The Vet is In:

Adopt from Shelters: Shun Puppy Mills

In my practice, I am often introduced to a newly-acquired puppy whose ecstatic guardian assures me that they did not get their new friend from a puppy mill, but rather from a “private breeder” whom they found on-line. Alternatively, a new guardian tells me their new pup came from a local pet store, in which case they are unwittingly supporting puppy mills. If a prospective owner is seeking a puppy and asks whom I would recommend, I invariably refer them to the animal shelters and rescue groups in my area who save unwanted dogs, both locally and from southern shelters, check them for health issues, and offer them to the public through adoption clinics after carefully screening the applicant.

If a prospective owner is seeking a puppy and asks whom I would recommend, I invariably refer them to the animal shelters and rescue groups in my area who save unwanted dogs, both locally and from southern shelters…

In the latter situation, the new guardian is not supporting the horrendous cruelty that puppy mills subject their “produce” to, but is rather offering a home to a dog whose existence is due to lax spay/neuter practices in a community, rather than being mass-produced to add to the profits of a cruel commercial breeding program. For clients who are unaware of puppy mill practices, I refer them to the Internet to learn the grim facts from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the U.S. who have investigated puppy mills exhaustively.

The public’s increasing awareness of the brutality of these enterprises has made producers adopt a different subterfuge: they now display puppies on the Internet rather than in pet stores. The websites depict beautiful snuggled puppies in an immaculate background — a falsified image compared to the reality of the filth and disease of the stacked wired cages where these pups receive no socializing or humane care. The location of the “breeder” is not specified, but the prospective buyer is assured that this pup has been given the best of care, and will be shipped to the new owner at a very young age.

So how does one distinguish a conscientious breeder from a puppy mill with a sophisticated and dishonest marketing program? The following details should make a prospective buyer suspicious.

  • The location of the breeder is not specified; the pup will be shipped by plane to the new owner, or the owner will drive to pick up the puppy at some commercial location.
  • The breeder has numerous breeds and colors available.
Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM

Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM

  • The pup will have received multiple vaccinations and deworming treatments at a very young age.
  • The puppy may be registered with the American Kennel Club.
  • Puppies typically originate from MO, MS, AR, OH, PA, or, in New York, where there are a growing number of puppy mills.

A reputable breeder focuses on one breed, is proud to show you their puppies, the parents, and their set-up in a site visit, and may have had a prior veterinary exam for the puppy. Often, the parents will have been screened for health issues (e.g. hip dysplasia, cardiac abnormalities, or ocular diseases.) If you must adopt from a breeder, these are the ones to support.

However, NYSHA hopes that prospective buyers will contact the rescue groups in their area to look for local adoption clinics, thereby giving a home to a dog in need so that he/she is not housed in a shelter for life: there is never enough room in shelters for all the strays needing homes. In addition, we ask you to support those pet stores that do not sell dogs and instead offer “adoption clinics,” run by local rescue groups.

Please spread the word!

Holly Cheever, DVM

NYSHA’s VP, Dr. Holly Cheever, is a partner in a small animal practice, the Village Animal Clinic, in Voorheesville, NY. She sits on several boards for animal issues, is a speaker and consultant across the nation, and has testified before Congress about animal abuse in circuses, as well as in New York City regarding the carriage horse trade.


New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXXI Winter/Spring 2017.

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