What is a "Puppy Mill" or "Back Yard Breeder"? How
would you know one from any other breeder?
Not very long ago, people knew that a "PUPPY MILL" was a kennel where unhealthy
dogs of poor quality were mass produced in deplorable, horrific conditions.

Now a days, it's not that easy. In the last 10 to 15 years, activist groups and self
righteous pet owners and breeders have broaden that term to include just about any
kennel or breeder that they didn't like. Many Commercial Kennels and Hobby
Breeders with more than the "correct" number of dogs or litters have become targets
for animals rights and anti-breeding groups that lobby for laws and resrictions on law
abiding and legal operations. By blurring the lines between responsible breeding
operations and real puppy mills, these activist groups have stired up public support
for breeding restrictions, spay/neuter laws, and high license fees. We as voters need
to make sure that the laws and restrictions that we vote on are actually targeting the
puppy mills, illegal operations, and Back Yard Breeders that they are intended for.
Some of these laws are so generic, (i.e. mandatory spay/neuter laws), that they
unfairly impact responsible breeders.

So, what is a puppy mill? Is it:
>  A dirty, trashy place where one or several breeds of dogs are kept in deplorable
conditions with little or no medical care and puppies are always available
>  Any high volume kennel
>  A clean place where several breeds of dogs are raised in adequate conditions and
the breeder usually or always has puppies for sale
>  A place where a single breed of dog is raised in acceptable conditions and puppies
are usually or often available
>  A place where lots of dogs are raised, where breeding is done solely for financial
gain rather than protection of breed integrity, and where puppies are sold to brokers
or to pet stores
I guess it really depends on who you talk to.

The Hobby Breeder, dedicated to preserving the integrity of a particular breed or
two, might consider all of the above to be puppy mills. Shelters and rescue
organizations would probably agree, but operators of legal, clean, commercial
kennels, licensed by the USDA and/or by the state in which they operate, will
animately protest any mention of the term, "puppy mill" for it damages their business,
their reputation, and the pet stores they deal with.

To the average person, a puppy mill is those places they read about in the paper or
see on TV. Dogs kept in filth and feces with runny noses and mange, neglected, half
starved and cramped into tiny cages, one on top of the other. The kennel owner is
taped screaming some obscenity, being hauled off by the authorities. Is this an
accurate portrayal or is it the television crew looking for the most sensational story
they can find and applying these deplorable conditions to the entire dog production
industry? I think it is the latter.

Don't believe everything you see on TV. Not all high volume kennels can be lumped
into the same category as these puppy mills.

Another term that is thrown around rather recklessly is "Back Yard Breeder". These
so called Back Yard Breeders are the main contributors to the over population of
pets in this country. The end result being hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats
being euthenized every year in our shelters. To me, this term refers to a person who
breeds their dog with little knowledge of bloodlines, breed standards, or proper
temperament and structure. They do no health testing for inherent genetic disorders
nor do they feel it necessary to title their dogs in conformation showing, working dog
venues, or field trials. These breedings may have been deliberate for profit or
merely accidental, but in all, they have not taken the time, money, and effort to
properly research and insure that they are breeding to better the breed.

One can not miss the classified ads that claim "purebred" with no papers. Other
terms to look for that should send up red flags are, "excellent bloodlines", which
means they probably don't have a clue as to pedigrees, and "champion bloodlines",
which means that somewhere in this dogs pedigree is a champion or two. In
rottweilers you will see the terms "German" or "European" and even "American
Rott". This clearly demonstrates the ignorance of the breeder.
All rottweilers can
trace their pedigrees back to Germany, after all that is the country of origin for this
breed. Regardless of whether they were born here in the United States or abroad, all
rottweilers being used as breeding stock should comply with the breed standard in
every aspect. Another sales ploy is the term "rare colors", "large or over sized",
"colossal", "Roman", "gladiator", I have even seen "miniature".

Any dog that does not comply to the breed standard in conformation and
temperament, should not be bred. Any dog that is not registered and is not health
tested for genetic disorders, should not be bred. Although you may think that you
have the most wonderful dog, that doesn't mean that it is worthy of being bred. To
disregard these basic breeding principals makes you a "Back Yard Breeder", no
matter how good your intentions are.
The following definitions are from an excerpt from the online magazine
Dog Owner's Guide",
(click on the link to go to their site)
and was written by Norma Bennett Woolf

"It is deceptively easy to say that John Jones or Mary Smith runs a puppy mill or that pet store
puppies come from puppy mills, but the label is tossed about so frequently and with so little
regard for accuracy that each prospective dog owner should ascertain for himself whether or
not he wishes to buy a dog from John Jones, Mary Smith, a pet store, or a hobby breeder.
Here are our Dog Owner's Guide definitions to help you decide:
Hobby Breeder:  A breed fancier who has a breed or two (or even three); follows a breeding
plan to preserve and protect each breed; produces a limited number of litters each year;
breeds only when a litter will enhance the breed and the breeding program; raises the puppies
with plenty of environmental stimulation and human contact; has a contract that protects
breeder, puppy, and buyer; raises dog in the house or runs a small, clean kennel; screens
breeding stock to eliminate hereditary defects; works with a breed club or kennel club to
promote and protect the breed; and cares that each and every puppy is placed in the best
home possible.

Commercial Breeder:  One who usually has several breeds of dogs with profit as the primary
motive for existence. Commercial breeders that are inspected by the USDA, state agencies, or
the American Kennel Club should have adequate conditions. Commercial breeders that sell
directly to the public fall through the regulatory cracks unless they do business in a state that
licenses commercial kennels. Dogs in these kennels may be healthy or not and their
conditions may be acceptable or not. The dogs are probably not screened for genetic
diseases, and the breeding stock may or may not be selected for resemblance to the breed
standard or for good temperament.

Broker:  One who collects dogs from commercial kennels and sells to retail outlets or other
kennels. Brokers ship puppies on airlines or by truckload throughout the country. Brokers
must be licensed by USDA and must abide by the shipping regulations in the Animal Welfare

Buncher:  One who collects dogs of unknown origin for sale to laboratories or other bunchers
or brokers. Bunchers are considered lower on the evolutionary scale than puppy mill
operators, for there is much suspicion that they buy stolen pets, collect pets advertised as
"Free to a good home", and adopt unwanted pets from animal shelters for sale to research
laboratories. USDA licenses and inspects bunchers to make sure that they abide by the
Animal Welfare Act.

Amateur Breeder:  A dog owner whose pet either gets bred by accident or who breeds on
purpose for a variety of reasons. This breeder may be ignorant of the breed standard,
genetics, behavior, and good health practices. An amateur breeder can very easily become a
hobby breeder or a commercial breeder, depending on his level of interest or need for income.

A Real Puppy Mill:  A breeder who produces puppies with no breeding program, little attention
to puppy placement, and poor health and socialization practices. Conditions in puppy mills are
generally substandard and may be deplorable, and puppies and adult dogs may be
malnourished, sickly, and of poor temperament.
Prospective buyers should keep these definitions in mind when seeking a puppy to
add to their lives"
Please make sure to check out our "Questions to ask before you buy" page.