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By Melissa Cronin

Puppy mills, or large commercial facilities that breed dogs to sell to pet stores, show little regard for the well-being of the animals they’re breeding. Not only are the puppies born into overcrowded and unsanitary conditions — the breeding dogs are also often kept in separate, confined cages.

1. Nearly all of the dogs sold at pet stores come from puppy mills.

Do not support a pet store that sells dogs, 90 percent of pet store puppies are from puppy mills.

2. Even if a pet store says it doesn’t use puppy mills, there’s no way to really know.

Lots of pet stores say that they buy their dogs from responsible breeders. But according to the Humane Society of the United States the organization behind this week’s Puppy Mills Action Week, the word “breeder” can apply to anyone who puts two dogs together. In addition, an actual responsible breeder usually doesn’t want to sell her dogs to a pet store — they’d prefer to sell them in person to a buyer. Even if a breeder is USDA or government inspected, he can still legally house dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs in small wire cages for their entire lives.

3. There’s no guarantee the dog is healthy.

Many puppies sold in pet stores bring health problems and injuries along with them. Even if they are sold with a health certificate, it only means the dog has passed a brief “wellness” check by a veterinarian — this doesn’t require checks for genetic disorders, parasites or testing for diseases such as Giardia and Brucellosis — both of which run rampant in puppy mills and are contagious to humans.

4. They often have worse psychological problems.

A 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that dogs bred in puppy mills showed greater psychological problems as adults than those that weren’t. The puppy mill dogs showed greater aggression toward their owners and other dogs as well as a greater chance of escaping, roaming, and running away. This is related to both the small, isolated conditions they are raised in, but also the stress their mothers went through while pregnant.

5. It costs taxpayers … a lot.

Credit: Getty Puppy mills don’t just hurt animals — they hurt taxpayers, too. Not only is there the cost of law enforcement, cleanup and euthanasia for sick animals when a particularly bad puppy mill is busted, taxpayers must also absorb the cost of sheltering, rehabilitating and housing animals that are rescued from puppy mills. A single raid on a large-scale puppy mill can cost taxpayers a whopping $100,000.

6. Adopted dogs are usually healthier and less expensive.

Almost all animal shelters give dogs examinations and vaccinations, as well as spaying or neutering them before they are adopted. Shelter employees also usually take more care to match the temperament of a dog with his or her prospective owner and household. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the adoption fees at a shelter are often much less than a pet store price tag — and the proceeds go to rescuing other dogs.

7. There are millions of shelter dogs are in desperate need of homes.

Each year, about 2.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States because they are abandoned by their owners, and shelters don’t have enough room to house them. If more people adopted from shelters instead of supporting puppy mills, this number would drop, and fewer dogs would be euthanized for lack of space. To learn more about adopting a dog and how to find a good shelter, the Shelter Pet Project has great resources — and an easy adoption finder.

Despite their claims, pet stores almost always sell puppies that come from puppy mills, where dogs are kept in cramped cages and denied a humane quality of life. Join us in pledging to never support a pet store or an Internet site that sells puppies, and take a stand against cruel puppy mills.