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How Much is that Doggie on the Internet?

October 10, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - You can buy just about anything online now, but when that purchase is a brand new puppy, how much will you really know about where or how the puppy came to be? Thousands of puppies are bred and sold by large-scale commercial breeders, which critics refer to as "puppy mills."

These dogs may arrive with diseases that can ring up huge veterinary bills for the unwitting buyer, says Melanie Kahn, senior director of the The Humane Society of the United States Puppy Mills Campaign. She says lots of these pups are bred and kept in filthy, cramped cages where humane treatment takes a backseat to profits.

"When we've gone on raids and rescues, we see dogs that are just filthy. They have severe illnesses and diseases, often genetic diseases. We've also seen facilities where the dogs haven't been fed."

Kahn says while Virginia has one of the best laws regulating puppy mills in the country, currently no federal regulations cover breeders who sell dogs directly to the public. Her organization has an online petition to gather signatures asking the Obama Administration to require commercial breeders to be covered by the USDA Animal Welfare Act regulations, which would require minimum standards for humane treatment.

Kahn says The Humane Society recommends adopting a dog from a local shelter or a rescue group, even if you are looking for a specific breed. About 25 percent of homeless dogs are purebred dogs, she says.

If you decide to go through a breeder, she suggests doing a little research first.

"We encourage people to go to a responsible breeder. That's someone who does not breed their dogs purely for profit, someone who genuinely cares about the welfare of the dog."

A good online resource to find dogs in your area is www.petfinder.com, she says.

Information about the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill operator is available from The Humane Society at www.humanesociety.org.

The online petition is at http://tinyurl.com/42hl4bc.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA