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In the late 40s, early 50s, pet stores started popping up offering something new to their customers, puppies. What started as a suggested “alternative crop” by the USDA quickly ballooned into an out of control industry with few regulations; puppy mills. For years, little to no thought was given to where these pups were coming from, but with time, consumers started noticing some dangerous trends. The puppies being offered at large pet stores or being sold in boxes by the local grocery store were showing genetic health problems due to overbreeding and a lack of regard when paring mates to produce the puppies in question.
Pet stores are not the only place you can find puppy mill puppies. With the rise in popularity of online sellers such as Craigslist, puppy mill owners are finding it easier than ever before to get their puppies into unsuspecting homes. Luckily, with the rise of informed pet owners, more and more potential pet owners are looking closely at where their potential new family members come from.
It might be tempting to “save” a puppy from a puppy mill, and by save we mean buy a puppy from a pet store that has clearly not been brought to the store through a legal or ethical way, but when you take home puppy mill puppies you just make room for more puppy mill puppies in the store. We’re not asking you to turn your back on puppies, or any pets, in need. There are some great organizations out there who work tirelessly to help these poor puppies. But, by buying into the puppy mill scheme at any level, you’re inevitably funding the very thing that you’re trying to stop. We’ll discuss some of the best ways to take action against puppy mills, or suspected puppy mill breeders, below.
We should clarify that not all dogs you see in pet stores are from puppy mills. Most stores don’t actually sell puppies anymore, but some will host adoption events, or take in puppies from their local animals shelter in an effort to get the pets more exposure in the pursuit of adoption.
Tackling The Puppy Mill Problem
Be aware that just because someone has a commercial breeding kennel or has several different breeds of dogs, doesn’t mean they are a puppy mill. Breeding dogs for profit or as a business doesn’t brand someone as a criminal or unscrupulous. How the dogs are cared for should be the primary concern. A good breeder will have scruples and care about their dogs. This means keeping their environments clean and sanitized, as well as caring for any and all of their puppies needs. At these breeder’s kennel, the dogs are properly bred, and veterinary care is provided.
The problem most people face when considering purchasing a puppy is being able to tell the good kennels from the puppy mills without actually visiting the kennels. It’s estimated that puppy mills produce over 500,000 puppies each year. Organizations like the ASPCA and PETA, as well as many others, are working hard to change that. Here’s how you can try to spot a puppy mill puppy.
The Top Three Signs Your Puppy Came From A Puppy Mill
A puppy should have a documented history. Either it should have detailed records from a shelter that lists out when it was, why, and where it was taken in as well as any vaccinations or medication the puppy has received during its stay in the shelter. A breeder will have detailed records not only of that puppy’s life to date but also detailed records of both parents that can be corroborated by their vets.
Puppy mills can’t afford to vaccinate their puppies, so their likely won’t be a provable history of vaccination. Never just take a breed’s or store owner’s word when discussing a puppy’s health. You should be able to call that puppy’s vet and have the office confirm all vaccinations that the puppy has received to date.
Unrealistic Pedigree or “Features”
If the person you are getting your puppy from promise you a puppy that will be a certain size, have an exact coat color, temperament, or characteristic, then you should be nervous. It’s fair to say that some breeds tend to be more affectionate, protective, or aggressive than others, but no one can ever talk to the character or personality of your puppy until they’re fully grown. Propper breeders can make educated guesses based off of the parent’s personalities and the traits that a puppy has displayed so far, but no one can make promises.
You should be extra cautious when looking at designer dogs. Recently, “custom” dogs have become all the rage. People are looking for husky-pomeranian hybrids that can fit in a purse but also run a 5K. When dealing with mixed breed dogs, you’ll never be able to tell how large that pup will be once fully grown. If two dogs of similar sizes were bred, such as a golden and a poodle, an estimate can be made. But when it comes to teacup breeds and large breeds? Your guess is as good as ours.
Puppy Mill Legislation
Puppy mills are often tied to pet stores, usually, the ones you see in the mall — with sad puppies watching shoppers from behind the walls of their small, soiled cages. What puppy mill bans are trying to do is force stores like these to permanently halt the sale of puppies from mills and require that detailed information about where the puppies come from.
The term “puppy mill” was coined after World War II, when the federal Agriculture Department (USDA) encouraged struggling farmers to raise puppies as an alternative “crop.” Retail pet stores opened across the country in response to the growing supply of pups, paving the way for mass puppy production. Novice puppy farmers, however, often launched their ventures with little money and even less knowledge of canine husbandry.
How To Put An End To Puppy Mills
- Know about how many different breeds are being raised at the particular kennel. You may consider visiting the kennel with a friend. Pretend you are an interested buyer but do not lie or try to deceive the breeder. True mill owners vehemently protect their kennels and livelihood. Resist the temptation to criticize the mill owner. This will not help you. Always keep in mind your ultimate goal.
- Try to record as much information as possible. It is doubtful the breeder will allow you to take photos. Write down everything you saw as soon as you have a chance. Make sure your friend witnesses everything. Do not ask probing questions. Only ask about the puppy or breed you are interested in and look around. Some mill owners are very suspicious and have learned to detect people whose only purpose is to shut them down.
- If the above sounds a little too secretive for you, consider notifying authorities. Your local humane society or animal control can help. File a report but expect it to take time. These people are very overworked, and it may take a while before they have the manpower available to inspect the area.
- Contact the local health department. Fecal contamination or dead bodies are threats to public health.
- Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service. This is the branch of government responsible for policing the kennels and licensed breeders. Be aware that the USDA-APHIS can only regulate those kennels that gross over $500 per year selling puppies.
- The American Kennel Club Inspections and Investigations Department is another organization to contact. If the breeds are AKC recognized and records and identification of the breeds are not met, the AKC can revoke their license. You can also contact the United Kennel Club for the same purpose.
- Contact the media. Public outrage can go a long way toward closing or hampering a local puppy mill. The unfortunate thing is that the puppy mill owner can just shut down in one place and open up again somewhere else.