Good vs. Bad Breeders

Written on May 22, 2019 by Meagan Dunn, Emergency & General Practice Technician Hospital: Bulger Veterinary Hospital

The definition of a puppy mill is: “An establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane.”  You can easily look up photos, and even videos that depict how poor the conditions of puppy mills are.

But unless you see it for yourself in real life, you truly do not understand how terrible it really is for all of the animals involved.

The bad breeders0*TgrkcBabPOb1K4fe.

There is a misconception that all dog breeding is bad, which is not the case. The most inhumane way of breeding is done in puppy mills. Like mentioned before, the conditions are poor and there is little to no health checks. The photo to the right was taken by Jacki Flanigan, part of “walk with the pack”.

The good breedersgoodbreeder

Do a complete 180 on the breeding wheel, and you have the professional breeders. They are reputable, responsible, and caring to the dogs. They seek veterinary advice, take care of their puppies, and make sure the dogs and puppies are happy and clean.

The important thing is to distinguish these different types of breeding, and know how to recognize a puppy mill or backyard breeder, versus a professional breeder.

Good breeding practices

Most breeds of dogs go into heat every 6 months. Of course, this varies from dog to dog depending on the size and breed. Professional breeders may or may not breed female during every heat cycle. They are very intuitive of their dog’s health, and will allow the mother to take a break if they feel she needs one.

They also make sure that the mother and all of the puppies are examined by a licensed veterinarian, and up to date on vaccines that are appropriate.

Their dogs are carefully bred, and testing after breeding confirms that both parents are healthy.

james-brooks-puppiesAll animals involved have a clean and spacious home, are properly socialized, and overall happy and loved.

Good breeders will also allow you to see where the puppies and their parents live, and will always provide you with proper paperwork for your new family addition.

There should never be any secrets if you are working with a top-notch breeder.

“The amount of homeless dogs in shelters is huge, but good, responsible breeders aren’t adding to the problem. Unethical puppy mill and cat factory breeders do add to pet overpopulation though. And California is putting a foot down.”  This was a quote from a California newspaper after making big law changes in their state.

Bad Breeding Practices

Puppy mill breeding is done under very poor conditions, and is frankly quite the opposite of how responsible breeders are.

The dogs are bred every heat cycle no matter what their condition is.

They do not receive adequate veterinary care, sanitation, housing, nutrition or even socialization. Their kennels are small and cramped, and their eliminations are not cleaned up.

Some of the female dogs canine teeth are removed so they cannot fight off being bred.

They often develop illnesses that are not addressed and/or treated. A few of these illnesses are: hip dysplasia along with other joint problems, renal disease, heart disease, anemia, and diabetes. The puppies may also get diseases from unsanitary living conditions such as kennel cough which could lead to aspiration pneumonia, parvovirus, and other diseases that can lead to death.

Not only are the mothers forced to keep producing puppies, they are also commonly in pain from a disease that could have been prevented or managed. Examples of how overbred these dogs are breeds such as the Bull Terrier, the Boxer, and the German Shepherd and how they have changed over the past 100 years.


There are drastic changes in many breeds due to high demand. They were inbred, and that caused not only physical appearances to change, but also created new health and behavior issues.

So how do I tell a good breeder from a puppy mill?

“How do I know if I am getting a puppy from a puppy mill?” is a very common question and concern. There are many things to lead you to believe that you are getting a dog or puppy from a mill.

One of the biggest red flags is if the person selling the puppy does not allow you to see where the animals are living, or allow you to meet or at least see a photo of the parents. A lot of the time, they will have you meet in a public place for the puppy/payment exchange; reputable breeders want to know what living situations they are selling their puppies to, whereas mill breeders just want your money.

Another big indicator is over advertising. You’ll see ads in papers, signs around neighborhoods, or even on Craigslist (which is illegal). Commonly, a lot of puppies at pet stores are from mills, and may even be advertised as “rare new breeds” which is just a ploy to pull you in to purchase the puppy.

Always ask to see proper paperwork, and ask where they have been receiving veterinary care.

New laws & progress

There are many new laws in place when it comes to the welfare of animals, and lots of changes are being made throughout the United States.

“A dangerous proposal by the USDA to allow third-party inspections of puppy mills (which would have effectively given puppy mills the authority to police themselves) was defeated. A Best Friends advocacy alert on this issue generated more than 10,000 emails to the USDA in just 48 hours,” says Best Friends Animal Society.

As of January 1, 2019 California passed a law that only allows animals sold at pet stores to be from rescues and shelters, and other states including Massachusetts are discussing following suit.  When you decide to get any pet, do your research first whether you wish to go to a shelter or a breeder!   

Always use your veterinarian as a resource if you have any questions or doubts about getting a puppy or dog. We are here for you!


To Read More on this Topic:

100 Years of Breed “Improvement”

New for 2019: California bans sales of puppy mill/kitten factory animals at pet stores

Signs of a Puppy Mill: How to Spot a Puppy Mill or Backyard Breeder


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