LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) - Dog breeders are playing god. When it comes to designer dogs, no expense is spared. From choosing and shipping dog semen to artificial insemination and even C-sections, they're investing thousands of dollars to create unique breeds.
"They do look like a Pitbull on steroids," said Brooks Brown.
Brown and his business partner Michael Knight started Ft. Bully Kennels in Las Vegas several years ago. They breed the American Bully. According to the United Kennel Club, the American Bully breed developed as a natural extension of the American Pit Bull Terrier and was subtly influenced by the infusion of several other breeds, which include the American Bulldog. It's a fairly new breed that started in the 1990s, It's now taking off in both popularity and price.
"Everybody wants the new thing," said Brown. "We don't sell a lot of pups locally. We sell them all over the U.S. and overseas ... Europe, there's a high demand for them there, and Asia and South America."
It's that demand that's prompting breeders to play God.
"A lot of them can't do natural breedings, and a lot of the breedings are done with shipped semen from all over the United States," said Brown.
That's just the beginning of a lengthy and expensive process breeders go through to create a high-end American Bully.
Dr. Greg Jones with West Charleston Animal Hospital says breeders have it down to a science.
"A lot of people are starting to use the vet more as far as timing and with that comes investments," he said. "Timing is important and, like I said, these owners are investing thousands of dollars on just semen. They're hoping to get perfect timing. You're hopeful to get it on the first shot but sometimes takes two or three tries in order to get a successful pregnancy."
Breeders such as Brown and Knight have spent up to $15,000 on one pregnancy.
"With Bullys, we gotta do progesterone tests when it's time to breed her. We have to have semen shipped in that could come from anywhere between $250-$300 just to have the semen shipped in. The stud can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 just to get the semen," said Knight.
"We do a lot of surgical artificial inseminations where we cut our females open and have semen put in. That's the reason for the progesterone tests. We have a better chance of getting the female taken, getting pregnant."
Dr. Jones says this particular breed is very muscular, and their large heads make natural birthing difficult at times. That's why Brown and Knight opt for C-sections, which requires the dog to be sedated.
All of those costs add up, which drives up the price of puppies.
"Our puppies go anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 range," said Brown.
But if you think that's a lot of money, take a look at Magoo, a champion American Bully from the Midwest. Magoo's puppies and semen made his owner $1.6 million, and he sold for more than $500,000. It shows people are willing to pay for a breed with Pitbull blood.
But when it comes to just pit bulls, animal shelters can't find enough homes for them, even with discounted or waived adoption fees. A spokesperson with Lied Animal Shelter says pit bulls make up a third of all dogs there at any given time. Last year, Lied took in 18,506 dogs, and had to put down 4,722 of them.
"It's irresponsible. Take a look around here if you go up and down these buildings. Until these cages are empty, there's no excuse for people to be buying. They should be down here adopting," said Stacia Newman, the president of Nevada Political Action for Animals.
She says these designer dogs may be the latest fad, but the lasting consequence often means there will be no chance at a forever home for shelter dogs. Newman says how these dogs are produced in an unnatural pregnancy is inhumane and shouldn't be allowed. She warns these newer breeds come with unknown long-term health and behavioral risks. She believes a lot of breeders are just trying to cut corners to make a buck.
"A lot of times they do not have the proper license. They do not have the proper breeding facility," she said.
News 3 learned Brown was cited twice in August by Clark County Animal Control for having too many dogs without a breeder's permit at one location he used. He says that's because he had to move unexpectedly from the location listed on his original permit and had to quickly rent out space to house put the his dogs temporarily.
"It was a commercial property, so I wasn't aware I had to have the permit there," he said.
In Clark County, a breeder is allowed up to eight dogs at a property and there's no limit to puppies. Brown admits he's exceeded the limit at times but said he believes there should be exceptions.
"I've held onto dogs that we knew we weren't going to use or that might have had a flaw that makes another kennel not want to purchase the dog. We've held onto that dog until they were a year and a half old waiting to find them a good home," said Brown. "We're not wanting to cut a corner. We don't want to put a dog in an animal shelter. So until we can find a good home, we won't put them anywhere else."
While the gold standard of breed specifics, the American Kennel Club, doesn't recognize American Bullys, the United Kennel Club recently recognized the breed as its own. Brown and Knight say they breed their dogs to meet the American Bully Kennel Club standards and put them in shows.
While it is a business, they claim it's not about trading dogs for dollars, but more of a passion to share a rare and new version of man's best friend.