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How Much is that Doggie on the Internet?

October 18, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - You can buy just about anything online now, but when that purchase is a brand new puppy, how much do you really know about where or how that young dog came to be? Thousands of dogs are bred and sold by large-scale commercial breeders often referred to as "puppy mills." These dogs can come with diseases that ring up huge vet bills for the unwitting buyer, according to Melanie Kahn, who is senior director of the Puppy Mills Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States.

She says lots of such pups are bred and kept in filthy, cramped cages, with humane treatment taking a back seat to profits.

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

In 2009, Indiana passed legislation regulating dog breeders, but there are no federal regulations for breeders who sell dogs directly to the public. Kahn's organization is gathering signatures on an online petition to ask the Obama administration to cover commercial dog breeders under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Act. It would require minimum standards for humane treatment.

The Humane Society recommends adopting a dog from a local shelter or a rescue first, even if one is looking for a specific breed; Kahn says about 25 percent of homeless dogs are purebred animals.

If you do 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."

Kahn says a good online resource to find dogs in an area is petfinder.com. For information about the difference between responsible breeders and puppy-mill operators, visit humanesociety.org.

That online petition is at tinyurl.com/42h14bc

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN