Ethical dog-buyer's guide

An ethical puppy and dog-buyer’s guide from the New Zealand Veterinary Association


In the same way that ethics are guiding purchases for food and clothing, the NZVA suggests that prospective owners also consider ethical issues when obtaining a pet dog.

Adopt don’t buy


Large numbers of healthy puppies and dogs need homes. Consider adopting a rescue dog and save a life.

Don’t support puppy farms


Never buy from puppy farms - even if you feel sorry for the dog. More puppies will be bred to replace the dog you buy. It’s a vicious cycle.

Visit the breeder


Visit the breeding facility and see the environment where the puppy is being raised. It should be comfortable and clean. The puppy should also be able to mix with people and other animals.

Meet the parents


Request the health history of the puppy’s parents and ask to meet them. Be wary if the parents have needed surgery to enable them to breathe comfortably, correct eyelid issues or walk normally. Avoid buying puppies produced from mating closely related dogs. Consider also their temperaments and avoid those that are aggressive or overly nervous.

Don’t support breeders who produce puppies with severely exaggerated features

If buying a breed that has exaggerated features (flat face, large eyes, excessive skin, short legs, long ears), choose a breeder who is actively breeding away from extreme features.

Support breeders who screen the parents for inherited diseases


It is not enough for a breeder to just take part in a health scheme, they must also use the results to access the suitability of mating the dogs. Discuss the test results with your veterinarian before you buy the puppy.

Check how many litter the mother has produced


Three litters from one mother allows breeders to produce a suitable daughter to continue the breed line and reduces the welfare impacts on individual breeding female dogs. Breeders who have bred more than three litters from one female dog should raise concerns.

Check how old the mother was when mated

The risks of pregnancy complications are related to the age of the female dog. Breeding female dogs should ideally be between one and six years of age when they are mated.

Check if a caesarean section was required

Don’t support breeders who subject their bitches to multiple caesarean sections. Up to two are acceptable.

Ensure that the puppy’s health has been well managed

The puppies should be in good body condition, on a regular parasite control programme, have had a vet check and received any vaccinations that are required.

Check the puppy will be over eight weeks of age when they are released to new owners

Puppies must be weaned and fully self-sufficient and at least eight weeks old before they are released to their new owners. Ten weeks is preferred for smaller breed puppies.

Ensure that the puppy’s behavioural needs have been met

To smooth the transition to their new homes, puppies should be able to mix with people and other animals from three weeks of age.

Select a breeder who will provide support and follow-up care

A responsible breeder will also be knowledgeable about the breed and the care of new puppies. They will be keen to provide follow-up support.