Buying a Puppy – Red Flags
There are many people out there who are trying to make a buck as they abuse dogs in the puppy mill industry and take advantage of consumers who don’t know about the horrors, abuse, and neglect that puppies endure from birth. The industry is poorly regulated and if there are violations that are reported, usually the puppy mill will merely be slapped with a warning or maybe a fine. While it may take a combination of signs to indicate a breeder is operating a puppy mill, some of these are direct flags all on their own:
General Warning Signs:
• A no return policy
• A breeder refuses to divulge the name of his or her veterinarian. (If you are given this information, we’re not suggesting you call and interrogate the vet. At least look up the vet’s name and location to ensure it’s legitimate and the vet is still in practice.)
• Advertisements are constantly in the newspaper classifieds, on fliers passed out in public places or listed on the internet to buy puppies from the same person or organization.
• A breeder offers multiple different breeds for sale or “rare” or “new” breeds. Breeding should not be an experiment.
• The seller wants to meet you in a public place to complete the sale.
• The person does not ask you any questions other than money and pickup arrangements. Any legitimate breeder should care who his or her puppies end up with and ensure they are going to suitable homes.
• You are not allowed to meet the breeding parents or view the home or business facility.
• A person claims he or she is selling the puppies as an “agent” for a breeder.
• The puppies are offered for sale and delivery before they reach 8 weeks old.
• There is a recognizable or overwhelming odor that is foul or unpleasant. Beware of an overuse of deodorizers or bleach as this may have been used to cover up an odor, which is usually a sign of a more serious problem.
• The appearance and health of the animals can reveal the level of care they are given. Look for dirty or long coats, missing teeth, eye or nose discharge, overgrown nails, visible injuries or sores, patches of missing fur or excessive scratching.
• Temperament is an important insight as well. Are any of the animals aggressive, vicious, excessively shy or fearful?
• If the cages or containment areas for the animals look more like a parking garage than comfortable accommodations, this is another concern. Animals should have enough room to turn around, stand on their hind legs and have a clean sleeping area away from food and water.
• Animals are contained in an area with urine or feces (or both).
• The animals are not properly protected from the weather. Outdoor facilities should be climate controlled in areas with extreme heat or cold, and adequate shelter for all animals should be available. Look for small structures in disrepair or animals chained to fences, trees or stakes.
• No food or water is visibly available to every animal, or the water is dirty. It takes so little time to clean a bowl and provide fresh water, and this is a blatant sign of neglect that should have sirens going off as soon as you see it.
• Animals are either too skinny or overweight. A healthy weight is a good sign of nutrition and exercise. Underweight puppies are not getting enough food or may be sick, while overweight puppies may be either fed too much or not allowed to exercise.
• The numbers don’t add up. If there is only one or two people at the location but dozens of dogs, it would seem impossible to think each dog gets proper care, exercise and socialization. Unless they work in shifts or have a system for individualized care, ask them to explain their process or check for other signs listed here.
• The breeding parents are not available or kept offsite. So basically their site is where the puppies get dropped off every time the parents breed, and this can also be a sign that the parents are kept in horrible conditions or are being forced to breed with every heat cycle.
• There is only one female breeding. Forcing one dog to constantly breed at every heat cycle is cruel and can cause health concerns. The dogs are also more likely to be destroyed once they are no longer able to produce litters.
• The breeder has no idea how many litters the female has produced. This is scary: The dog was bred so many times or records were never kept of the offspring.
• All of the animals appear to be sleeping or lethargic. This can be a sign of very poor health, or the animals may have been medicated to cover up a more serious problem.
• The “breeder” isn’t knowledgeable about the breed. Someone who doesn’t know about the breed of puppies they are selling will have no insight into properly breeding a healthy dog.
• There are no plans to follow up or stay in contact after purchase. A responsible breeder will want to know how things are going and how one of their puppies is adjusting in their new home.
• If the puppies come from out of state and brought in from the Midwest, it is very likely that they are from puppy mills. There are puppy mill operations everywhere, but the most notorious puppy mills are located in the Midwest (Missouri and Illinois are the most notorious). With very few exceptions, pet shops generally get their puppies from puppy mills.
• It is a very bad sign if the “breeder” is unable to allow you to meet the parents. You should be able to meet the parents of the puppy. After all, you want to know that the parents are healthy.
• If a breeder insists on meeting you somewhere and refuses to bring you to the kennel or their home to see their operation, it is likely that the puppy comes from a puppy mill. You should be permitted to see the conditions of how the kennel is kept and see the treatment of the dogs there.
• Reputable breeders do not offer more than one breed (or possibly two breeds which is a rarity). The whole purpose of breeding is to create puppies that come from generations of healthy dogs.
• You should be able to get documentation of at the very least 2 generations. 3 generations or more is desirable. The puppy’s history and to be able to verify that information. Google is a wonderful tool! Authentic health records for all those dogs should be available. A lot of documentation is falsified.
• If several litters are available so that every couple of weeks there are puppies available, it is very likely that the puppies are being mass produced in puppy mills.
• Although I am against incorrectly vaccinating puppies, if the puppies are unvaccinated, it is quite possible that they come from puppy mills. There are not many people who understand the complexities of vaccination so many reputable breeders might vaccinate. Puppies from puppy mills never have their puppies vaccinated because it is costly and takes away from their profits. Puppy mills are notorious for providing falsified documentation of medical care as well and will assure you that the puppies and their parents are in perfect health.
• Many vendors who sell puppies that come from puppy mills will make promises about the temperament, the exact size to expect, and other detailed characteristics that are untrue.
• A reputable breeder will always require you to agree to and sign a contract stating that you will spay/neuter the puppy. The breeder should always provide authentic breed papers and health contracts that can be verified. Reputable breeders care deeply for each and every dog that they have. Reputable breeders will insist that if things don’t work out with the dog that you will return the dog. These breeders don’t want their precious puppies to wind up in shelters. A reputable breeder will ask plenty of questions – almost like an interview. Before selling a puppy to you they want to be sure that you will provide care that meets the breeder’s high standards. If you don’t live too far, they might also request a home visit.
• Puppies that are sold prior to 8 weeks of age is unacceptable. Puppies need to develop with their mother and their littermates. The mother’s milk provides essential nutrients. In fact, that nutrients helps develop the puppy’s immune system and is extremely important for the healthy development of the puppy. The puppy also requires sufficient time with the littermates in for their social and emotional development. Breeders who sell puppies earlier than 8 weeks are neglecting to provide the most basic necessities of a puppy. In doing so, they cut costs of caring for the puppies and keeps their business moving rapidly.
• NEVER EVER buy from ads or from online stores on the internet. People advertising on the internet could be scammers. A reputable breeder does not need to resort to such advertising. The internet provides sellers with anonymity and quick sales.
Lotz, Kristina. “10 Signs That A Puppy Is From a Puppy Mill.” IHeartDogscom. Iheartdogs.com, 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 June 2015. <http://iheartdogs.com/10-signs-that-puppy-is-from-a-puppy-mill/>.