Defining who is or is not a responsible breeder isn't cut and dry. Just because somebody is licensed by a state or the USDA is no guarantee of quality (and often indicates large-scale breeding operations). Governmental regulations are non-specific and often allow for mass breeders to get fully licensed, rarely inspected, and sometimes never even see a veterinarian in years. In comparison, most rescue dogs have had recent veterinary care and the groups disclose as much health history that is known for a particular animal.
A brochure "How to Find a Responsible Dog Breeder" can also be a good reference to read and consider in your search. However, we encourage you to consider rescue first!
At a minimum these should include: CERF (eye) testing, thyroid testing, orthopedic examinations, full blood panels, and any others recommended by breed specific clubs. Don't just take somebody's word that they do testing, instead demand to photocopy the documentation for ALL of these. A responsible breeder will show you documented proof of genetic testing for both parents, regardless if they own them or not.
If a breeder truly cares about each and every dog they produce, they will be willing to take it back in sickness or health, no matter the age of the animal. A six month or year long puppy guarantee is worth as much as the paper it is written on, regardless if any refund is given or not.
Spay or Neuter Required
The most responsible breeders will spay or neuter every dog they sell to the public, with no exceptions or require it in their contract. If you can pay extra to purchase a pet not spayed or neutered, then buyer beware.
Breed Club Membership
Breed club membership may indicate that a breeder is responsible. See the following AKC page for lists for Breed Clubs. Beware of anyone touting "APR" or "America's Pet Registry" papers, which is NOT a breed club, and was formed by large-scale breeders so they can charge a premium price for their animals.
If they claim to do rescue, find someplace online that verifies this claim. Many people say they do rescue, but rescue involves taking back dogs who are not just their own. Do they take unwanted dogs from the public, from local shelters, and most importantly did they ask you if you considered a rescue dog before trying to sell you a puppy?
Breed specific rescues often know of responsible breeders witin driving distance, or can tell you breeders to completely avoid. Rescues regularly see dogs from the same breeders, and sometimes even know of common health or genetic issues seen in dogs from specific facilities.
Stay clear of anyone selling puppies out of their vehicle along the side of the road, in a parking lots or other random places!!! You will have no recourse in buying pets from these sellers. Dogs may have parvo, cats could have FIV, both of which are life threatening. Plus, almost any animal could have things contagious to humans such as ringworm or other parasites.
Online sellers who ship dogs or cats anywhere, and/or allow you to purchase with a credit or debit card are especially risky. Scams involving online pet sales are extremely common too. Costs add up quickly when you pay for the pet, transportation fees and veterinary costs, plus other random charges. You have no guarantee that your pet will arrive as described or even arrive at all. Be especially careful when buying out-of-state and NEVER buy a pet internationally online.
Craig's List or Online Classified Ads
Sales of animals on Craig's List are prohibited due to the number of animal related sale scams. Therefore, scammers are often turning to local classified ad websites to find victims.
Any breeder letting their pets be sold at a retail pet store is not responsible, period. Buying pets at such stores only encourages more irresponsible breeding, and makes room for more animals to be sold. Pet stores buy mass produced animals often for less than $50 each to maximize profits.
Listings of Puppies or Kittens
If more than 2 different breeds, or more than 2 litters of puppies for sale (based on birthdate) are being sold by any seller on any website (or combination of websites), that may indicate a problem breeder! Also stay clear of any website that requires buyers to have a paid membership, or where breeders pay to advertise their animals.