Would you know a puppy mill when you see one? Sadly, most people would not. Does that seem surprising to you? After all, we’ve all seen the photos of rows and rows of cages with scruffy-looking, sad-faced, and anxious dogs. That’s what a puppy mill looks like, right? While this may be true, puppy mill owners know that people are looking for these rows of cages. The plethora of farmers in several of the counties where I live in Pennsylvania, mostly Amish and Mennonite (but a small few are not), are clever people. They are not “simple” when it comes to fooling the public about how the dogs are bred.

This past weekend, my foster Poodles and I went to a pet festival at a local pet store and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people with their dogs. Out of curiosity, I always ask them where they got their dogs. It just amazed me how many people told me that they got their puppies at farms.

“But it wasn’t a puppy mill,” they all said. They went on to describe the nice lady who said she only breeds her dog once a year. They also said they met the puppy’s parents who were running freely on the farm. It was always the same, suspicious story.

I must have had teeth marks on my tongue from biting it so much that day. All of these puppy purchasers had been duped by very smart puppy mill operators. These breeders are fully aware of the public perception and they do a savvy job of covering up their large-scale breeding operations. They know that some people will want to see the puppy’s parents; they know that some people will be looking for the rows and rows of cages or rabbit hutches that house the breeding dogs; and they know that the bucolic image of a farm-raised puppy appeals to the uninformed puppy purchaser. They also know that many people are so intent on getting a certain breed of dog and will overlook the possibility that it’s a puppy mill.

The farmers/puppy mill owners have a network of friends and relatives who are in the business together. The breeding dogs are definitely in rows and rows of cages on someone’s property but maybe not where the puppies are being sold. Someone else is doing the front-end selling, the farm of a relative or friend where the breeding dogs cannot be seen or heard. When the puppies are ready to be sold, they go to the bucolic farm setting. And the so-called puppies “parents” more than likely are not the real parents. As I described in my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, a set of socialized, attractive parents are trotted out to wow the buyers. In reality, the pup’s real parents are stuck in a cage on another farm.

The duping of puppy buyers goes beyond the farm – to the Internet. There are many web sites selling Lancaster County-bred puppies, any breed or mix that you can imagine. Don’t be fooled that these breeders are not Amish, thinking that the Amish do not use technology. Wrong! The Amish do not use technology in their homes, however, they do have electricity, cell phones, laptops and Internet connections. Yes, indeed. As long as it is not in the house, they are allowed to have them.

Do you really, really want to help the dogs and stop puppy mills? Then please spread this information around.