Remember Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s mostly faithful, sometimes adorable, but always interesting pet beagle? Well, he had a backstory: his point of sale was a puppy farm, specifically the fictional Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, a place so benign that Snoopy often wrote them to see how they were doing since his departure.
These days, when you hear about places like these, they’re instead called “puppy mills,” and that’s not just a politically correct rebranding. When you buy a puppy now, especially from a pet store, its point of origin is more often than not a facility that can hold up to 1000 dogs of various ages and types. The difference these days is the maximization of profit at the animals’ expense: puppies are bred constantly until the mothers are nearly dead, with no regard for congenital health problems and disease, in cages barely large enough to move in stacked like crates in a warehouse, then sold to an unsuspecting general public.
If you’re expecting the law to step in and do something about this outrage, think again. Thanks to a loophole in federal law, only mills that sell directly to customers need to meet health guidelines, which means that most of these operations conduct themselves with impunity. Merely being licensed to sell puppies carries with it no guarantee that these animals are being bred humanely. Worse, puppies that have “papers” are simply those who know where their parents are from. It’s not a symbol of purebred origin, much less humane breeding.
So what can you the consumer do? First, adopt a puppy from a shelter, which are actually much more likely to be healthy and well-behaved than those in a pet store, and you’ll be saving a life in the process. If you want a purebred dog and can’t find one at a shelter, contact a rescue group for the breed you want or meet face to face with a reputable breeder, one who also checks you out to make sure his offspring are headed for a happy home. See where the puppy comes from, not only his point of origin but hus actual parents. Never buy a puppy online under any circumstances. And if you want to take a more active role, find a shelter with mill survivors and buy one, literally saving a dog from the horror.