What’s the Toughest Part of Being a Breeder?

Breeding dogs is not for the faint at heart. Years of careful planning and dedication are required to build a successful program that makes positive contributions to a breed’s pedigree and legacy. Showsight Magazine asked top Breeders what they loved, and what they felt was the toughest part of being a Breeder. We are proud to share some of their stories here.

Francesca Scorza

How I got started in dogs? Well I was in love with dogs since I was born but, unluckily, my family wasn’t “a dog lover family” so I had to wait until my 14th birthday to have the first dog in the house. My breeding adventure started four years later when I had a relation with a breeder and I was involved into breeding and show life. After some months the boyfriend disappeared, leaving me this breeding “mad disease”.

What made me know that this was what I wanted to do? It wasn’t something I thought about—just happened that I started to spend all my free time studying pedigrees, flying to look at dogs and offspring of dogs I loved, traveling for dog shows and enjoying every single moment used to develop my passion.

My mentor was an old Australian breeder, Mrs. J. Cansdell of the well known kennel, Myrmidon. I knew her in Sweden and after one year I started with a Jack Russell Terrier. When I met her for the first time, I felt like I knew her all my life. We started to talk about dogs and we din’t realized how long we stayed in front of our coffee. Then she took me under her wing and taught me all the bases about morphology and breeding; but what I really cannot forget is that she taught me how to look at a dog standing and in movement. We were deep in touch even if we were living at two opposite parts of the world. Every summer she spent at least two months in Europe and she never forgot to come and spend time in our house until she died ten years later. I really miss her and her amazing personality.

The best thing about being a breeder? I like almost everything of the breeding life: planning a litter, helping the mother give birth to her puppies, making the best socialization possible of my puppies, finding the right families for each puppy I decide to sell, working deeply with puppies I decide to keep longer, spending energy and time on them and then looking that my dreams and projects become reality and the small puppy that I kept in my arms since the beginning, is now a top winning dog. Also finding the perfect home for my retired dogs and have “my” dogs sleeping on our sofa.

The toughest part about being a breeder? For sure looking at my dog without heart: sometimes you plan a litter two years before, then finally you have puppies in your arms but it can happen that while they are growing, they are not the kind of puppies you dreamt of or their health test is not like you expected or not the kind of mover you thought they’d be. Well you have to forget how much effort you put in this litter and find the best families for them. Then you go ahead with your breeding plans and start again to plan other pairings. Another thing is that you can never forget that the breeder is responsible for every puppies you decide to whelp.

Do I work outside of the home? I have been an employee for an international company for 15 years. After that I met my husband, who was a professional jumping rider for 30 years, but at the time we met, he was involved in dogs and together we decided to dedicate all of our time at our breeding passion. So I stopped working in the office, we moved into a bigger place and now we have a big place with a breeding kennel and a boarding kennel that allow us to dedicate all of our time to our passion.

Is my family involved? Yes, my husband is breeder of Miniature Bull Terriers for ten years. We share every day of our crazy dog life.

Am I involved with a breed club or all-breed club and held positions within the club(s)? I was involved into the Italian Terrier Society for 17 years since 2000. Then the board changed and the new one didn’t reflect my values, so I decided to go outside the club.

My kennel/exercise areas described: we and our dogs live on a big property near Como Lake. We have a small house, a new kennel and 40.000 squared metres of land with big paddocks with grass and trees where our dogs spend a big part of the day. The kennel is warmed up in winter and air conditioned during the summer.

How did I come up with my kennel name and is it registered with AKC? The affix Touchstar comes from a mashup of the names of my first two dogs.

Do I co-breed and co-own with others? I co-breed with my husband, Mr. Roberto Petazzi, and I co-own the affix Touchstar with Mr. Maurizio Massolo, he has helped me develop our breeding line since the beginning.

Is my breed easy to place? The Jack Russell Terrier is a well-known breed now and is a breed well appreciated family member for kids, for peoples’ first experience with dogs, and an easy dog to live with. This breed fits well into apartments in the city but it’s also a good sport breed for active people—a big dog in a small box. So it’s easy to place puppies. I don’t like so much to offer puppies to sell or stud service of my males. I want people that come to us to buy a puppy aren’t looking for “a puppy” but are looking for a Touchstar puppy, so we like to meet our future customers beforehand, to listen to their needs and expectations and evaluate together if our puppy can have a perfect life with the new family. I have been breeding for 20 years now and Touchstar dogs are exported and shown in many parts of the world, so I’m happy to advertise success of dogs bred by us in nice dog magazines but not to sell. All our puppies are born in our house, so we pay big attention to their future life.

Do I think “Breeders’ Showcases” as a special event at an organization’s site will give breeders the recognition they deserve? I think successful and healthy dogs are the best advertisement of a breeder. Of course, a nice example of a good breeder but I like that the
consistency of my breeding shows the type I like, my point of view on the breed, my current ideas and my future dreams.

Any hint or trick I can share with fellow breeders? Trials are the most important things. I can advise to listen to all, but think with your own brain. Never think you know enough; every day is the perfect day to learn something new and every person can be a good teacher even if unexpected. Look at your dogs every day, not with “Mommy” eyes but with eyes of the most strict judge. Don’t forgive mistakes of your dogs just because you bred them but breed to improve your line. Plan a litter like it would be your last and look at what you are producing. If you do a god job, your last puppy has to be the best and not worse than the parents that you bred before. Look at the studs you think about using and don’t only look at the pedigree. Test your dogs, only put healthy dogs into your breeding line and use your brain and line breeding to fix your type of dog that can be the mirror of your kennel. I’m really proud that many people around the world recognize a Touchstar without reading the name on the show catalog.

Do I show my own dogs? My husband and I like to show
our dogs.

The most amusing thing I’ve ever witnessed at a dog show? What makes me laugh near the ring at shows are always the critics of the other competitors, and most of the time these are the same people who tell you that you have perfect dogs, but I would need a whole magazine to speak about this.

Cheryl Mechalke

My husband and I have always had, and loved, dogs. Our start in showing dogs was sort of a whim. We had owned Shelties for 17+ years and were looking for a new breed that didn’t shed. Through internet research, we found a breed that piqued our interest—the Australian Terrier. After reading about the breed, we found a local breeder, and contacted them to learn they had puppies on the ground. We met our first Australian Terrier at three days of age, and that started our love for the breed.

Although our first Australian Terrier was not a show pup, we attended a few local Dog Shows, as I knew I was interested in showing dogs as a hobby. We later had the opportunity to own a potential show pup, whom we trained and showed to their Championship. That experience solidified our interest to continue showing, and to later breed a litter of our own.

We have been fortunate to have several mentors over the years: Jill Grenaae of Denmark, Carin Sandahl of Sweden, Irma Harden of Finland, and Kirsi Ola of Finland. All of these breeders have offered their knowledge and time to help us with our
breeding program.

There are many things that make breeding very rewarding—from breeding a lovely litter of puppies, to having pups of our
breeding enrich other peoples’ lives, and then showing pups of our breeding to their Championship and beyond.

The toughest things about breeding range from a) making sure pups of your breeding go to wonderful, forever homes, to b) making sure you do not become “Kennel Blind” when choosing dogs to keep in your breeding program. As there is always a dog that captures your heart, they may not mature as you thought, and you sometimes need to make the decision to place them in their
forever home.

We both work full-time outside of the home. This creates many challenges and requires us to efficiently manage our schedules. We are very fortunate to have a friend and handers to help us show
our dogs.

Is my family involved? We both show our dogs and we co-own dogs with specific people.

We are members of Australian Terrier Club of America and the All Terrier Club of Colorado.

How did I come up with my kennel name and is it registered with AKC? Our kennel name, Araluen. Is derived from where we live—by the water. It is an Aboriginal term.

Is my breed easy to place? As this breed is very rare, we advertise our litters on the National Club site, on our personal website, and by posting photos of our current breeding on Facebook and in our Show Sight ads.

Do I think “Breeders’ Showcases” will give breeders the recognition they deserve? We always try to support the Breeder’s Showcase when we have enough dogs available to showcase. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in these events, as they are wonderful ways to have our breeding program recognized.

What can AKC do to help breeders attain great results? Perhaps the AKC could post more photos of rare breeds on their website to increase their visibility.

Any hint or trick I can share with fellow breeders? Our best advice is to follow your heart and instincts. It has never let us down!

Do I show my own dogs? Yes, we do show our own dogs; a good friend and our handlers help us.

The funniest thing at a dog show: years ago, when I first started showing, a beautiful toddler came running towards my, then, novice show bitch outside of a show ring. She stopped, crouched down just in front of her, and put her little hands on both sides of my bitch’s face. I was totally caught off guard, yet my girl handled it in stride. I had to apologize to the toddler’s parents, as my girl gave her a huge kiss! They didn’t care, and the ring steward, who was irritated with me was tempered by the Judge. The Judge found my girl to be a nice representation of the breed, and put her up for breed, even though we temporarily held up the ring judging.

Mark & Robbie Sternlicht

We each have had dogs as pets since we were children. Robbie’s first conformation dog was a Rough Collie she had as a young girl, and she later bred and showed Shih Tzus for 21 years before we started with Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonkas.

The Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonkas were a later-in-life surprise for us. After we learned about the history of the breed in Russia and in the US, we became determined to help the Bolonka survive and thrive.

Lillian Chang, of India and Hong Kong, was one of Robbie’s most beloved mentors during 21 years of breeding and showing Shih Tzus together. Dr. Patricia McRae, one of the first persons to bring Bolonkas to the US, introduced us to Bolonkas and worked with Robbie on breedings that produced two top champion Bolonkas. Robbie also has two Russian mentors who share their knowledge with her. One is Elvira Romanenkova, an FCI all-rounder judge who is the preeminent authority on Bolonkas. The other is Olga Zhigareva, who has bred and shown Bolonkas for many years.

Robbie is retired, and Mark still works as an attorney. As a result, Robbie does almost all of the training and day-to-day caretaking. Our granddaughter helps out during summers, and family members cheer us on.

We are members of the Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka Club of America, with Mark serving as a board member and Secretary, Robbie serving as Membership Chair. We co-chaired the most recent Specialty. We belong to the Cape Fear Dog Training Club and the Fayetteville Kennel Club. Robbie was President of the Cape Fear Dog Training Club for three years and is returning to the board. Both of us are officers in the Fayetteville Kennel Club.

Our dog are pets that participate in conformation and obedience sports. They live in our home, and we have a dog door that opens into a fenced area that is large enough for the dogs to run and play.

We named our kennel Red October Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonkas after the Red October Chocolate Factory in Moscow.

The Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka is an FSS breed with a small gene pool. The AKC could help by providing easily accessible information about basic genetics, the importance of selecting the best possible dogs to import and breed, and the benefits of having
a mentor.

We show our own dogs. The opportunities to introduce FSS breed to judges and the public is especially important for FSS breeds. Showing also provides many learning opportunities for anyone who intends to breed.

One of the most amusing incidents at a dog show was seeing a young woman spraying starch and combing a long-haired puppy. When asked why she was spraying starch, she said her breeder told her to use starch on mats so she could comb them out more easily, but it seemed to make the mats worse and sticky. Being careful not to laugh, Robbie gently explained that the breeder must have meant corn starch. Robbie gave her some and showed her how to use it to separate the hair in a mat. She said the corn starch worked
much better.

Linda Kunicki

How I got started in dogs? My parents had a pet Sheltie when I was born so my introduction to the breed was this little loyal dog. When my dad died our lives changed and we moved from Chicago to Michigan for six years. When we moved back to Chicago I was 11 years old. My mom was creative in finding interesting things we could do on a weekend. She found the International Kennel Club Dog Show at the Amphitheater located in the Chicago Back of the Yards. I was fascinated with all the dogs in their little areas as it was a benched show. I told myself, “Someday you must learn more about dog shows.”

Years passed and I started dating Len Kunicki when I was 20. One day I saw a poster on a lamp post advertising the International Kennel Club Dog Show at the Amphitheater, so Len took me to it.

More years passed then in 1985 Len and I decided to investigate what we had to do to have Shelties we could show. We visited specialties and joined the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club. Later in 1995 I also joined the American Shetland Sheepdog Club.

What made me know that this was what I wanted to do? We loved the breed and were inspired by other breeders and dog show people we met. However, it wasn’t just having show dogs as we keep very few Shelties at one time and they live with us into their elder years so they must keep their quality and be great companions also. It’s also the lovely people we have met through the years who mentored us but also the many it’s just great to hang out with at shows and education events.

Who were our mentors? We were lucky and had a number of people. When we first started Nancy of Hy Fy Shelties let us come up to her home in La Crosse, Wisconsin as often as we were willing to drive five hours one way. We’d spend the weekend learning pedigrees and grooming. But also meeting other long time breeders and dog show fanciers. Along the way we have had other mentors as well too numerous to list here.

The best thing about being a breeder? Producing quality that lasts into the veteran years so a family can enjoy their pet for a long time. But also having older shelties who as veterans have accomplished new levels of winning and titles. GCh. Starlite’s Cast in Red, Rudy, was one of those dogs. We had not been actively showing for about eight years due to life situations.

We thought it would be nice to take Rudy to the 2011 American Shetland Sheepdog Club’s National Specialty. So for practice we went to the International Kennel show where the judge awarded him Select Dog and said ‘this dog deserves’ his Grand Championship. At the time I laughed as Rudy was close to 13 years old.

We went to the National Specialty where Rudy won second place in the 12 and older veteran class. Afterwards, people around the ring, including some judges said, “He looked great, you should keep showing him for his Grand Championship”. So, we thought we’d do some shows over the summer and have some fun. Well, Rudy, took only five months of limiting showing to earn his Grand Championship at 13 years old including several Best of Breeds. At the time in 2011 he was the oldest AKC dog to accomplish this title.

The toughest part about being a breeder? Losing our Shelties, no matter how old they are, it is hard to have them pass.

Do I work outside of the home? Yes, I work in healthcare for a home care and staffing agency. It does make it hard to do weekday shows now that there are more clusters with multiple days of shows. We usually can only attend the Saturday and Sunday events depending on how far we must travel. I truly enjoy the NOHS competition but when it’s offered on a weekday and not a weekend it’s hard for owner-handlers who have outside jobs.

Is my family involved? My husband, Len, is very helpful and loves to travel so he does the driving. He enjoys the dogs and they love him also.

Am I involved with a breed club or all-breed club and held positions within the club(s)? Len and I have belonged to Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club since 1986. I have been in every office except Recording Secretary and have been on many a committee. I also belong to the American Shetland Sheepdog Club since 1995.

Do I co-breed and co-own with others? After buying and co-owning a sable and white young male, who became Ch. Starlite’s On the Move, from Christy Calkins in Wisconsin, Len and I started working together to co-breed as well as co-own Shelties under the Starlite name.

Is my breed easy to place? Shelties are a desirable pet for many people. The American Shetland Sheepdog Club has a breeder listing page on their website.

Do I think “Breeders’ Showcases” as a special event at an organization’s site will give breeders the recognition they deserve? I think this is very helpful.

What can AKC do to help breeders attain great results? Even more focus on education of the public and keeping legislation less restrictive.

Any hint or trick I can share with fellow breeders? I cannot remind myself enough to keep in mind that I was new once upon a time and to be considerate of the new person. While we have to be cautious, we must help those entering our breed and sport. To those entering the sport you need to remember to be patient. Don’t think that the fast winning dog is necessarily the best representative. Study the standard and any good books by long time breeders. Go to education events. Listen more than you talk!

Do I show my own dogs? Yes and on occasion have used a handler if needed. We are proud to currently have GCh. Starlites Echelon Take Command, Grant has been in the Top 10 NOHS for 2018 and 2019. This year we will attend the NOHS Finals in Orlando.

Theresa Goiffon

How I got started in dogs? I have owned dogs and cats my entire life, not to date myself but that is over 50 years. We have owned mixed breeds, purebreds, small and large breeds. I guess I passed on my “love for animals” gene onto my daughters, because like me, have been involved in animals their entire life as well. However, it wasn’t until our family moved to the country and I retired from my banking career to raise our daughters that we became serious about showing and breeding dogs. Our quest then began to find the right breed for our family.

What made me know that this was what I wanted to do? My youngest daughter, Ellie, was watching the Westminster dog show on television when she was eight years old and said, “Mom, I want to show dogs.” It was then that our extensive research in dog breeds began and what breed would best suit our family and our lifestyle.

We researched several breeds and narrowed down our initial search to the Australian Terrier, as well a few others, but finally as a family we decided on the Australian Terrier. It was quite the task, those many years ago, to find a reputable breeder that would not only sell us a breeding/show prospect but that would mentor us in the breed as well. Having years of experience in dog ownership helped, but we also read everything we could about the breed as well as contacting Australian Terrier breeders abroad.

Who were my mentors? Most of our breed mentors came from long time breeders in Europe and Australia. As I mentioned above, it was difficult finding a mentor in the USA, in our breed, the Australian Terrier, as they are not a common breed. Also, there were not many breeders that had websites at that time so access to finding quality breeders was limited. We reached out to the parent club as well to no avail.

We attended a few local dog shows but at that time there weren’t any Australian Terriers exhibiting in our area of the country. Those days are behind us and now we have a great network of Australian Terrier breeders and friends within the USA and abroad.

We did join our local kennel club, the Cambridge Minnesota Kennel Club and were introduced to Mr. Wayne Harmon, AKC Judge and Delegate who was extremely helpful and to this day he remains a dear friend and mentor. Having attended the World Dog Show in Finland, where there were over 100 Australian Terriers exhibited, also provided us with in-depth hands-on experience where we gleaned knowledge from judges and breeders that were represented from all over the world.

Early on, we were fortunate to find helpful professional handlers who had taken us under their wing a bit, to provide us with some tips on grooming and showing. I suppose our early experiences have formed us into the breeders that we are today. It is why part of our mission includes being a resource for educating others on our breed whether it’s questions about health, grooming, training or breeding, regardless of where their Australian Terriers came from.

We feel it is important to embrace new people in any breed and eagerly mentor them. I believe it is imperative that experienced breeders’ mentor new people, make themselves available and share openly their experiences with others. It will become those new people who will continue our legacy after we conclude our
breeding career.

The best thing about being a breeder? Some reasons are obvious such as; to sustain and promote our breed, being a resource for others and raising healthy, sound and well socialized puppies. That being said, as important and with much personal gratification, the incredible life-long friendships we have made with families that have our puppies and the tremendous joy we see that we bring to their families through our puppies is a highlight for us.

The toughest part about being a breeder? I was told years ago, if you breed long enough, you will live through some difficult times. Losing puppies, I would say has been the most difficult. Finding quality lines in our small gene pool also has its challenges. A lot of work and expense goes into breeding properly. You must have the time, and financial resources as well to commit to your dogs and puppies. It is a life-style choice to be home with your dogs to provide them with the best care. Going on vacation without your dogs for example has its challenges.

Do I work outside of the home? No. I retired from a successful twenty-year banking career to raise my daughters which provided me with the ability to stay home and also focus on breeding. We could not possibly breed and raise puppies as we do if I worked outside the home. We spend a great deal on time socializing our puppies. We were doing activities with our puppies similar to the Puppy Culture before Puppy Culture was created. Which I might add Puppy Culture is a wonderful program especially for new breeders raising puppies.

Is my family involved? Yes, two of my three daughters have been a huge part of our breeding program since the beginning. We make breeding decisions together, pour over pedigrees and whelp and raise the puppies together. Now that my daughters are grown and no longer live at home, their involvement is limited. But without my daughters our dog show career would have never been as successful. My husband is a great help in funding our hobby as well as helping care for our dog’s day to day routine as well, particularly when we are away at dog shows.

Am I involved with a breed club or all-breed club and held positions within the club(s)? Yes. I am very active and have been for over ten years in the Cambridge Minnesota Kennel Club. I am a board member and hold the secretary ‘s position. I am also the editor of their newsletter and their webmaster as well as keeping up on their social media. I volunteer where there is a need and help at our annual cluster show including stewarding. It’s truly a great club with many dedicated volunteers and very welcoming to anyone new. I am not a member of our national club.

My kennel/exercise areas described: we don’t have a kennel; our dogs live among us in our home. Most of my dogs sleep in our beds or our bedroom and all get along. We have a whelping room just for raising puppies in our home. The purpose of this room is for the mother and the puppies first two weeks of life to keep them extra warm, the room has in-floor heating and a separate thermostat and away from the normal routine and other dogs. We also have a room off our kitchen that has a crate set up for some of our younger dogs when we leave the house or for girls in season.

We live on over 140 acres and have a fenced in area that is approximately ¾ of an acre for our dogs that is adjacent to our home, basically our back yard. Our dogs have a great space for running and because of our terrier breed we had non slip concrete steps constructed with the right height for them and brought in literally tons of stone and boulders into our backyard landscape, which they love climbing on and exploring. Whenever possible we take our dogs for walks or off leash runs on our property. We believe in a well-rounded dog, not only is their physical activity important, but so is their mental stimulation in order to keep the traits they were bred to do strong and viable.

How did I come up with my kennel name and is it registered with AKC? Our kennel name is registered with the AKC as Dunham Lake. We struggled to come up with a name we could all agree on, so we named our kennel after Dunham Lake, a lake in northwestern, Wisconsin where we have our lake home.

Do I co-breed and co-own with others? Yes, I do on occasion. Mostly I co-breed with my breeder colleagues in Europe. Most of my puppies that I sell to show/breeding homes are placed on a co-ownership contract with the exception of those
international breeders.

Is my breed easy to place? I have no problem placing my puppies with quality families. I typically have a waiting list and many times that list is out one year. I do not advertise but I do have a website and I am very active on social media; however, I have not had to advertise puppies for sale because they are typically promised prior to being born.

The biggest problem I have is keeping up with the demand, as most years I only plan three breeding’s a year. My males are available on a limited bases for stud service to breeders I approve. Our gene pool is limited and over-use of any one stud impacts the genetic diversity of our breed and can lead to popular sire syndrome, therefore, it is something we are mindful of. With the ability to ship semen, I have sent semen to Australian to help diversify their gene pool. It has been a successful joint effort that has been beneficial to our breeders in Australia.

What can AKC do to help breeders attain great results? With respect to breeders and how AKC can help with breeding results, I don’t view that as AKC’s responsibility. AKC does a fine job with their mission, maintaining our registry. I think there could be improved efforts by AKC in public awareness of all the wonderful programs and initiatives, they are involved with.

Increasing support for purebred breeders on social media and advertisements would be helpful for all pure-bred breeders. I am pleased to see such Facebook groups being created, two recent initiatives by Mr. Bill Shelton and Mr. Guy Fisher both with AKC. Such groups encourage productive discussion among breeders not only for public visibility, but innovative ideas on promoting and preserving our pure-bred dogs.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention this so I will say with respect to AKC helping breeders that also exhibit their dogs in conformation, it’s time the AKC takes a clear and transparent position with respect to docking and cropping.

If we are to breed the best to the best sometimes that means seeking lines outside of the USA. Working with international breeders most countries prohibit such alterations and those of us who either show those imported dogs or like myself who choose not to alter my dogs, at times we are experiencing blatant prejudice in the show ring. It discourages new people from exhibiting and breeding and it discourages importing and exporting dogs from and to other countries as well.

I do see that improving some and there are judges that recognize this and award the best over-all dog regardless if the standard states docked or cropped. However, it’s difficult for some judges because without the change in standard as written by the national clubs, to either option is acceptable, altered or natural. For some judges they feel it puts the burden on them to weigh a man-made fault against a structural fault. For me that’s an easy decision, but not to all judges and AKC could make this contentious topic go away if they supported and instructed judges to not be bias with respect to such alterations.

Any hint or trick I can share with fellow breeders? I can say with all sincerity most of our experience too has been through Trial and Error. Thankfully, not too many life-changing errors, but errors along the way none the less. It is imperative that breeders are transparent, and our focus must be on the betterment of the breed. Sharing honest details about our pedigrees and working together whenever possible.

Do I show my own dogs? Yes, we have always shown our own dogs or the families that have a show dog from us, show their own dogs as well. We train and groom our own dogs and help others in our breed as well.

We have finished over 25 AKC Champions and Grand Champions, Multiple Best in Show dogs, #1 ranked Australian Terriers over the years, top ranked performance dogs, multiple dogs winning best of breed at Westminster and Montgomery county the all terrier show. All handled by my daughters who began showing at nine and 13 years of age or individual families that show or compete in performance events with their own dogs. I now show as well, but I am not near the quality of handler my daughters are, I’m still a work in progress. So, I guess you can still “teach an old dog, new tricks”.

The most amusing thing I’ve ever witnessed at a dog show? Well something that stands out to me that took place at a dog show a few years ago, a judge, who shall remain nameless, announced to us, mid-way through the breed ring evaluations, she was hungry and was going to eat her lunch. She turned to all of us and said, “Just stay put, I’ll be back.” It was raining and we all stood there dumfounded in the rain with our dogs, while she ate her bag
lunch ringside.

Then when she was finished with her lunch, the ring procedure continued. What could have been an upsetting circumstance among exhibitors, most of us took it in stride, moved under the tent, away from the rain, waited for her to finish her sandwich and made the best of an odd situation. Some of us still have a good laugh about that quite unconventional experience to say the least.

Jennifer E. Embury, DVM, JD

When I look into the faces of my clients and see the love and pride that reflects back into their eyes as they proudly show me their beloved animals, I see the face of God and know He feels the exact same way about each one of us.

I’ve been a practicing veterinarian for twenty years. I graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and have lived in the Gainesville, Florida area since 1992. Recently I received a law degree from Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School in Tampa, Florida and am waiting to take the Florida Bar Exam in February.

I was born in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. I had an early and intense interest in animals and biology. I nearly memorized the Encyclopedia Britannica’s sections on dogs, horses and birds. There was no conscious effort involved. I was so focused it absorbed into my mind as a natural process. I often buried myself in my room reading horse stories such as Black Beauty and the entire Misty of Chincoteague series by Marguerite Henry and any animal stories I could find.

When I was about four years old, our first dog was a white Miniature Poodle named Tutu. One of my books I had was about a Cocker Spaniel that was trained to be in a dog show. I decided I wanted to train Tutu to be in a dog show after reading that book. Also, my Uncle Bill raised German Shorthaired Pointers and he hunted with them. During my intense reading about Poodles, I learned they were originally used as hunting dogs in France. I called my Uncle Bill on the phone and asked him if he could take me and Tutu hunting the next time he went!

As a teenager, my dad had a Boxer named Rocky and always talked about him. When I was eight years old my mom bought a fawn female Boxer puppy for my dad’s birthday and we named her Roxanne or “Roxy”. When she grew up we bred her to a brindle male and she had three puppies. The entire process fascinated me, from breeding to whelping to caring for the puppies. I was captivated and enthralled how one puppy looked like her mother and the other two looked like their father. I’ve had Boxers ever since and I still breed and show Boxers nearly 50 years later.

I became a scientist and veterinarian because science allowed me to live in a world of perfect order. It protected me from the disturbing and chaotic world that I lived in during my teens and twenties. It also provided me with a means to make a living wage my entire life and allowed me to survive. God gave me a deep love of science and animals that I expressed at an early age. He knew I would be able to use it as an anchor and a life raft to navigate my way across the tempestuous seas of my life. Science was God’s birthday gift
to me.

I see that same deep love in every one of my client’s eyes that they have for every single one of their dogs. They cry when their dog is in pain and they are happy when their dog feels good. There is such an intense bond that every dog owner has with their dog—no matter how rich or poor they are. As a veterinarian, God has entrusted me with a sacred responsibility to preserve that bond.

My interest in law has developed over the past several years and is now merged with my work as a veterinarian. I have been horrified to see animal rights groups paint people who love animals and people who work with animals as cruel and morally deficient. It is not wrong to make a living working with animals and something this nation has done with pride since its inception hundreds of years ago. These animal rights groups have made a subjective moral decision that animal enterprises and the character of people who make a living working with animals are cruel and ethically immoral. I have been working with animals and have sacrificed my entire life to their care and welfare and do not consider myself cruel or morally deficient. They attempt to shame us and embarrass us for our love of animals to the point of impotency but we must fight back. They surreptitiously and underhandedly introduce animal legislation that violate our constitutional rights.

As Mindy Patterson from “The Cavalry Group” so eloquently states: “We must protect animal owners and animal-associated businesses against the onslaught of animal rights activism that has infiltrated into local government, state legislature, and congress. We must advocate for animal ownership and animal enterprise which is the cornerstone of private property.

The animal rights activists pass legislation masquerading as being against animal cruelty. We do not have an animal cruelty crisis in this country and we already have laws in place to protect against that. They prey on people who genuinely have a love of animals like we all do. The embed language in the legislation that chips away at due process and ultimately our Constitution by such actions as allowing animal control to peek over your fence and steal your property at their sole discretion.

They are creating their own definitions and we are allowing these radical groups who know nothing about animal care and husbandry to do so. If you don’t agree with their ideology they will bully and harass you and ultimately steal your ability to make a living or own animals. They are chipping away under this false pretense that it is cruel to exhibit an animal—where our nation has been keeping and practicing animal husbandry for centuries and these people have been lauded and revered. Now they are fighting for their very existence.

Farmers and ranchers who produce food for our nation are also being undermined by these radical animal rights groups. These groups don’t understand it’s in your best interest to take good care of your animals, otherwise you don’t have a product to sell. Legislators are falling for these false accusations by animal rights organizations who know absolutely nothing about animal husbandry. These ranchers who grow and raise our food should be lauded and revered for what they do but instead they’re getting thrown under the bus, pushed off their land, thrown in jail, animals stolen—is this America? Pay attention to what’s going on in your local and state legislature. These laws are being passed stealthily without citizens being aware they are being passed. It’s essential to organize your own local groups and fight back.” https://www.thecavalrygroup.com/

Finally, I would like to briefly discuss possible challenges to some of the more commonly proposed anti-breeder ordinances and legislature that may violate the Florida Constitution. I encourage all of you to attend your local city and county meetings and bring these issues up with board members before they become law. In some places, these proposals have already been enacted into legislation. In those cases I encourage people to hire an attorney to challenge the constitutional validity of these ordinances.

The first issue concerns governmental takings. Many proposals suggest there be a maximum number of adult intact animals allowed at a breeding facility or maximum number of adult animals allowed at any time, as well as setting maximum number of animals offered for sale (such as 20 animals or two litters per year). Destruction of healthy, valuable animals (either by forced sterilization, or by forcing owners to get rid of them) that pose no danger to public safety, exceeds the county’s authority. Dog owners could argue the destruction of their valuable breeding animals that they have spent a lifetime developing, constitutes a taking of their property entitling them to full compensation. Furthermore, limiting dog owners’ ability to make a living or establish a breeding program by limiting them on the number of the animals they are allowed to own, will also be considered a taking by the courts by depriving them of income and will be found unconstitutional.

The second issue deals with illegal search and seizure. The following sections of the proposed ordinance such as retention and inspection of records, including transactions-such as personal business records; and random inspections are subject to challenge under the Florida Constitution, which guarantees the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A court order is required for inspection of your property or private business records.

The third issue deals with access to courts. The Florida Constitution provides that the courts are open to every person to redress any injury. A law that prevents a person’s day in court is prohibited. Here, there is no rational basis to diminish an owner’s right to compensation in the courts for destruction and violation of their personal property such as forced sterilization of valuable breeding animals, warrantless inspection of real and personal property, and violation of a dog owner’s right and ability to make a living.

The fourth issue deals with equal protection laws. These proposals deal with such actions as prohibiting unsterilized animals without breeder permits, requiring spay/neuter of cats unless certain exemptions are met for licensed breeders, regulation of intact animals through differential licensing and a requirement to confine animals in heat.

Here the ordinance treats dog owners differently whether they are subjectively classified as a hobby, commercial, or accidental breeder. This ordinance also affords different treatment based on the amount of income derived from sales and treats dog “breeders” differently from other types of dog owners like “regular pet owners”. Thus, similarly situated people are being treated differently.

The final issue deals with due process. It pertains to the part of the proposal that deals with revocation of permits, code enforcement for failing to have appropriate permits or failing to meet defined standards and injunctions to require breeders to comply with a Breeder’s License program or cease breeding/sale of animals.

Similar to the due process provisions in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Florida Constitution provides that the government cannot take a person’s life, liberty or property without due process of law. This includes substantive due process, which prohibits arbitrary laws. These proposed ordinances are arbitrary in that they discriminate unfairly between similarly situated groups of people such as regular pet owners and so-called dog breeders. There is no evidence that “dog breeders” impose a threat to public or human safety. If fact the majority of dog breeders go above and beyond in practicing safe and humane practices, more so than the average
pet owner.

Vicki Edwards

How I got started in dogs: I seriously started showing dogs in the early 90s. All my life I have had a variety of animals though—including dogs and horses.

What made me know that this was what I wanted to do? I did my research and finally found a breeder that would sell me a bitch. Not the best but at the time I just wanted a pet. But this breeder occasionally showed their Yorkies. So I got interested. I found a match and went. I took BOB and a group placement and didn’t have a clue as to what I had just done when everyone was congratulating me. I was hooked. I went to a few shows as a spectator. I knew this was something I wanted to try!

Who were my mentors? I didn’t have a mentor. Those that have mentors do not realize how much easier this makes things. If you have a mentor be sure to say thank you and be appreciative. As they are sharing their hard earned knowledge with you in hopes of you being successful. I learned the ropes by arriving at shows and watching. I made notes as and asked questions. Then I would go home and research and practice top knots and grooming like I had seen at the show. Learning by trial and error. Someone told me that I needed to put my bitch in oil. Okay—well I had baby oil. It’s an oil so I was set. You may roll your eyes now! I didn’t know there was something special I should be using. I spent the next six or so baths getting the oil out of the coat. And, of course, this didn’t help the coat at all. This was only the first of many learning errors that I had.

The best thing about being a breeder? The satisfaction of making your best efforts to breed a litter that conforms closely with your AKC standard. There is much to be said about ones interpretation of standards. But we need to be realistic about this and understand when we veer too far off the way our breed suffers. We are to be breeding to the standard as it was written not changing it to fit our needs at the time. I could go on but I’m off topic! And a great thing for a breeder as well is to being able to show, finish, and produce quality offspring. Of course the perks of breeding are adorable puppies and puppy breath and watching them grow.

The toughest part about being a breeder? The first thing that comes to mind is the loss of your bitch or a puppy(s). If you breed long enough you will see a little bit of everything. And experience much heartache. But those of us that are the hard core breeders push on and dream of the next show hopeful.

Do I work outside of the home? No I don’t work outside of the home, but I always seem to find plenty to do at home!

Is my family involved? My husband is my biggest cheer leader. He does the lifting, carrying, driving and is mess picker upper extraordinaire and in general makes my job of showing much easier!

Am I involved with a breed club or all-breed club and held positions within the club(s)? I am a member of our Parent Club, YTCA. I have been asked to hold various positions but I feel that my time is limited and if I can not devote the time needed I should leave that to someone that can.

My kennel/exercise areas described: our dogs are exercised on our deck. Males on one end and females on the other separated and if there are puppies or young dogs there is an area in the middle for their safety.

How did I come up with my kennel name and is it registered with AKC? My grandmother used to call my grandfather Sugarfoot. It was a sweet nickname for him and I thought this would be a great remembrance of him. No the kennel name is not registered.

Do I co-breed and co-own with others? Not at the moment but never say never. I see it occurring in the future.

Is my breed easy to place? Yorkies are fairly easy to place. Very frequently the general public does not understand the work involved in raising a toy litter. The knowledge required to make everything rock along on an even keel and to raise a healthy, happy, socialized litter. So cost can be an issue. Many people want a tiny Yorkie for practically no cost. Every responsible Yorkie breeder will tell you that Yorkies can be an expensive endeavor. I do not offer public stud services. And most puppies that are made available are placed by word of mouth and by talking to other breeders or previous clients.

Do I think “Breeders’ Showcases” as a special event at an organization’s site will give breeders the recognition they deserve? That’s hard to say for sure. Breeders are in my opinion the back bone of dog shows. While a Breeders Showcase will indeed show off ones breeding, I’m not sure it will give credit where credit is due. Altho for sure it’s a nice competition.

Any hint or trick I can share with fellow breeders? As I said earlier, not having the benefit of a mentor when I started out, trial and error can sometimes make or break you. Never let yourself get too discouraged. Mother Nature will often raise her head and remind you that she is still in charge and your breeders dream dog might not happen when you think it should. Keep moving forward with a responsible breeding program. Continue with pedigree research. Talk with fellow breeders and get ideas about how to accomplish what you want to do. Don’t get bogged down from mistakes or misfortunes. As I said before If you breed long enough you will see a little bit of everything.

Do I show my own dogs? Yes. I always show my own dogs. Being a competitive person I enjoy the competition and it gives me the opportunity to observe other dogs and try to continue to do better in my breeding as well as handling.

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