Breeders and Puppy Mills, What Can We Do?

by Barbara Murray
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Google "Labrador Retriever puppies for sale" and you'll likely be flabbergasted by the literally hundreds, if not thousands, of results the search engine returns. I was.

Here's the problem I have with breeders - thousands of these "pure-bred" dogs end up in shelters. Continuing with labs, for example, more of these dogs than any other breed, with the exception of Pit Bull Terriers, end up in shelters. Chihuahuas are third. And guess what? Pit Bull Terriers and Chihuahuas are also popular with breeders.

I dislike using economic terms to describe this horrible situation. However, the truth is that the supply far exceeds the demand. Still, many breeders keep right on trying to make a buck, ultimately leaving thousands of helpless, unwanted animals to suffer the consequences.

It's difficult to find fault with someone for trying to earn a living. But I suppose burglars and armed robbers are trying to make a living too if you look at it this way. Thus, as is obvious, I have no sympathy for breeders.

When you look at the results - many of these dogs euthanized because they're unwanted, it's purely irresponsible and just plain wrong.

Outrageous Numbers of Unwanted Dogs

Looking at the hard facts of just "pure-bred" dogs in shelters shows clearly the types breeders exploit. For example, in April 2017, more than 16,500 Pit Bull Terriers housed in shelters needed homes and this was a count of only the "adoptable" animals in shelters that use Petfinder. Next in numbers, as stated, are Labrador Retrievers with a whopping 13,855 awaiting adoption.

Following the labs, based on the number of animals needing a home listed by the top ten breeds are: Chihuahuas, 9,882; Boxers, 4,803; American Staffordshire Terriers, 4,213; German Shepherds, 4,032; Beagles, 3,416; American Bulldogs, 2,824; Dachshunds, 2,686; and Border Collies, 2,015. There were also 5,939 Terriers (non-specific type) listed for adoption. And remember these numbers are only adoptable animals in shelters that use Petfinder as a resource.

So, where do these animals come from? And how do they end up in shelters?

One answer is that many prospective pet owners purchase puppies because they're adorable, without first considering the upcoming years of responsibility. Once this realization dawns on them, off to the shelter they go with some lame excuse as to why they can no longer keep the dog.

To be clear, I'm not knocking everyone that takes an animal to a shelter. Sometimes circumstances get beyond a person's control and that appears to be the only option available.

What I'm referring to is a situation where an individual or a couple or a family, buys a puppy without considering the full responsibility this entails. Within a short time the "cuteness" has worn off and they simply no longer want the responsibility and the dog ends up in a shelter. If it's not adopted or does not make it into a no-kill shelter, we know what happens.

How do we prevent this from happening repeatedly? Maybe to start, we need education, education, education - educating people who will take action.

Recognizing Puppies from Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are a major source of what eventually become unwanted animals. Many jurisdictions have strong laws on the books prohibiting puppy mills. Thus, recognizing pups from puppy mills, reporting them to local authorities and educating the public about the horrendous practices of these places can help save an untold number of animals from euthanasia.

In stark terms, a puppy mill is an operation that specializes in the mass-production of dogs. (Geez! It made me cringe just to type that definition.) Typically puppy mill operations display a few common characteristics that can help us recognize and report them.

Puppy mills advertise constantly. If you see the same breeder's ads repeatedly, it's likely a puppy mill. Also, if a breeder advertises "new" breeds, chances are a puppy mill is experimenting with dogs.

Some puppy mills pretend to be rescue organizations. One way to recognize this type of horrific breeder is to note if he or she always has lots of puppies for sale/adoption. Legitimate rescue organizations, for the most part are nonprofit, transparent with their records and do not specialize in particular types of breeds.

Any breeder that offers multiple breeds, typically more than two is a flag for a possible puppy mill. In addition, a breeder that has numerous litters available from which to choose is another sign of a puppy mill.

If you contact a breeder that runs a puppy mill, he or she will want to meet you somewhere other than the place of business and will not screen prospective owners thoroughly or want much information from you, just your money. Furthermore, the puppy mill breeders typically refuse to allow prospective customers to meet the pup's parents at the place of business.

If you meet a breeder, ask for his or her veterinarian's name, address and phone number. If he or she refuses or hesitates to provide this information, this could be a sign of a puppy mill operation.

Puppies for sale at flea markets are red flags for puppy mills. I ran into one of these a few years ago in Simpsonville. Fortunately, with the help of friends in the right places, we were able to get that operation shut down in the flea market.

Take Action

So, what do we do with information on a puppy mill operation? Report it to animal control and the police.

Protest if your local pet store is selling puppies because puppies for sale in pet stores typically come from puppy mills. A boycott from a group of responsible pet owners can have a significant impact on the bottom line of one store and ultimately this is the business's priority.

Fortunately, in my hometown, Frankfort, Kentucky, our local pet stores do not sell puppies from breeders. They do, however, provide space for shelter animals to meet prospective pet owners. Working in conjunction with the Franklin County Humane Society and L.I.F.E. House for Animals these local stores help find homes for needy animals. Kudos to all of them!

Remember that the more support we give to organizations like the local humane society and L.I.F.E. House, the less "market" remaining for puppy mills and irresponsible breeders.

Editor's Note: If you're unfamiliar with puppy mills, the Humane Society of the United States explains them in this video. A warning, it's horrible.

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