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The Difference between Professional and Backyard Breeders

A large part of the controversy surrounding the bans on pet stores selling live animals is the misconception that every breeder is irresponsibly mistreating the animals that go into the stores. While there are no doubt a number of bad breeders (or puppy mills) out there that need to be taken down, not every single breeder is an inhumane puppy mill who puts profit over an animal's welfare. Believe it or not, there is a difference between professional and backyard breeders.

While there are less-than-high-quality breeders, they often aren't the ones supplying pet stores with their live animals. In fact, many pet stores go through rigorous steps to ensure their breeders are responsible and humane and keep the animal's welfare top of mind. The backyard breeders often sell their animals through various methods such as online on Craigslist or Instagram or through other third-party sellers that have little-to-no regulations. 

Where do Pet Store Animals Come From?

Pet store animals almost always come from USDA licensed breeders and distributors. Stores such as Petland provide in-depth detail to how their breeders conduct business. According to the website, they get their puppies from three various sources:

  1. USDA licensed breeders and distributors with no direct violations on their latest inspection report. As of January 1, 2015, [their] policy extends to no direct violations in the previous 24 months. Inspection reports for federally licensed breeders are available free of charge on the USDA website.
  2. Hobby breeders as defined by the Animal Welfare Act. These are breeders who raise their dogs in a humane manner.
  3. Local adoption pets that are vet-checked. Additionally, some of [their] puppies and kittens come from local animal shelters or from members of the local community as part of Petland’s Adopt-A-Pet program, dedicated to finding homes for accidental litters. In this program, Petland store operators work with local animal shelters and with members of the community to find homes for homeless pets. Through Petland’s Adopt-A-Pet program, hundreds of thousands of shelter and community animals have been placed with caring families.


Additionally, Petland requires an extensive list of requrirements from their breeders. This list includes a consulting vet providing good medical care, safe and comfortable housing, frequent socialization and exercise, and a state-issued health certification. The team often checks up on their breeders to ensure they are following guidelines, and will immediately dismiss any breeder who is not. 

Related Article: Does Buying Pet Store Puppies Support Overcrowding in Shelters?

Other pet stores, such as Pet Express in Boston, are following similar measures. They have a set-aside task force who chooses their breeders based on their pedigrees, lineages, and how often their animals are bred. They have set very high standards for their breeders and ensure that all practices and procedures hold up to these standards, or else they won't be bought from.

Are Breeders Actually Bad for Animal Welfare?

Professional breeders, those who are USDA licensed and regulated, are actually not as bad for animal welfare as often portrayed to be. In fact, many professional breeding facilities have stricter guidelines than your neighborhood animal shelter, providing the animals with high quality care and protection. 

One reason why these breeders must be so regulated is because they are subject to the Animal Welfare Act, an act that was instituted by the USDA in 1966. This act sets the standards for animals who are "exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale, used in medical research, or transported commercially."

It states that, "Facilities using regulated animals for regulated purposes must provide their animals with adequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, water and veterinary care, and they must protect their animals from extreme weather and temperatures" (USDA APHIS).

[Access the latest version of the Animal Welfare Act]

Additionally, a guidebook on 'Retail Pet Store Rule and Improtation of Live Dogs Rule - Guidance for Breeders,Brokers and Importers' has been published which covers various topics of questions and answers regarding the strict regulations these entities must abide by. 

Related Article: Why We Shouldn't Just Adopt from Animal Shelters

One more, newer, type of self-regulating system has also recently come into play. Canine Certified Care is a system which "ensures the health, well-being and quality of life of dogs in the care of professional breeders in the United States. It is the only program that not only measures the physical health and well-being of dogs and puppies, but also evaluates the behavioral and overall quality of life for animals raised by professional breeders."

The program was developed by animal science leaders at the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University. In order for breeders to be certified, they must meet or exceed a number of intensive standards. At a high level overview, the standards include physical health, behavioral health, environment, breeding life and retirement, and caretaker expectations. You can find out more about the Canine Certified Care standards here.

Infographic: The Difference between Professional Breeders and Backyard Breeders

For a more visual guide to the difference between professional and backyard breeders, or puppy mills, take a look at the infographic below. You'll see the contrast is like night and day.



Our goal for publishing these articles is ultimately to educate the pet industry about the truths of selling animals, through breeders, in pet stores. As an industry, we need to unite as a solid front and fight the attempts to ban the regulated sale of pets in pet stores across the United States, and ultimately, the world.

We plan on continuing our mission to spread the message that there are actual animal welfare benefits to adopting pets from a pet store. Additionally, we firmly believe there's a difference between "backyard breeders" (puppy mills, which are very bad), and "professional breeders" (the ones with animal welfare at the top of mind).

The next series of articles, to be published over the coming weeks, will hopefully help you see our side of the story. We want to do what we can to support pet stores because without pets, there won't be a pet industry. 


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Ashley Hoffman – E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager joined the All Points family in April of 2015. Ashley brings a fresh outlook to the marketing industry as well as a constant desire for learning something new. She is dedicated to consistently improving her skills and efficiency in the marketing industry and using those skills to promote APM and all brands we represent. Ashley has grown up with many animals throughout her life and is currently the loving owner of two cats.

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