Most people are familiar with the term “puppy mill,” but just what is a puppy mill and how is a puppy mill different from a legitimate, dedicated breeder? According to the ASPCA, a puppy mill is “…a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” The goal is to breed as many puppies as possible in order to maximize profits. Typically, the breeding dogs and puppies live in small wire cages and receive little or no companionship, socialization, toys or attention. There are thousands of puppy mills located throughout the country, with the highest concentration of puppy mills located in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. While the Animal Welfare Act requires breeders to be licensed, inspected and regulated, those laws are typically not strongly enforced, if at all.
Puppy mills usually have the goal of producing as many puppies as possible without regard to the health, conformation or socialization of the puppies. True dog or cat breeders selectively breed a small number of pets with the goal of enhancing and protecting the breed, rather than of breeding as many litters as possible. Unlike a puppy mill, a true breeder provides a clean, healthy environment, provides lots of socialization to the puppies, and is concerned with placing each puppy in a loving home.
Almost all of the puppies for sale in pet shops come from a puppy mill. If the pet store advertises that their puppies come from a “breeder,” this does not mean the puppy didn’t come from a puppy mill. Similarly, the fact that a puppy comes with “papers” or is AKC registered does not mean the puppy did not come from a puppy mill. The term “purebred” simply means that the dog came from two parents of the same breed, and is not a guarantee of the health or genetic quality of the dog. As long as the parents are registered, the puppy can be registered. Remember, most reputable breeders do not sell to pet stores.
While that puppy in the window may look adorable, puppies from puppy mills are more likely to have congenital medical problems, illnesses, and poor socialization. Every puppy purchased from a pet shop helps support the puppy mill industry.