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How to avoid Puppy Mills

Definition of a Puppy Mill: A breeder’s system for whelping puppies without regard to their health, well being, or after market support, while maximizing profits at the expense of their dogs and customers. Puppy Mills are not necessarily defined by the number of pups they birth, but in the lack of care, socialization, nutritional needs, and after market sales support they offer. For example, a breeder that sells his pups to a pet store with no mechanism for establishing a relationship with the final owner may be defined as such. Breeders need feedback from their customers in order to constantly improve their standards. Without feedback, the breeder has no way (and perhaps no interest) in monitoring numbers of pups born with genetic abnormalities, or caring for the pup should the new owner become unable to care for the pup in the future. If you usually have good instincts, follow your gut intuition!Here are a few helpful hints in avoiding such places:
Prior to the purchase of a puppy, the breeder should take an interest in what situation his pup will reside in. You should be asked your name, city of residence, profession, past experience, number and ages of children, etc. so they can get to know you. This does not have to take place on the first conversation, and you should not have to lead him to ask such questions, but you should certainly be asked about such subjects prior to picking a pup.
The breeder should have a nutritional plan for his pups and adults, and should make recommendations to you without being asked. If the dog food comes from a pet store, grocery store, or the local hardware, you can rest assured it will not be a healthy choice. A true breeder will have and control his own formula, or at the least associate himself with a custom formula owner. Keep in mind poor early nutrition for the pups will have a great impact on your vet bills. A good dog food is not necessarily defined by the expense, but you will not find a nutritionally adequate food for under $1.50 per pound.
You should be able to visit the breeder at his location should that be your wish. There may be places on the farm that are off limits to visitors, and that is OK, but the areas the pups and adults are kept in should appear clean. Under no circumstances should the breeder allow you to step into the confined area where the pups are being kept. If he does, you can rest assured others have entered as well, and there is a good chance the pups will be infected with a disease that will blossom after you take your pup home.
A breeder that takes deep interest in the future of his pups will demand you to sign a purchase agreement. This contract should contain language to the effect that you will return the dog to his location should you be unable to keep it. (Whether there is a refund or not is immaterial in deciding if the particular person is a good breeder. Most likely, there will not be a refund in such situations).
If there is a guarantee, you should not be required to take your pup to a veterinarian within just a few days. Keep in mind this is a main pick up point for pathogens! The pups should not have entered a veterinarian’s office younger than seven weeks.
The breeder should know how many of his pups develop hip dysplasia, retinal disease, genetic heart abnormalities, etc. If he states he’s never had any of these problems, he’s either not telling the truth or he hasn’t been in touch with his past customers to develop such records. While hip certifications for the adults can show intent to breed properly, they are a poor substitute for knowing the real numbers. There should be no more than 1 case of hip dysplasia requiring surgical intervention in each 100 pups born.
The breeder should have a concrete plan for his adult dogs once they reach an age where they are no longer desirable to breed. This plan should not include euthanization or leaving them at the pound. A good breeder takes responsibility for his dogs from cradle to grave.
Responsible breeders will have a knowledge base and be willing to share it with you. This information will come from years of hard work and dedication, and will differ greatly from other “facts” parroted from website to website. You should see medical books, microscopes, centrifuges, and other signs that the breeder being interviewed has truly taken a deep interest in educating himself to the ever changing world of canine health care. If he can’t identify a roundworm egg under a microscope, he’s probably not the best choice.
Puppy Mills often hide behind their associations with canine organizations, such as “groups”, “circles” and cliquish associations that protect one another. They develop their own support group in lieu of doing any continued research, and are usually resistant to hearing from anyone that has developed a true knowledge base. Just because they belong to a group does not make them a puppy mill, but one should take all the facts into consideration.
Puppy Mills are so desperate to make a sale that they often bad mouth other breeders, and will often refer to the other breeder as a Puppy Mill! A breeder that cares about his results will see that his farm is worked 12 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and he will usually be the one working. He doesn’t have time or desire to bad mouth another breeder. If you hear someone speaking negatively about another breeder, hang up the phone and keep searching.

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