When you bring a dog into your home, the expectation is that you (as the owner) become fully responsible for the dog and, as a result, make all of the decisions.
Just because your breeder didn’t give you breeding rights doesn’t mean you can’t do whatever you want… right? Turns out, this might actually be more complicated than you think.
You can breed a dog physically without breeding rights but may face legal consequences like the inability to register the litter and a damaged reputation. Breeders don’t usually give rights because they want to be in control of their breeding line and don’t want the puppy to be used unethically. You can get breeding rights by communicating with your breeder, accomplishing your dog, or having a mentorship.
In this article, I’m going to break down the complexity of ownership laws - helping you sort out what’s legal and what’s not about breeding dogs without having the breeding rights!
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Dog ownership in the United States is an interesting phenomenon; although animals are alive, they are still treated as property in the eyes of the law.
What becomes an even more complex issue is that ownership laws about property state one thing, but a contract could change the definition of what you can and cannot do with your dog.
On a general, physical level - sure, you can breed a dog without breeding rights.
However, if a contract with the breeder is set in place that you cannot breed the dog because you don’t have breeding rights… that’s where things can get murky.
Penalties can range from being unable to register the litter with an official kennel club and/or breed club all the way to potential lawsuits and legal trouble.
If you breed a dog without breeding rights, you risk legal recourse against you, assuming that the contract is legally sound.
The issue with many contracts from breeders is that they aren’t drafted by lawyers and can potentially be voided if they are full of unreasonable clauses or those that go against state and federal laws.
However, if the contract is written by a lawyer, legally sound, and you fully agree to it, then you are bound by its conditions and can suffer the consequences of breaking them. Legal penalties can range from losing ownership of the dog to paying a steep fine.
On a personal level, you surely risk being ostracized by the breed group, banned from an official kennel club (such as the American Kennel Club, the largest registry in the United States), and can have your reputation damaged in the dog community.
Granted, this might not mean much to some people, but it should because breeding unethically is detrimental to the dogs (and at the end of the day, we are dog lovers!). If you want to get into dog breeding, do it right!
Receiving breeding rights from an ethical breeder can be difficult as they don’t give those over lightly.
One of the reasons for this is that an ethical breeder wants to remain in control of the breeding itself because their goal is to continue improving the breed.
If every Joe from next door is allowed to breed, there is a significant risk of unethical breeding leading to very sick dogs. The breeder can mitigate this risk by refusing to turn over breeding rights and requiring a spay/neuter for the animal.
Another reason is health testing. Dogs should not be bred before age two because they cannot have their bone structure fully tested before then. Passing on bad genetics because the dog wasn’t health tested is a big problem in the purebred dog fancy.
Reputation can also be a contributing factor. Every dog produced and subsequently produced rides on the breeder’s reputation, so they are the ones most at stake if something goes wrong in the process.
Maybe the dog isn’t the right temperament, some genetic anomaly gets passed down, or the dog simply isn’t up to standard to be bred. All of this goes back to the breeder!
Finally, some breeders simply don’t want the puppies they produce to be used as breeding cash cows.
There is a massive issue in the United States with puppy mills, backyard, and commercial breeding. These poor animals are forced to have puppies for profit, and their quality of care is deplorable. Someone might go into breeding dogs with good intentions at first but then get blinded by the potential income they can produce from each puppy.
If you are truly set on getting breeding rights for your dog, there are a few ways to go about it with your breeder.
First, simply ask! If you can explain why you want breeding rights and where your vested interest lies, this opens up the door to communication. Have a discussion with your breeder and see where things go from there. Your breeder should also be your educator and guide to the puppy you buy, so there must be a comfort level to communicate openly.
Second, ask for a breeding mentorship. If you are truly passionate about your breed and want to contribute to it through breeding, talk to your breeding about them becoming your mentor. Ask about co-ownership, where the breeder will assist with the breeding and help find suitable mates. The breeder should help with health testing and the ethics required for proper breeding.
Third, start taking your dog out to conformation shows and sporting trials, gaining titles, and proving that your dog is a great representation of their breed!
Breeding rights can be given later, proving that your dog deserves it. Because an ethical breeder will remain in communication with you for life, it should be easy to keep them updated on your dog’s accomplishments and then slip in the question.