How to Protect Yourself as a Dog Owner & Breeder

On the day before Christmas Eve, a dog owner was arrested for illegally breeding dogs in Waukegan, Illinois.  This was a single litter of purebred Old English Bulldogges, whelped in a family home, with excellent care by the family.  The pups were vetted at their six-week check up and the breeder had deposits from evaluated buyers for all but one of the pups.  Due to an over zealous re-homing group and cooperating policewoman, the pups were seized.  The next few weeks were chronicled daily in thousands of Facebook comments.  The pups are now back home and the town will be re-writing their animal ordinance. Animal Legal Resources  Chicago Tribune

In the aftermath of that episode and other petrifying events that have been exploding in the news lately, some people have requested guidelines on how to protect ourselves from motiveless seizures, dog thefts, and shelters rehoming owned escaped dogs.

As a breeder and/or owner:
•    Make sure that all your dogs are chipped or tattooed.  While this isn’t fool proof, an up-to-date address connected to a microchip or tattoo can be used as one proof of ownership.
•    Know your buyer.  In the Waukegan case, the Bulldogge owner advertised on Craig’s list.  If you don’t know your buyer personally, ask for references. 
•    Know your local town ordinances. While in the Bulldogge instance, the ordinance was so vague and so buried within the town ordinances that they would not have known they were required to have a license.  However, most towns have a section for animal related ordinances that are fairly well defined.  Look closely at them to make sure you are within the law for dog limits as well as breeding dogs.
•    When Animal Control comes to your house - know your rights.  Here are two excellent articles on what to do if Animal Control does appear at your doorstep.  It is becoming more common that a re-homing group may attempt to intimidate a dog owner into believing they have police powers.  Ask for identification and follow the advice of Evan Ginsberg (Waiting for Fido; The Dog Man Cometh) and George Eigenhauser (Busted? What to Do When Animal Control Comes Knocking).  (Note, both of these articles are here: GSDCA Legislation)
•    Obey the law.  This may appear to be common sense, however, countless dog breeders hope to remain hidden because of onerous breeding regulations or limit laws.  That works until it doesn’t and with well-defined ordinances, there is no ‘ignorance of the law, ‘ protection.  If you don’t like the law, work to change it.  Envious exhibitors, disgruntled neighbors often learn about dog ordinances and then “you’re it.”  HSUS and other animal rights groups are now offering rewards and complaints can be anonymous.

Escaped dogs:
Dogs escape all the time.  A gate left open, a digger, a fence jumper, or even more frightening, we are hearing more and more of dogs of all sizes being stolen for resale.  What's next?

•    Have recent photos of your dog(s) readily available.  Have photos from all sides and views.
•    Again, your dog should have a microchip or tattoo and the information should be up to date.
•    Check all shelters and rehoming groups within a large area.  Dogs are picked up by well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people driving by and are taken to a shelter that may be in another town.
•    When visiting the shelters, ask to see the dogs, don’t just accept the word of the staff.  In a recent incident, the dog was an intact young male and the shelter had the dog listed as a neutered 5 year-old.
•    Check daily.  Sometimes a person will pick up a dog and take it to their house, then decide to turn it in to a re-homing group or a shelter, or the dog may be wandering for a few days before being picked up as a stray.
•    Put flyers everywhere, post on all groups and Facebook and ask your friends to share widely.  State city and town on your message with a photo of the dog.
•    If your dog's chip or tattoo is listed with a registry service like Home Again or AKC Reunite -- notify them that your dog is missing so that they can send out an alert.  This is a service that you've already paid for, so take advantage of it.
•    If your dog came to you from a re-homing organization, be sure to notify them that the dog is missing.  A group recently refused to return the owner’s dog because, while he checked all the right places, he didn’t inform the group from which he got the dog.

Not all seizures are because of abusive conditions, although that seems to be the first thought in the minds of those who read about them. You may not think it could happen to you, but it has happened to some wonderful dog owners.  The seizures are not always for large dog kennels.  If your dogs are seized:

•    Have the articles mentioned above (Ginsberg, Eigenhauser) memorized and by your front door.
•    Do not sign your dogs away in order to avoid arrest.  There are unscrupulous groups out there, and, sometimes, unprincipled Animal Control employees that will try to intimidate the dog owner.  They will suggest that if you sign your dogs over to them, there won’t be any other consequences.  The types of intimidation have run the gamut from telling dog owners that they will incur thousands of dollars while the animal are in their care to threatening arrest.
•    Call your lawyer immediately and follow his/her advice.  Don’t say anything without getting advice first.  Follow it rigorously.
•    Have lots of dated photos of your home or kennels.  Have a video taken frequently.  Have proof of your good standards of care readily available.
•    If your lawyer agrees, go viral.  Get your friends and neighbors to support you with true facts and get the information out, let the world know that the seizure was uncalled for and have photos to prove it.

?    Facebook  - start two groups, a closed group and a secret group (for strategizing).  Get a close friend to increase members and to monitor and update -- keep it very active.
?    Media – if there are news media about the seizure, get your friends to comment and support you with their true facts of your excellent care of your dogs.  Have them share with their friends and create a large support group.

Be part of the solution:
Some of us are out there constantly fighting those who would take away our animal options.  There needs to be so many more people helping to shoulder the burden.  You can all help by educating yourself.  Then move out of your comfort zone and get active.  Check the following websites and join us in saving our freedom to choose our paths with animals.


Sheila Kessler, Animal Legal Resources LLC Partner Animal Legal Resources has been outstanding in the courtroom battling for her clients’ animals.  Sheila has joined with others animal warriors to form a corporation, Pipers Legacy, that will work to assist in the recovery of lost or stolen pets.  More information on this new and much needed resource will be available in the coming weeks!

Piper’s Legacy Mission Statement:
"To prevent the theft and loss of domestic pets and to provide assistance and services in the recovery and return of lost or stolen pets to their owners by providing community outreach and educational services, free and low cost microchip clinics, provide assistance to needy individuals with legal fees, shelter recovery fees, transportation costs or other expenses necessary to recover pets."