We have all seen horror stories of how cruel animals can be and are treated. We vow that we will never result to such forms of cruelty as a form of punishment or subject our pets to those terrible living conditions. On a larger scale, puppy mills are known for their maltreatment of animals. Animal organizations fight against puppy mills and warn people not to continue funding the industry. But, since there is no blame to place on the animals, is it ever okay to adopt from a mill?
Recently, a large puppy mill operation was raided in Tennessee. Close to 700 puppies were rescued by the Humane Society, and those in good health were sent to animal shelters for adoption. People lined up outside the shelters to offer the puppies loving homes. This bust was the largest ever conducted in Tennessee and has enlightened many people about the true conditions of a puppy mill.
So, what is the difference between a breeder and a mill? In general, breeders are proud of their animals. They breed the animals with health and temperament in mind, and do not wing them from the mother too early. They allow the female dogs an adequate amount of time between breeding. The dogs are purebred and live in favorable conditions. If you have ever tried to buy a dog directly from a breeder, then you know how difficult it can be. Often, a breeder will not give an animal to just anyone who wants one. A mill, on the other hand, breeds dogs for money. The living conditions are so poor (multiple animals confined to one small area, little or no grooming, and little food) that the animals often develop health problems early on. The female dogs are often forced to breed at every heat cycle, taking a toll on the health of the mother and the litter. The young puppies are winged too early on. While the dogs may appear purebred, the paperwork is often forged.
When an animal organization stresses the importance of not funding the industry, then you may wonder who exactly is doing all the funding. If you have ever purchased a puppy from a pet store or a backyard breeder, then you may have been a contributor. In the past, pet retailers have been known to purchase their puppies from mills. The puppies are cheaper and the mill claims pedigree. Now, fewer stores purchase from mills, but sometimes mill puppies slip through. Often, mill personnel will disguise themselves as reputable breeders, offering purebred puppies with pedigree information. The stores then buy the puppies (contributing money to the puppy mill), and you, in turn, buy the puppy from the store. Because of sales, the store continues to buy from the "breeder."
Many people go straight to the store when they want a purebred puppy, believing that the store can prove the pedigree. In reality, mills often forge the information. If you are looking for a purebred puppy, then head straight to a breeder. Pay attention to the conditions at the breeder's facilities. There is a huge difference between a reputable and a backyard breeder. Backyard breeders show poor living conditions; they are very similar to small-scale mills. A true breeder will show love and care for the animals. They may watch how you interact with the puppy and ask you lots of questions about the puppy's prospective living conditions. If the breeder feels that you are not a good match, and you leave without a puppy, do not feel bad. Perhaps a different breed of dog would fit better with your lifestyle.
If you are not looking for a purebred, then check your local animal shelters. There, you may find dogs that were rescued from a mill or similar living conditions. You can also find breed specific shelters that offer purebred pups. Adopting from an animal shelter means one less dog will be euthanized.
So, is it ever okay to get a puppy from a mill? The answer is no, unless the mill dog winds up in a shelter. Adopting a rescued dog is much different from buying the dog (directly or indirectly) from a mill. No, it is not the pooch's fault, but your money will only ensure that the mill continues to practice maltreatment. Search out breeders around your area, and schedule visits. You can also check out your local animal shelter to find a dog that's right for you.