There is a lot of misinformation as to what a "puppy mill" is. A puppy mill can be clean, the puppies can be well taken care of, there can even be on site veterinarians. What ultimately defines an operation as a "puppy mill" is that they are a commercial operation whose primary goal is to make a profit. This means that they try to identify trends as to what the popular breeds are going to be, and then breed puppies as fast as they can, then sell them in lots to wholesalers who in turn sell them to the pet stores. If these wholesalers cannot "unload" their lot purchase on enough pet stores, they often times kill the surplus and bury or burn the animals.
When mills breed in this manner, they don't check breed lineage for many common genetic issues such as hip dysplasia (the socket joints are too shallow and the bones fall right out of the sockets). At most they'll only check that both parents "appear" to be the desired breed. This means that a store bought puppy will be prone to a shorter life span and many genetic ailments which are going to cost you a lot of money at the vet in order to treat, and of course if you cannot afford it, the animal will just have to suffer.
Likewise, the term "back yard breeder" describes the same practice as that of a commercial breeding operation or puppy mill, but on a smaller scale. Again, a back yard breeder can have a very clean environment, and even a vet who checks all of their puppies. But they usually don't show their dogs, and they don't go thorough checks on parentage for genetic diseases.
A *responsible breeder* ***always*** shows their dogs so that they know how their puppies compare to standards, is **always*** aware of genetic lineage and strives to breed out genetic ailments, and will ***never*** ***never*** ***never*** sell their puppies to a pet store. They rarely, if ever, make a profit. They are serious hobbyists and professionals who SPEND money to better breeds. They will also usually do research on who is buying their puppies because they actually care where their dogs end up.
Unless a pet store has dogs that are placed there by an openly specified rescue organization where the customer only pays adoption fees, a pet store will 99% of the time get their animals from a mill, backyard breeder, or wholesaler. When asked if their puppies come from a commercial breeding operation, it is common practice for employees and management to respond that their dogs only come from responsible breeders. This is a complete and outright lie.
Here are some starting tips on how to buy a dog:
1) Spend some time on http://www.aspca.org/ and educate yourself about the ongoing problems with buying pet store animals, specifically http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/puppy-mills/
2) If you have your heart set on a specific breed, you should be able to find virtually any breed you want from a rescue organization that is within at most a one to two hour drive from your location. I picked a breed at random and went to petfinder.com and found multiple dogs available within less than an hour's drive from my home.
3) If you have trouble finding the breed you want, you can try searching the classifieds at http://www.akc.org/classified/index.cfm, but do note that this does not guarantee that you will be buying from a responsible breeder.
**NEVER** buy from a pet store. A lot of people rationalize doing so because they are "saving" the dog. But the bottom line is that paying the pet store for an animal puts money right back into the flawed system and perpetuates it. If enough people stop buying dogs from pet stores, the system will change.
Tags: puppy mill, back yard breeder, dog, puppy, pet store, hip dysplasia, akc, petfinder, aspca, animal rescue, animal shelter
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