Picking lifelong companion requires careful research
Ask anyone where they got their pet and you'll hear many different heartwarming stories -- from the poi dog who showed up for dinner to the purebred with championship bloodlines.
Questions to ask a breeder
» Ask for a three-generation pedigree, how many litters the mother has had, and the spacing between each litter.
» If the breeder says the pups are vaccinated, get written proof.
» Some pups are separated from their mothers at 6 weeks of age, but it is best if they are at least 7 weeks old, preferably 8. Responsible breeders know this.
American Kennel Club: www.akc.org
Ilio Dog Magazine: Includes news about dog and cat breeds, obedience clubs and breeders. Available at the Hawaiian Humane Society and many pet stores at $4 an issue.
"Guidelines for Responsible Breeders": Hawaiian Humane Society brochure is available at www.hawaiianhumane.org and its shelter at 2700 Waialae Ave.
A 2005 Ward Research study found that 43 percent of Oahu pet owners adopted their animal from a relative or friend.
The second most popular source -- cited by 16 percent of pet owners -- was the Hawaiian Humane Society, which placed more than 6,100 animals last year.
A purebred from a breeder ranked at 11 percent, followed by pet stores at 8 percent.
If you've chosen to adopt from a humane society, take great pride in your decision. Not only have you given a dog a home, you have also made a socially responsible choice not to contribute to pet overpopulation. And you've spent your money with an organization committed to animal welfare.
Typically, the nominal humane society adoption fee comes with a benefits valued in the hundreds of dollars -- pre- and post-adoption health care, sterilization, a microchip and vaccinations. And adoption counselors guide you through the important considerations before a commitment.
But if your heart is set on a purebred, spend time investigating breeds and your lifestyle needs.
Visit www.akc.org to discover the nature and typical size that the dog will grow to, behavior traits and any genetic disease predispositions.
Refrain from basing your choice solely on cute factor or the latest craze. For example, Eddie from the sitcom "Frasier" looked calm and cute on TV, but Jack Russell Terriers are high energy and need plenty of stimulation and exercise. Breeds such as poodles, bichon frise and Portuguese water dogs do not shed as other breeds can, but still need a great deal of grooming.
Some small breeds have a shrill bark. And others are prone to be highly aggressive.
Once you've picked a purebred that fits your lifestyle, contact a local rescue group and the humane society to let them know what you're looking for. Shelters will keep watch for your breed of choice.
If you've decided to buy from a breeder, remember that there are no "lemon" laws to protect you if a pup is represented as something other than it is. Be wary of anyone selling pups in a parking lot.
Responsible breeders welcome your inspection of their animals' living areas. They'll also welcome your questions. It's not impolite to ask for references from others who have adopted their puppies. Ask to meet the puppy's mother and father, and review their health records. Health care and vaccination records should be readily available. The breeder should also be well-informed of potential genetic-related health concerns. A caring guardian will not breed a female more than three times in her lifetime. A 30-day refund policy should be part of the deal.
It's also important to note that registration papers from the American Kennel Club do not mean a clean bill of health or freedom from genetic disorders that can require expensive veterinary care. The papers simply state that the parents of the puppies are both AKC-registered. The breeder can apply for papers as soon as the litter is born and may have individual puppy registrations available by 4 weeks of age. If AKC papers are important to you, do not take the puppy home until you have them in hand.
There are many responsible breeders in Hawaii and your inquiries and inspections will help you separate them from the puppy mills. The locally published Ilio magazine is a good resource.
If you can't find your breed of choice locally, pet stores may be an option. They offer a wide variety of purebreds at a premium price. The challenge is that the dogs are often imported from foreign countries and determining family history and quality of life of the parents is not possible.
A little research and thoughtful consideration of your lifestyle and needs will guide you in making the best choice for a lifelong companion.
"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. Call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 946-2187.