“Okay, great! How much are you asking?”
I list my price. And I never hear back.
And if it’s not direct, it’s a condescending implication posted somewhere online about how breeders exploit animals for profit.
Let me ask you this: Have you been given a free animal from a shelter or rescue? Maybe there was a particularly overpopulated month in which some animals were offered on some sort of “special.” But generally speaking, you pay for an animal no matter where you go.
This is because keeping animals costs money. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your goal is or where you live – animals cost money.
Shelters and rescues operate on fairly substantial budgets, funded by generous donors, collected adoption fees and sometimes even government grants. These funds are used for spaying and neutering, food and water, vet bills, equipment and facilities. Few shelters or rescues would claim to have “enough” or “too much” funding – after all, as long as they’re there, there will be animals coming in the door.
But what about the breeder? There are no generous donors, no adoption fees, and no government grants.
And yet, the breeder is expected to maintain acceptable facilities and housing, provide adequate daily care and provide medical attention – just like the shelter. Except all on their own.
If you are involved or have ever been involved with animal rescue, you know what it costs. Imagine stripping that effort of all community support and maintaining the same service on one individual’s time and money.
Now look back at the animal’s price tag.
You’re paying for the breeder’s time and attention to your new pet or show rabbit. You’re paying for the food, the equipment and the bedding needed to raise the rabbit to the time of sale. You’re not only paying for cleaning supplies but you’re also paying for someone to come home from work, drop their things, and head to the barn for a few more hours of work. This time, physical labor.
“But what about medical costs? What about spaying and neutering? You just don’t get that from a breeder.”
You’re right. Many breeders don’t alter their rabbits, and few seek outside veterinary assistance for their herds. This is another topic for another day, as there are varying reasons and ways to meet medical needs.
However, at the same time there are expenses shelters/rescues have that breeders don’t, there are expenses breeders have that shelters/rescues don’t.
A significant expense is travel. You may argue that traveling and exhibition aren’t necessary to a breeding operation, but most reputable breeders would disagree. Competition is important for evaluating your rabbits against others and ensuring that your breeding program progresses with each new generation. After all, if you don’t have goals related to improving the breed, why are you breeding in the first place? Exhibition is fun too, but it’s also a measure of development. Many breeders don’t live right beside ARBA-sanctioned shows. They have to travel any numbers of hours to get there, which sometimes involves hotel and meal expenses too (not to mention gas and entry fees).
Then there is education. New Standards of Perfection are published every few years, learning programs are offered at a number of conventions and “rabbit schools,” and record-keeping is critical to any breeding operation. All of this involves money. Money for services, money for books, money for software and programs.
Not to mention facilities. Not everyone has a building especially for their rabbits, but many do. Rabbitries often require varying levels of climate control, mechanical ventilation and maintenance.
And of course, none of the above factors include the RABBITS themselves. Animals are given to shelters and rescues, free of cost. So anything donated, paid, or granted on their behalf is “profit.” A reputable breeder is paying anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars per rabbit to bring in new blood and further improve their herds.
Rescue organizations can afford to offer pets for comparatively low costs because there is no upfront cost for the “product” they provide – and maintenance fees are subsidized by outside sources. Breeders don’t have those resources. Every single part of a breeder’s operation is funded by their own wallet. And that’s okay. Breeders don’t expect anyone to fund their hobby.
However, the price tag on their animals isn’t about profit. If I sell a pet rabbit for $25, I don’t have $25 to go for dinner and a movie. I have $25 to pay a third of a feed bill. The rest of the money for that feed bill won’t be donated to me. It comes straight out of my wallet.
So next time you see a self-proclaimed “creative” bumper sticker encouraging you to “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” … well, last time I checked, shopping provides someone, somewhere with a paycheck.
I often joke that if breeders are supposed to be profiting, I’m doing something wrong. But perhaps the truth of the matter is that if you’re crawling along with limited resources and scarce funding, you’re doing something right.