Hadley vet hospital sees influx of dogs likely from puppy mills

  • The Riverbend Animal Hospital in Hadley has seen an influx of dogs that one of its veterinarians says are likely coming from puppy mills. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Thursday, July 19, 2018

HADLEY — A local animal hospital is warning that they’ve seen a recent influx of puppies that may possibly be from so-called puppy mills.

In June alone, Riverbend Animal Hospital saw at least six new puppies that seemed to have been born in poor conditions, making the hospital suspicious that the dogs could potentially have been born in a puppy mill, according to associate veterinarian Christina White. Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding operations that keep dogs in unsanitary, inhumane living quarters.

“We never see that many puppies from one place, and so it just seemed weird,” White said of at least six dogs that were purchased from the same website and brought to her office during two weeks in mid-June. “And then I thought, ‘Is it popping to the top of Google searches? Why is this happening?’”

Though White said she could not be 100 percent certain, there were several signs that indicated to her that the puppies may have been from an unscrupulous breeding operation: the puppies had parasites associated with crowded conditions; they all came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, an area White said is known to have puppy mills; the dogs were not purebreds, but instead were “designer breeds” like a bernedoodle, which is a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle; and all the transactions to purchase the puppies were done in places like parking lots instead of at the location where the puppies were born.

White said that she previously practiced in Philadelphia, and recognized Lancaster County as an area known to have puppy mills. The county featured seven of the Humane Society's "horrible hundred" dog-breeding facilities in 2017, and one article on the news site Lancaster Online describes the county as “the puppy mill capital of the East.”

Internet advertising firm

White said the puppies in question were purchased through an internet advertising company named Greenfield Puppies, which is based out of Pennsylvania. A Gazette review of the company’s website shows 303 breeds of dog for customers to browse.

In an interview with the Gazette, Greenfield Puppies managing partner Neil Kilgore said his company is scrupulous about making sure that the breeders who advertise with Greenfield Puppies run humane and sanitary operations. 

“I buy from the place I work for because I believe in our breeders,” Kilgore said of his own three dogs.

Kilgore said that Greenfield Puppies sends photographers to most — though not all — locations where breeders that advertise with them operate. He said those photographers are trained to look for any “red flags” and to report them.

However, Kilgore did acknowledge that those photographers don't necessarily see 100 percent of a breeder's site, and that it is possible for a breeder to trick them. Kilgore also added that the company is not able to visit every single breeder's location, and in those cases they have to collect as much information as they can from afar.

“We do rely somewhat on customer feedback, too,” he said.

Kilgore added that his company has dealt with thousands of breeders since they were founded in 2000, and have cut ties with bad breeders in the past.

White said that a responsible breeder will usually sell one or possibly two breeds, and that they will often interview prospective buyers to ensure their puppies are finding good homes.

If you buy...

People looking to buy a dog can start by looking to adopt from a reputable animal shelter like Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, White said. If buyers insist on purchasing puppies, they should at least meet the puppies at an early age, and should meet the puppies' mother, who should be living in a clean, warm and protected area with people nearby, White added.

Kilgore said that advice is also what his company recommends for prospective dog buyers, pointing to the “about us” section of their website, which reads, “We recommend that every person visits the breeder directly and determine for yourself how they are raising their puppies.”

Greenfield Puppies, however, does offer the possibility of a “Puppy Shipping Service” on its website.

When asked what he would say to the people who purchased dogs from Greenfield Puppies and then visited White for veterinary care, Kilgore said that he would like to hear from those customers about who their breeders were. He said they should send an email to info@greenfieldpuppies.com.

“I would hope that those puppies are healthy,” he said, adding that Pennsylvania has a minimum 30-day health guarantee breeders are required to provide. “That person should not have to pay veterinary bills for receiving an unhealthy puppy.” Kilgore said his company has a staff member who deals with customer complaints about breeders, but when asked if weeding out inhumane breeders was a “struggle” he said it was not.

“I would not call it a struggle because the majority of breeders do things the right way,” he said.

As for White, she said she just wants people to be better informed about the ways to avoid purchasing puppies from possible puppy mills.

“I think that there’s general optimism about people thinking, ‘Oh I’m going to get this great puppy,’” White said.

But in puppy mills, owners keep puppies and other dogs in terrible conditions, White added, including sometimes keeping female dogs in wire cages for their entire lives. “You really have to be careful of being brought in by a great marketing scam, basically.”

White said she didn’t shame anyone for having purchased a dog from a possible puppy mill. But she does think people should know how to avoid such operations. “It’s just that the inhumane conditions that those puppies were bred in is being perpetrated by people paying hundreds of dollars for these puppies,” she said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.