Where do brokered puppies come from?

A common marketing ploy of the people who broker puppies has been to claim that they import puppies because “European bred dogs are healthier”. They’ll usually then toss out some blather about dog wardens and breed inspections and dogs which are somehow magically healthy simply by virtue of the country they were born in.

None of this is true, of course. Dogs become healthier through a combination of things – a breeding program which puts health above everything else, use of up to date screening and DNA tests, an insistence on breeding from or to health tested dogs who don’t have any apparent health issues. None of this is predicated on the country your puppy is born in.

Another thing that helps to ensure your puppy turns out healthy, happy and well adjusted is to be sure he has been raised in a stimulating, safe, clean environment, where he, his siblings and his mother were fed quality food and given top knotch veterinary care.

Now, let me add my standard caveat – there are lots of breeders in Europe who exemplify everything I’ve just mentioned, and they are producing some spectacular dogs. What these stellar breeders are NOT doing is handing their four week old puppies over to any broker willing to pay them $200 per puppy.

For that, you need scumbags like these guys.
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The Dog Game Defined: Puppy Brokers

Dinglehopper was sold by Hunte Corporation to a Toronto pet store

Dinglehopper was sold by Hunte Corporation to a Toronto pet store

I’m working on a multi part series on definitions of common terms used in ‘the dog game’.

Today’s definition: Puppy Brokers (sometimes colloquially called ‘dog dealers’)

A puppy broker is someone who buys puppies, either individually or entire litters, and then re sells them at a marked up price. For example, a  broker might buy a puppy from a small town Penny Saver for $50, and then re sell it through their website for $350. At the height of demand for European bred French Bulldogs, some brokers were buying puppies in Eastern Europe for as little as $300, and re selling them for as much as $2,500. Being a broker can be a very lucrative business.

Brokers can be huge commercial outfits, like The Hunte Corporation.

Hunte is estimated to supply 80% of North American pet stores with their puppies (85,000 sold in one year alone). Hunte breeds no dogs of their own, but purchases them from primarily mid western commercial dog breeders, Missouri in particular. They then are vetted at their main facility, and shipped out across North America, to stores like PJ’s and Petland. The AKC, by the way, just loves Hunte Corporation. The CBC did a great expose on the pipeline that got a puppy named Dinglehopper from Missouri to Toronto, where he was purchased from PJ’s Pet Store.


Brokers can be shady, like the ones who buy up the puppies Hunte and other big commercial brokers don’t want.

These outfits buy ‘second class’ puppies, also known as “B” grade puppies, either directly from the breeders or sometimes through a contact at the big brokers. They then re sell these puppies through penny saver ads, or at flea markets, or from Walmart parking lots. Some of them have a new twist to this – they market their “B” grade puppies as ‘rescues’, charging ‘adoption fees’ higher than they could get at flea market, and with the ‘adopter’ having signed away any expectation of getting a healthy dog.


Brokers can be importers who buy foreign litter lots of puppies, mainly from Eastern Europe.

Since whelping costs are MUCH lower there, and puppy prices very low as well, import brokers can purchase an entire litter of puppies and then re sell them at inflated American prices. Some import brokers don’t import the puppies until they have ‘orders’ for them. Many of them have slick looking websites, some of which will make claims about “FCI” puppies being miraculously healthier than North American bred ones.


Brokers can be small, and claim to be ‘Finders Services’.

These people claim that they have a secret pipeline to all of the “most exclusive” breeders in North America – breeders that you, Joe Public, couldn’t possibly qualify to purchase a puppy from. Some of them offer all kinds of bells and whistles – they’ll hand carry the puppy to you, they will stay in your home for a week and do puppy ‘nanny’ duty. These places, generally run by just one or two people, will claim that they’re doing buyers a service by pre screening puppies and breeders, so you don’t have to.

Here’s what you need to know – NO reputable breeder will EVER knowingly sell a puppy to a broker of ANY sort.

A good breeder wants to meet you. Scratch that – a good breeder will INSIST on meeting you. They want to make sure you are a good home for the puppies they’ve raised and loved and looked after. They want all of your contact information. They want you to keep in touch, and send photos, and let us know if something goes wrong.

NO good breeder would ever turn a puppy over to strangers, to be sold to strangers. The very idea is repugnant. We need to know that our puppies are safe and loved and being cared for.

There is no ‘secret puppy pipeline’, like the “Finders Services” claim there is. They find puppies primarily by calling ads from the Penny Savers, or looking for local back yard breeders – the only kind of breeders willing or clueless enough to sell to them.

ANYONE can get a great puppy, from the best breeder in the world, if they’re willing to do their homework, and show some patience – and you don’t need a broker to be your middleman.

Step by Step Guide to the Puppy Import Trade

I’ve written at length before about what a “Puppy Broker” is –  think of them as ‘electronic pet stores’, who obtain puppies from a breeder, and then re sell them for a profit. Unlike pet stores, who at least admit to not having bred the puppies they sell, many brokers will bend over backwards to obscure the fact that they aren’t the actual breeders of the puppies.

Brokers who do admit that their dogs are European imports like to use a lot of buzz terms about just why they’re importing puppies for re sale. They’ll talk about “superior health”, and “champion lines”, and they like to toss around references to a better policed European breeding system. What they never actually spell out for you is the actual chain of events – how a puppy gets from a breeder in Europe to a puppy broker in Toronto, or some other North American city.

This article caught my eye, because it fills in some of the blanks for us:

From the Austrian Independent

Styrian police discovered 47 puppies stashed in a Slovakian van during a routine motorway traffic check on the A2 yesterday (Weds).

Cops said the animals were transported in carton boxes and on the car’s floor.

The 31-year-old driver is facing animal cruelty charges. He admitted he had been driving nonstop for hours and was on his way to Spain.

A vet said the man had five King Charles Spaniels, one Jack Russell Terrier, eight miniature pinscher, four Pomeranians, one French Bulldog, four Chihuahuas, three wire-haired dachshunds, 20 Maltese and one Labrador. He said the youngest dogs were just five weeks old.

The emphasis in bold is mine, because it plays such an important part in explaining just why so many of the Eastern European import dogs have temperament problems.

In the immortal words of a puppy broker, which I’ve never forgotten, “Puppies are like baked goods – the older they get, the staler they are, and the less money you can charge for them”.

The North American pet market wants their puppies young, and in the prime of their ‘cute puppy’ phase – generally, between 8 to 9 weeks of age.  Here’s a breakdown of what it takes to get those puppies to North America, before their ‘best before’ window expires.

Bunchers are the guys who visit the Eastern European breeders, and round up the puppies. They’ll pick up entire litter lots, of the various breeds that are in demand, load them up, and do the paperwork that’s required to get them ready for shipping to North America. Since there’s at least a week or two of ‘advance’ work to be done before the puppies are ready to be shipped, the Bunchers are usually picking these puppies up almost as soon as they are weaned – that’s as early as four weeks.

Leah at Four Weeks

Leah at Four Weeks

This is Leah, at four weeks old. Her legs are wobbly, her teeth are still erupting, and she startles rapidly. She’s barely out of her neonate phase, and into her transitional one.

A four week old puppy is a fragile thing – it’s immune system is still reliant on the antibodies it received from its mother, and it is physically unable to regulate body temperature effectively and so gets cold or hot very rapidly.

This is the most important phase in a puppy’s emotional development, and it is when they most need the company of their littermates and their mother.

Bunchers, of course, are not concerned with these niceties. Their  only goal is to get their goods to market, as quickly as possible. Once rounded up, the puppies are transported (apparently sometimes on the floors of vans) to a holding facility, where they stay until all the necessary paperwork has been done that they need to be able to be shipped.

Once this is ready, they’re packed into crates, and loaded onto airplanes. Technically, it’s unacceptable to ship multiple puppies together in one crate, but in reality it still happens all the time, especially if the shipper on the European end either doesn’t know about this regulation, or has been paid not to care. Sometimes, the shippers aren’t too up to date on proper animal welfare, which explains the crate which arrived in the USA shrink wrapped, and full of suffocated puppies. A few dead puppies, however, are considered ‘acceptable loss’ – after all, the pups are bought for sometimes as little as $50, but they can be re sold by the bunchers for a few hundred – and there’s almost no limit what the brokers on the other end can charge.

The pups who make it onto the plane face a grueling journey – with layovers, a flight from Poland to Toronto is going to depart at 7:30 in the evening, and arrive at 1:00 the following day (that’s a 23hr 5mn trip). Since the puppies, however, are traveling as cargo, they usually are required to have a four or five hour layover, to ensure they’re loaded onto the connecting flight.

Think about it – that’s at least two to three hours in advance arrival, a day and change in transit, and then another three or so hours being processed on arrival. Alone, in a crate, with no food, no water, no potty breaks, no companionship. For puppies that are, by now, probably no more than five to six weeks old.


Sick puppy gets injection by the puppy broker who imported it

Sick puppy gets injection by the puppy broker who imported it

The pups arrive, are processed, and are picked up by the puppy brokers. At this point, they have to be vetted, and treated for any conditions they’ve acquired over the interval since they left the Bunchers (parasites like coccidia and giardia, and viruses like parvo, thrive in conditions of stress).

Veterinary treatment costs money, so a lot of the brokers choose a sort of ‘do it yourself’ method, as we can see in this photo of a puppy receiving ‘care’ at the hands of the Broker who imported it.

You can imagine how well that usually works out.

Once the surviving puppies have been dosed with antibiotics, fluids and worming medicine, the Brokers prop them up against some stuffed animals, take their photos, and add them to their websites, or the numerous “puppy for sale” websites which have proliferated in the last ten or so years. Some will be sold via on line sites like Kijiji, and many will be portrayed as having been bred by the person selling them. In many cases, buyers only find out where their puppies really came from when (and if) they finally get a copy of their registration papers.

That’s an awfully long trip, at an awfully young age, for puppies who should be still at home playing with their litter mates. By comparison, it makes the cross country trip from Missouri to a New York City pet shop look like a comparative walk in the park, and yet people who would never dream of buying a pet store puppy will purchase one from a broker, without seeing the irony.

We need people to understand that there is just as much, if not more, cruelty involved in the import puppy trade, as there is in the domestic puppy mill business. All of the shiny on line photographs in the world can’t justify the abuse these tiny little victims endure.

For more info, visit the Wrong Puppy –