Puppy Day - Backyard Breeder or Ethical Breeder?

23 March is PUPPY DAY! Our research has revealed that this unofficial day seems to have been established in 2006 by an animal behaviourist, Colleen Paige, to raise awareness of the atrocity of puppy mills and to promote adoption of rescued puppies from accredited welfare organisations or the purchasing of puppies from reputable and ethical breeders.

To commemorate this special day we have compiled an important comparison to help you distinguish between between a ’backyard breeder’ and an ethical breeder.

Sadly, many South Africans are not aware of these crucial differences. Let’s help to educate South Africans by spamming this post far and wide!

Every public share on Facebook will be entered into a lucky draw to win R1000 donation to a registered NPO of their choice!

To be eligible to win, share the original post from the PetExpo FB Page, ensure privacy is set to ‘public’, and use the hashtag #PetExpoPuppyDay. Competition closes on 23 April 2020.



Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: The seller may try to pressure the you into purchasing a puppy in a hurry.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: The seller will not rush or pressure your decision and may even place you on a waiting list of a few months to a few years before a puppy becomes available for you.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Often make use of free or low-cost platforms such as Gumtree, OLX, Facebook Groups, Wix websites with no registered domain, etc to advertise puppies for sale.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Unlikely to use free or low-cost platforms, most likely to use credible advertising platforms such as The Dog Directory, The KUSA website, reputable, well established website breeder listings, established Kennel Websites with customised domains, Kennel FB Pages with reviews, etc.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Dogs kept outdoors, or in outbuildings. Stacked cages, small pens, etc. Unlikely to allow you to visit premises or meet dogs.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: In-home with access to the garden. Raised with regular interactions with the family and staff, with access to various areas and adequate space. Happy to allow you to visit the premises and spend time with the dogs. May ask you to disinfect clothes, feet and hands on arrival. Some may not allow visitors out of concern for exposing pups to communicable diseases, but then they must be willing to regularly share footage of the puppies and facility.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Often don’t make themselves available for meetings or phone calls, and likely to use messenger platforms like WhatsApp or SMS.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Should be happy to make themselves available for meetings and phone calls as well as messages. More likely to send emails from a registered domain such as their Kennel’s web domain, or an email address advertised on their Kennel’s FB Page.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Unlikely to send photos or videos of where the puppies are raised, where the parents are kept. May send occasional footage which does not reveal much of the facility.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Should be willing to send photos and videos showing various areas of the facility, the parent’s living conditions and frequent updates of the puppies in various locations within the facility doing various activities.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: May not be a member of KUSA with a valid KUSA membership number. Even if they are a member of KUSA and can provide their membership number, be discerning based on all other points listed here. They may also be reluctant to provide their full names and proof of identification.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Should be a registered member of KUSA, should be willing and able to provide you with proof in the form of a membership certificate with membership number, full names and valid identification document.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Cannot or will not provide references.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Happy to provide contact details of owners of puppies from previous litters.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: The Sire (father) and Dam (mother) of the puppies may not be registered with KUSA, and they seller may not be willing to register the puppies with KUSA. Again, even if they are, consider all other points listed here. If both aren’t registered, the resultant puppies will not be eligible for registration.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: The seller should be willing an able to provide you with KUSA Certificates for both parents and must also arrange KUSA Registration Certificates for the puppies.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: The parents might not have any form of positive identification such as microchips or ear tattoos.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: The parents must have proof of identification such as microchips or tattoos, and the breeder should be willing to prove their identities with a scan at your request.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: No written contract in which all terms and conditions, breeding restrictions, etc. are clearly stated. No indication of what must happen should the owners be unable to keep the dog.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Will have a written contract clearly stating all terms and conditions, breeding restrictions, etc, and will insist that both parties sign this prior to accepting any payments. A good breeder will insist that puppy is returned to the breeder if the owners cannot keep the dog for whatever reason.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: No indication of what must happen should you be unable to keep the dog at a later stage.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: A good breeder will insist that puppy is returned to them at any stage in its life if the owners cannot keep the dog.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Unable to provide results of health tests done on the parents to rule out potential inherited diseases specific to the breed.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Provide results of all tests performed on parents to rule out and prevent potential inherited diseases specific to the breed. Happy to explain meaning of the tests and health issues in the breed.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Little to none. Dogs are often infested with ticks, fleas, worms, mange, communicable and inherited diseases and pain/discomfort. Older dogs are likely to be discarded once unable to produce puppies.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Extensive, including parasite prevention, health screening to help prevent inherited diseases, pain management for older dogs, treatment of communicable diseases, etc. Will be able to provide a vaccination book with proof of deworming and vaccinations signed by a veterinarian.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: None. Not likely to ask you detailed questions about your experience as a pet owner, your income, your property, proof of your address or identity, etc. Puppies are usually shipped without prior meetings, sold in pet stores or online.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Just as you want to research and screen potential breeders to ensure you are supporting an ethical breeder, so the seller should want to screen you to ensure that you can manage and afford to care for the puppy throughout it’s life. Should ask you many questions or have you fill in a questionnaire. May put you on a waiting list, get to know you, meet or chat with you, etc.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Likely to offer competitive prices which are usually much lower than those of reputable breeders. They can afford to charge a lower price because they cut costs by cutting out adequate veterinary care and health screening, feeding poor quality food, housing the dogs in small and unhygienic spaces, etc. You may save on the cost of the puppy, but you are more likely to have a sick puppy and higher bills throughout the dog’s life due to inherited diseases, illness resulting from poor environment, behaviour problems as a result of poor socialisation, etc.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Higher price per puppy to help cover the considerable costs involved in ethical breeding, including but not limited to, proper veterinary care, health screening, high quality dog food, hygienic and spacious facilities, good socialisation, importation of dogs/semen to broaden the gene pool, etc. Purchasing a puppy cannot 100% guarantee a ‘perfect’ puppy with no health or behaviour problems, but it does drastically reduce the risk of problems.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: May pressure you into paying in full before meeting the parents, puppies, sellers, or before visiting the facility.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: May ask for a deposit. Will allow you to view the facility, the contract, their KUSA membership number, the health screening results, etc prior to asking for full payment.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Likely to have multiple litters of puppies, various breeds of puppies available at the same time.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Usually only one or two litters, and only one or two breeds available at any one time.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Profit. Focus on ‘exotic’ mixed breeds, unusual coat colour, eye colour, cuteness, etc, with no thought for health and well-being.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: For the love, betterment and preservation of a recognised breed. Likely to compete in dog shows as well as dog sports to improve their breed. Focus on health, temperament, purpose and the breed standard.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: None, or poor socialisation in the form of ‘flooding’ the dogs with more than they can cope with, resulting in fearful, difficult, potentially dangerous dogs which are extremely challenging to train.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Extensive yet careful socialisation to new people, different dogs, children, objects, sounds, surfaces, etc to improve the chances of a safe, predictable, easy-going pet. (with the addition of good training, of course)


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Usually too early, as young as 4 to 6 weeks, resulting in potential behaviour and health problems later in life.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: At least 8 to 12 weeks old to ensure adequate socialisation with littermates and improved immunity.


Puppy Mill / Backyard Breeder: Little to none.

Ethical / Preservation Breeder: Excellent breeders will stay in contact with you and check up on their puppies throughout the dog’s lives.

When choosing a breeder to purchase a puppy, no one point in isolation should be a deciding factor and all these points should be considered together. In South Africa, excellent breeders as well as good buyers are few and far between. Those sellers with good intentions will do their best to adhere to all the above, but keep in mind that breeders may not be perfect and dog breeding is not an exact science. Even with careful health screening, superior socialisation, great food, etc, some inherited diseases, non-communicable diseases and/or behaviour problems may appear. A great breeder will want to hear about these so that they can record them to try to prevent the problem from recurring, and to help you deal with them.

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