I'm searching for the perfect dog. Of course, "perfect" is in the eye of the beholder. That can be seen on any given day at Petland Naperville, where they can have up to 100 (or more!) different puppies for sale. This gives me a great place to observe many different breeds of dogs in one setting. This got me to thinking though...how can there be so many different breeds in one place? How do I know that these are dogs that aren't puppy mill dogs? What is a "puppy mill" anyway, and why should I care if my puppy comes from a puppy mill or not? I decided that I needed to know how to identify a puppy mill puppy vs. a non puppy mill puppy. I looked up pet stores near me and decided to speak with a Pet Counselor at Petland Naperville, and I learned quite a lot about this subject.
The first thing that I learned was the history of the term "puppy mill." In the 1940's after World War II, America started to see an increase in dogs as family pets. Did you know that even Sears sold puppies? The problem was the dogs for sale weren't necessarily the healthiest. Many farmers who switched from farming to puppy breeding didn't quite know how to do it. Sure, you can take a male and a female dog, breed them and get puppies, but how do you know that the puppies are healthy and have no genetic problems? Breeding back then wasn't necessarily done to promote the healthiest puppies, but rather the most puppies. It was because of this growing problem that the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) came to be. The US Department of Agriculture oversees this Act, which includes licensing over 4500 animal dealers that must be in compliance with providing the required amount of space for every dog, minimum standards for its shelter, feeding, fresh water requirements, a veterinary care program, and satisfactory sanitation procedures. While the AWA defines the minimum standards most commercial breeders go far beyond these minimum requirements. An important fact that I learned is that not every commercial breeder is licensed by the USDA. In fact, less than 20% of breeders hold themselves to the standards determined within the AWA.
So, how do I know if a puppy came from a licensed facility or a puppy mill? JUST ASK! Believe me, if the puppy comes from a USDA-licensed facility, it will be well-documented and advertised. Petland Naperville is a puppy store that only deals with USDA-licensed facilities and hobby breeders, and they make sure that their customers know this. They will not buy puppies from a puppy mill and in fact want every puppy mill closed. What this means is that the breeders met and/or exceeded every requirement to be licensed, and their puppies have been purposefully bred with heredity and health in mind. If you decide to buy a puppy from a "hobby breeder" (someone who has less than 4 females for breeding), be sure you are aware of how well they will stand behind their puppy should a problem arise. At pet stores like Petland Naperville, ask to see the breeder information and their USDA report. Inquire of the pet store has visited the breeders facilities to see the conditions the puppies are bred in. See if they also have some pictures for you to look at. Do your homework, and remember that you want a healthy puppy. Petland Naperville does visit the breeders they do business with and holds them to a very high standard to ensure they receive only the healthiest and best puppies available.