Puppy mills are cramped, crude and filthy places where unhealthy, sickly, sometimes genetically deficient dogs are bred solely for profit. Dogs are bred from the first time they come into heat until they die. Females are bred every cycle and often to multiple males in one cycle. The miller kills dogs that are unable to produce, as they are now no longer of any use. The lucky ones are shot, others are starved to death. Thousands of puppies are born in mills, usually without shelter from the sun, snow, wind and other elements. Cages are stacked on top of each other–with nothing in between–allowing urine and feces to fall through onto whatever lays below–usually other dogs.  Puppies and adults with acid burns and skin lesions from wallowing in their own excrement are not uncommon.  Puppies are taken from their mothers at only a few weeks old, often 4 or less, and sold to brokers.  The brokers then pack the puppies into crates so they can be resold to pet stores all over the country.  Puppies are shipped by truck or plane, often without adequate food, water, ventilation or shelter. This treatment regularly results in the death of almost half of the animals on board.

Buyer Beware

It is important to be aware that puppy mill puppies are often sold through the internet, newspaper ads, brokers and dealers. Puppy mills also sell puppies directly to the public too, often putting forth the appearance of a reputable breeder.

Did you know that most pet stores purchase their puppies from puppy mills? Their motive is purely monetary — higher profits. These stores want “product” in volume for the lowest price possible and that’s what puppy mills are in business to provide. Pet stores also bank on the relationship between families and their new puppies being so strong that puppies who begin to exhibit health or behavioral problems will not be returned. Wanting to “rescue” a puppy from its cage at the pet store only reinforces the cycle of supply and demand that keeps puppy mills profitable.

Reputable breeder or Puppy Mill?

Reputable breeders have a deep interest in where their puppies go and will interview hopeful buyers before a sale is completed. Reputable breeders will not sell their dogs in any way that does not permit them to have interaction with potential buyers. Their desire is to ensure that the puppies are a good match for families and that every puppy will go to a responsible, loving, forever home.

In contrast, puppy mills are commercial enterprises which breed dogs in significant numbers for profit. While puppy mills are not inherently illegal, their operators consider their dogs only as a commodity, as income-producing machines. Maximization of profit is the primary goal. This allows for no screening of genetic problems, and veterinary care is minimal or nonexistent. Provisions for the comfort and well being of the dogs are regarded as expenses kept to an absolute minimum. Dogs not on display for potential buyers are kept in cramped wire cages twenty-four hours a day, often unprotected from the elements.

Finding a Reputable Breeder 

Ways to locate reputable breeders include:

  • asking your veterinarian or professional dog trainer for a referral
  • contacting local breed clubs
  • attending dog shows

Remember that reputable breeders:

  • specialize in only one or two breeds of dogs and are knowledgeable about breed standards and potential breed-specific genetic problems
  • often keep the dogs in the home as part of the family and will welcome you to see where the dogs spend most of their time
  • encourage you to spend time with the puppy’s parents (at a minimum, the mother) and encourage multiple visits prior to taking the puppy home
  • want your entire family to meet the puppy and discuss care and “rules” for the household
  • have a strong relationship with a veterinarian and will provide documentation of the puppy’s vet visits and medical history
  • provide a written contract and health guarantee, and ask you to sign a contract stating that you will return the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep the dog at any point during its lifetime
  • understand healthy breeding patterns for the females, so puppies are not always available
  • maintain a list of people interested in the next available litter

My Cockapoo, Jackson, is a puppy mill rescue.  He was born in a puppy mill.  What sometimes happens is the millers have trouble finding buyers for the litters of puppies.  It used to be that these puppies would be disposed of if not purchased at a very young age.  Now some have established relationships with rescues and allow them to take these pups.  My sweet, precious Jackson is one of those.  However, my heart breaks not knowing where his parents are and what their lives may be like.  That is the most awful part of this horrific industry – the mothers.  I wish that everyone that purchased a puppy from a pet store or ad in the paper or online could imagine what the life of that puppy’s mother most likely is, and to understand that buying puppies is perpetuating that life for these dogs.

A good way to avoid the possibility of buying a puppy mill dog is to adopt from a rescue or shelter.  Many of the dogs are purebred if that is important to you and there are breed specific rescues as well.    The others are mixes that could be perfectly healthy, loving, and even better, will be eternally grateful to you giving them the loving home they so desperately need.