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Buying a Puppy

Are you thinking about welcoming a dog into your life? Be sure to get the facts on where you are most likely to find a happy and healthy companion -- and where you are not.

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You gaze into the sad eyes of the puppy in the pet store window, and you want to rescue the lonely pooch...

You read the ad in the newspaper, and the couple seems so trustworthy with their decades of experience breeding dogs...

You find a website with photos of green hills and beautiful puppies that insists the "little darlings" and "bundles of joy" will only be sold to "loving families"...

Beware! A cruel, mass dog-breeding facility could hide behind each of these scenarios. Most likely, you've heard about them. The Humane Society of the United States calls them puppy mills, and for good reason.

Puppy mills frequently house dogs in shockingly poor conditions, particularly for the "breeding stock" animals who are caged and continually bred for years, without human companionship, and then killed, abandoned or sold to another "miller" after their fertility wanes. These adult dogs are bred repeatedly to produce litter after litter, without hope of ever becoming part of a family. The result is hundreds of thousands of puppies churned out each year for sale at pet stores, over the Internet, and through newspaper ads. This practice will end only when people stop buying these puppy-mill puppies.

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Buyer Beware!

If you want a dog in your life, steer clear of a puppy-mill puppy. Pet store clerks and other sellers will never admit their dogs come from puppy mills. How do you separate fact from fiction? The facts:

  • Pet stores cater to impulsive buyers and consumers seeking convenient transactions. These stores don't interview prospective buyers to ensure responsible, lifelong homes for the pets they sell, and the stores might be staffed by employees with limited knowledge about pets and pet care.
  • A USDA-inspected breeder does not mean a good breeder. Be wary of claims by pet store staff that they sell animals only from breeders who are USDA-inspected. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the federal law called the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which regulates commercial breeding operations. But the act doesn't require all commercial breeders to be licensed, and the USDA establishes only minimum-care standards in enforcing this law. Breeders are required to provide food, water, and shelter -- but not love, socialization, or freedom from confining cages. Many USDA-licensed and inspected puppy mills operate under squalid conditions with known violations of the AWA.
  • Many disreputable breeders sell their dogs directly to the public over the Internet and through newspaper ads. They often sell several breeds of dogs but might advertise each breed in a separate place and not in one large advertisement or website. These breeders are not required to be inspected by any federal agency and, in many states, are not inspected at all.
  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go and interview hopeful adopters. They don't ever sell through pet stores or to families they haven't thoroughly checked out.
  • Purebred "papers" do not guarantee the quality of the breeder or the dog. Even the American Kennel Club (AKC) readily admits that it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry."
  • Puppy-mill puppies often have medical problems. These problems can lead to veterinary bills in the thousands of dollars. But pet retailers count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won't be returned. And guarantees are often so difficult to comply with that they are virtually useless. In addition, poor breeding and socialization practices at many puppy mills can lead to behavioral problems throughout the puppies' lives. In the event your new puppy does experience medical problems, file a Breeder Complaint Form.

When looking for a puppy, don't buy from a pet store, and be very wary of websites and newspaper ads. Above all, don't ever buy a dog if you can't physically visit every area of the home or breeding facility where the dogs are kept. Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop buying their dogs. We urge you to visit your local shelter, where you are likely to find dozens of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs -- including purebreds -- just waiting for that special home: yours.

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