Puppy Mills Posing as Rescue Groups

Animal welfare advocates across the country are taking advantage of the great fall weather to hold events to raise public awareness about the cruelty of puppy mills. Most people have no clue that, according to estimates from The Humane Society of the United States, there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States.

Perhaps the most encouraging news is that Prop B, the Missouri ballot measure to stop puppy mills, will be on the November 2 ballot. Missourians have the unique ability to stop puppy mill abuses by voting YES! on Prop B. This measure would establish common sense standards for the proper care of dogs. This is an exciting time in the fight against puppy mills. If you are interested in joining the cause, check out the YESonPropB  kick-off meetings, which start on September 13.

Even with all of the positive news in the battle against puppy mills, there has been an increase in puppy mills posing as “rescues.” For a better understanding of this growing problem, I spoke with Justin Scally, the manager of The HSUS’ Puppy Mills Task Force.

KA:  Justin, give us some background on puppy mills posing as rescue groups. 

JS: Since its inception, The HSUS Puppy Mills Task Force has investigated virtually hundreds of complaints of inhumane breeding operations across the country. But when faced with the investigation of deceptive animal abusers, you frequently discover the tactics that they use to get around the law and continue their businesses. And unfortunately, it appears that the ‘business’ of running puppy mills is no exception.

When you go to a ‘rescue’ to ‘adopt’ a new pet, you would expect that they are all true rescues, saved from certain death or from abuse and neglect. However, in recent months The HSUS has received a staggering number of complaints alleging that puppy mill operators are fronting themselves to the public as “rescue groups” in order to sell their dogs to the unknowing public.

KA: How do the puppy millers get away with this deception?

JS: They will talk about puppy mills and how the puppy/dog was rescued from a horrific environment.  The consumer thinks that they are rescuing but they actually just purchased a puppy from the puppy miller or a broker. The brokers could be selling dogs from several puppy mills and posing as the rescue.

There are plenty of wonderful rescues but The HSUS wants consumers to know that these deceptive puppy millers and brokers are using these tactics to continue their business of making money by selling puppies.

KA: Puppy millers seem to be masquerading as rescues because of increased public awareness of puppy mills.  Do you agree?

JS: Yes, I do.  Increased awareness of the cruelty associated with puppy mills, legislation and inspections have all created a need for puppy millers and brokers to use other means to continue doing business. Consumers are more observant and cautious but as soon as they hear “rescue” they become more comfortable.  This is where the deception comes in.  Their guard is let down and they are not thinking about puppy mills.

KA: How can consumers identify these unscrupulous operations?

JS: View their website.  Do they have constant puppies for adoptions and no adults?  Are the puppies spayed or neutered?  Ask to visit the facility or foster home.  Know their overall process.  Does it feel like a rescue?  Are they asking about your family and your home or are they just asking for $500.  Do they have an overall mission? A reputable rescue group will be thrilled to answer all of these questions above.

Additionally, in an effort to make good matches between people and animals and to place pets in lifelong homes, many rescues (and shelters) provide adoption counseling and follow-up assistance, such as pet parenting and dog-training classes, and behavior counseling.

Another indicator would be that the fees from rescue groups are usually much less than the purchase price of an animal from a pet store or breeder. And your new pet is more likely to be vaccinated, de-wormed, and spayed or neutered.

KA: It is also important to note here that the same guidelines you just mentioned apply if you are looking to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder.  Can you tell us more about good breeder recognition tips?

JS: Yes, a responsible breeder should welcome potential clients to visit all areas of the breeder’s home and kennel.  They will want to know about your family, your home and your lifestyle. In most cases they will follow up on the placement and offer behavioral counseling.  Puppies should be vaccinated and dewormed.


One last question, what should animal advocates be doing?

JS: Educate!  Spread the word to adopt instead of purchase.  This is a supply and demand industry. If consumers are aware they will be able to make conscious decisions and they will be less likely to be deceived by purchasing from a puppy mill or a broker.

KA:  Thank you, Justin for keeping us informed!

Please attend a puppy mill awareness event near you!  For more information on Missouri’s Prop B visit YESonPropB.com. If you are not in Missouri you can visit humanesociety.org for information on for additional how you can help stop puppy mills.

Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! On Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer

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Positively Expert: Kim Alboum

Kim Alboum is North Carolina's state director for The Humane Society of the United States. Since 2005, she has served as a volunteer coordinator and later as a board member for the Puppy Mill Awareness Day Organization. Her volunteer responsibilities also include tracking dog breeding legislation and cruelty laws.


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