Of the 53 million dogs in the U.S., about two-thirds come from backyard breeders. They are the single greatest cause of the pet overpopulation crisis in this country. The worst of the backyard breeders sometimes come to the attention of local animal control authorities, who may negotiate with a breeder who is keeping dogs in truly deplorable conditions to release at least some of the dogs to a shelter. Shelters then often turn to rescue groups, because they know that the dogs -- unsocialized, requiring more medical care than most shelters can afford -- will have to be euthanized.

A backyard breeder is someone who keeps a number of dogs and either breeds them deliberately or just lets them breed. Backyard breeders may have a few dogs or many, one breed or several. They usually have no understanding of or concern about the breed standard, genetics, socializing the dogs, and maintaining their health. Don't confuse them with "hobby breeders,"  who breed small numbers of dogs and care for their dogs well.

A backyard breeder who is successful in selling puppies may decide to expand and become a puppy miller -- someone who breeds dogs with profit as the one and only motive and concern. More often, though, backyard breeders simply allow the dogs they have to breed, and they often keep many of the offspring. They frequently end up with too many dogs to care for properly. Backyard breeders get new dogs from a variety of sources, among them from ads offering dogs "free to good home" (see box below).

If you are looking for a dog, research and check out the breeder thoroughly to avoid backyard breeders. Please see our pages on puppy mills and finding a good breeder for more information. 


"Free To Good Home" Can Mean A Life of Misery

When we see ads on-line or in the newspaper advertising a dog "free to good home," we do our best to get the owner of the dog to turn it over to rescue. So many people don't realize that it is actually dangerous to advertise your dog in this way. Backyard breeders check for ads like this all the time. They don't want to pay for a dog -- or for its health care or keeping its quarters clean -- so they jump on any ad that offers a dog for free.

If the dog being offered is capable of breeding, the chances that it will end up in a puppy mill or backyard breeder's kennel are enormous. The people who run these places are very adept at presenting themselves as just folks who want a dog for the family; one notorious puppy miller was known to take his little granddaughter with him as he visited the homes of people offering intact dogs for free or for very little money. The idea was to convince the owners that the dog would become the beloved pet of the little girl. Instead, the dogs ended up in his filthy mill, being bred literally to death.

But even if the dog has been spayed or neutered, it is still in danger. Some people, referred to as "collectors" or "hoarders," have an impulse to gather as many dogs as possible. Why? Who knows? It isn't so that they can be well cared for! It seems to be a need just to have them.

Do you want your dog to end up in a filthy kennel, neglected and possibly abused?  Please don't ever advertise a dog as "free to a good home!" If you must find a new home for your dog, ask a standard fee, ask a lot of questions, and be sure to check valid references (including a reference from a veterinarian) for the potential adopter, as well as meeting the person.

Better yet, contact a rescue group. Our sole mission and reason for being is to find safe, secure, and loving homes for animals that don't have them.

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