Sunday, 20 September 2015

Australian breeder of Alaskan Malamutes fined for misleading puppy buyers

A breeder of Alaskan Malamutes in Australia was last week found guilty by a court in Queensland for telling puppy buyers that hip dysplasia is not genetic - and fined AU$22,000.

The court heard that Peter and Faith Dykstra, of Sandown Alaskan Malamutes, have sold several dogs that have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and when challenged have told their puppy buyers it's their own fault for feeding the wrong diet. Despite receiving numerous complaints from puppy buyers, they continued to advertise their breeding programme as "15 years free of genetic defects".

Now this one is interesting, as hip dysplasia is undoubtedly multi-factorial. It is increasingly clear that diet and exercise can play a role in the development of HD. But of course that's no excuse for not testing your stock - especially when you're producing a lot of puppies, as this breeder has.

A quick Google search finds a petition trying to close this breeder down, signed by over 6,000 people. It alleges that many dogs sold by Sandown have gone on to develop a number of health and behavioural problems, not just hip dysplasia.  There's also a closed Facebook group for those who've bought dogs from them (find it here) and a website with some of the horror stories.

However, the Dykstras were cleared of puppy farm allegations in May 2014 when inspectors found that the dogs were kept in reasonable conditions - although they did have too many and were instructed to reduce numbers. At that time, Peter Dykstra claimed he and his wife were the victim of an vicious campaign of lies and threats that had brought his wife to the "verge of a nervous breakdown".  A report detailing the 2014 case, in the Gympie Times , includes this (my bolding):

RSPCA Queensland senior media advisor Michael Beatty said the RSPCA was "only too well aware of" the Sandown Malamutes issues.
"We have attended the facility and found no breaches of the Animal Care and Protection Act which covers such issues as overcrowding, shelter, feeding, adequate shade and water etc," Mr Beatty said. "Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry also attended and they came up with similar findings. However we're also aware that there is public concern over hereditary disease issues. 
"I'm afraid that this does not come under our jurisdiction and there is nothing that we can do legally to address complaints of this nature."

And that is still the case legally in Queensland - and indeed the UK, too. The Dysktras have only been caught out because the court ruled that they misled consumers.  So although some might see this as a warning shot at breeders who don't health test, it isn't really. The court hasn't told breeders the Dykstras that they can't sell untested stock - just that they've got to be honest with buyers.  The court instructed them that from now on they must provide written notice to prospective buyers, at least 48 hours prior to sale, stating that their breeding stock has not screened for hip dysplasia.

It's unclear if the Dysktras are still breeding but if they are,  it's probably not a huge concern. There are still lots of idiot consumers who won't give a rat's ass - well until their dog goes lame or starts fitting and who will then blame everyone other than themselves.

You can read the release from the Queensland Government about the case here.


  1. Sad situation. In the UK decent Malamute breeders (as guided by the breed club) hip score, eye test and also test for Day Blindness and PN, sadly many money grabbing puppy producers dont bother

  2. Government can be pretty stupid when it tries to regulate dog breeding. Look at all the disasters with breed specific legislation. Having the nanny state set rules for dog keeping and breeding is apt to wind up with a lot of rules that discriminate against people, such as farmers breeding a small number of working dogs. I'd as soon buy a dog whose lines are very well known and show overall good health than a dog that has had testing up the yin yang, but whose sire/dam/siblings/half siblings, etc. have been short lived and have suffered from ailments for which there are no tests (eg., most epilepsy and cancer, allergies, and bloat). It would be hard to formulate legislation that does a good job weeding out bad breeders without also imposing a lot of inappropriate/unnecessary regulations that weigh against small breeders and breeders without good access to advanced veterinary facilities.
    All in all, I think it's great that the charge that these guys got slammed for was false advertizing. No question they were guilty of it. I haven't read all the background stuff . . . but I hope they end up paying out on many or most of the claims that have been made against them. The total should be in the hundreds of thousands range. I hope the compensation goes to all the victims, and the penalties are sufficient to put them out of business and get the attention of other fly-by-night breeders.

  3. At the moment a breeder in the UK can leave out details of a test which had bad results - it would be perfectly legal provided they did not lie when asked about the results or asked a question which might relate to the results. It should be a legal requirement to give all relevant information (a bit like when you take out insurance - you have to give details of anything which might affect the liability). That way breeders could not hide poor test results, and would have to state when a dog had not been tested for whatever reason.

  4. These people were NOT registered responsible breeders. They were back yard puppy farmers. No health testing no showing or registration to a canine state body. They have well and truly been shut down.

  5. CHD-is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition in dogs,also the most lucrative.Think about that!PhD wielding academics are ruining the world.Experts are people who know more and more about less and less,and they haven't solved CHD in the last 85 years and are now between a rock and a hard place.Dogs and owners will continue to suffer unless people use their brains a bit-It ain't hard!