If you’re in the market for a new puppy, you’ll want to continue reading this post!

We’ve all seen the “investigative reports” that show the horrific living conditions of “puppy mills”. And while we know that Wisconsin Pet Care blog readers would definitely stay away from these types of “businesses”, would you also know to be cautious of “commercial breeders” or “puppy farms”? Professional and idyllic titles for backyard breeders and puppy mills are on the rise. Maybe you wouldn’t ordinarily walk into a pet store to buy your dog, but a pup hailing from a “pet sanctuary” might pique your interest.

As long as you are adopting the breed you were looking for, what IS the harm of getting a dog that was bred by a non-licensed breeder? The fact is, as long as there is a demand for these types of puppies, there will be a supply. Poor living conditions are just the start of what these dogs must endure. A dog who lives caged in fear, knowing very little other than pain and distrust, is not an easy companion. Puppies may eventually forget their less than desirable beginnings, but not before having to overcome a whole list of possible behavioral and emotional issues. For example, housebreaking a puppy mill pup can oftentimes be challenging because caged animals are so close to their own feces and urine. It defies their natural tendencies and can make the process less instinctual (in fact, some of these dogs never even see grass until they are placed in their forever home!).

Of course, there is also the backyard breeder – those folks who may mean well, but have no experience in breeding, and as a result, produce pups that aren’t healthy (good genes produce healthy dogs, which is why genetic testing on the parents before breeding is so important). Worse, they often find out that there is no money in carelessly-bred dogs and must resort to selling them to pet stores – and the cycle continues.

Even if one could get past the thought of a dog being caged her whole life, just producing puppies for human profit, there is no denying that purchasing a dog from a pet store/puppy mill/unlicensed breeder is putting a strong message out into the world – and it ultimately condones breeding dogs with reckless abandon.

The ASPCA has taken a stand against puppy mill puppies with their No Pet Store Puppies campaign! According to their site:

“Purchasing a puppy for sale at a pet store or online often supports the horrible puppy mill industry. Buying anything in pet stores that sell puppies supports the industry, too! Buy all your pet supplies—toys, pet food, kitty litter—from stores that do not sell puppies, or buy your pet supplies online from websites that do not sell puppies.”

Just in time for No Pet Store Puppies Day (July 21st), please take the time to read further about this increasing issue (don’t forget to take the pledge). Visit their site here.

What do you do if you’re looking for a specific breed and haven’t been able to find one at your local rescue or shelter? Find a REPUTABLE breeder. Here are a few basic guidelines:

1) Look for a breeder who specializes in only one or two different breeds of dogs. You want an “expert” who has experience with the breed you are looking for. They should be a resource that you can utilize to best care for your dog when you get home – a quality breeder doesn’t just place the pup and cut ties with the family.

2) Visit the pups where they are bred and kept. Not only should they be happy, clean and vibrant, but their living conditions should be the same. Unkempt cages and no place to run around are unacceptable accommodations (and a sign of an inexperienced or shady breeder). Puppies need toys and love. Mother dogs need to be well-cared for as well, especially post-litter. All of these things should be present during your visit.

3) Proper paperwork is key – there should be health records (including genetic testing results) on both the puppy’s parents AND grandparents.

4) REFERENCES aren’t just for job applicants! Ask for references and call them to verify the experience others have had with their puppy placements from a particular breeder.

For more information on finding a quality dog breeder, please read this document provided by The Humane Society.

Visit us again next week as we continue our series with a post on the vital role animal rescues play in responsible pet adoption.