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Rescue Group Raises Awareness About ‘Backyard Breeders’

DENVER (CBS4) – Many people have probably heard the term “backyard breeders.” It’s commonly used to describe when dogs are bred for fun, to make money, or simply to create purebred pups.

A Colorado rescue organization is raising awareness about a breeding practice they call dangerous that involves the genetics of a dog. It all has to do with the color and/or the pattern of a dog’s coat.

The color of a dog’s coat can lead to big money for a breeder. In a case CBS4 found, the dogs are dachshunds. Veterinarians say dachshunds and even Great Danes have genetics, that when people mix certain patterns of their coats in order to achieve a specific outcome, it can lead to deadly consequences where the risk is not worth the monetary reward.

Tinkerbelle acts like a typical young pup.

“Very much an explorer,” Georgia Cameron with Life is Better Rescue said.

She’s playful and curious. But Tinkerbelle isn’t a typical dachshund for a few reasons.

“Being that she’s solid white is very rare, so this would be a very desirable trait,”  Cameron said. “The problem is that genetically this doesn’t really play out well for the dog.”

She was born without eyes and is deaf. It was the result of bad breeding practices, according to Cameron. She says Tinkerbelle is a “triple dapple” dachshund. Veterinarians say it’s a color combination that can result in severe birth defects and stillborn puppies.

“Her issue is related to inbreeding and over breeding of certain traits of dogs,” veterinarian Dr. Angela Piccoli said.

In an attempt to create the pure-white coat, Piccoli says the breeder took big risks.

“It’s very irresponsible. Breeding any animal that you know has a genetic fault with another animal with a genetic fault is irresponsible. You know half, if not more, is likely to have something wrong with it,” Piccoli said. “Why would you want to do something like that to an animal just for your own personal profit?”
space Rescue Group Raises Awareness About Backyard Breeders

Cameron rescued Tinkerbelle from Kansas after seeing an ad on Craigslist. It didn’t appear to be the first time that breeder had created flawed dogs. The owner of Sparta claims he is from the same breeder. Sparta is deaf and his eyes are too small.

“It’s not illegal. We don’t have any laws that govern how people breed their dogs,” Piccoli said.

In many states the Department of Agriculture will license, regulate and inspect dog breeders. In Kansas it’s the Animal Health Department. They say they don’t have any jurisdiction over genetic issues.

CBS4 did a check on Tinkerbelle’s alleged breeder and found no violations or issues of concern. But it’s a concern to the rescue community.

“Nobody monitors breeding practices. You could have daughters breeding back to fathers,” Cameron said. “There’s nobody that’s going to police that and if anything, the American Kennel Club is going to register it.”

CBS4 checked with the American Kennel Club. They say dogs are registered according to their bloodline and that a dog can have a genetic defect but still be a purebred. They say it’s up to the breeder to distribute a sick dog like Tinkerbelle, and the new owner to choose whether or not to register it.

“Papers don’t give her eyes back. Papers don’t make her hear,” Cameron said. “Tinkerbelle didn’t have to be born this way.”

Life is Better Rescue wants to maintain their relationship with the breeder to continue rescuing dogs from being euthanized. That’s why CBS4 didn’t identify the breeder.

The rescue community hopes the big takeaway from CBS4’s report is to spay and neuter pets. Animal shelters are full of pets needing a good home.


One Comment

  1. Kathy V says:

    Why is “Life is Better Rescue” importing dogs from Kansas? Aren’t there enough dogs that need rescuing in Colorado? Why is Channel 4 carrying this story about something that is happening in Kansas? Is Dr. Piccoli a specialist in genetics? Hobby breeders are defined in Colorado law. They are NOT backyard breeders! Do you have any idea of the genetic testing that hobby breeders conduct on their animals? Just some of the questions and information that should have been carried in this story.

    1. Lee says:

      Kathy V – Life is Better Rescue saves dogs and cats in danger of euthanasia. Yes, there is a sizeable population in the state of Colorado that need homes, but that doesn’t make Tinkerbelle any less worthy of rescue. Everything you have said that I have read thus far has been negative for the sake of being negative. I don’t understand. Is it that the dog was saved, that it is a news story, or just CBS in general that makes you post such nasty remarks?

    2. Sarah S says:

      With all due respect Ms Kathy V, logical reasoning makes it very clear that this is simply an example of how unsafe/unhealthy dog breeding can manifest health issues/deformities in dogs. I think it is obvious that this particular rescue and article are simply informing people of this horrific practice and trying to bring to the public’s attention that breeding for a certain trait in a dog can lead to devastation. Certainly there are plenty of dogs that need rescuing in Colorado, and if you’d have taken the time to actually look at the Life is Better website, you’d have seen that they rescue a lot of dogs from Colorado. I also don’t really think it takes a specialist in genetics to reason that breeding same-litter animals could certainly lead to health issues — just as you probably wouldn’t mate with your own cousin for similar reasons. Genetic testing or not — I feel quite strongly that even hobby breeding, though it is defined by law in Colorado, – simply brings more animals into the population when there are already millions of homeless animals waiting to be adopted.

  2. Becky says:

    The absolute worst thing about this story is that the “Breeder” and I use that term VERY loosely says they take full responsibility for the dogs they produce. If that was the case A. they wouldn’t breed a triple dapple because that will definitely produce issues, but that puppy wouldn’t be in a rescue group for unwanted dogs. These people are horrible and shouldn’t be breeding dogs.

  3. shannon says:

    It was said in the story that no checks the health of breeders. Truth be known that good breeders are COE (code of etthics) and have to report all breedings to there local and natinoal clubs in the breed. If breeders are not in a club and in good standing DON”T BUY A DOG. There are people who care about there breed and try to improv it not just to make money if you are doing it right there is no money to be made.

  4. Kathy V says:

    “The rescue community hopes the big takeaway from CBS4′s report is to spay and neuter pets. Animal shelters are full of pets needing a good home.”
    Just ran a search on Dr. Piccoli. She runs a spay/neuter practice.

    1. Kristin says:

      She does run a spay and neuter clinic and if you searched a little more – you would see that it is a 501(c)(3) NON-PROFIT organization. They help stop the population of euthanized animals each day before it even starts. There isn’tan angle here – spaying and neutering is the right thing to do.

      Unless you are a backyard breeder yourself?

    2. TH5280 says:

      @KATHY V: ARE YOU OPPOSED TO THE SPAYING OR NEUTERING OF PETS/ ANIMALS? IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP THE POPULATION OF UNWANTED ANIMALS FROM HAVING TO BE EUTHANIZED! AND YES, DR. PICCOLI RUNS A SPAY/NEUTER PRACTICE…IN THE WORDS OF “CHRIS” — Yes Dr. P does run a Non-Profit spay and neither clinic offering low cost surgeries and vaccinations. Please note the non-profit part of that, she dedicates an enormous amount of time to these animals and I think her efforts should get more recognition.

    3. CJB says:

      Kathy V,
      All your miss-placed energy could be going towards helping do good work. I regret that you don’t seem to support spay and neuter programs.
      It’s my understanding that all small animal vets offer spay and neuter programs.

  5. Callie Jacobson says:

    a HUGE Bravo to Life is Better rescue! A wonderful news story about a fantastic little dog! Thank you so, so very much CBS for making this story known! Many rescues take in dogs from various parts of the country. Life is Better Rescue clearly was willing to take a HUGE leap of faith and offer Tinkerbelle a place with their rescue.

  6. George says:

    Spay and Neuter is a very important message. Millions of animals are euthanized every year in the united states. It’s unacceptable that people breed for money without regard for the health of the dogs. Someone needs to do something, since the buyers don’t have any idea or turn a blind eye. This does and will continue to happen until we stand up and say – these actions are unacceptable.

  7. Chris says:

    Yes Dr. P does run a Non-Profit spay and neither clinic offering low cost surgeries and vaccinations. Please note the non-profit part of that, she dedicates an enormous amount of time to these animals and I think her efforts should get more recognition.

  8. Juan Valdez says:

    “Great job Life is Better! Tinkerbelle is adorable.”

  9. Lee Stevens says:

    Great story about a great little girl. Spay and Neuter should be a mandatory requirement…period. As far as breeders go everyone knows how I feel about them….. Adopt, Don’t Shop !!! period

  10. Chelle says:

    Many praises to those who ARE rescueing these animals! My friend is a part of this group & have told her that Im more than willing to house any rescue animal!! Keep up the great work!!

  11. Kristin says:

    I really enjoyed this segment on “Backyard Breeders” and hope people who consider breeding their pet will now reconsider. Many thanks to Life is Better Rescue for your efforts in saving Tinkerbell’s life and your educational component to this story. Also a BIG thanks to Dr. Picolli with SpayToday and her staff who are truly making a difference with their inexpensive, high-quality spay/neuter services in the Denver Metro area.

  12. Jessi says:

    Georgia Cameron and Life is Better Rescue are doing a wonderful thing for our world! Most people could not even imagine what it involves and how much of yourself you have to give every single day! Without people like Georgia and Dr Piccoli there would be so much more suffering and death in this world… How could anyone criticize what they are doing?

  13. Joan says:

    awl what a sweet little face.. I am so sorry Tink that you had to be the end result of a careless breeder just in it for the MONEY.. Tink is the TRUE victim here if we had tougher laws requiring breeders to follow a certain set of standards we would certainly have a lot less Tinks that end up in shelters to be euthanized because they are LESS than perfect… I stand behind LIFE IS BETTER RESCUE 100% backyard breeding for profit should be eliminated PERIOD..

  14. Drew says:

    If there was not a demand, there wouldn’t be these puppy mills. I in part fault the stupid people who feel they have to have a designer or pure bred pet. why pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a “pure bred” when a mutt from the shelter is almost free and probably a much healthier and happier animal.

  15. gail bartholomay says:

    The need for rescue knows no boundaries. The need for better state and federal laws to protect those who can not speak for themselves is obvious. These little victims of irresponsible breeding break my heart. Stiff fines should be passed on to “small family run kennel, not a puppy mill” when this practice is discovered. Thanks to CBS for putting the word out there. Thank you Life Is Better Rescue for saving little Tinkerbell.

  16. Michelle says:

    Excellent story. Thank you CBS for making people aware of such horrible breeding practices. Thank you Life Is Better Rescue and all other rescues for the work you do. Rescues do all the clean up from irresponsible breeding.

  17. Janet says:

    I adopted 4 animals from Georgia and they were all spayed/neutered at spay2day. These people have nothing but love for animals. They are the voices for those sweet babies who can’t speak for themselves. I thank God for people like them who dedicate so much of their lives to saving animals. It doesn’t matter what state the animal was born in, they need someone to rescue them from the irresponsibility of backyard breeders. This type of breeding should be defined as animal abuse. Yes they advocate for spaying and neutering. Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays because of unplanned litters.

  18. Betty King says:

    And “someone” bred the shelter dogs too. Someone who seals a deal and does not follow up with buyers, have guarantees, take back any pet at any time and for any reason if the owner can’t keep it.
    Why is the “take away” never to obtain desired pets from breeders (usually very small scale) who are active in their breed club, know the genetics, do the “hard stuff” instead of dumping it on to rescues and shelters and innocent owners?
    Unfortunately, rescuing from mills and such makes room for more production from them. Just another side of the many sided coin.

    1. Randi says:

      Amen, Betty! The shelter dogs also come from a breeder somewhere. The answer is not mandatory spay/neuter. The answer is not more regulations in an already over regulated society. The answer is education – teaching people what to look for when obtaining a puppy, decreasing the demand for puppies like Tinkerbelle.

      Yes, I own purebred dogs, yes, I show my dogs. No, I do not breed my dogs. My dogs have all of their health clearances and for multiple generations. I did not know what to look for when I first started looking for another dog over 9 years ago. I started going to dog shows, talking to local club members, learning what to look for.

      I am very involved in rescue and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

      AKC, UKC and others registries are just that – registries. They are NOT the breeding police nor would I want them to be. They do encourage people to look for breeders that are active in the breed club, are concerned about genetics and breed very infrequently. AKC/UKC registration papers are only that – registation papers indicating that the puppy purchased is a purebred, no guarantees on the health or quality of the pup. People need to learn how to look behind the papers.

      While Life is Better did a good thing by rescuing this adorable puppy, they are also supporting this breeder by bringing this puppy and the others into rescue. Not saying they shouldn’t – they did save a pup from being euthanized but they are adding to the demand for these purposely genetically-flawed puppies.

      What is the rescue doing to better educate the public? What are they doing to “shut down” this breeder? Have they taken the breeder to court or encouraged others to take them to court? They have a “sensationalized” story on the news but what are they doing about the breeder?

      This past year, I was contacted by someone who had lost a pup at 4 months old to SAS (sub-aortic stenosis), a very serious heart defect. I encouraged this woman to not only file suit against the breeder but also report them to the state.

      The woman won her lawsuit and quite a bit of money from the breeder. That’s the first step – go after the “bad” breeders where it hurts – the pocket book. And educate the general public on what to look for.- encourage them to research, teach and help them research and not give in to the “I want it now” syndrome when looking to add a companion pet to the family.

      The underlying message in this story is that “all breeders are bad.” Don’t lump all breeders into the same category as this one. There are many responsible, ethical breeders that do breed for healthy puppies, do follow a code of ethics that includes mandatory health testing, taking the puppy back if there are issues of any sort (health, temperament, etc), refunding the purchase price, etc. A good breeder will also have great homes for the prospective puppies before the breeding even takes place.

  19. Betty K says:

    I am very glad the story educated a little bit about AKC “papers” though.

  20. terri says:

    Having been involved in just a small way with animal rescue through Life is Better, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the way the shelters and rescue organizations from Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming, work together to help as many animals as they can.
    With as many abused and neglected animals as Georgia takes in, including many purebred dogs and cats, it’s not hard to see why she is so passionate about spaying and neutering pets.

  21. Jess R. says:

    Thank you for running this story. All too often “breeders” out there accidentally or even purposely work to produce these unhealthy dogs. Look at the albino Doberman, “breeders” all over the country are producing them and selling them for outrageous prices deceiving people into thinking they are “rare” aka desirable. What is desirable about a sick dog? I say “breeders” in quotes because I don’t believe people like that deserve the title. There are great responsible breeders out there breeding for function and health, they are not the folks creating these unhealthy dogs. Unfortunately due to the slippery slope nature of legislation we can’t expect or let the government to regulate this for us. We need to hold breeders to a higher standard and we as buyers need to insure we are buying responsibly. If people wouldn’t foolishly buy this unhealthy animals the bad “breeders” would be put out of business. Educate yourself and those around you.

  22. AJ says:

    I think the main takeaway from this story is that the public in general needs to education themselves about specific breeds they may be looking at, about breeders offering dogs, about alternatives to purchasing a dog from a breeder (rescue groups). @Chris made a good point above that the public isn’t necessarily aware that breeders may have COE or club rules (I certainly didn’t).

    Raising public awareness is going to be key to helping reduce the pet overpopulation problem in this country, and helping facilitate a change in breeder mentalities about creating “designer” animals.

  23. Chelsea says:

    Poor Tinkerbell! I think it’s wonderful that this organization would reach out (all the way to Kansas) to help this animal.

  24. Megan B says:

    Tink’s story is so bittersweet – it’s so sad to see an innocent animal who can’t see or hear because of uneducated people just trying to make a buck. But I know that she’s in great hands with Georgia and that she’ll find a forever home and be a happy little girl for the rest of her life! Life is Better makes life better for the animals AND the humans involved!

  25. dara S says:

    What a great story and an important one s well! With 3-4 million companion animals being euthanized in shelters every year there is no reason to buy from a breeder and there is no excuse to breed! Spay and neuter is the only solution and thankfully there are vets willing to do it for low and no cost.

  26. wil j wellisch says:

    What Kathy V fails to understand is that saving a dog is important, regardless of where it is from. Furthermore, the story is not local to Kansas: irresponsible breeding that leads to such dangerous outcomes needs to be denounced wherever it occurs and the public should be made aware of this.

    Bad breeding leads to dogs that will be born only to be killed as they will not sell.

    Instead of criticizing Georgia Cameron, you, Kathy, should be applauding her for bringing this problem to the public’s attention.

  27. Heather says:

    I am so proud of the huge effort Life is Better Rescue has shown in such a short amount of time to help many ‘throwaway’ pets. Thank you CBS for running this story. We as humans have the responsibility to be good stewards of our planet and all of its plant and animal inhabitants. Rescuing is conservation, spaying and nuetering is an integral part of the equation. Personal responsibility and accountability must be practiced by pet breeders, buyers and rescuers. Life is Better Rescue sets the bar high!

  28. Crystal A Hoffsetz-Sinner says:

    When did a living breathing thing become a “HOBBY”.Thank you Life is Better for all that you do. You save so many animals from “Death Row” in Colorado.
    Life is Better is in need of funding for a facility or for foster home, please help them in their mission.

  29. Todd says:

    It is sad that things like this happen to man’s best friend, but thankfully there are rescues like Life is Better to assist in getting these animals a better life!

  30. gail says:

    I have nothing but mad respect for people like Georgia who devote their lives to saving the most vulnerable animals. Kudos to Life is Better Rescue and kudos to CBS4 for covering this story!

  31. Donna Sly says:

    Georgia and her group are amazing assets to the Denver area. They do good work . . . we need to support them in any way we can!

  32. Not a Breeder says:

    Please stop posting the web address or this rescue group will lose its connection to this breeder and more pups will be euthanized. Thanks-Definitely not a breeder.

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