Puppy mills have become a very common problem in the United States. Many pet stores have stopped selling puppies because of the large amount of bad publicity puppy mills have been getting in the last few years. Other pet stores still sell puppies that have been bought from puppy mills. They may claim that the puppies came from breeders that they know who raise their puppies in facilities that have been approved by the USDA. They may also provide health certificates, health guarantees, registration and papers for each puppy. First of all, anyone who raises puppies can claim the title of breeder. There are no special licensing requirements to use that designation. The USDA has minimal requirements for what is considered acceptable housing arrangements for dogs and puppies. Most often, the dogs are kept in small dog cages with food and water. The bottom of each cage is a grate that allows waste to fall through and the cages are never actually cleaned. Female dogs are bred constantly until they cease to produce satisfactory litters and are then disposed of. Health certificates and guarantees protect the pet store more than the customer. Most of the health inspections are spotty and don’t check for routine things. When the customer purchases the puppy, takes it home and then it becomes ill, the store is free from blame because it provided a certificate and guarantee that the puppy was perfectly healthy at the time of purchase. Registration and papers do not guarantee that the puppy is healthy and in good condition. They simply tell you the lineage of the dog, which may have been good before the puppy mill owner got involved. So how do you avoid supporting the puppy mills? For starters, many pet store chains have stopped selling puppies in store. Many of them now work with local humane societies and have one day or more a week where the humane society is on site with puppies that are up for adoption. You can go to your local pet store on one of those days or you can visit your local humane society at any time. They often have purebred dogs available for adoption. Their dogs are also up to date on shots and have usually been spayed or neutered as well. Another option is to find breeders in your area. Not puppy mill owners, but breeders who have no more than three female dogs that they breed for puppies. Visit the breeder and look at the accommodations for the dogs. Make sure that they are clean and well cared for before agreeing to purchase a puppy from the breeder.