Puppy mills are places where dogs are bred for profit, often without proper medical care or documentation.
The terms "puppy mill" and "kitten mill" are becoming common terms, but what do they mean? Puppy mills are places where dogs are bred for profit, often without proper medical care or documentation. These dogs are often in-bred with their own siblings and even parents, causing genetic and developmental problems as the puppies get older. Living conditions are usually extremely poor with dogs crowded into dirty wire cages and given little room to exercise. They only receive enough to nutrition to keep them alive enough to breed. The lifespan of animals in a mill is often very short. Kitten mills are basically the same as puppy mills in the condition and treatment of their cats. Unfortunately, these mills are operating practically unchecked in many areas, especially rural farm areas like Pennsylvania's Lancaster county, our hometown. There simply aren't enough inspectors to be everywhere or enough legislation to control the problem.
The best way to avoid inadvertently supporting puppy mills is to adopt. Sites like petfinder.com can help connect you with a puppy or adult dog that suits your lifestyle and needs. If you're local to Lancaster County, contact Lancaster CARES (lancastercares.org) for puppies or kittens available for adoption.
If you decide not to adopt, there are questions you can ask to determine if this breeder is responsible or may be running a puppy mill operation. When you are looking for a new dog, it is important for you to be able to read the signs if you decide to buy from a breeder. Anyone selling a purebred dog or cat should have registration and veterinary papers documenting the litter and its medical history. If they claim to be selling purebreds and don't have these documents, leave and report them to your local police. When buying puppies, always ask to see the parents and the dogs' living conditions. How they are raised and their parentage is often just as important as the puppy's current health since most hereditary problems won't show up for several years. If the breeder can't or won't show you the parents for any reason, leave and report them as a possible puppy mill. They may be telling the truth with their excuse, but they may be trying to cover up their operation.
Most importantly, avoid impulse purchases. You wouldn't buy a car or house without researching it and considering your purchase – a live animal that will cost you as much in money and devotion should be no different.
Avoid buying puppies from pet stores (unless they're affiliated with responsible adoption centers like That Pet Place and Lancaster CARES), flea markets, and newspaper ads; these are all very common places for puppy and kitten mills to find buyers for their animals. Every area of the country has rescue organizations and humane leagues with dogs and cats just waiting for new homes. Local veterinarians and kennel clubs should also be able to give you good recommendations on purebred breeders in your area if you'd really like a purebred dog or cat.