The dark side of shopping for dogs online

San Francisco SPCA Takes on Puppy Mills

pup behind bars

"It's difficult to tell the difference between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill online." Doing online research is one thing, but "just don't buy online. It's an 18-year commitment. You owe it to yourself and the dog to get in your car and go see what you're getting. Go see what you're supporting. Go meet the parents and see where the puppies are kept." A reputable breeder is also going to care about you and the home you're going to offer the pup. Don't just point and click for your next dog... It's an important relationship—take the time to get it right. 

Over the years, the Internet has enabled a lot of instant gratification when it comes to impulse buying, and it turns out that shopping for your new best friend is no exception. National statistics suggest that about 25% of dogs in American homes are bought online these days, the overwhelming majority of them from puppy mills—essentially, operations that treat dogs as industrial equipment for cranking out product, and care little for the welfare of parents or puppies.

Locally, the San Francisco SPCA started noticing that a high percentage of people who brought their dog to the SPCA's veterinary and spay/neuter clinics said they'd bought the dogs from online breeders. Conducting a survey, the SPCA found that about 30% of the local dogs in its sample appeared to be puppy mill alumni. And all too often, these dogs end up in the shelter system, with health or behavior issues due to their bad start in life.

RangerThe SF SPCA, of course, would love it if people adopted from them (consider the lovely Lab Ranger, for example...) instead of buying from a breeder, says co-president Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, DVM.

However, the SF SPCA, which found homes for over 4,000 critters last year, recognizes that it's all about finding the perfect match for a happy lifelong relationship—and some people have their hearts set on a dog of a particular breed, and a puppy at that. Shelters and breed rescue have lots of purebred dogs and even puppies who need homes, but, they advise, if you're set on going to a breeder, do your homework and find a reputable one. Many reputable breeders with great puppies are on the Internet, too—how can you tell them from puppy mills?

Online, Dr. Scarlett says, "anyone can put up pictures of a pretty facility"—as demonstrated in the SF SPCA's video. "It's difficult to tell the difference between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill online."

Doing online research is one thing, but "just don't buy online. It's an 18-year commitment. You owe it to yourself and the dog to get in your car and go see what you're getting. Go see what you're supporting. Go meet the parents and see where the puppies are kept." A reputable breeder is also going to care about you and the home you're going to offer the pup.

Don't just point and click for your next dog... It's an important relationship—take the time to get it right. 

Photo: Ranger—SF SPCA

Posted on: May 25, 2012

Puppy mills, san francisco spca, reputable breeders
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