The question this week was How do you define rescue? Plenty of people provided excellent definitions in the comments section. And others admitted to having fallen short of the ideal.
So the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how defining the term isn’t useful. This site is about education, not recrimination. If the term “rescue” is getting trendy, all the better. Whatever gets the job done of saving dogs’ lives.
I fervently wish people would adopt rather than buy, but people shouldn’t feel guilty about their past choices or their mistakes (says the queen of guilt; hey, we’re all works in progress). What’s important is how you treat the dog you have now.
That said, some people deserve recrimination — as in criminal prosecution — and those are the ones who operate puppy mills. The word is getting out about not buying dogs from pet stores — my friend Mary at Dancing Dog Blog had an excellent post about that topic earlier this week — but buying dogs on line is a far greater problem, one that’s not as much discussed as it should be. It’s debatable whether the site that inspired the original Friday Focus question was a puppy mill front; what’s not debatable is that many, many online sellers are.
Online purveyors are shifty: Changing web addresses when they’re found out (assuming they’re found out), pulling-bait-and-switches, or just taking your money without sending any “product.” I’m not sure which is worse — actually receiving a puppy mill graduate who might be seriously ill and break your heart as well as your bank account, or wiring money to Nigeria and getting no dog at all.
So here’s the education portion of this post:
How to recognize puppy mill purveyors on the Internet
- No reputable breeder would sell puppies on a site that sells other items like clothing.
- Reputable breeders focus on one breed, at most two, so they become familiar with breed characteristics, and especially with breed health problems. Be wary of sites featuring more than one type of puppy and especially lots of small designer breeds like “Shih-Poos.”
- Reputable breeders won’t always have puppies available. At puppy mills, dams are kept bare-pawed and pregnant in cages, reproducing as often as they’re able to. A good breeder will only allow each mother to produce one litter a year, at most two. When you deal with an honest breeder, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait for your puppy.
- A reputable breeder will not sell you a puppy without meeting you or, at minimum, without first asking you for lots of references — and taking the time to check them. If they inquire about your first pet, it’s because they want to know if you’re capable of caring for the dog they’re entrusting you with.
- A reputable breeder won’t try to manipulate your emotions with soft and fuzzy ad copy (or, ahem, religion).
One last point that’s a bit more open to debate (feel free to weigh in, reputable breeders)
- Many reputable breeders don’t sell puppies on the internet directly to buyers, period. Good breeders tend to advertise in breed group publications, through the AKC or UKC sites…. or not at all. Many of the best breeders are known through word of mouth or through other personal referrals.