How to Identify Reputable Dog Breeders and Report Suspected Puppy Mills

Reputable dog breeders or hobby breeders have a passion for their breed and work toward the betterment of it. Many aim to preserve, protect, and promote the breed standard to ensure the dogs maintain the right structure, temperament, and work ethic. These breeders are driven to produce better, healthier dogs and quality pets that serve as companion dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, tracking dogs, and police dogs.

Reputable breeders ensure dogs are free from disease and undesirable temperament traits. They often work closely with local veterinarians.

Health Testing for Dogs

Puppies should have undergone health test requirements such as hip, thyroid, heart evaluations, amongst others. The American Kennel Club published a list of requirements for AKC registered dogs. Find your breed here to determine what health checks should have been done.  For other registrations, there may be different requirements.

Find a Breeder and Visit the Facility

Happy Puppy From Reputable Breeder on SwingsetBefore you visit any breeder, prepare yourself with a list of questions. Consider asking:

  • How often do you breed your dogs?
  • How long have you bred dogs?
  • Do you breed in consecutive heats? 
  • Before you bred them, did you screen for health problems common to the breed? May I see the results?
  • What is the health history of this line of dogs? 
  • Why did you choose to breed these two dogs?
  • Do you belong to a breed club? Do you subscribe to its ethical code?
  • Do puppies come with a veterinary health certificate or health guarantee?
  • If the puppy has a hereditary disease, do I bring the puppy back to you?
  • Have your dogs earned any titles?
  • What are the negatives and positives of owning this breed?
  • What care is required for the breed?
  • Can you provide references from other buyers?
  • May I see the parents? 
  • How old are the parents? 
  • Are the sire and dam registered? 
  • When was the puppy weaned from its mother?
  • How many litters has the mother produced? (A healthy female should not produce more than four to five litters during her lifetime.)
  • Have both parents been screened for parasites and communicable diseases like whipworms, tapeworms or Brucellosis?
  • Have both parents been screened for hip and eye defects before breeding? 
  • Do you require the puppies to be spayed or neutered?
  • May I read the contract?
  • Do I need to use your vet for a health inspection? Am I free to use my own? 
  • Is the puppy older than eight weeks old?
  • How many dogs do you have on site? 
  • What training do you recommend after I bring the puppy home?
  • How soon does the puppy need to go for its initial exam?

How to Report Suspected Puppy Mills

When you visit, take note of lighting, ventilation, state of repair, cleanliness, exercise areas, kennel size, and overall appearance. Is there an isolation area for newborns, show dogs, and sick dogs? Are elimination and bedding areas clean? Is fresh water available? Are the animals raised on a generic diet, or are they given a high-quality food? Does the breeder properly store medications, keep good records, and take the appropriate steps to prevent worm infestation? Are there a modest number of dogs? Also, take note of the socialization of the puppies and the condition of the dogs. The dogs should look well fed and be clean. Notice if the puppies are lethargic, coughing or have skin sores. Look for protruding rib cages and signs of malnutrition.

Please note: We do not take liability for any puppy as we are not sellers, but if, for any reason, you are not comfortable with a seller or the conditions in which a puppy is living, , We keep track of concerns and may investigate further.

You can also report suspected puppy mills to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service by filing an Animal Welfare Complaint or contact The Humane Society of the United States to Report a Puppy Mill. 

Responsible Dog Breeders May Question You 

Dog from reputable breeder in woman's armsMany responsible breeders are selective about who gets their puppies and will ask about:

  • Proof that you’re allowed to have a dog if you live in an apartment or condo
  • Fulfilling the dog’s exercise requirements
  • Family allergies
  • Why you want a dog
  • Children, if any, in the household
  • Ongoing grooming
  • Veterinarian options
  • Primary care responsibilities 
  • Returning the puppy to the breeder’s care if the buyer cannot care for the animal

Puppy mills should never be confused with legal breeders who follow state and federal laws. Professional kennels pride themselves on meeting stringent legal requirements, and these facilities should not be labeled "puppy mills," just because they breed dogs or have more than one breed of dog.

In the end, it is your good judgment that counts the most, so pay careful attention to the environment, the breeder, and the puppies themselves to ensure a positive buying experience.

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