That Truly Rare Breed
"The Responsible Breeder"
This article is contributed by Serafina Cupido, a rescuer who used to participate actively in breeding and showing.
The true "responsible breeder" or "good breeder" has a tall order to fill. They are few and far between. Many people breed animals, but few truly have their best interests at heart. Just because people have a so-called "right" to own or breed animals doesn't mean that everyone and anyone should. It usually isn't difficult to produce animal offspring, but part of being a moral and ethical human being means we have the ability to use our intelligence and compassion when dealing with beings we can control.
Those people who strive to meet and exceed the challenge of being a good breeder realize they are moving towards a very difficult, but attainable goal. That goal is the unsurpassed health and functional structure of a particular breed type so that all caring pet owners may enjoy long and happy lives with their chosen dependants. Responsible breeders have obligations not only to the animals, but to all other people who care for animals now and in the future.
They accept all responsibility for everything that happens to their breeding stock. This can often include the early and often preventable death of some. Even the most careful breeders lose some of their animals earlier than those not in a breeding program due to the added risks caused by high performance needs such as pregnancy and parturition (giving birth). Good breeders accept and acknowledge these facts. There are no excuses to be made. Good breeders also do not hastily encourage other prospective breeders. It is an extremely demanding job. They should often refer prospective adoptive families to reputable rescues and shelters when appropriate. This is not a money-making venture or contest to see who can breed the most winners or sell the most animals. The best interests of the animals and best suited placements should always be of paramount concern.
Good breeders educate themselves before acquiring any animals. It should go without saying that knowledge of the basics such as proper daily care and basic veterinary care (at the least) is necessary. Then, breeders must spend countless hours and years researching genetics, specific lines, various faults, and potential congenital or other health issues. Attending shows to study various breeding combinations and types helps develop a sharp eye for quality animals. Experienced and established breeders can be priceless mentors and should be consulted for advice and assistance with newer breeding programs. All the above information is vital in producing functional and healthy companions. The education should continue throughout the breeder's career, as new advances are constantly being developed.
Health should be a top priority. Good husbandry is vital in maintaining healthy animals. All animals should have ample room and clean cages with appropriate bedding and shelter. Animals should be part of the family and checked on several times throughout the day. This is easiest to do when most are housed in the home and should be a requirement for many species. There should never be an ammonia odor! Everything the animals come in contact with should be cleaned thoroughly and frequently. Animals should not be housed together for convenience or space constraints. They should not be "collected" either, which is a consequence of over breeding and mismanagement. If resources are short, a breeder should not take on more animals than can be properly cared for or breed at all. Pet ownership is not required of any human. They did not ask to be bred or owned by someone who does not have the time, ability, or funds to do what is right.
Food and water should be fresh, high-quality, and given often. Water should always be available. Grooming is frequent and includes, but is not limited to trimming toenails, cleaning ears, and bathing. All animals should be well-socialized. Temperament is about 60% inherited and 40% learned. Good temperament should be the only thing bred into a line! Often these basic needs are the ones lacking, which saddens all who strive to meet the important goals. If such basic requirements are not met, how can a person even aspire to be a breeder? Breeder's standards are so much higher than average pet homes since they are role models in every aspect of animal care. They are called upon to not only care for their own animals, but be active in doing what they can to stop and prevent animal abuses outside their homes.
A breeder realizes every female bred may die due to their involvement. No animals are bred before maturation, "accidentally", or too late. Each female should be allowed a proper recovery period between litters and not exceed 1 or 2 litters in a lifetime. More than that is unnecessary and irresponsible. Since breeders are attempting to improve health and type, the successive generations should be of better quality than the foundation animals. If this is not achieved, breeding programs should be seriously re-evaluated. A good breeder never has more than 1 or 2 litters a year. They don't need to. Quality, not quantity is their motto. Good breeders actively show their animals to prove their quality against other animals of the same type. Yes, it is necessary. The input of other breeders is also to be considered. More experienced breeders can help point out faults which enable the less experienced to improve their lines. Excellent record keeping is a cornerstone in a breeding program. Genetics, health, and breeding records aid educated decisions about breeding programs and not choices based on whims, which opens the door to all sorts of problems.
Congenital problems should be the rarest of rare. "Breeding out" serious health problems should not even be considered. Such animals shouldn't be bred at all. If the lines have evident health defects, there are enough animals out there that much better choices may be made! All animals should be fully current on regular veterinary exams, pre-breeding screening, vaccinations (if warranted), and parasite-free. Outbreaks of infectious disease and parasitism are inexcusable. All new or ill animals should be properly conditioned, treated, and quarantined to minimize risks to others. Ill animals must receive competent veterinary attention and be cared for if treatable. Real breeders would not euthanize sick animals which require time, money, and extra care. Things such as pyometra and dystocia are often a part of breeding animals and can require costly surgery to fix.
|Placement and Responsibility|
Good breeders have pets NOT possessions, and would not dispose of their older animals, but retire them (spaying/neutering when applicable). They should have some retired animals living to and past average life expectancies. For cavies, this means at least 5 or 6 years old.
Breeders are responsible for all animals ever produced and their progeny's produce if ever bred (no matter who owns them)! Therefore, they need to choose new homes wisely and place animals with spay/neuter/no-breeding contracts to pet homes. They would never sell animals to animal wholesalers, at animal shows, to pet stores, etc. Such selling means the breeder does not fulfill their commitment to these animals. Such places are havens for impulse-buyers and mill breeders. All prospective adopters should be pre-screened and (if approved) made to sign a detailed contract upon transfer of ownership. If necessary, all new owners are counseled and educated. The breeder should be available at all times to assist their adoptive families with any problems or questions they might have. They remain in contact with these families as long as the animals they helped create live. They provide education and resources when needed. Breeders also should be available to answer questions even from non-prospective homes since educating the public is another of the responsibilities of a decent breeder.
Breeders should also take responsibility for any problems which arise (and they will). Any animals with congenital health problems should be either retained lifelong in the breeder's loving home or placed with a caring family. Good breeders realize they are physically responsible and morally liable for congenital problems and other problems originating at their home. Many owners bond to their pets quickly and do not care to "return for a money-back refund." Animals are not just commodities. If the owner does not intend to keep the pet, the animal should be returned to the breeder. The breeder should make sure that under any circumstances, the breeder will get the animal back if they are not able to be well-cared for in the adoptive home.
Finally, every responsible breeder realizes the major overpopulation problem of every domestic species. They will admit that they contribute in some way to the problem and (if adherent to the above ideals) do anything they can to make life better for more people and their pets, as well as the ones under their care.