Puppy Mill or Professional Dog Breeder: How to tell the difference?
If you’re in the market for a puppy, you’ve probably searched online for breeders and been dazzled by gorgeous, breeder websites and the claims they make about their puppies.
Sadly, many of the websites claiming to be breeders are really puppy mills in disguise.
Most consumers have no idea how to differentiate between a professional breeder and a puppy mill or how to validate the breeder’s claim that they are not a puppy mill.
Professional Dog Breeders
A professional dog breeder carefully selects ideal breeding dogs based on a well-documented history of health and temperament in the family line. They do not mass-produce puppies. Their business is driven by quality animal care and perpetuating healthy breed lines.
What is a puppy mill? What are the risks associated with purchasing a puppy mill puppy?
Puppy buyers should always visit a breeder location
Puppy buyers should always visit a breeder location, meet the parents and see the conditions that both the parents and puppies are living in. We cannot stress this enough- you must visit the facility yourself to ensure that you’re dealing with a professional breeder and not a puppy mill or puppy mill broker in disguise. If the breeder is too far away to physically visit, we strongly suggest that you choose a breeder who lives closer to you.
Professional breeders are very selective when rehoming one of their precious pups and they will typically go out of their way to validate the suitability of the potential home prior to selling a puppy. The prospective buyer should receive an application to complete with subsequent reference requirements and possibly a visit to your home. You should also receive a contract, not a bill of sale, outlining the terms for care and health coverage for your new family member.
Common terms include an agreement to neuter or spay, to train the dog, and most important, that the dog must be returned to the breeder if you can no longer care for him for any reason. A professional breeder wants their dogs back and does not allow them to be turned in to shelters. They should also make it easy for the buyer to return the animal if necessary.
LOOKS like a professional breeder or ACTS like a professional breeder?
Unfortunately, puppy mills have tainted the reputation of the professional breeding industry as the mills are very cleverly disguising themselves as reputable breeders. They create gorgeous websites to trick you into believing that they are professional breeders. Many will send you videos or photos of animals that aren’t even real- the images are procured from stock video and photography sources. Sadly, some of them even advertise on their websites that they are not a puppy mill!
Puppy mills prey on the fact that consumers do not know what questions to ask and what information to validate when they are shopping for their new puppy.
Puppy Buyers Beware. Things to do before making a deposit on a puppy
It is up to you to validate whether the breeder is professional breeder or a puppy mill or one of their agents in disguise.
Below are some tips to help you tell the difference:
- Where are you finding your puppy? Puppy mills use pet stores, and brokers (individuals) who place ads in the newspaper and via market place websites such as Craigslist to sell their puppies. We implore you to never purchase a puppy on-line based on a photograph and then have it shipped to you. Puppy mill brokers often pose as individuals with a puppy to sell. You’ll see this tactic frequently online and in your local newspaper.
- No excuses for not visiting. Professional dog breeders want you to see their facilities, their litter and the breeding parents, and will never deny your request to visit. In fact, many of them make it mandatory that you visit the facility. Puppy mills will never let you tour their facility or see the breeding parents. Mill brokers will often suggest that they meet you somewhere or that they’ll bring a puppy to you. While this may sound convenient, it is a giant red flag! Another tactic that mill brokers use is to schedule a visit to their home and at the last minute, will call you with some excuse as to why you can’t come to the home and must meet them somewhere instead. Of course, you’ll already be on your way and will feel enormous pressure to agree to this. We strongly suggest that you reschedule the appointment instead.
- Contract not Bill of Sale. Professional breeders issue a contract, not a bill of sale. Contracts vary by breeder but typically they include the following criteria:
- Shipping Puppies. Professional dog breeders do not ship dogs and many will not allow young puppies to fly. Responsible breeders want you to drive the puppy home. Trauma from an airplane ride in early puppyhood could scar the puppy for life.
- If anything happens to the puppy, the breeder must be notified and if you are no longer able to care for the pet, it is returned to them. Puppy mill and their brokers don’t want their puppies back and their bill of sale will be a final sale.
- Clause mandating that you spay or neuter the pet unless other arrangements have been made directly with the breeder.
- Health and temperament guarantee which lasts for months or years…not days. When you are interviewing breeders, ask them to send you their contract before making any commitments, including making a deposit. If there is no contract, you are almost certainly dealing with a puppy mill.
- Typically microchip their puppies for permanent identification so that the animal is always linked to them
- Never state that you must use their veterinarian for a health inspection of the pet.
- Picking your pup. Puppies pick their people as much as people pick them. Each puppy is an individual with his or her own temperament and preferences. It’s crucial that you choose your own puppy after meeting the litter to ensure that your temperaments match. A professional breeder will always help you make a good pairing but will never insist that you purchase one specific puppy.
- AKC papers. An individual advertising that the puppy has “AKC papers” is meaningless. This is a clever strategy used to prey on people who do not understand what this means. The association of the AKC is designed to impress you and it is not indicative of selective breeding, quality, animal temperament or care. We encourage you to visit the AKC’s website to learn about their process of registering breeder puppies.
Where can I start my research?
Contact the state agricultural division.
Assuming you have visited the breeder’s facility and have reviewed their contract, contact the state’s agricultural division. They can validate if the breeder has a license and the facility’s dog occupancy license that tells you how many dogs they are allowed to have on their property.
Why is this important? Professional breeders utilize selective breeding processes and their breeding dogs are special and few. If the occupancy license is for hundreds of animals, you are virtually certain to be dealing with a puppy mill.
Reputable breeders are members of professional breeder associations outside of the AKC. Check your local listings to see if the breeder you select is a member of any of them. You can call these organizations to determine if there are complaints against the breeder or if they are being investigated as a puppy mill. You can also check with the local animal rescue operations, veterinary offices, dog trainers and Better Business Bureau in your town in which the breeder is located.
Professional breeders are the best source for obtaining a healthy and mentally stable puppy. It’s up to you to choose that breeder. Choose wisely – the quality of your life and the life of your puppy depends on it.