The British Columbia SPCA has seized 71 dogs, including 43 puppies, from a Vancouver Island woman and is planning on recommending cruelty charges. The dogs were seized from Green Acres Kennels because of various health problems that were believed to be the result of bad breeding and inadequate care. Numerous congenital abnormalities were identified, strongly suggesting poor breeding practices. Other problems like infections and severe dental disease were found, including one dog that will need most or all of its teeth removed.

As reported by The Province, SPCA Manager of Cruelty Investigations Marcie Moriarty explained "A good breeder would never breed those dogs. It’s not fair to the dogs and it’s the public who suffers when they have to spend thousands of dollars on vet bills."

Owner Nancy Kitching responded with the ever informative "That’s a bunch of crock. The dogs are not in distress."

There are a number of problems associated with buying animals from poor breeders. Beyond the ethics of supporting these kinds of practices, poorly bred and raised puppies tend to be at increased risk of various health and behavioural problems. They also may be at higher risk for carrying a range of infectious agents, particularly bacteria and parasites.

Here are some red flags when it comes to identifying problem breeders/puppy mills:

  • Lots of dogs available at any time. Most good breeders rarely have puppies available on demand.
  • No scrutiny of potential buyers. Good breeders want to make sure their puppies go to good homes. If the only thing you need to show to get a puppy is your wallet, that’s a bad sign.
  • You don’t see all the dogs that are advertized and/or the parents. If there’s a barn in the backyard, lots of puppies for sale and no dogs in sight, the dogs may be all caged out of the way. Ask to see the parents and the rest of the litter.
  • They won’t tell you the name of their veterinarian. A good breeder has a good relationship with a veterinarian. A bad breeder may do a lot of their own "vet" work (often with internet-sourced drugs and vaccines), shuttle between multiple veterinarians and have a poor reputation amongst the veterinary practices in the area.

Buying a puppy should be a 10-year-or-more commitment, so it’s worth doing right. If someone wants a dog from a breeder, it’s better to put the time, effort and potentially more money into doing it right, because a bad choice can result in lots of extra cost, frustration and heartache.

As for Ms. Kitching, she’s not getting the dogs back because she can’t afford the costs associated with covering the legal, boarding and veterinary costs. However, she has plans on offering laser treatment for dogs with skin problems (which sounds like practicing veterinary medicine without a license) and may still ‘dabble‘ in breeding. Beware.