4.5 min read (Articles narrated by Mabel)
Humans are more likely to trust people and businesses that are licensed. That’s why many people don’t think twice when buying from a “USDA-licensed” breeder. You would think that a licensed breeder would be the most reputable and humane, but sadly, that’s far from the case. We’ve recently realized that a USDA-licensed breeder is more of a red flag than anything else.
How Can a USDA License Be a Bad Thing?
Not all breeders need a USDA license, and the shocking reality is that the best ones are usually the ones that don’t have or need one. A USDA license is only required if the breeder has more than four female breeding dogs at once. Breeders who sell to pet stores and online retailers need this license too. If you know anything about the puppy industry, you might recognize that those requirements are also signs that a breeder is a puppy mill.
A good breeder only focuses on one breed at a time (maybe two in rare cases). They rarely have several breeding dogs because they care about the dogs they’re breeding and want to ensure that they’re as healthy and loved as possible. From what I’ve seen, a reputable breeder is in the business because they want to breed healthy purebred dogs, so they’re more interested in the dogs than the money. They don’t have puppies sitting around waiting to be sold. Instead, you’ll likely need to wait for a puppy to become available to you.
So, a breeder like the one I just described wouldn’t need a USDA license. The only breeders who need to obtain one are the ones breeding too many dogs at a time. Even at the minimum, four breeding dogs is a lot to handle once the puppies come along. It’s unlikely that those breeding dogs would get the same care and attention that they would if they were the only set of breeding dogs. These are aspects of buying a puppy that many humans don’t even consider. But they should because dogs’ lives are at stake.
What Defines a “Puppy Mill”?
Of course, a puppy mill will never admit that they’re a puppy mill. They’ll called themselves breeders just like any other dog breeder. While there’s not just one definition for a puppy mill, it’s usually described as a “high-volume breeding industry.” So, there’s a wide range of puppy mills, and some are much more horrific than others. But Molly normally labels a puppy mill as any breeding location where the dogs aren’t getting proper care.
Puppy mill breeders will try to convince you that their dogs are well cared for. Yet, if they have several breeding dogs on the property, it’s unlikely that those dogs are in the best shape. The more dogs they have breeding, the more corners they’re likely to cut. So, unless a breeder is very knowledgeable about the breed and only has one breeding female at a time, you should be cautious. A reputable breeder won’t be quick to breed their one dog over and over again either.
How Do Puppy Mills Get Licensed?
You might be wondering: “how are puppy mills getting licensed when they’re so horrible?” Honestly, this is a concept that I still don’t fully understand. The USDA needs to license these facilities because they’re considered a “wholesale operation.” So, they’re treated as a commercial business rather than a way to add a family member.
Sadly, the regulations for these businesses usually aren’t strict. There are no laws requiring dogs to be walked, played with, or loved. So, as long as the dogs get the bare minimum, even if it’s in a cage that’s barely big enough for them, it’s legal. In extreme cases, puppy mills will get violated, but it’s rare for their licenses to get suspended because of it. When a puppy mill gets shut down, that’s an extreme example of what they look like. But think about how many other puppy mills are getting away with their businesses just because they’re doing things in a slightly less awful way.
I will never understand why the restrictions for these businesses aren’t stricter. Yet, I’m even more disappointed that these places exist at all. The USDA wouldn’t need to be licensing breeders if there weren’t people mass-producing puppies.
It’s Safer to Adopt!
Every time Molly finds out more information about inhumane breeding businesses, I know it makes her more passionate about adopting and fostering. There are so many people who buy puppies without realizing they’re from a puppy mill. Of course, there are some humane breeders out there, but adopting is the only way to guarantee that you’re not accidentally supporting an animal abuser.
If you think you can’t get your dream dog from a rescue, think again! Rescues and shelters have a wide range of animals available, from puppies to seniors. Getting a new family member should never be rushed, so take your time and meet lots of dogs. Then, you can decide which one is best for your family. It might end up being one that you never expected!
After fostering so many dogs, we can confirm that every rescue dog is wonderful if you’re willing to give them a chance. Please avoid questionable “USDA-licensed” breeders so we can put an end to puppy mills once and for all!
*Featured in this post are photos of puppy mill survivors Molly has cared for. They all happen to be Maltese since that’s a high-demand breed. (Featured Image – Phoebe, our 15th foster dog hiding in the basement. First Image in Post – Tuck, our 7th foster dog on the day the rescue saved him. Last Image – Zoe, Molly’s childhood rescue dog.)
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