I am a “hobby breeder.” I have quality dogs, with extensive health clearances. I don’t breed often, but when I do, the stud dogs are selected after hours of research. Often the dog is located a great distance away, and the breeding is accomplished by artificial insemination. The puppies are whelped in my extra bedroom. I sleep in a bed beside the whelping box, waking often to ensure the pups are safe and healthy, and rarely leaving them alone. I perform early neurological stimulation exercises to give the pups a scientifically proven advantage in later life. When the pups are about four weeks old, they move into a large area in the main part of our home. This further socializes them to other people and dogs and household sounds and activities. I sell my puppies to carefully selected homes, sometimes locally and often out of state. TarKom Labs live in homes from Washington to New York and Florida to Iowa.

I am not unique. I know many other breeders, in a gamut of breeds, that breed in much the same way. If the USDA has its way though, the small, quality breeder will disappear. A proposed USDA regulation will impact both careful breeders and shelter rescue in ways that do not benefit the animals involved. If you want the right to purchase or adopt a dog without government restriction, you need to get involved now.

Most dogs that end up in animal control do not come from hobby breeders. The vast number of dogs that are dumped are commercially bred, accidentally bred or produced by backyard or casual breeders. The new USDA regulations will not impact these people at all. Commercial breeders already fall under USDA regulations, careless owners will still allow their intact dogs to roam and breed, and backyard breeders typically have a stud dog and one or two females that they put to work producing pups.  Many hobby breeders have several intact females of various ages. Some of these are young girls growing up who won’t end up being bred at all. Most of them will be asked to produce only two or three litters, at most, throughout their lifetime. However, according to the proposed regulation, a breeder with four or more “breeding females” will be considered a commercial breeder, and no actual age is specified. I haven’t bred a litter in over two years, but I have more than four intact females.

There are other concerns with this regulation. If a breeder ships a puppy, meets a buyer somewhere, or transfers the pup in any other way than having the buyer come to his home, he is a commercial breeder. If the breeder sells a dog that was not born in his home, he is a commercial breeder. These regulations will severely impact rescue. The regulation does not differentiate between a sales price and an adoption fee. Therefore, pulling a dog from a shelter and then re-homing it for any fee, even one that only covers the rescue expenses, makes the rescuer a commercial breeder. If a group pulls dogs from a kill shelter and ships them up north to homes, the rescuers become commercial breeders.

The regulations governing commercial breeders will force many quality breeders and rescues to quit what they’re doing. One of the requirements for a commercial breeder is to have a commercial kennel, with non-porous flooring. Instead of raising my puppies in my home, I would be required to throw them into a concrete floored kennel. I wouldn’t be able to bring shelter dogs into my home and treat them like family, but would have to house them in the same concrete building. Many breeders, myself included, would quit breeding our quality dogs before we would throw our beloved pets into a kennel. Few rescuers could afford to build a commercial kennel.

You can help prevent this regulation from being enacted. There are two important things you can do. Firstly, visit the American Kennel Club’s website and sign the petition. Go to http://www.akc.org/petition and select the “Sign here now” link. You should also visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0003-0001, click the “comment now” link, and tell them why this is a bad idea.

If this regulation passes, many small, quality breeders will stop breeding, and purebred dogs will be defined in large part by large scale, commercial operations. Many more dogs will die in shelters throughout the country as rescuers are no longer able to save them. Your input is critical, and can change this bleak picture. Please take action today.


Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for possible inclusion in future columns. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.