Puppy Mill FAQ
What is a Puppy Mill?
A puppy mill by definition is any place where puppies are produced for financial gain. Images of dogs living in small, filthy cages probably come to mind, but this is not always the case. Your neighbor’s home could just as easily serve as a puppy mill. It may be clean, it may even be licensed and inspected.
So how is one to recognize a puppy mill? There are things that all puppy mills have in common, no matter what condition the animals are kept in.
First, dogs are bred indiscriminately. Any male and female will do. Breeding stock is generally not screened for genetic defects. Bitches are bred too early and too often. Puppy mills are not breeding for conformation of a particular standard, they are breeding to make money.
A puppy mill may have several different breeds available, whereas most responsible breeders specialize in one breed or two at the most. A puppy mill may have neither parent, or conversely both parents of a litter on site. It is rare for an ethical breeder to have a breeding pair. Ethical breeders are always looking to expand their stock, and may travel great distances for stud services.
An ethical breeder rarely makes a profit. The costs of stud service, genetic testing, prenatal care, potential complications such as c-sections, vaccines and deworming of pups, and high quality puppy food for both mother and pups are rarely even covered by the sale price of a pet quality puppy. If anything responsible breeders lose money. They are breeding to improve their beloved breed.
How Can I Recognize a Responsible Breeder?
An ethical breeder will know the standard for its chosen breed and can recite the highlights of it for you.
An ethical breeder will want to know as much about you as you should want to know about them. The breeder will ask you about your lifestyle, your yard, whether or not you have children and possibly even about your income. You should not be offended by these questions. A responsible breeder is concerned about the welfare of the puppies she has produced. If she does not feel that any of her puppies are a good match for you, she may send you home empty handed. If a breeder simply quotes you a price and lets you pick a pup, pay and leave, she is conducting a business transaction, pure and simple. You do not want to purchase a puppy from this person. It may seem less expensive up front, but the costs of vet bills for avoidable genetic problems may number in the thousands, and the emotional price may be high as well.
A responsible breeder will ask that you spay or neuter a pet quality animal. A pet quality animal will make a wonderful family pet, but is simply not breeding material. You may receive limited registration papers, meaning that your animal is registered but any offspring would not be eligible for registration. Many times a pet quality animal from a good breeder is better than the pick of the litter from a puppy mill.
An ethical breeder will not always have puppies available. As a general rule bitches should not be bred any more than two out of every three heat cycles. You may have to wait for a puppy from a good breeder, but your wait will be worthwhile.
A good breeder will have a contract that protects you, the puppy and herself. The contract will usually state that should you have to give up the dog for any reason you must give the breeder first choice.
A good breeder will be honest about genetic disease in her particular breed and will tell what she has done to minimize the risk of future health issues. Every single breed has specific health concerns. Any so called breeder that tells you that there are no health problems is either lying or simply ignorant to that information and should be avoided.
An ethical breeder will never say ‘tea-cup’ or ‘warlock’ or any other equally preposterous phrase. Tea-cup means runt , simple as that. Warlock means grossly oversized, simple as that. Also a good breeder should never charge more for a ‘rare’ color, as a simple understanding of genetics would allow her to produce any color desired. While truly rare colors, such as albino, are caused by serious genetic problems that an ethical breeder would not want to perpetuate.
Why Should I Care?
As mentioned above, the costs associated with poorly bred dogs can be tremendous. The dog may also have an unsound temperament, which could be dangerous or in the very least unpleasant.
Millions of perfectly good, loving animals are killed each year because of irresponsible breeding practices. There are simply not enough good homes. Each time you buy from a puppy mill, or a pet store that purchases all of its puppies from mills, you have done two things 1) you have lined the pockets of the people who are causing these problems, therefore you are now part of the problem, 2) you have created a new spot for another puppy to be bred and put in its place, and that puppy may not be so lucky as yours.
But the Pet Store Told Me That They Purchased Their Puppies From Private Breeders.
I’m sure they did tell you that. They want your money. Dogs are retail items to them, product to be sold. Ask to speak with the private breeder. Ask yourself why a private breeder from Missouri would be selling puppies at a store in a shopping mall in Florida. It simply does not make sense.
Figure the cost of raising a litter properly and then sending the puppies away or even selling them to a broker who in turn sells them to pet stores. A pet store could not stay in business selling puppies that had been bred responsibly. Your $700 would possibly cover the cost of proper breeding, but not shipping and food and care while in the store, plus earn enough profit to make the business worthwhile. I will tell you without a doubt that the puppy you pay $700 for was sold to the store by a broker for $200 or less. That would not be possible were private breeders actually involved.
Furthermore a responsible breeder never sells puppies to brokers or stores. She is far too concerned about her precious pups to let them go off without ever knowing what has happened to them.
Do not be overly impressed by a champion bloodline, if you go back far enough, virtually every dog has a champion in its lineage. Do not be impressed by registration with the CKC or other registries of the sort that would register a squirrel if you sent them enough money. The AKC is just as bad. They are not the breed police and simply register paperwork completed by the breeder, which may have been falsified. Registration is no guarantee of quality.
How Can I Locate a Good Breeder?
Attending dogs shows is a good way to get to know who is involved in the breed. You may also contact the AKC or the parent club for the breed.