Irresponsible Breeders Exacerbate Dangerous Dog Problems
Dog breeders play a brief but important role in the development of a dog’s temperament and behavior, and they also help determine a dog’s future when they decide who to place their dogs with.
Irresponsible breeders can produce temperamentally unstable puppies. This may be either intentional (when a breeder wishes to produce vicious dogs) or unintentional (when a breeder produces puppies without any regard for temperament).
Breeders also have control over puppies during important formative stages. Puppies develop social behaviors very early. If a breeder does not properly socialize, handle, and care for the puppies, the dogs can easily develop behavioral issues. This can be seen in “puppy mill” puppies; lack of proper handling and socialization cause the puppies to develop fearful and aggressive behaviors. If the breeder sells and separates the litter at too young an age, the puppies may fail to learn important social skills and can develop aggression and other undesirable or dangerous behaviors.
And finally, breeders decide who to sell their dogs to. Irresponsible breeders may sell their dogs to anyone with money. Without proper screening of potential owners, puppies may easily end up in the hands of abusive, neglectful owners; dog fighters; someone looking for a vicious dog; or someone looking for a status symbol.
In these ways, some breeders contribute to the problem of dangerous dogs.
Current Breeder Regulation
Dog breeding and selling is largely unregulated.
Some places have attempted to regulate breeders, though the reason for such regulation is usually stated to be pet population control or rabies concerns. Such regulations are applied in a patchwork fashion across the country.
Breeder licenses are a common form of regulation; these can be expensive or inexpensive, but rarely require that the applicant prove any knowledge about responsible animal husbandry techniques. Breeders may also be limited in the number of litters they may produce annually; their facility may be subject to inspections by a governmental entity; they may not be allowed to sell their puppies before the puppies are a certain age; and they may be required to provide a certain level of veterinary care (shots, microchip, spay/neuter) before selling their puppies. All of these restrictions vary widely from place to place.
Additionally, the definition of a “breeder” also varies significantly. Legislation may attempt to define “hobby breeders,” “commercial breeders,” and so forth. The definitions for each term are not always the same.
Regulations may also endow puppy buyers with certain rights and responsibilities, such as the right to return the dog to the breeder within a certain amount of time if the puppy develops health problems.
Because breeder regulations differ so much from place to place (or do not exist at all in many cases), it can be confusing, difficult, and frustrating for breeders to understand and follow the laws. It is similarly difficult, if not impossible, for governmental entities to enforce such laws. Many laws contain legal loopholes that only add to the frustration felt by both breeders and enforcers alike.
Adding to the difficulty, powerful breeder organizations like the AKC oppose almost all forms of breeder regulation. Comprehensive reform of breeder regulation laws is hindered by such organizations’ adamancy against any sort of regulation.
Further, no scientific studies have been done to analyze the effects of breeder regulations as they pertain to dangerous dogs. It is unclear, therefore, whether breeder regulations would have any effect on public safety.
The issue of breeder regulation is highly controversial, complex, and beyond the scope of this site.
However, irresponsible breeders do play a role in the production of potentially dangerous dogs, whether by inappropriate breeding and puppy-raising techniques or by a lack of screening of puppy buyers. We lack scientific evidence to support breeder regulation as a tool for the reduction of dangerous dogs, in part because no studies have been done, and in part because the regulations currently in place are poorly written, unenforceable, ineffective, and weak.
But well-written, sensible, non-discriminatory, enforceable breeder regulation can and should be accomplished. Such laws would encourage responsible breeding practices by well-educated breeders, correct handling and socialization of young puppies, and careful selection of committed, caring potential owners who will keep the dog as a pet rather than a status symbol or a weapon. Such laws would not negatively impact the responsible breeders who are already taking these important steps to promote safe and stable temperaments.
A thoughtful and interesting suggestion for regulation can be found here: http://www.cal.net/~pamgreen/rational_licensing.html
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