#90 – Should Dog Breeders be Licensed and Regulated?

by | May 3, 2024 | Business Management, Dog & Puppy Management, People Management

I got a pretty nasty email the other day. It happens sometimes. Ironically, it wasn’t from someone who was a diehard adopt-don’t-shop person. Instead, although potentially debatable, it was someone who was trying to breed and hadn’t been able to make money at it. Their conclusion was that dog breeding wasn’t profitable and, if you were making money, then you were doing it wrong. Naturally, it got me thinking back to Episode #82 where I discuss if dog breeding is profitable and why it needs to be.

Interestingly, the woman was obviously irritated that she couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t making money; but she additionally concluded that regulation and licensing would correct the problem of puppy mills.

I think, inadvertently, whether or not she was aware, her conclusion was that she was not making money because her pricing was undercut by other breeders she would consider to be puppy mills.

To be frank, if you’re feeling undercut by puppy mills, then you have the wrong customers. You need to better market to your Ideal Puppy Buyer. And, if you aren’t making money, you should check into your business model and where you have inefficiencies. There’s a lot better chance that you have some places of over-expenditure, instead of the entire industry being completely wrong. Which is good news, since it means you can fix it.

It’s sort of like being in a relationship and realizing you’re the problem. That’s good news. It means you have complete control to change it and make it the relationship you want! Not that it isn’t painful. Learning that we aren’t quite who we wish we were is a bit painful.

Anyway, let’s get back to licensing and regulation, the question that I want to explore with you today.

Should dog breeders be regulated? Should governing agencies be able to check on your program and say whether or not you can breed? Should they be able to dictate what you can and can’t do or even how you do it?

The Benefits of Regulation

First, let’s address why you’d want regulation. I think the simplest reason people want regulation is because it is designed to bring up the minimum standard of an industry or problem.

Take the highways for example. Having a federal regulation on the minimum standard of what a road is, especially a highway, is helpful. It allows me to drive from state to state on vacation and not worry that my truck will fit in the lanes, that the roads will be dirt, or that the grade will be too steep. I then only have to worry about feeding the family the appropriate snacks, making sure my fuel tank will make it to the next gas station, and that my truck is fit to drive. It removes stress because I know what to expect, at least a minimum expectation, because, wow, New Mexico could really stand to dedicate a few more dollars to I-25.

In dog breeding, the hope of regulation, as this woman suggested, would be that puppy mills would no longer exist. Maybe, altruistically, she believes that it would bring the standard of living up for all breeding dogs and puppies that are born of them.

There is also the benefit of helping the buyer know what to expect. Just like the highways, knowing that dogs were living in nice conditions, and that they were clear of health considerations, might be helpful.

There is also an interesting dynamic that helps with licensing. I call it a dynamic because I’m not really sold that it’s a benefit or curse. It’s a dynamic in that it changes the game, and so it would suggest you should play the game differently.

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How Licensing & Regulation Change Industries

Licensing and regulation cost money to the business that holds that license. Instead of doing what they find to work, they have to adapt their procedures and processes to what will meet regulation. This sounds good, but is it?

In order to do everything to standard and pay for the regulatory agencies and licensing, plus the often-required insurance, costs for the business will go up. You see this a lot. The more regulated the industry, the more expensive it gets to get into that business, and the less potential for new businesses to start up. The cost of entry to the industry is too high.

Regulation Often Leads to Monopolies

For better or worse, it often leads to a monopoly on the market. You’ll notice that banks, at least in America, are now owned by large groups. They move around building them like a franchise. Think of Chase or Wells Fargo. They’re in nearly every city. Sure there are credit unions that are often regional, but, while I have my credit union account, I find that the services and apps offered by the big banks are so much easier to work with, allowing me to do more on the go and from home. Due to regulations, it’s extremely difficult to start up your own bank legally.

This is good in some respects. You don’t just want to give your money to Joe Blow. But it means the larger corporations that are in the market can dictate a lot more about where the industry goes, and there’s not much you can do about it.

Have you ever heard of ChexSystem? Chex spelled with an X. It is essentially a banking credit score that you have associated with your social security number that provides information about your bank account use, particularly if you have frequent overdrafts, bad checks, etc. I had a friend who was going through a nasty divorce and his ex wife had been abusing his account. He wanted to get a business account for a new business he was starting post divorce. When he applied for his business bank account, he was denied at three banks. They all told him his ChexSystem score was too low, and they would not offer him a bank account. While he had consistent income and personally wasn’t to blame, because of what his ex-wife did, he was unable to open a business bank account. It took three years for his score to recover where he was allowed to open a bank account. Ask yourself how you’re supposed to do anything in today’s world, especially in a business, if you can’t have a bank account. He wasn’t trying to get a loan or credit card, he was just trying to put his money into an account and use it. This is an example of an industry making a decision and giving you no real recourse. You can plead your case in a court system with a judge, but in industry decisions like this, they usually just say, “Sorry, good luck soon.”

Licensing & Regulation and the Link to Increased Price and Decreased Competition

When licensing and regulation come in, you also see the general price of things goes up to cover the costs of the additional requirements for the licensing and regulation. Often it’s the insurance costs that go up, now that companies within an industry have laws they can be held liable to. For example, take construction. The construction industry has a fair amount of regulation. In Arizona you have to have a license to do work that totals more than $1,000. The license costs $1,050 and is good for two years. However, you have to have a bond and general liability insurance to cover your work–and that’s required for the license–so that adds another $1,450, bringing things to around $2,000/year in costs. I have to then justify just under $200 per month in income from the business dedicated to keeping my license. This means that construction has to be big enough that the jobs and their profit can justify that monthly expense. It has removed most of the little man, the side hustler who does good work and repairs people’s drywall or installs a porch on a weekend once in a while. Which means those customers have to hire a bigger business that has higher overhead, who will charge more. Like I stated before, it brings the entire cost of doing business and getting work done higher for everyone, the businesses, and then the customer.

The Problem with Gray Areas in Regulating and Enforcing Licenses

It also means there are now rules that must be followed in order to keep your license, but rules don’t have any weight unless there are consequences. Naturally, the rules governing a license will also dictate how it can be lost. Sometimes the laws don’t address the situation appropriately or, worse, they leave room for gray areas that give the governing body the ability to take your license if they’ve decided they don’t want you in the industry anymore.

Let me give you an example:

What if I find that my dogs love to play in water buckets, so I get the big water feed troughs they use for horses, fill them up, and let them use them like little pools. Naturally, given my Arizona dirt, these water troughs will be dirty, they wouldn’t be considered water you’d want to drink.

What if the standards in the law suggested that I needed to have fresh, clean water available for dogs at all times. Sounds reasonable; but what if the governing body comes over to evaluate, sees the dirty water in the trough, recognizes these troughs as water troughs, then declares that I am not providing clean water to my dogs, despite having another bucket of water.

I now have to decide if it’s worth it to have something in my dog pens that my dogs love, but that might jeopardize my license. Jeopardizing my license means my whole business could be shut down over the dogs enjoying themselves, so what would I choose? Obviously I’d have to opt for whatever will keep my license safe and secure, as it is a single point of failure for my business. If it fails, as in I fail to maintain my license, my business can’t operate.

How can you regulate and enforce a standard on breeding dogs?

Think about a Yorki and a Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog. They are considerably different and what might be required for one breed is not what would be ideal for the other.

You might suggest that breeding dogs means they all sleep inside at night. Sounds reasonable, but is it? Great Pyrenees were bred to be somewhat nocturnal and to keep an eye on livestock at night, outside, while the farmer slept. Not to mention, many livestock guardian breeders raise their puppies alongside livestock so they learn their role from an early age. It wouldn’t make sense to bring these puppies in the house, nor the mama dog.

You can have minimum standards on space, I suppose, such as the pen being big enough the animal can move freely. You could suggest they need a pen at least big enough they can stand up and turn around, but you couldn’t regulate much more than that because that’s the size of a crate, and a crate is a very useful tool in training and managing dogs. You could try to put a time limit on how long a dog is in a crate, but then you have dogs who have injuries and wear cones, and they’ll need to be crated constantly for their own safety and ability to heal, so how would you write in an exception?

What if you don’t have facilities yet? All you have is management, using a crate between two studs? You could argue that someone shouldn’t have two studs if they don’t have facilities, but what if the second stud is a returned dog and you can’t even get him in for neuter for 30 days? What’s the alternative? Dropping him off at the shelter? That doesn’t make sense.

There are too many realistic scenarios where a smaller confined space is the only way to manage a situation. It isn’t something you can put into a law realistically. You also don’t want to write a law that’s 400 pages long, it’ll be too subjective.

Not to mention, how would you ever enforce any of these laws? At best you’d have some form of kennel inspection or something, but that’s a snapshot in time and hardly representative of a whole situation.

How much money would it cost everyone to hire these extra officers? My county is huge and we have 3 animal control officers. They are already overworked and underpaid, they don’t want to take on the extra responsibility, and who wants to add that much to property taxes to regulate dog breeding and all the differences in each breed with all its subjectivity. It’s a nightmare. Which is probably why it isn’t a thing. It’s probably a part of why you don’t see regulation for dog breeding in this manner.

The Ideal Goal of Regulation & Licensing of Dog Breeders

I would love it if there was a way to stamp every breeder as good or bad, then give some giant list on a single database that let buyers know these were the good guys and these are the bad guys. It would be so simple.

It would be awesome if that existed in dating, too: these are the good guys, these are the bad guys–date him, don’t date him. 🤣 Yet, we know it doesn’t work that way. Just as Bill finds me to be a great counterpart, there is a large majority of men out there who would find me annoying, exhausting, and who probably wouldn’t like my cooking. The truth is, matching the traits is more important than what the traits actually are.

Bill is great at taking out the trash and I am great at cleaning the kitchen after making dinner. It doesn’t matter if Bill takes out the trash or I do, it’s the complement of these tasks—that I do the kitchen cleaning and he takes out the trash—that works. The roles could be completely reversed and it wouldn’t matter, but it would matter, and potentially be a problem, if we both liked cleaning the kitchen, but neither of us were good about taking out the trash.

It’s the same with dogs, as you know. Dogs need to be a match to our lifestyles, and that’s important. It is the key to success with a dog. It matters a lot more than meeting some standard of care for which we already have animal cruelty laws in place.

Okay, well that’s the benefits and goals of regulation and licensing, along with some of the issues. In the next episode I’ll discuss the real breaking point of why regulation and licensing of breeders won’t work, and what I believe is the real solution—and you’re a part of it!

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. Thank you for taking time out of your precious day to spend with me and to discuss some of these heavier—and annoying—parts of breeding. I can’t wait to see you in the next episode for Part 2!

Show Notes

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Hey! I’m Julie Swan! I’m here to help you build a breeding business that you love, one that produces amazing dogs, places them in wonderful homes, gives you the life you want, also pays the bills!