How to Avoid a Puppy Mill: 10 Questions to Ask Before Buying
One of the most important parts of searching for your newest family member is making sure you are looking in the right place. You want your newest treasure to come from a responsible breeder or group that is reputable and dedicated to raising your puppy with care. Puppy mills are not that!
Puppy mills are dedicated to pumping out as many puppies as they can to make profits off families who are unaware of the mill’s conditions. These dogs are inhumanely treated and bred with little to no health testing, care, or accreditation. Check out our list of steps to help determine whether the breeder you are considering is a puppy mill or a legitimately responsible breeder!
What is a puppy mill? Why should we avoid them?
Spotting signs of a puppy mill requires an understanding of what constitutes a puppy mill. As mentioned before, puppy mills are breeding facilities whose sole purpose is to make a profit regardless of the health and welfare of the dogs and puppies. These businesses do so by breeding as many dogs as they can and selling the puppies at discounted prices to undercut responsible breeders. They are dog-breeding businesses that care little about the dogs or their puppies.
Your puppy should come from a loving breeder who treats your puppy with care and ensures they’re healthy before coming home to you. You need your breeder to be accessible to you for questions and concerns before AND after the sale. Puppy mills do not provide this type of relationship and as soon as your check clears their bank, you will never see or hear from them again.
It is important to understand why you should not support puppy mills! They may advertise discounted puppies but you will not be receiving a healthy dog and you will be supporting the inhumane treatment of dogs. The discounted price upfront will likely cost you lots more in the long run in the way of vet bills and heartache.
Here are a few key reasons to avoid and stop puppy mills:
- They typically don’t do proper genetic or health testing.
- They have deplorable conditions for adult dogs pumping out puppies.
- They provide little to no care for the essential socialization of puppies.
Puppy mill dogs bred without appropriate genetic testing can cause entire litters to be born that are affected by diseases that can easily be avoided these days with simple DNA testing. The puppies are more likely to be sickly and can be hosts for several types of germs and parasites that other responsible breeders proactively treat and avoid.
Secondly, puppy mills often keep dogs and their puppies in small cages with poor conditions to optimize the number of puppies a mill can hold and to reduce costs. These conditions are not favorable for newborn puppies and can contribute to poor health conditions manifesting.
Third, because puppy mills are concerned with breeding the most dogs that they can, they do not prioritize the socialization required for dogs to be comfortable around people or other dogs. Dogs from these mills may require special attention in their early stages of life as they will not know how to interact with other people or animals, will struggle with a new home environment, and can have severe anxiety or aggression. Be prepared to spend a lot of time and money with trainers working to overcome the deficiencies in your dog created by puppy mill conditions.
All three of these reasons are important in understanding why new dog owners should avoid puppy mills. Oftentimes, unsuspecting customers feel like they are rescuing a puppy or dog from a puppy mill as they view deplorable conditions. In actuality, they are perpetuating the problem by giving the puppy mill their business. Reputable breeders are the best places to find your new furry companion and should be the businesses you are supporting.
Questions to ask yourself when looking for a breeder
1. Have you scheduled a phone call, Zoom meeting, or visit with your breeder?
Visiting the breeder either in person or via Zoom or FaceTime are some of the best ways to know whether your breeder is reputable. Many breeders raise puppies in their homes, and therefore, are not open to bringing a parade of customers through their homes. Those with custom facilities for raising puppies are always concerned about the germs that are brought in by visitors. Therefore, breeders that do not allow in-person visits before picking up their puppies should not be a red flag and does not indicate a puppy mill that is hiding something. Puppy mills are easily recognizable by their poor sanitary conditions, small and inadequate cages, and other practices. These issues should be detectable in a Zoom or Facetime meeting where living quarters for moms and puppies are shown.
2. Is a genetic defect warranty provided?
No one loves paperwork but paperwork when purchasing a puppy is a great sign! A breeder who has invested time and money in health certifications on the parent dogs will not only want to share the results with you, as a standard practice, but they will also provide a genetic defect warranty. The industry standard is a two-year genetic defect warranty and will never be provided by a puppy mill. One will be lucky if the puppy mill provides a 2-5 day warranty. Beware of warranties that require the return of the puppy to exercise its provisions. Puppy mills and poor breeders use this ploy to avoid honoring warranties as they know you already love the puppy and you want to provide a solution to the issue. You don’t want to relinquish ownership knowing the puppy mill will likely euthanize the puppy. Look for a warranty that provides monetary assistance for the treatment of genetic deficiencies.
3. Is there an application and review process?
Breeders should want to know just as much about you as you do them! Good breeders are likely going to require an application or review process so they can make sure that you and your home are a good fit for their puppies. They will not approve or allow payment for a puppy if they do not deem you fit to care for a puppy because they care! Puppy mills are quite the opposite. When dealing with a mill, you are probably not going to be asked a lot of questions because they only care about the money, not where their dog is going. If you aren’t being asked a ton of questions or the breeder seems to be careless, it is probably a puppy mill you are dealing with and you should stay away.
4. Does the facility have several different breeds for sale?
Did you notice that the website you’re looking at sells a lot of different breeds? Chances are the website is run by a mill. Carefully breeding dogs is hard work and doing it ethically takes time and patience. Reputable breeders often don’t specialize in several different types of dogs because they are known for and have bred only a few types of dogs. For example, reputable Goldendoodle breeders may sell Goldendoodles and Bernedoodles but probably aren’t breeding Pit bulls or Shih Tzus. These are different types of dogs and require a different set of knowledge. In contrast, a puppy mill will breed and sell a range of all kinds of dogs.
5. Are you looking for a pet store?
Beware of the pet store. Pet stores are not breeders, but they do need suppliers. Responsible breeders want to know who is buying their puppies. They want to screen buyers to ensure their puppies are going to good homes. Puppy mills don’t want you to know where the puppies came from, so hiding behind a pet store facade is the perfect way for them to dispose of their puppies.
6. Are there discounted prices?
Another major red flag is discounted puppies. Puppies on sale or discounted are a sign that you are probably seeing an ad or website that is involved with a mill. Most esteemed breeders do not do special sales or discounts for their puppies because they do not have a huge supply and often have a waiting list.
7. When will the breeder allow you to take the puppy home?
If your breeder says you can take your puppy home before 8 weeks, run the other way! Any knowledgeable breeder should know that puppies should not be separated from their littermates before 8 weeks. In fact, most states have laws that require puppies to stay with the breeder until a minimum of 8 weeks of age. Puppies that leave their mom and littermates too early often have socialization and temperament deficiencies.
8. Does the puppy come with a clean bill of health issued by a veterinarian?
As you may guess, puppy mills are not too concerned with getting their dogs checked out at the vet. A puppy from the mill may not see a vet until someone purchases them and brings them home. At this point, you have made the purchase and likely cannot return it to the puppy mill. Reputable breeders will have all puppies examined by their vet and will provide the buyer with a clean bill of health issued by the vet. Included with this should also be records showing dates of deworming and vaccinations.
9. Where did you find information about these puppies for sale?
The internet is great at connecting people but can be the culprit of connecting you with a puppy mill. Reputable breeders can often be found online through professional websites, social media accounts, or through sharing links but you must be careful when looking online. Even puppy mills can have professional-looking websites. It is important to ask for references and do either a visit in person, via Zoom, or Facetime if there are any red flags indicating a possible puppy mill.
10. Are there any online reviews or other information about the breeder?
Lastly, check the reviews of any breeder you have encountered. If other people have had bad experiences or the same concerns, someone may have written about them. Check Google and Facebook reviews. Check with the Better Business Bureau. How many years has this breeder been in business? Do they have any testimonies or other online presence? If this breeder has not been in business long enough to establish good reviews, they may not be in business to honor a warranty even if one is provided.
Puppy mills are dangerous breeding facilities that unethically breed dogs of all kinds and sell them for discounted prices to make a profit. They care little for their dogs and treat them as simple vehicles for money. Many times, the breeding dogs are euthanized when they are no longer producing puppies. It is important to be knowledgeable about puppy mills to avoid them when you are searching for your new family dog. You want your furry companion to come from a loving home that has provided proper socialization and health care for the puppies, and that treats its breeding dogs with love and dignity. They are, after all, providing the breeder with income and deserve to live happy and healthy lives.