I wrote a column recently that included information about puppy mills, and had a number of inquiries about it, both questions about what can be done, and comments on how they fell victim to one of these scams. So, I thought it might be good to get some more info out there.
Puppy mills or “backyard breeders” are still around, but hopefully we can put them out of business is everyone is aware of how to avoid giving money to people who abuse animals.
First recommendation is to adopt. Whether it’s a puppy or a senior dog, from a rescue group or a shelter, if you can give a homeless dog a place in your family, please do so. Just an observation, when you adopt, there is a fee. That fee is usually very minimal, and at best covers some of the costs involved in adopting out the pet, shots, chip, spay/neuter, dental, etc. If you are able, I’d suggest making an additional donation to the shelter or rescue group of an amount equal to the adoption fee. If everyone did this, these people could do a whole lot more for homeless animals, and it is still a very modest fee to pay for a companion animal.
If you do decide to buy a dog, the most important thing you can do is research. Research to decide what kind of dog to get, what breed fits your family and lifestyle. Once you have decided on a breed, research breeders. Go to dog shows, surf the net, find someone that does a good job in raising healthy animals in a proper environment.
Unfortunately, a large number of people use online marketplaces to find their puppy. While there are some very good breeders that use these sites, there are also a lot of scammers. Sometimes, they may have a very attractive price, which should be a red flag. Sometimes it will be a cute cross that seems irresistible. Another red flag, responsible breeders rarely deal in crosses.
Many will offer delivery service, which is by far the biggest warning signal. Even worse are the “meet you part way” people, who want to meet you for the first and only time in a parking lot. Now, if you have already visited the facility and chosen your puppy and they offer to deliver, that’s fine. But if you’ve ever seen the puppy or the facility, you are asking for trouble meeting up in a parking lot and giving someone cash. And if they offer to bring a few puppies for you to choose from, well, no. Just no.
Know who you are dealing with, get their information. Address, name, phone number, even license plate number can all be valuable information going forward. Get a receipt, with their name, address and phone number, and a 72 hour guarantee “pending veterinarian inspection”. If they won’t offer than, there is a reason. If they won’t let you see the puppy interacting with mom and siblings, there is a reason. And these reasons are never good. Walk away.
Many breeders offer a “health certificate” or a “health pamphlet” that outlines the shots and exams the animal has received. These are not worth the paper they are written on unless there is a way of specifically identifying that this is the animal noted on the paper. Microchips are inexpensive, and a 100% unique identifier for the animal. There is no reason a breeder would not chip their puppies, as any buyer will gladly pay a few dollars extra for the chip. And that way, you can be sure the documents apply to this specific animal.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take some extra time, do some extra research, and you can avoid thousands in added vet bills and a lifetime of issues dealing with and caring for an animal that was badly bred or abused as a pup. Not all puppy mill / backyard bred dogs are bad, but far too many are to take the risk. And giving money to them “to save the pup from them” just encourages them to keep doing it. Rather, report them to the authorities, and let the authorities know you’d be willing to adopt one of the pups. That will help shut them down and still get the pups a good home.