How do you know if that doggy in the window came from a puppy mill?

There are few things more adorable than the sight of small puppies in a pet store window. They seem to draw us to them and we feel the inherent desire to pick them up, to pet them, and maybe even take them home. But many of the puppies available in pet stores and online come from a place we would all rather avoid and few of us know exists. They come from puppy mills.

Puppy mills, whether they are large or smaller operations, all work with one goal in mind, drawing as much profit as they can from their dog breeding operation. The dogs in these locations suffer in squalid, cramped conditions, often confined to metal cages with little-or-no human contact. Here they are exposed to contagious and even genetic diseases without receiving care. It is also quite common for puppy mills to breed female dogs as often as possible to maximize their profit, without showing any regard for the dog's immediate or long-term health.

The pups are then sold to pet stores or on the Internet and those who purchase one of these animals allow the process to continue.

If you're interested in selecting a new companion for your family, it's probably best to avoid purchasing a dog from a pet store or the Internet because he or she possibly came from a puppy mill.

Instead, visit your local humane society or contact a reputable breeder. Either route should force you to face stiff questions about what the puppy's life will be like in your care. These questions, while they may seem invasive, are a good thing. They show that the seller is genuinely interested in the welfare of the dog and not simply in making money.