Position Statement on Criteria for Responsible Breeding

Because there are homeless animals awaiting adoption in almost every community in the nation, the ASPCA firmly believes that when people decide to bring a pet into their homes, they should first consider adoption from a shelter or rescue group. Those who choose to purchase a pet should visit a responsible breeder, a term whose meaning we explain further below. This position statement focuses primarily on dogs, but certainly has some application to other species, particularly cats and rabbits.  

The ASPCA recognizes that there is a demand for purposefully bred dogs, and we know that there are dog breeders who share our vision for humane communities in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness. These breeders reject the practices of commercial breeders, brokers, pet stores, auctions and others who profit from cruelty and instead plan breeding carefully, place dogs thoughtfully, and take a lifetime responsibility for the animals they have bred and for all of their offspring.

Responsible breeders provide their dogs with a high quality of care, which includes:

  • Providing all dogs with quality food, clean water, proper shelter, exercise, socialization and professional veterinary care.
  • Keeping dogs clean and well-groomed.
  • Raising dogs intended to be pets in a home environment.
  • Prioritizing the wellbeing of the mother dog (and the father too, where applicable) by developing a breeding plan for each dog based on the dog’s age and health, in consultation with their veterinarian.
  • Safely handling puppies daily and socializing puppies with other dogs and people of appropriate ages.
  • Placing dogs or keeping dogs as pets that are unable to breed, dogs who are unsuitable for breeding or dogs who have been returned.
  • Not subjecting dogs to permanent physical alterations that are done solely for cosmetic purposes.
  • Ensuring that puppies are gradually and fully weaned before being placed. Puppies should not be fully weaned before 8 weeks old unless there are medical or behavioral reasons to do so. Ideally, puppies are placed when they are between 10-12 weeks of age.

Responsible breeders strive to breed dogs who are most likely to result in happy and healthy pets. They:

  • Prioritize health and function over appearance.
  • Screen for heritable traits that could negatively impact puppies, and only breed the heathiest and most physically sound and behaviorally stable dogs. 
  • Reduce the risk of offspring suffering from an inherited disorder by not inbreeding dogs (parent to offspring or sibling to sibling).
  • When placing a puppy or adult dog with a known heritable issue, disclose all relevant information to the new family and ensure the dog is spayed or neutered prior to placement (or that the purchaser is contractually obligated to spay or neuter within a designated time frame and follow up to confirm that the surgery is done).

Responsible breeders are transparent and provide a complete history of the dog. They:

  • Encourage prospective owners to visit where dogs are bred and raised, meet the litter and preferably both parents (but at least one), and discuss their breeding and sales practices.
  • Provide accurate and reliable health, vaccination, and pedigree information.
  • Prepare an adoption/purchase contract in plain language that spells out the breeder’s responsibilities, adopter’s responsibilities, health guarantees, and return policy.

Responsible breeders commit to ensuring all dogs they breed are provided a good home by:

  • Using waiting lists or other strategies to assess that there are quality homes available for their dogs before breeding.
  • Committing to making a good match between the owner and the dog by sharing the characteristics and needs of the specific dog (and breed if applicable) and understanding a prospective owner’s expectations. For this reason, they only sell animals directly to prospective owners and not via a third party or broker.
  • Serving as an ongoing resource for new owners and being able and willing to take back or rehome an animal if needed for any reason at any time.

Responsible breeders care about the welfare of all dogs, which they demonstrate by:

  • Altering pets prior to sale or securing a commitment from the owner to spay or neuter (if health or age prevents altering at the time of sale) and following up to ensure that the surgery is done.1
  • Educating prospective buyers and others in their community about the risks of buying dogs from commercial breeders, stores and websites.
  • Supporting laws and policies that ensure breeder transparency, quality of care and accountability.

Pet stores and Websites

The ASPCA is opposed to the breeding of dogs under conditions that fail to meet their behavioral, social and physiological needs. Although the range of care provided by breeders varies greatly, “commercial breeders,” a term we use to refer to facilities that produce dogs in high quantities, generally with the intention that they be sold through a broker, pet store, or other third party, typically keep animals in conditions that are detrimental to their health and welfare.

Therefore, we do not support purchasing or otherwise acquiring dogs from commercial breeders, brokers, or retail outlets that sell puppies (both stores and websites). While the Internet can be an effective and efficient tool for locating adoptable dogs and responsible breeders, purchasing or otherwise acquiring purposely bred dogs via the Internet – without first meeting the dogs and seeing the conditions in which the breeding dogs and their offspring are kept – unwittingly allows bad breeding practices to remain hidden and continue unabated.


When adoption is not an option, people and families choosing to purchase a pet should do so directly from breeders who thoughtfully breed, care for, and place their dogs. While this process may be somewhat time-consuming, the rewards of a healthy pet with support from a person knowledgeable about that individual (and breed, if applicable) are well worth the effort. By seeking out responsible breeders, pet owners can avoid inadvertently supporting the cruelty inherent in the breeding industry where large quantities of dogs are bred, kept in poor conditions, and are intended to be sold through third parties, such as online brokers and pet stores, without lifetime support.

[1]  Responsible breeders should sell intact dogs to other breeders only after determining that the buyer adheres to the same practices outlined above