Nowadays it has become more important than ever to adopt a pet instead of buying it. Thousands of helpless animals are put to death every year because they are ownerless. If you have your heart set on a puppy of your own there is no reason not to call around shelters and find some puppies that way… however; if you absolutely must buy your new pup from an unfamiliar source you can still do your part to help out. Here’s how.
Puppy Farms are more commonplace than you would think. Puppy Farms exist the whole world over. Why are they so bad? Puppy Farms (also called Puppy Mills) keep numerous dogs in cramped conditions with poor sanitation and little food. The dogs are often kept in tiny cages, are fed whatever the owners can spare and are bred relentlessly with the sole aim of making their owners a profit.
To help you spot potential Puppy Farmers we put together a helpful list of points to look out for. If you suspect you have found a rogue breeder then you ought to report them to the relevant authorities.
Some ways to tell if your puppy was raised at a puppy mill:
1. The most obvious sign of a Puppy Farmer is that they will not be able to produce either of the pups parents. No parents means the dog has already been separated – usually too early. If your breeder won’t let you meet your pups mom and dad (at least the mom) then read on and see if they meet any other criteria.
2. The second thing to ask is if the parents were vaccinated. If the mom is up-to-date on shots. If not, there may be a distinct possibility that this breeder doesn’t care much for their animals. They should know this information, and if they don’t know both parents bear in mind that they therefore cannot be entirely sure of the lineage.
3. You will be able to tell a lot about where the breeder meets you. Purchasing from a reputable dealer you will often find you are invited to their home. If the address is a warehouse in an industrial estate don’t bother going. A dodgy breeder might also want to bring the puppy to you or meet at a neutral spot, so be wary of that, as well.
4. Once you meet your breeder, ask them specifically how many breeds they own. If it is more than two (or three at a maximum) then the chances are that they are a Puppy Farmer. Puppy Mills often carry as many breeds as possible, reputable breeders tend to keep their dogs at home and in comfort, and more than three breeds is hard work for a household.
5. Ask how many pups are for sale. A normal litter is between five and eight puppies (with exceptions), if there are eighteen (etc) puppies for sale then you know that the breeder has multiple pregnant dogs from different breeds, a clear indicator of a Puppy Farmer.
6. Ask what age the puppy is. Puppies shouldn’t be taken away from their mothers until “at least six weeks,” but eight weeks is recommended (and in some cases, state law). If the puppy is younger than that and the parent is nowhere in sight then alarm bells should be ringing.
7. Hygiene can be another clue. A new puppy smells much like a new baby. A puppy from a Farm will smell like a kennel. They will often be dirty in appearance and their coat is unlikely to be shiny.
8. Paperwork is important. If you are buying a breeder’s dog they will provide you with paperwork assuring you the dog is a registered pedigree. If you are not buying a pedigree of course you cannot get this certificate – however – a good breeder should care where their pups go. Your breeder should draw up some kind of paperwork that states what happens if the dog needs to be returned etc. They will often also want to call you to check in. A good breeder wants to know their dog has gone to a good home. So, look for a contract and the breeder questioning YOU (fenced in yard, do you have a home or an apartment, etc). A Puppy Farmer is a lot less likely to care. If their only concern is that you have the money and no other questions, contracts, or applications, it is more than likely a puppy mill or backyard breeder. Also, they should care with pairing you with the RIGHT dog.
9. If you are buying from a pet shop make sure to inquire about the dogs parentage. A good shop will keep records, a bad shop might be dealing in out-of-State Puppy Farmers. Always ask. In general, you should shy away getting dogs from Pet Shops, as many of them are obtained from puppy mills.
10. Deception – if you think you are being deceived then don’t buy. Do a little research. For example; if you want a small dog learn which breed of small dog specifically you would like. If you then go to a breeder armed with this information you are less likely to be fooled. Puppy Farmers are notorious for telling you what you want to hear and will make all sorts of wild assurances to make the sale. It is hard to tell when you are being lied to, but much easier if you know exactly what to look for in your prospective pup!
There are other things you can look for. If the dog seems unhealthy in any way then a good breeder will know what is wrong with them and be able to tell you how to go about fixing it. A good breeder will also have a reliable phone number, and possible multiple ways to be contacted – not true of a Puppy Farmer, who will often change numbers to avoid angry retaliation from clients. Small clues you might look out for in the dogs behavior include being afraid of humans, a generally nervous disposition and anything else that indicates that the animal has been kept in dark or cramped conditions. Puppy Farm pups are often kept in wire cages and you might see signs of this on their paws.
In general, be wary of bad breeders and report anything suspicious until no dog has to endure such a terrible life.
The website, Bailing out Benji has a solid list of known puppy mills broken down by state: https://bailingoutbenji.com/puppy-mill-maps/. Generally, you will be able to see a correlation between heavy Amish communities and known puppy mills in the area. For example, the 3 largest Amish counties in the United States, are also the 3 largest counties in those states with known puppy-mills. So, not all Amish run puppy mills; however, this is why it’s important to do your research!
So, if you are going to get a puppy from the Amish, Pet Stores, or unknown breeders: do your research! Ask for references, ask to meet the parents, meet at the place the dogs actually live, see the living conditions of the dogs, and their appearance of health!
If not, you could be stuck with a dog filled with a life of behavior or health issues.
If you have any questions, contact a trainer or vet near you to see if they have more information!