So you care about puppy mill pets. Whether they’re parrots, puppies, or pocket pets, you want things to change. This post is all about what you can do to help thwart the efforts of those who would treat animals like widgets in a factory assembly line.

Between your e-mails and comments I received plenty of feedback on last Friday’s post on pet stores and the atrocious places these animals come from. We’re all agreed: it’s disgusting.

Too often, however, we’re all left scratching our heads on how best to handle this problem. After all, ain’t none of us got the power of Oprah. And even she hasn’t been able to make a big dent in this industry, much though she’s tried to warn people away from buying puppy mill pets.

But there is something YOU can do. Thanks to Dr. Phil Zeltzman, veterinary surgeon and pet health newsletter author (sign up for his weekly e-missive here), for this cache of advice:

  • Please do not buy dogs from pet stores or dogs advertised over the Internet.
  • Avoid "breeders" without excellent references.
  • One tipoff [that it’s a puppy mill source] may be a "breeder" with multiple breeds.
  • Ask to see the parents.
  • Ask for health clearances on the parents.
  • Ask if they show the parents in any way: breed ring, agility, obedience, hunting sports. (always a good sign)
  • Some people have an odd belief that people who raise dogs on farms are breeding good dogs and care about them. In fact, some farms have the parents hidden in the back under poor conditions.
  • Adopt from shelters or rescue groups.
  • Do not be an impulse buyer. Sure, with a reputable breeder, you may be put on a waiting list for a puppy, but it is worth the wait.
  • Puppy mills breed for one reason: to make money. They do not care about the quality of the dog or genetic problems.
  • Remember, the puppies may look cute in that store window and many get purchased, but their parents remain stuck in that puppy mill with no way out.
  • It's all about supply and demand, just like with real estate. If the demand decreases; i.e., nobody buys from pet stores, or pet stores don't buy from puppy mills, it will eventually put them out of business.
  • Contact local breed rescue groups or shelters and donate your time or money

I particularly like this last recommendation. It may seem a tad indirect, but any time you donate your time or money to a rescue group or shelter you help bring more healthy pets of all descriptions to people who might otherwise buy the unhealthy wares sold at pet shops across the US.

I’ll also add these few suggestions from my personal stash of what-to-do-to-make-puppy mills-and-pet-shops-go-away-for-good recommendations:

  • Never EVER think you’re “saving” a pet by buying one from a pet shop. Doing so only serves to keep these pet shops and their puppy mill suppliers in business. (You’d be surprised at how many pet shop impulse purchases happen because pet lovers believe they’re doing "a good deed.")
  • If you’re brave enough, consider walking into your local pet shops to check on the conditions of the pups. Call your state’s department of agriculture and your local animal services department to complain if conditions are inadequate.
  • Write letters to your congressional representatives when puppy mill issues arise.
  • Educate your friends and family about pet stores, internet pet sales and puppy mills. Send them this post.

 Dr. Zeltzman also offers the following resources for your learning pleasure:

  • His Web site drphilzeltzman.com has several links about puppy mills (at the bottom of the "Links" page).
  • Visit petfinder.com to find a list of shelters and rescues.
  • Visit stoppuppymills.org to learn more about puppy mills.
  • If you are tough enough to watch it, here is a very short video shot by the SPCA during a raid on a puppy mill in Tennessee.
  • Visit A New Start On Life. Don't even THINK of watching the video unless you have a box of tissues nearby.
  • A very interesting web site about the secret world of pet stores is petshoppuppies.org. The videos (see link on bottom left hand side), although tough to watch, are amazing, with undercover cameras at pet stores and dog auctions. 

Now you’re informed ... so what are you waiting for? Get to work!

Dr. Patty Khuly