Five million dogs are bred in our nation's puppy mills every year - every year, five million dogs and puppies are put to sleep in our nation's shelters because there aren't enough homes to go around.

If you are determined to buy a puppy:

1) Avoid breeders who breed more than two breeds of dog, this may be an indication that the breeder is operating a Puppy Mill.

2) Beware of breeders selling their puppies over the Internet and who are willing to ship puppies anywhere in the country. A responsible breeder would never ship their puppies, preferring instead to see where their dogs will be living. Avoid web sites offering various breeds of dogs from numerous breeders – a sure sign that the puppies are coming from puppy mills. The breeders listed on these sites are often small unlicensed kennels which means they are not inspected by state or federal inspectors.

3) Beware of ads in newspapers with phone numbers starting with 717 area codes. Some of the most infamous puppy mills in the country can be found in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country.

4) Pet stores must provide paperwork detailing breeder information. The breeder’s address is listed on the paperwork. If the puppy was bred in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Ohio, or in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, then that puppy came from a puppy mill. You are not “rescuing” the puppy from the pet store by buying him/her. What you are doing is prolonging the suffering of that puppy’s parents who are living their lives in deplorable conditions.

5) Many people feel that if a dog has “papers” then the dog is a “good” dog. AKC papers DO NOT guarantee good health or sound temperament. The American Kennel Club is simply a registry for purebred dogs. And the American Canine Association (ACA papers) has routinely issued papers to breeders convicted of animal cruelty. “Papers” increase the asking price of a dog by $300-$500 and consumers mistakenly believe that these papers ensure they are buying a puppy free of disease and without behavioral or genetic problems. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

The one sure way to avoid buying from a bad breeder or supporting the inhumane practices of our nation’s puppy mills is to adopt your new dog or puppy from your local shelter or rescue organization. A third of all dogs at SPCAs and Humane Societies are purebred dogs. The other two thirds are incredible mixes that will often be healthier, smarter and more grateful for having that second chance to become part of your family.

Main Line Animal Rescue is an all breed rescue organization helping all dogs regardless of their breed, but there are specific breed rescues across the country who help only purebred dogs of certain breeds. For example, Lab Rescue helps only Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundland Rescue assists Newfies in trouble, and if you want a West Highland Terrier, their rescues place hundreds of homeless Westies from New York to Seattle every year. Information is available on the Internet under Petfinder.com.