What is a Puppy Mill?
Although there is no legal definition for what a puppy mill is, the term has become common. The ASPCA defines a puppy mill as "a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."
The dogs in puppy mills are usually housed in crowded, dirty wire cages with little room to exercise. They only receive enough nutrition to maintain their ability to breed. The lifespan of animals in a mill is often very short. These dogs are often in-bred, causing genetic and developmental problems as they age. These can include:
Endocrine disorders like diabetes and hyperthyroidism
Blood disorders like anemia and Von Willebrand disease
Cataracts, glaucoma and other eye problems
Unfortunately, these mills are operating practically unchecked in many areas, especially rural farm areas like Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. There simply aren't enough inspectors to be everywhere or enough legislation to control the problem. To further complicate matters, puppy mills are not illegal in all states.
How to Avoid Getting a Dog From a Puppy Mill
The best way to avoid inadvertently supporting them is to adopt. Your local animal rescue and sites like petfinder.com can help connect you with a puppy or adult dog that suits your lifestyle and needs.
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.
Anyone selling a purebred dog or cat should have registration and veterinary papers documenting the litter and its medical history.
When buying puppies, always ask to see the parents and the dogs' living conditions.
How many different breeds are offered? Most reputable breeders focus on one or two breeds.
How many puppies are available? Most reputable breeders will have a waiting list. If a breeder has 2 or 3 litters with more on the way, they could be a puppy mill.
Do you have to sign a contract? Reputable breeders usually have a health contract, spay/neuter agreement, and a request that if things don’t work out, you return the dog to them.
What age can you pick up your new puppy? Puppies should not be taken away from their mothers until they are at least 8 weeks old.
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), 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 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.
What to Do If You Think You've Discovered a Puppy Mill
If you think you have discovered an illegal puppy mill, the first step is to contact your local police department or animal control agency. Provide them with as many details as you can. The Humane League also offers resources to anonymously report suspected puppy mills.
For more information about puppy mills visit:
The Humane Society of The United States