Chapter 5
How To Know The Best Source For Your Dog

Puppy Mills

The term "puppy mill" has the most negative connotation of all breeders. Different people think of puppy mills in different ways, so defining a puppy mill in a way everyone can agree on is impossible. However, one description upon which everyone agrees is that a breeder who keeps dogs in deplorable conditions, breeds them when they're too young or so frequently that it causes health issues, and breeds dogs with obvious health or temperament issues - all for the sake of producing as many puppies as possible to make a profit - is a puppy mill. The challenge comes when trying to determine the difference between puppy mills and commercial breeders. Many AKC breeders see no difference between a commercial breeder and a puppy mill. These breeders feel that if someone is breeding puppies to make a profit, it's a puppy mill. Others have different criteria for what constitutes a puppy mill and maintain it is how the dogs are treated that determines if it is a puppy mill or a commercial breeder. But no matter whose definition is used, the worst puppy mills are grim places. Dogs are kept in cages that are too small and rarely let out for exercise or to relieve themselves. Dogs in puppy mills typically live in their own waste, which can create an increased opportunity to develop diseases. These dogs get little if any interaction with humans, and may have a range of behavioral and temperament problems as a result of being poorly socialized and under exercised. Puppy mills are also notorious for breeding their dogs too early, and too often. Breeding too early and too frequently takes a toll on female dogs. Many breeding females in a typical puppy mill with have a significantly shortened life because of the strain frequent breeding, poor diet, and lack of exercise puts on their bodies. Many animal welfare groups lobby to close puppy mills with varying degrees of success. While awareness of puppy mills has improved, many people don't realize that dogs in pet shops, shelters, and humane societies can start their lives as puppy mill dogs. Puppy mills are still active in many parts of the country; particularly the Midwestern states of Kansas, Missouri, and Pennsylvania together with other, primarily agricultural areas. Note that these are also the areas where commercial breeders operate, so it may be difficult to distinguish between commercial breeders and puppy mills. How to Spot Puppy Mills. Identifying a puppy mill can be difficult. These organizations rarely interact with the public. Puppy mills typically sell their puppies inexpensively to pet stores that then resell them to the public. Responsible breeders never sell their dogs through or to pet stores, so you are virtually guaranteed that pet store dogs are produced by commercial breeders, backyard breeders or puppy mills, none of whom are likely to know or at least use responsible breeding practices. Some dogs have traits that alert you to the fact that it is or at least maybe, from a puppy mill. Puppy mill dogs are more likely to be unhealthy, and may be malnourished or suffer from chronic illness. Puppy mill dogs are also the most likely to exhibit behavioral problems, like continuously circling when in their cage, or have unstable temperaments. Puppies that are shy or fearful, thin or small for their age, or lethargic, may have been bred in a puppy mill but in any event, typically don't make a good choice for a pet.