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The Truth About Puppy Mills

On its Web site, the Humane Society of the United States defines puppy mills as “breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers.

The puppies are sold either directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, at the mill itself, or are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country.”

To many people, that definition is a bit broad. Puppy mills, in addition to being simply large-scale breeding facilities, are usually places where sickly puppies and their often overbred mothers are crowded into tiny cages, malnourished and living in squalor.

The poor conditions and lack of human interaction are bad for the puppies, no doubt, but they can also become problems for an owner who unwittingly obtains a puppy bred and raised in one of these disturbing places. Puppy-mill puppies can have serious health problems which don’t become evident until years after they’ve been adopted.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of puppy mills in the United States, alone, despite the federal Animal Welfare Act. They are still in existence in large part because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the AWA, is simply stretched too thin to locate and close down all of them.

Even worse, many of these puppies are bought by pet stores, which in turn sell them to unsuspecting pet lovers, often even providing falsified registration papers.

The HSUS estimates that pet stores in the U.S. sell about half a million puppies each year, and though not all pet stores are guilty of dealing with puppy mills, there is a certain lack of regulation which makes it easy enough for them to do.

Though the Animal Welfare Act lists humane care and handling requirements, it excludes “retail pet stores” from following those requirements, and the USDA considers any dealer who sells his animals directly to the public to be a retail pet store. Therefore, these dealers aren’t required to apply for licensing.

The sales of pets via newspapers and the internet makes it even easier for disreputable breeders and dealers to unload puppy-mill puppies because buyers are so often unable even to see the animal they’re purchasing or his living conditions.

So what can you do if you find yourself the proud owner of a puppy-mill puppy? Seventeen U.S. states now have puppy “lemon laws” which allow buyers to be refunded or reimbursed for veterinary bills if they’ve purchased a sick puppy.

But, these laws offer only limited protection for the buyer, and they offer no comfort at all when a beloved pet suddenly develops serious health problems stemming from her deplorable upbringing.

Your best bet is to avoid puppy-mill puppies as best you can. Before getting a dog, research her background as thoroughly as possible, and make sure to take her to the vet for a complete physical before finalizing any purchase.

There are a few things you can do to help close down puppy mills.

* Contact state and federal officials and ask them to help enforce the existing laws and to pass new ones.

* Visit local pet stores and find out where it gets its puppies. If you deal with the pet store, insist on seeing health certificates and breed registry papers, which should list the breeder or dealer’s name and address.

* Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper outlining the puppy mill problem and its effects.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to urge others to be careful when it comes to getting a pet. Educate them about the dangers of puppy mills and encourage them not to buy from anyone who deals with puppy mills. The only definite way to stop them is to keep them from profiting from their abuse.

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