Illness and disease are common in dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators often fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
• Heart disease
• Kidney disease
• Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
• Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
• Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
• Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
• Respiratory disorders
• Upper respiratory infections
• Kennel cough
• Intestinal parasites
• Chronic diarrhea
Fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are typical of puppy mill dogs. Puppies born in puppy mills are typically removed from their littermates and mothers at just six weeks of age. The first months of a puppy's life are a critical socialization period for puppies. Spending that time with their mother and littermates helps prevent puppies from developing problems like extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.
Many pet store owners will tell you they get all their puppies from "licensed USDA breeders" or "local breeders." In fact, in order to sell puppies to pet stores, a breeder must be licensed by the USDA. Pet stores often use this licensing to provide a false sense of security to customers, when what it really means is that they do, in fact, get their puppies from puppy mills. Being registered or “having papers” means nothing more than the puppy's parents both had papers. Many registered dogs, as well as pedigreed dogs, are sold in puppy mills. The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself. Puppies sold online often come from puppy mills. Responsible breeders would never sell to someone they haven't met because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure the puppies are going to good homes.
Please make adoption your first option. Purebred dogs end up in shelters just like mixed breeds. Breed rescue groups exist for just about every breed possible. If you have your heart set on a purebred, please be sure to visit your local shelter or find a breed rescue group before searching for a breeder. If you can't find what you want through a shelter or breed rescue group, please learn how to recognize a responsible breeder. When buying a dog from a breeder, always be sure to meet the puppy's parents or at least the mother, and see where the dogs live. Never meet a breeder at an off-site location, and never have a puppy shipped to you sight-unseen.
Puppy Mills Across the United States
The highest concentration of puppy mills is in the Midwest, specifically in Missouri, but there are also high concentrations in other areas, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York. Commercial dog breeding is very prevalent among Amish and Mennonite farmers. There are typically between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders (commonly referred to as puppy mills) operating in the United States. This number does not take into consideration the number of breeders not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. Because so many of these breeders are operating without oversight, it's impossible to accurately track them or to know how many there truly are. The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the nation.
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