Choosing to bring a new canine companion into your life is an exciting but involved decision-making process, especially when deciding where to get one. You might 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.
A few months ago when I started my research on dog adoption, I was overwhelmed with this whole new world of shelters and rescues. Pet stores weren’t so much of an option then financially. I chased down a dozen pups that I really liked, online, in shelters and in rescue groups. But after a dozen rejections, I decided to walk into a pet store.
I remember feeling really, really wary about going there, cause I’d heard so much about mistreated pups in backyard shelters, preying on them for purely monetary greed. I didn’t want to support an industry like that, and I don’t think any conscientious person would if they were truly aware of it. I was fairly unaware of the gravity of the situation then. And had I not fallen head over heels in love with this little chap, I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it. PAWS and PETA have been trying very hard to raise awareness about puppy mills and the ugly face of this predatory industry.
As you begin your research, here are some things to consider:
Puppy mills are 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.
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 jeopardize the animals’ welfare.
Some backyard breeders may only breed their family dog once in a while, 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.
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 introduce 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. Many of them put their wishlists on amazon. This would help provide support for their rescues with essential supplies like beds, towels, food, toys, and vaccinations.
- Volunteer. Many rescues are largely volunteer-based communities that run on fosters and donations from people. If you can’t donate money, then donate your time to care for these animals over the weekend or foster them, clean and train them, preparing them for their final homes.
- Lastly, you could sponsor a pet in a shelter or rescue by donating each month for their food, supplies, and medical bills until they find their forever home.
I would still highly encourage to explore all avenues and exhaust your options BEFORE you consider breeders. This is because even if the breeders are responsible and not over crowding the kennels, the mother dog goes through immense trauma having to give up her kids and reproduce consistently. There is also still the problem of over population that remains. Every year thousands of dogs are euthanised because they don’t have a home to stay in. I think it would be much wiser to save an animal from being euthanised and provide them a forever home.
I think that it’s really really important to spread the word because I truly believe that if they knew better, most people would choose differently.
If you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe. – Greta Thunberg (16, Climate Activist)
I really hope you find your loving canine companion soon.
And I know you’ll make the right choice… for that, you’ll get back way more love than you’d be able to give!