7. Puppy Mill Definition and Discussion

By Arlene Scarbrough, Scarbrough Fair Great Danes


One of my pet peeves is to hear people carelessly use “puppy mill” to describe a breeder.  Sometimes it’s a breeder they disagree with, dislike, are jealous of, disapprove of, or have heard other people calling a puppy mill.  Sometimes the term is carelessly used to describe a novice breeder. 

The misuse of the term “puppy mill” is one reason I no longer participate in chats on the net.  Almost every time I got into a chat, someone was referring to someone else as a “puppy mill”.  There are many types of breeders in the world.  Please do not use the term “puppy mill” unless you have personally checked the facility out.  If you don’t have the time, money, the energy, or the inclination to check them out personally, just refrain from “joining the pack”.

Puppy Mills:  Puppy Mills are breeding facilities where the sole purpose of breeding is to maximize the income and minimize the cash out.  The owners have absolutely no compassion for their “prisoners”.  The animals have totally inadequate health care, and are poorly fed.  The animals are not fed enough to maintain a decent weight, and they are often fed in a manner where they must fight to get any food at all.  They are bred regardless of their health.  Bitches with pups are often obviously ill and suffering.  Sometimes there are dead pups among the living.  The animals are often laying in fecal matter and drinking urine.  They are the equivalent of concentration camps for dogs.

Novice Breeders:  There are many novice breeders out there.  Novice breeders usually really love Danes, and many start by deciding to breed their wonderful pet.  Unfortunately, many select the “learn as you go method”.  Danes, as a breed, are riddled with serious health problems.  The “learn as you go method” is not a good technique for improving a breed whose average life span has declined to around five years.  Remember, at one time or another, we were all novices.  Rather than gripe and gossip, this is an excellent opportunity for experienced breeders to put their experience to good use for the betterment of the breed.  Adopt a novice breeder!  If you are patient, novices are generally like sponges, soaking up information.  Over the long run, you will feel good about being able to help the breed by assisting the novice in avoiding some horrible mistakes.  If you decide to work with a novice, try to be patient (remember it took you years to learn what you know about the breed), but be tough when you need to be and, most of all, be honest!!

Commercial Kennels:  Commercial kennels sell dogs for profit.  The puppies are their inventory.  They generally don’t spend a lot of time screening their buyers.  People who are willing to pay their prices are sold a dog or puppy.  They generally feed and vet their breeding dogs adequately because they are profit oriented, want to keep their inventory in good condition, and often subjected to unannounced inspections by the state.  In Georgia, it’s the state Agriculture Department.  The people who own and/or run commercial kennels generally don’t have much of  a warm and fuzzy relationship with dogs used for breeding. Many of us who love and spoil our danes don’t like the concept of commercial kennels, but they are legal and their animals are generally not physically abused. 

Non-Commercial Kennels:  Non-commercial kennels are generally owned by breeders who love and admire the breed and feel that they can contribute something positive to the breed.  Some of the owners are into obedience training and/or showing in obedience; some are into breeding for specific body types or specific traits.  They generally have a  degree of breed knowledge that ranges from moderate to extensive.  This type of kennel is not open to the public.  It is visited by appointment.  The dogs are generally adequately to well cared for (depending on the experience of the breeder) and well maintained.

Pet Shops:  Pet shop owners generally purchase their dogs from wholesale or commercial kennels and sometimes from novices who have a litter and cannot sell the pups.  It is truly not wise to buy a pup from a pet shop because most responsible breeders will not sell to a pet shop.  Their access to well bred, healthy puppies is severely limited. 

Show Kennels:  Show kennels are types of non-commercial kennels where the owners concentrate on breeding dogs for the conformation ring.  The owners generally have a high degree of breed knowledge concerning breed standards, and are very familiar with the rules and regulations regarding and ins and outs of the conformation ring.  Many show kennel owners do not particularly care for dealing with “the general public” or pet people.  They are interested in breeding for the show ring and selling to buyers who either show in conformation or want to show.  Their dogs are generally physically well cared for.  Their degree of emotional involvement with their dogs varies from breeder to breeder.  Some show kennels cull pet puppies and some do not.   One of the most frequent complaints I hear from people seeking healthy pets is that they have tried to contact show breeders to purchase a quality pet, but that many of the breeders are rude and just not interested in talking with them.   In my opinion, breeders who refuse to work with people seeking quality pets are truly missing out.  Pet people have brought so much into my life.  We would not be where we are today with our Danes were it not for the encouragement, assistance and moral support of people wanting quality pets.  We have gotten to the point, after many years of breeding, that we actually prefer to put our puppies into pet homes.

Advice:  You should be leery of doing business with anyone who calls specific breeders puppy mills!

Reputable breeders will generally refrain from saying anything about specific breeders unless they can say something good.

Please refrain from using the term “puppy mill” to describe any breeder unless you have personally checked them out and discovered an environment similar to the description under the puppy mill section.  If you ever find this type of situation, you should be on the phone to your local law enforcement people as well as the humane societies in your vicinity.

If you are seeking a healthy pet puppy, non-commercial kennels are your best bet.  If you want a pup to show in the conformation ring, non-commercial kennels and show kennels are your best bet.


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