I met a couple walking in the park with a young beagle puppy. They had a rather hair raising story about an encounter with a "backyard" breeder. They had travelled all the way from Kwa Zulu Natal to Gauteng to fetch their first beagle puppy. The breeder appeared well off and had a very nice home but the state of the kennels where the puppies were kept was according to the couple "disgusting". Maybe this should have tipped them off. Nevertheless, they bought the puppy. R20 000 later which included the cost of the puppy, many vet's bills and much trauma, their puppy died. They believed that the breeder had not inoculated the puppy or taken sufficient care to protect it from disease.
They were very careful about their selection of breeder the second time around. And this time it seems they have a happy and healthy puppy. They were very impressed that the breeder often phoned to check up on the pup and find out how he was doing. (Some people find this threatening but I think it is the sign of a caring breeder.) Getting a healthy pup means doing your research about reputable and ethical breeders, being prepared to be on a long waiting list and paying a a lot of money (and even then there are no guarantees!).
The sad thing is that I heard the same story from someone who had adopted two rescue kittens. Their vet bills amounted to R14 000 and they lost one of the kittens to parvo virus in the end.
This also happened to Oprah recently when she adopted two rescue puppies and nearly lost both of them to this horrible virus which lurks in the air and the ground. In both cases one of the rescue animals had the disease and had passed it onto the other. Inoculation against this virus is critical.
You may be very lucky and get a wonderful, well adjusted pet or not so lucky and end up with one which is sickly or has behavioural problems. There are many wonderful people who are prepared to put a lot of money, effort and love into their pets or rehabilitating rescue animals. But there is no compensation for pain, suffering or loss of income if things go wrong.
There are no guarantees which ever route you decide to go to find a pet. Jamie's breeder was very ethical in warning me about the fact that his testicles had not dropped at an early age. She gave me the option of saying no. Of course I did not, but the vet's bill for his neutering operation was far higher than normal because of its level of complication.
So one needs to make a decision with one's eyes wide open because this is a pet you have to commit to (love, time and money) for the next 10 to 15 years.