|issue > terms
The animal community has a language of its own. Some terms are universal and are used legally. Some terms are slang. The following are general, layman definitions.
A being is considered ‘sentient’ if he or she (human or nonhuman) can experience suffering, physically or psychologically, due to the fact that they have a nervous system and a brain. (Sentience relates to ‘senses.’)
Animal, such as a dog, cat, bird or rabbit, that provides companionship to a human.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”
Someone who owns or leases multiple intact female dogs or cats and produces litters of puppies or kittens with the intent to make a sale. "Commercial" implies business or commerce. This type of breeder breeds dogs or cats as a business for profit. Commercial breeders could have several breeds; facilities may be clean or not. With larger commercial breeding facilities, staffing is often inadequate (based on volume of animals), resulting in minimal animal care due to low staff-to-animal ratios. Many commercial breeders now sell directly to consumers through the Internet.
Slang developed in the 1960s. Describes a type of breeder who mass produces dogs and, in order to maximize profits, is known to cut corners in breeding operations resulting in harm and suffering to the animals. Primary motive is not the well-being of the animal. The puppy mill owner views dogs as commodities or products. This attitude and, often, lack of animal husbandry skills creates substandard (often deplorable) conditions that harm the physical and emotional health of dogs and puppies. Substandard conditions include lack of veterinarian care or breeding plan, unlimited puppy production, no screening for genetic diseases, unsanitary facilities, unsafe and cramped cages, no environmental stimulation or human contact with animals, inadequate ventilation and temperature, poor quality food and water, poor quality shelters and no bedding. Typically, puppy mills are hidden behind “no trespassing” signs and will not allow consumers on the property to view the animals or conditions.
Kitten mill or cattery
Same as puppy mill but for cats and kittens.
This type of breeder might start with one litter by accident, and continue to breed without any understanding of animal genetics, behavior, grooming or health standards. Such breeders can be small enough to escape federal licensing. They may specialize in a breed, but do not associate with registries or smaller, reputable breeders. Backyard breeders can be found in rural or urban areas, usually hidden from neighbors, and may sell their ‘product’ by meeting buyers in parking lots.
Also known as breeding stock. A brood bitch is a female dog used for breeding. It has both good and bad connotations, depending on the intent and purpose of breeding. Reputable dog and cat breeders use the term to describe females with a good pedigree to be bred selectively and with care; though even some reputable breeders harm the mother with too many litters or too many c-sections. Inhumane breeders buy females at auctions, keep the female caged their entire life, breed them at each cycle (starting at 6 months of age) and, when the female can no longer get pregnant or carry the puppies, is sold back into the ‘system’ or killed.
The term ‘hobby breeder’ typically represents smaller breeders, whose primary purpose for breeding is to protect and promote the breed — not to make a profit. Due to the time and money needed for proper animal care, these small-scale breeders gross under $500 in sales per year (exempting them from USDA licensing as well). As in any business, some hobby breeders are reputable; others are not. The reputable hobby breeders breed purebred dogs or cats and tend to have only one breed. Reputable hobby breeders operate a clean facility, limit number of puppies or kittens produced per year, and provide good veterinary care and human contact for strong physical and emotional health. These breeders also contract with the buyer (consumer) to make certain the family is the “right” fit. USDA exempts hobby breeders who own no more than three breeding female dogs or cats.
‘Class A’ is used by the USDA and refers to licenses given to breeders and deal only in animals they breed and raise.
‘Class B’ is used by the USDA and refers to licenses given to brokers, bunchers and operators of auction sales. Auction operators do not take physical control or possession of the animals.
‘Class C’ is used by the USDA and refers to licenses given to animal exhibitors.
The USDA sometimes uses this word as a catch-all, categorizing pet breeders, pet wholesalers, animal brokers, auction operators, hobby breeders, public pounds, private shelters, boarding kennels and others as dealers — dealing with animals.
Retail pet store
Anyone whose entire business is selling domestic animals to pet owners.
NOTE: USDA exempts Retail Pet Stores from USDA licensing. If a commercial breeder functions as “retail pet store” by selling directly to pet owners, rather than selling wholesale (through brokers), they are exempt.
Selling domestic pets directly to pet owners.
NOTE: USDA exempts Direct Sales from USDA licensing, regardless of sales volume.
Anyone trading, buying, selling or importing pets in wholesale channels.
A person, firm, partnership, corporation or association that purchases animals for resale to other brokers or pet dealers. They’re the middlemen, who buy from commercial dealers and sell to retail outlets or other businesses/organizations. They coordinate the transport with the carriers, shipping by the crate-load or truckload.
Businesses that feature animals in performances or use animals on display to the public, including zoos, petting zoos, circuses and other exhibitions.
People who operate auctions where animals are bought and sold.
Businesses that transport animals for hire, including airlines, shipping lines, railroads and other means.
Lowest on the evolutionary scale. Bunchers steal or collect dogs to sell to research laboratories, to be as bait used in dog-fighting rings or for breeding stock in puppy mills or catteries. Bunchers respond to ads that say “free to a good home” or purchase very cheap animals and sell for more money.
NOTE: Beware. Just as with any issue, people recognize the power of words and use them to convey their own truth. A recent story from a commercial kennel breeders’ magazine encouraged breeders to use the correct “vocabulary” when selling their dogs, so as not to create a negative image. Examples cited: Use ‘breeding animals’ instead of ‘breeding stock;’ use ‘sire and dam’ instead of ‘stud and bitch;’ use ‘pet animal distributor’ instead of ‘broker or B dealer;’ and use ‘kennels’ vs. ‘hutches’ (rabbits live in hutches; dogs live in kennels).