Boxer Puppy

Expert Advice: How to Avoid Puppy Mills

Puppies are joyful, full of life and just oooooze happiness. For some pups, though, and especially the mothers who carry them, life isn’t very joyful at all. And while public awareness campaigns have helped shut down a lot of puppy mills all across the country, the sad truth is that there are still those out there who make puppies their business with total disregard to the health of the animals.

A fan on our Pet Health Central Facebook page asked how she could be certain a breeder she was considering wasn’t, in fact, a puppy mill. To get the answer to this important question, we talked to our friend Nikki Harris at the Nebraska Humane Society. Sadly, they see a lot of dogs come in from puppy mills and irresponsible breeders.

Here are her tips on what to look for. We hope you’ll SHARE this message – let’s help everyone avoid these places. The good news, according to Nikki, is that puppy mills and less-than-professional breeders are easy to weed out upon sight.

Here are some red flags to help you:

– They want to bring the dog to you to meet. Nikki says this is a huge one. If you can’t go to visit the dog where it lives, there is a reason. And no matter what reason the person trying to sell you the dog offers, don’t take it. A responsible breeder will always allow you to meet the puppy and the mother. The father may or may not be on premises (sometimes those Romeos are brought in just for breeding and live elsewhere), but the puppy and mother should be available.

– You aren’t allowed to see where they keep the dogs. Sometimes, the person selling the dog will allow you to come to them – but won’t let you tour the premises. This is another sign that all might not be well. Nikki suggests that you insist on seeing where all the dogs are kept.

– You find less-than-acceptable living conditions. If you see dogs living in overcrowded, dirty cages, animals that are not groomed and are in small, confined spaces, walk away.  Nikki says a good breeder has very few dogs, and there is outdoor space for the dogs to get exercise. In puppy mills, they often restrict the dogs and do not allow them outside.

– They hesitate to give you references, or don’t ask for any from you. Responsible breeders are happy to give references of others who have purchased pets from them. They may also ask for references from you. Some breeders will even ask you to sign an agreement that if you’re unable to keep the pet, you’ll bring them back to the breeder. Don’t be offended – this is how they ensure that the pets will be well cared for and safe.

– They advertise for a wide variety of breeds. When you see one contact number or email on many ads for different breeds, this is a sign that you’re likely looking at a puppy mill. Again, responsible breeders usually focus on one breed and are knowledgeable about that breed. This is vital if you want a dog that doesn’t have hereditary health issues. Good breeders breed for temperament and health and uphold the breed standard and positive traits of the breed. Irresponsible breeders and puppy mills breed for profit. Period.

The fact is, it’s not easy to walk away from a dog you find in such an environment. But, remember –  if you hand over your money and take that puppy home, you’re helping to sustain the entire operation – and the misery of all the dogs left.

If you’re set on purchasing a breed-specific puppy, research before you leave home. Or consider adoption from a local shelter! Nikki reports that most shelters will work with you to find a dog of a specific breed or age if you call and talk with them. They can also help connect you to breed-specific rescue groups.

Photo credit: Cody the Boxer, from PHC Facebook Fan Stephanie Thompson

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