Adding a puppy to your family is a big decision. You have to make sure your the time is right, prepare your home, get the whole family on board with care-taking and training, and of course, find the perfect puppy!
Unfortunately, some places offering puppies for sale are bad news for dogs and people. Read on to learn all about puppy mills and how to spot them. At the end, we’ll give you tips on how to find a puppy from a safe, responsible source.
What is a puppy mill?
Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities. They have one goal: to make money breeding and selling as many dogs as possible.
Dogs in puppy mills are kept in inhumane conditions, often caged for their entire lives and bred over and over again without regard for proper care or careful breeding. “Puppy mill” conditions can include:
- Small cages with wire floors that hurt dog feet and legs
- Cages stacked on top of one another without ample ventilation
- Poor sanitary practices, leading to illness and parasites
- Forced breeding of female dogs with little time for recovery between litters
- Puppies separated from their mother at too young an age, which can impact health and behavior for years to come
Puppy mills sell puppies through pet stores, or directly to consumers through the Internet and classified ads. The vast majority of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills!
What’s so bad about puppy mills?
People will often say, “I bought my puppy from a pet store, but she’s a wonderful pet.” While this may be true, unfortunately, the problem of puppy mills extends far beyond the individual dog.
Because of poor breeding and care conditions, puppy mill puppies will end up in pet stores and new homes with parasites, kennel cough, pneumonia, and other infirmities. Also, they may have behavioral problems, fear, and anxiety from being separated from their mothers and littermates too soon.
In addition to harming individual dogs, puppy mills are also harmful to the breeds they reproduce. Because puppy mills are focused on making money, they often breed dogs with no regard for genetic quality. That leads to puppies prone to congenital and hereditary conditions, like heart disease and respiratory disorders.
Puppy mills also take homes away from animals in shelters, rescue groups, and reputable breeders. Although an individual puppy mill puppy can grow into a happy, beloved family member, the fact is, puppy mills are harmful to a great many dogs. Puppy mills place profit over animal welfare.
How to spot a puppy mill ad
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You might not always realize the puppy you’re getting came from a puppy mill. Many online retailers and commercial pet stores that sell animals offer papers as “proof” of humane sourcing, and can be very convincing. However, there’s no legal definition of “puppy mill,” and no agency regulating the sale of puppies. So even if a seller claims their puppies come from humane sources, the truth is, they probably come from puppy mills.
Here are some red flags that indicate a puppy mill in action:
- The seller has many different types of purebred dogs, or “designer” hybrid breeds
- Puppies are being sold at less than six weeks old
- The seller/breeder is located “in another state” and will ship a puppy without an in-person meeting first
- If local, the seller/breeder refuses to show potential customers the place where animals are being bred and kept
- The seller/breeder doesn’t ask lots of questions. If you can click and pay for a puppy without screening, it’s probably a puppy mill.
- The seller/breeder makes no commitment to you or the puppy. Most responsible breeders want to know where their puppies are going, and commit to taking the pet back at any time if something happens. Puppy mills want to move puppies through as quickly as possible and then move on with no additional contact.
No responsible breeder would sell a puppy through a pet store or directly online without careful vetting. In fact, most reputable breeders don’t need to advertise on the Internet to place their dogs.
How to find a puppy and avoid puppy mills
If you’re looking for a purebred puppy, start by contacting reputable breeders and breed-specific rescue groups in your area. The best way to find a reputable dog breeder is to get a referral from friends, your veterinarian, or an official breed club in your area. The AKC website offers a guide and directory to find a responsible breeder.
Responsible breeders provide a healthy, loving environment for their dogs. They seek the same in a new family for their puppies. Responsible dog breeders:
- Will introduce you to the puppy’s parents and show you where they live
- Will explain the puppy’s vaccine and medical history and give you vet contact info
- Will not have puppies available year-round; may keep a waiting list of interested families
- Will answer any questions you may have about the puppy’s background and care, as well as their breeding practices.
- Will ask about you: your family’s lifestyle, why you want this kind of puppy, how you will care for and train it, etc.
- Will not use pressure sales tactics. Ethical dog breeders and rescue groups are not in it to make money. Rather, they believe in maintaining and furthering the breed, and finding a good fit for every dog.
If you want a puppy, but don’t care what breed it is, your local animal shelter or rescue group is a great resource!
It’s hard to resist an adorable puppy. But before you take home a puppy from an online ad or pet store, remember to consider the source. Speak to a reputable breeder, or visit your local animal shelter, and help make puppy mills a thing of the past.
Featured image via Flickr / Petful