Breeders Behaving Badly

Mindy Holmes, of Maplecreek Corgis

Mindy Holmes, of Maplecreek Corgis


I sometimes feel like I’m spending a lot of my time defending my fellow breeders, in large part because almost all of the breeders I know personally really are ethical people who love their dogs and their breeds. I also defend conformation showing, which I know seems trivial and superficial to anyone outside of the fancy. It’s a sport I have mixed feelings about, but at its best I enjoy it as a fun way to meet with friends, have a look at their dogs, and maybe take home some ribbons.

At its worst, however, showing becomes a world filled with shady, amoral behavior, none of which seems to have anything to do with the well being of the dogs, and most of which has to do with greed, ego and money. When at its worst, it becomes hard to defend either showing, or the breeders involved in it.

This would be one of those ‘worst’ situations.

From the Herald Tribune:

A recent criminal case based in Venice reveals a darker side of the $330 million American dog show industry where greed and ultra competitiveness can lead to allegations of cheating, corruption and vindictive acts.

Venice dog breeder Melinda “Mindy” Holmes, 48, was arrested this month on a felony extortion charge in the falsification of a champion show dog’s veterinary records and demanding money to keep those records hidden.

The allegations have rocked the Greater Venice Florida Dog Club, of which Holmes was a member in good standing for several years.

“I’m just in shock,” said Rita Figg, a founding member of the Venice dog club when she learned of Holmes’ arrest on Feb. 12. “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before.”

According to sheriff’s reports, Holmes in 2009 first threatened to release damaging documents about a Pembroke Welsh corgi, named Ty, bred by AKC judges Rutledge and Nash Parker of North Carolina unless they paid Holmes $18,000.

The Parkers claim Holmes fraudulently changed Ty’s veterinary records to show the dog had been cosmetically altered through surgery, which would prevent him from competing and could permanently damage the Parkers’ judging and breeding careers.


The Corgi involved in this case, Champion Happiharbor Saddle Lane Ty, is not just any show dog, either – he’s the number four ranked Pembroke Welsh Corgi in the country. Ty was exhibited at Westminster this year, but while Ty didn’t place in the ribbons this year, he has numerous prestigious wins in his past, including Best in Specialty Show.

The article doesn’t specify what surgery it was alleged that Ty had had performed on him, but it’s possible that none of his wins would have been awarded if it was proven that Ty had received cosmetic surgery.

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed standard states –

A dog must be very seriously penalized for the following faults, regardless of whatever desirable qualities the dog may present: oversized or undersized; button, rose or drop ears; overshot or undershot bite; fluffies, whitelies, mismarks or bluies.

I assume that Holmes was threatening that Ty had one of these ‘serious’ faults corrected. Holmes, who breeds Corgis under the “MapleCreek” prefix, was the breeder of Ty’s dam. She and the Parkers had apparently done breedings together in the past.

More from the Herald Tribune:

The Parkers, according to arrest documents, paid Holmes $3,000 to keep the falsified records private, but refused to give her $15,000 more she demanded.

Then, a month before this year’s Westminster show, Holmes reportedly e-mailed Ty’s vet records to the dog’s handler to discourage her from showing the dog. Breeders often own the dogs, but handlers are the ones who present the dog in competitions.


Reached for comment in North Carolina, the Parkers would not discuss specifics of the incident beyond what was in the police report. But Rutledge Parker said he and his wife fear further retaliation by Holmes.

“I’ve never dreamed of something like this happening. I don’t know how to react to it,” he said. “This was all about money, and that’s clear from the police report.”

Read the rest of the article here.


How many is TOO many?

Bunny's Boys

Bunny's Boys - crappy resolution still capture from my new video camera

Here’s a Frenchie Friday question – How many litters are TOO many litters?

We debate this question all the time – what’s that magic number that tips someone over from ‘reputable’ breeder to ‘not so reputable’? Is there even a magic number – or should there be?

There’s a HUGE big name kennel out west (not Frenchies), who has an average of six to eight litters per year – in a breed with fairly large litters.

Is that too many litters?

What if I then add that they feed raw, employ a full time staff of three to care for puppies and adults, have an ‘open door’ kennel policy, and a huge waiting list for available puppies?

Still not good enough?

What if I mention that they have literally DOZENS of Best in Show wins, multiple BISS wins, Westminster group and breed wins, International Champions, etc? Are they still an ‘un reputable breeder’? Or would you even call them a puppy mill?

What if, instead of six to eight litters, they had ten to twelve?

What about the small breeder who only has one to two litters, but they’re raised in a garage, barely socialized and won’t see new people until they either go to their homes or hit the show ring?

Are those two litters still too many litters, if their breeder can’t or won’t care for them properly?

Does it matter if their breeder has multiple champions and shows every weekend? Does it matter if they’ve never shown any of their dogs, and don’t even register their litters?

Can you have four litters per year if your breed only has two puppies, or is just all about that number? Can you have three litters if you didn’t breed the year before?

Personally, I care more about the way that the pups are raised than I do about numbers.

For Frenchies, I want to see pups that are home raised, with tons of exposure to people and sights and sounds. I want them to be clean, well fed, and well cared for. I want to know you’ve got homes waiting, and won’t be trying to dump un sold puppies on Kijiji when they get too old. If you’re doing all of that, I don’t have a ‘number’ – although I do think that there’s a number, beyond which, it’s almost impossible to achieve all of that, or at least to achieve it well.

Of course, all of that is just MY opinion – what I really want to know is, what’s yours?

The Spay Neuter Quandary

Spaying and neutering has recently become a hot topic throughout the dog world once again. The last time I remember this much interest in alteration is when news began to circulate about the success of early (meaning pre 10 weeks of age) spay and neuters. This time, the discussion is whether spaying and neutering should be done at all.

On one of my natural rearing lists, there’s discussion about whether or not it’s ‘holistic’ to alter your puppies. Putting aside the faulty logic in trying to equate reproductive function with holistic medicine, we’re left with the dilemma in question – is it ethical for a breeder to insist that owners spay or neuter their puppies, knowing what we do about the health implications that can result from it?

I’m on the fence when it comes to this topic, which is fraught with a lot of rhetoric and littered with confusing and often contradictory statistics. I do agree that dogs of either sex seem to develop into smarter and more alert adults when either left intact or altered later in life, and it’s almost undeniable that late altered or intact dogs develop signifigantly different phsyiques than their altered young counterparts. In French Bulldogs, puppies altered young retain a more puppyish demeanor, with lighter bone, higher legs, and less ‘blocky’ heads.

There are worrisome statistics which suggest that neutered dogs are more at risk for prostatic cancers, spayed bitches more at risk for spleen tumors, and both altered sexes at greater risk of osteosarcoma. These can balanced with countering statistics showing both sexes to have a reduced risk of mammary tumors when they are altered (and yes, boys get them as well).Obviously testicular and ovarian cancer are no longer a risk when the parts in question have been removed – but then we read that these cancers aren’t common in dogs anyways.

Reading the literature becomes a balancing act – testicular cancer versus prostate cancer, mammary tumors versus osteosarcoma? Read and re read, and still we come to the conclusion that there’s just no easy answer – no blatant scale tipping in one direction or the other, at least when weighing the pure science of the issue. Even the veterinarians and researchers can’t seem to agree on which is more beneficial to over all health.

All of us, however, can agree on at least one fact – that altered animals are unable to reproduce. As a breeder, my reasoning is as simple as this: knowing that my pets are altered gives me one less thing to worry about, on a long list of worrisome things – I know they aren’t out there someplace, pumping out puppies.

There’s an argument to be made there, of course – that we shouldn’t place pets into homes where we can’t trust the owners. The rationale is that if you can’t trust the new owners to care for an intact pet, you shouldn’t be able to trust them at all.

That’s a fallacy, in my opinion. We’re long past the time when the average person knows anything about animal husbandry, much less the myriad ways that two amorous pets can find to mate. Securely fenced yard? Nice try, but intact pets can jump a surprising distance when inspired to do so, and matings have taken place through chain link (just ask the Golden owner who found her bitch tied with a stray dog – with the chain link in between them). Dogs dash out doors, jump over fences, and in general can be more inventive than you’d believe possible when pursuing their biological imperative. The other consideration here is that things change. Today’s ideal and loving home is tomorrow’s home broken by bitter divorce.

Almost ten years ago, Barb placed a lovely little bitch into a very nice pet home. Great couple, cute kids, solid references, and they lived close by, which is always a plus. They sent updates for a few years, which petered off over time. Nothing new there – that’s the typical pattern with new families. The bitch was placed with a contract requiring her to be spayed, but no AKC limited registration. It wasn’t commonly done at the time, and besides which the new owners seemed so nice.

Flash forward a few years later, and we get an inquiry from someone in Northern Europe doing pedigree research on her new puppy. Who’s this dog in her pedigree with our kennel name on it? I’ve only sold three dogs to Europe, and was stunned it wasn’t one of them. It was the little pet bitch I mentioned above, who had been sold, intact, to a breeder in Russia. How did this happen? The usual, route, apparently. Bad break up, angry parties, and a petty bit of revenge involving the family pet, and the next thing you know, she’s on a plane to Russia. Her story has a relatively happy ending – her Russian owner is respectable, showed her extensively, bred her lightly, and kept her forever. It could have been worse – she could have ended up in the midwest, locked in a backyard pen and bred over and over again until she was used up and put to death.

There was no way of knowing this family would self destruct in this manner, but we can be sure that this bitch would never have gone to Russia if she had been spayed.  Oh, she still might have been ditched, but experience has shown that owners are much more likely to offer dogs back to breeders if they can’t see any profit in selling them on themselves.

And so, we balance – peace of mind versus health of puppies. For example, I have a pretty iron tight clause in my contract insisting on alteration, but I also ask that my pups get a chance to develop naturally for as long as possible before being altered. In most cases, six months is minimum, or after their first heat for girls. In a few cases, when dealing with undersized puppies, I’ve suggested waiting until a full year has passed. I also have safegaurds in place for the times when I want to waive my alteration clause. Other breeders might consider that irresponsible – they don’t let any puppy leave their house unless it’s been altered. I just don’t think the health risks of putting a ten week old puppy through surgery can be justified, but I can see the appeal in doing it, from the breeder’s perspective.

I’ve lifted my insistance on spaying and neutering for obedience, agility and other sport dog owners, if I feel they have enough experience and dedication to follow through. I can’t deny that intact dogs just seem to make better competitors, and who doesn’t want to see their dogs become succesful? I’ve waived it when I thought altering wasn’t in the best health interest of the dog, like Nell’s brother Pete, who was undersized and temperamentally timid and immature, and in need of all the testosterone he could get. In each of these cases, I’ve put checks and balances into place that help to ensure that, intact or not, this dog won’t be bred (or if it does happen, it won’t be without penalties). Again, some breeder’s do not lift their restriction for any dog, at any time, for any reason – a position I can also sympathise with, even if I don’t share it. Yes, I’m gambling on my obedience homes, but sometimes you have to take a risk if it seems it might be for the greater good.

Weighing the pros and cons of what’s right for our dogs is never easy, no matter how much rhetoric gets tossed around (like the exchange where one anti altering breeder called another pro altering breeder “Dr. Mengele with a kennel licence”). There’s no simple answer to the question of ‘what is the best thing to do?’. In the end, we have to do what makes us, as dog breeders, feel that we’ve done what is in the best interest for our individual dogs, their new families, and our integrity as breeders as a whole.

A mixed breed argument, from a purebred owner

This comment was left on one of my Thursday Thirteen entries – the one about the many questions that pop into my head when I read Kijiji ‘pets for sale’ ads:

I’m going to have to disagree with you on the puggle thing. First, purebreds end up at shelters (and in breed rescues!) all the time, it’s not just mixed breeds getting dumped.

Also, I totally agree that people while people shouldn’t be breeding crosses (or anything unless they know exactly what they are doing), BUT it’s been my experience that they tend to be healthier than purebreds. I will only adopt mixed breeds from shelters. Watching my parents as I grew up and now neighbors and friends spend a fortune at the vet with their Boston terriers, yorkies, schnauzers with their inherited diseases. My parents got all their dogs from an AKC breeder/judge and not one lived to see ten. Epilepsy, breathing problems, Cushings, bad knees, pancreatitis…etc. I don’t want to go through that. My large mutt is sleeping underneath me, at age 12, healthy and on no medication. While crosses are no guarantee of good health, there is something to be said for hybrid vigor. My breeder friend seethes at me and says I’m totally wrong about this, but when his champion bitch died of a breed related cancer at a young age I could only think about the litters she passed it on to.

I’d take a puggle any day (at a shelter) over a french bulldog. Sorry!

I think that some people assume that anyone who’s an enthusiast of a purebred dog breed is automatically anti mutt. That’s just not so.

Like a lot of breeders, I’ve owned – and loved – my fair share of mixed breed dogs over the years, all of them rescues. I love almost all dogs, no matter what the breed, or the mixture therein.

That said, there’s also a lot of misconception over mixed breeds, in particular the issue of hybrid vigor. There is no truth in the belief that a dog that’s the result of a breeding between two different breeds will be automatically free of any genetic conditions, due to some kind of magic genetic alchemy. If both of those breeds, for example, are brachycephalics (such as ‘Miniature Bullies’, a cross between Bulldogs and either Frenchies or Pugs), the resulting offspring have just as much chance of being afflicted with brachy syndrome  defects (elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, tracheal collapse, etc) as pups resulting from a purebred litter of any the combined breeds.

The minimal benefits of hybrid vigor that do exist are first generational only – this means that a puggle resulting from two puggle parents has absolutely zero residual beneficial vigor.

There is no magic bullet for creating a healthy dog – there is only the tried and tested method of test, eliminate and alter.

First, we test the breeding prospect sire and dam for any testable genetic condition, such as hip dysplasia, eye anomalies, heart conditions and VWD. Then, we eliminate the dogs with obvious problems – dogs with elongated soft palates, or thyroid conditions, or structural defects such as hare feet. Finally, we repeat this in the second generation, and alter affected pups, removing them from the gene pool. All of this should count for just as much a ‘prettiness’ in the dogs we breed from.

Therein lies the rub with ‘designer’ mixed breeds – how many of the people who create them are doing even the most basic of genetic screening? I’m going to assume none.

I’m also going to assume that the dogs being used for these first generation mixes are, in general, not from the best lines in the world, because anyone who’s invested thousands of dollars and untold hours into establishing a line of tested dogs isn’t going to wake up one day and decide to let them be used to create a ‘new’ breed.

There’s truth to the statement that ‘all dog breeds came from someone mixing other breeds together’, but people conveniently forget what things were like back then, when today’s breeds were being established. Culling, for example, was rigorously used in the creation of many breeds, including Frenchies. For those who aren’t familiar with culling, let me give you the definition –

cull    (kŭl)
tr.v.   culled, cull·ing, culls

1. To pick out from others; select.
2. To gather; collect.
3. To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).

n.   Something picked out from others, especially something rejected because of inferior quality.

Bluntly put, culling in dogs in the earlier part of the century usually referred to ‘bucketing’ – the habit of drowning ‘inferior’ pups at birth in a bucket of water.

From the 1901 edition of Dogdom Monthly comes this excerpt from an interview with an early breeder of ‘French Bull dogs’ –

When a pup with the wrong ears would come up in the litter we would just cull it out so as to not contaminate the rest. There being no space for the inferior. The same for those with a size obviously not of ‘what’s done’ so to speak. In this way did we set the type that you see today.

I think it’s clear that there is no place in modern breeding for culling, but the simple fact is that we can’t claim that creating mixed breeds today is the same as it was when most current breeds were established.

It’s also true that today’s modern dog owner expects more from their pets than the often referenced ‘good old mutt that never went to the vet’ that’s so often mythically referenced by mixed breed proponents. That ‘healthy mutt’ quite possibly was crippled with hip dysplasia and lived out its life in utter agony – agony that went unnoticed because the dog spent most of its life tied to a dog house in the corner of its yard.

We live in much closer proximity to our dogs today – we’ve integrated them, for better or worse, into the fabric of our families, and pay as close attention to their health as we do to our own. We want dogs that don’t limp, don’t scratch, don’t get sick unduly or die too young. We want all of this, plus a dog that ‘looks’ the way we want our breeds to look. I’m going to reiterate, once again, that there’s only one way to get this – test, eliminate and alter. The process is no different for a Puggle than it is for a French Bulldog.

As for the argument that just as many purebreds end up in shelters as mixed breeds, that’s specious logic. Dogs don’t end up in shelters because of their breed – they end up in shelters because of owners who don’t train or who can’t be bothered to care for dogs with medical issues, or because they have no breeders willing to take them back and re home them themselves.

I believe, based on my own experience, that the dogs who end up in shelters, or any breed, are in an overwhelming preponderance dogs who came from impulse purchases. Pet store pups, cheap newspaper buys and give away dogs – dogs that people put little worth on.

Does this mean breeder dogs are immune? Of course not. But a breeder who remains in contact with their owners – who remains available to them, and supportive, is a breeder who makes it clear that they will welcome back any dog who needs to be re homed.

This could be as true of a breeder of designer breeds as it is of someone who breeds purebred Frenchies, but it’s also a simple fact that few back yard breeders or breeders of designer pups are in it for the long haul. They lose interest, or change ‘mixes’, or just disappear. They’re not there for the owners who can’t keep their pups, and they have no contract insisting that pups come back to them for re homing.

I support the right of people to develop ‘new breeds’ – personally, I’d love to see true Toy Bulldogs (an AKC breed until the ’20s) make a come back. I don’t think it’s unreasonable, however, to expect just as much in terms of ethics from a designer breeder as I do from someone breeding Frenchies.  Commitment to your breed, or your mixed breed, is always the hallmark of someone who’s in it for all the right reasons, as opposed to all the wrong ones.

Your puggle deserves just as much care and forethought put into his breeding as my Frenchie does – for your sake, and for his.