Archive for the ‘puppy mills’ Tag

What’s the difference, anyway?   1 comment

There are many places from which you can get a dog – a shelter, a rescue, a pet store, a puppy mill, or a breeder. Some are better than others, for the dogs and for you.

Shelters take in animals who no longer have homes, either because their people brought them in or because they were found wandering the streets, and houses them in a group facility. Many dogs at shelters are purebreds, and there are many lovable mutts. Most shelter dogs are adults,which leads many people to not want them because they are afraid of the possible bad habits the dog already has. Often, however, there will be less training involved in retraining a shelter dog in the few areas he needs it than in training a new puppy in everything. Shelters can be a great place to get a dog if you are open to some unknowns and want to do good for an animal in need.

Rescues are organizations which take in certain dogs who meet their criteria (for example, a certain breed, close to being euthanized but with a good personality) and hold them until homes can be found. The dogs are often held in foster homes, living with a family until a home can be found. This usually means you will have more detailed information about a dog from a rescue than you would from a shelter. A great place to find shelter or rescue dogs in your area is Petfinder, and online directory of animals available for adoption across the country.

Pet stores carry very young puppies, often puppies who are too young to have left their mother. All of the puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills or irresponsible breeders. A responsible breeder will never give their puppy to a pet store. Because price is the bottom line, it is rare that genetic or health tests are done on the parents of the puppies, and the puppies are usually very under socialized before arriving at the store, which means that there is a high likelihood that pet store puppies will have health or behavioral problems – or both! Pet stores will lie about where their puppies come from. Buying puppies from a pet store is in all ways a bad idea; the puppies typically cost more than they would from a responsible breeder, have not had health tests done on their parents (a guarantee is offered after the fact in case genetic problems show up, but they do nothing to try to prevent the problems, gambling that by the time they do show up you’ll be too attached to the puppy to return it), are poorly socialized, had poor early care, are highly likely to show health problems leading to high vet bills, and buying from pet stores supports the horrific organizations known as puppy mills.

Puppy mills are disgusting organizations in which dogs are kept in tiny cages, deprived of human contact, and often do not have their basic requirements of food, water and cleanliness taken care of. In mills dogs are mass bred like livestock. Often such organizations will say their dogs are fine, because they follow USDA standards. However, USDA standards only require dogs to be kept in a cage with enough room that they can turn in a circle. They do not ever have to be let out of that cage in their entire life. When adults get to old to breed, puppies do not look enough like they should (i.e. a “designer” mix which looks too much like a purebred), or puppies get too old to sell, they are killed. Dogs from puppy mills rarely receive vet care, and so suffer from conditions like having their teeth and jaws rot away, urine burns where the dog is so caked in urine the ammonia actually burns the skin, legs and feet which are broken or torn off in wire cages, hernias which can reach the size of grapefruits, sores between the pads of the feet from standing on wire, all of which are typically left untreated.

Breeders come in two kinds, responsible breeders and what are known as back yard breeders. Back yard breeders are casual breeders who breed without the knowledge or care required to do so responsibly. Often they just breed a litter or two for fun, have puppies accident, or breed their dogs to make money. They typically are not well versed in what is involved taking care of a pregnant mother, how to deal with problems in the birth, the early stimulation and socialization the young puppies need, and as with puppy mills the parents are not screened for health problems and the proper pre-natal care is not given. Puppies from a back yard breeder will be more socialized than from a puppy mill, but otherwise they are very similar in their likelihood of health issues and behavioral issues. It is back yard breeders and puppy mills who have led to the extreme overpopulation in our nation’s shelters, largely because they do not take responsibility for their puppies once they are sold.

Responsible breeders care for their dogs. They do health checks, give their mothers prenatal care, know what to do in the emergencies that can surround whelping, and know how to care for and stimulate their young puppies. They take responsibility for all the puppies the sell, and ensure that the puppies go to good homes.

If you are looking for a puppy or dog, finding a shelter, rescue, or responsible breeder is not only best for the dogs, it is best for you. You will end up with a healthier, happier dog who will live a long, full life with you. Check back for more information on how to find a responsible breeder, and how to make sure you’re not inadvertently buying from a puppy mill.

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