittens or puppies too early from the mother. Early weaning deprives the animals of essential nutrients given through the mother’s milk, so make sure you know the appropriate weaning age of the particular animal. This same concept can be applied to breeders that are trying to sell you a different breed than what was originally advertised, or worse, selling you an illegal pet like a poisonous snake or a wild animal.

7. What questions should I ask a breeder?

Before you visit the breeder, write out a list of questions beforehand. Ask about the breeder’s experience, if they belong to any clubs regarding the breed, if the animal is up-to-date on all vaccines, the parent’s health status, the vet records, and their policies on returning the animal. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, and if this happens, you need to be sure you can return the animal so the breeder can rehome to a more appropriate fit. The breeder will have the animals’ safety in mind first and foremost, and if they don’t, you’re not dealing with a responsible breeder.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you’re aware of what being a responsible breeder entails, you can feel more comfortable searching for a pet to add to your family. Bringing a pet home is a big decision, and knowing you’re getting your pet for a responsible and reputable breeder, the process will go much more smoothly for you and your new companion. A responsible breeder wants a loving home for the pet, and they will do whatever is necessary to guarantee this for the animal’s safety.

Remember to ask questions, visit the breeder’s home, get references, and take note of the questions the breeder asks you. If you follow these tips, you’ll know you’re dealing with a responsible breeder.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.