Choosing to bring a pet into your life can be a tough decision, especially when deciding where to get one. You might also have concerns about "puppy mills" or "backyard breeders," and want to know how to steer clear of them. Perhaps you don't even know what these are and need more information. As you begin your pet research, here are some things to consider.
Puppy millsare commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs (and cats in cat mills) for sale through pet stores, or directly to consumers through classified ads or the Internet. Roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. Many retailers who buy animals from such facilities take the wholesaler's word that the animals are happy and healthy without seeing for themselves.
In most states, these commercial breeding kennels can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives, for the sole purpose of continuously churning out puppies. The animals produced range from purebreds to any number of the latest "designer" mixed breeds. Cat breeding occurs under similar conditions to supply pet stores with kittens.
Animals in puppy mills are treated like cash crops
- They are confined to squalid, overcrowded cages with minimal shelter from extreme weather and no choice but to sit and sleep in their own excrement.
- Animals suffer from malnutrition or starvation due to inadequate or unsanitary food and water.
- Sick or dying animals receive little or no veterinary care.
- Adult animals are continuously bred until they can no longer produce, then destroyed or discarded.
- Kittens and puppies are taken from their mothers at such an early age; many suffer from serious behavior problems.
Read about Wendy Laymon, a notorious, formerly Washington-based puppy mill breeder, who is still selling sick puppies on the internet. Learn what to do if you encounter her or have been a victim of her sales.
Backyard breeders are also motivated by profit. Ads from these unscrupulous breeders fill the classifieds. Backyard breeders may appear to be the nice neighbor next door-in fact, even seemingly good-intentioned breeders may treat their breeding pairs as family pets. However, continuously breeding animals for years to produce litters for a profit still jeopardizes the animals' welfare.
Some backyard breeders may only breed their family dog once in awhile, but they often are not knowledgeable on how to breed responsibly, such as screening for genetic defects. Responsible, proper breeding entails much more than simply putting two dogs together.
Look for these red flags:
- The seller has many types of purebreds or "designer" hybrid breeds being sold at less than six weeks old.
- Breeders who are reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which animals are being bred and kept.
- Breeders who don't ask a lot of questions of potential buyers.
- No guarantees-responsible breeders make a commitment to take back the pet at anytime during the animal's life, no matter the reason.
Because puppy mills and backyard breeders choose profit over animal welfare, their animals typically do not receive proper veterinary care. Animals may seem healthy at first but later show issues like congenital eye and hip defects, parasites or even the deadly Parvovirus.
Taking homes away
When puppy mills and backyard breeders flood the market with animals, they reduce homes available for animals from reputable establishments, shelters and rescue groups. Every year, more than 150,000 cats and dogs enter shelters in Washington State-6 to 8 million animals enter shelters nationwide. Sadly, only about 15 percent of people with pets in the U.S. adopted them from a shelter or rescue group, leaving so many deserving pets left behind.
Help stop the suffering by taking these steps:
- Be a responsible, informed consumer-if you do buy from a breeder, go to a reputable one who:
- Will show you where the dogs spend their time and introduces you to the puppy's parents.
- Explains the puppy's medical history, including vaccines, and gives you their veterinarian's contact info.
- Doesn't have puppies available year-round, yet may keep a waiting list for interested people.
- Asks about your family's lifestyle, why you want a dog, and your care and training plans for the puppy.
- Doesn't use pressure sales tactics.
- Adopt from a shelter or breed-specific rescue group near you-typically 25% of the animals in shelters are purebred.
- Support laws that protect animals from puppy mill cruelty-tell your elected officials you support laws which cap the number of animals a person can own and breed, and establish care standards for exercise, housing, access to food and water and regular veterinary care.
- Urge your local pet store to support shelters-animals are often used to draw consumers into stores. Encourage pet stores to promote shelter animals for adoption instead of replenishing their supply through questionable sources.
- Donate pet supplies to local shelters to help those rescued from the puppy mills and many other homeless animals in need.
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