Sunday, November 29, 2009

High Volume Breeder = "Puppy Mill"?

Recent articles splashed all over the internet charge that AKC derives most of it's income from "puppy mills". In searching for the demographics involved with AKC registrations, I found this statement from AKC:

"The vast majority of persons who register litters with the AKC are hobby and show breeders. In recent years, more than two-thirds of all persons who register a litter with the AKC, registered only one litter that year and more than 85 percent registered only two litters a year. Litters registered by these small hobby and show breeders account for more than half of all puppies in litters registered by the AKC. On the other hand, persons registering 10 or more litters in a year with the AKC, account for only 2 percent of our litter registrants and only about 20 percent of the puppies in AKC registered litters. Constituency of the AKC, therefore, is primarily hobby & show breeders."
(USDA Animal Welfare Listening Session, March 23, 2005)

This certainly sheds some much-needed light on these false claims of AKC being supported primarily by puppy mills.

So, what is a "puppy mill" anyway?

Surprise! There IS no definition for "puppy mill", because this is a hateful phrase conjured up by people who abhor ALL dog breeders. Some of us believe, for the term "puppy mill", that....much like the word "pornography"...well, we may not be able to define it, but we sure as hell know it when we see it. And this is how the haters view dog breeders. To them, we are canine pornographers.

The derogatory epithet "puppy mill" evokes images of neglectful "Greeders"; breeding for profit only, with no concern for the health and socialization of their charges; housing matted, dirty dogs that never leave wire cages; and dumping the older dogs that have lost their usefulness. How am I doing so far? Pornographic enough for you?

Yes, there are some very few breeders who do fit the above stereotype. Sad, but true. However, substandard care is not just unethical, it's illegal; and such breeders can and should be put out of business. The vast majority of breeders don't operate like this. We love our dogs and treat them well. We feel this is the least we can do to repay their loyal friendship.

Gina Spadafori, a PetConnection blogger, recently wrote an inflammatory article in which she equates high volume breeders with "puppy mills", and castigates AKC for perceived support of these breeders. OK, then on to the next logical question: What is a "high volume breeder"?

Let's see now. AKC defines "high volume breeder" as someone who registers more than six litters per year. Is everyone who is a "HVB" the equivalent of a "puppy mill"? Should AKC refuse to register dogs from everyone who breeds more than six litters per year?

How could that possibly by justifiable? I know many wonderful hobby breeders who fall into this "high volume breeder" category. Many successful icons in their respective breeds produce more than six litters per year. They certainly do not deserve to be slurred with the nasty label "puppy mill".

AKC can and does revoke privileges for those who operate in a substandard manner. No, they don't (and can't) get EVERYBODY. But they are the only registry that routinely conducts inspections. Nearly 6000 of them, every year.

The AKC baby shouldn't be thrown out with the bath water. A strong national dog organization is important for all of us, and essential to the very survival of dogs and our breeds as we now know them. AKC may not get everything right, but, like all of us, continually evolves as it grapples with the important canine issues of the day.

"We're more than Champion Dogs. We're the Dog's Champion." I like that motto!


  1. I think in your description of the stereotypical puppy "miller" you have, indeed, actually defined the term. Perhaps a more impactful description could be added but you still nailed it pretty well. I'd expand it to include wordage such as "people who breed dogs (cats or any animal) on an ongoing basis without regard for breed standard, its improvement or for the health of their breed stock and that of any future litters".

    How the AKC determined 6 litters defies logic if it's considered that one conscientious breeder can feasibly produce even more litters while improving and refining the breed yet it only takes one unconscientious breeder one litter to diminish the quality of a breed.

    Perhaps this, too, goes hand in hand with the difficulties of definitives and definitions.

    Great blog!

    A. E. Duval
    Santa Rosa, CA

  2. My point was lost if you think that there is or can be a definition of "puppy mill"...the term is loosly applied to a multitude of situations, including breeders who have relatively few dogs or dogs who are NOT mistreated. We hear on the news that a "puppy mill" was busted, then dogs are shown with no evidence of any abuse.
    That's the problem with this sort of defamatory and derisive rhetoric. Perjorative phrases like this should not be used!!PERIOD!
    I disagree that one breeder can diminish the "quality" of a breed. So-called "improvement" of breeds has led to narrowed gene pools and proliferation of genetic disease. Breed standards and dog shows promote extremes of type that are not beneficial.