How can I tell a good breeder from a puppy mill breeder?

The puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.

Retail pet stores in many states are now falsely offering dogs for “adoption” in response to new laws in some states that require them to also offer adoptable pets, and/or in an effort to attract the customers they are losing to the “adopt, don’t shop” movement. BEWARE that these dogs are most likely not rescue animals; they came from puppy mills too. We highly recommend boycotting all pet stores*. As long as they are in business, puppy mills will persist.

*A “pet store” is different than a pet supply store. It should be noted that the animals available for adoption at pet supply stores like Petsmart and Petco are legitimate rescue animals.

Online “breeders” are just as likely to be puppy mills, as there are NO RULES OR REGULATIONS for sales over the internet or for the care of those dogs while at the facilities where they are kept. Don’t be fooled by the use of the word “adoption”. These breeders use that word to trick you into thinking that you are adopting vs. shopping for a Shiba. Only licensed, non-profit rescues or shelters have dogs available for adoption vs. for sale.

Pet store will claim their dogs from “puppy mills”, they come from USDA licensed breeding facilities. This designation is meaningless. The truth is puppy mills are required by law to have a USDA license, and actually meet the minimum requirements to obtain one. This does not mean that those requirements provide for the humane treatment of pet animals. They were designed for livestock. They don’t take consider quality of life, require socialization to humans or other animals, or basic requirements for a standard of care that is necessary to breed and raise a happy, healthy pet animal.

Your puppy probably came with an AKC registration. That means it’s a reputable breeder right? Not necessarily. Puppy mills are able to obtain AKC registrations too. Puppy mill dogs may technically be purebred, but they are definitely poorly bred.

The midwest is considered the “breeding belt” when it comes to puppy mills and large commercial breeding facilities.  Any breeder you find in Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, or Omish country is most likely a puppy mill.

There are “reputable” breeders of “merit” out there, but they are few and far between. It’s up to you, the consumer, to be sure you are not supporting puppy mills. The easiest way to do that is to simply not BUY a puppy. Adopt from your local shelter or rescue. They have puppies too! But if you absolutely must buy a dog, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

ow do you know if you are dealing with a reputable breeder?

1. A reputable breeder will conduct (and can provide proof of) the following genetic health tests on their breeding animals and will require them of the sire (father) should they “hire” a stud dog for the litter:
– Eyes should be certified against Juvenile Cataracts and Juvenile Glaucoma
– Full thyroid panel yearly
– OFA (for hip dysplasia and/or luxated patellas), a one time deal done at or after age 2

!!Beware of breeders who scoff at genetic testing and say their particular breed/line is problem-free!!

2. A reputable breeder will not breed dogs under the age of 2, or if a Giant breed dog, under the age of 3, as this is when hereditary health issues will arise that could be passed to offspring.

3. A reputable breeder requires that “pet-quality” vs “show-quality” animals be altered (spayed or neutered) and sells them on Limited Registration. Be wary of breeders who do not mention altering.

4. A reputable breeder provides a written contract with the sale of the pup. This will vary from breeder to breeder, but usually spells out the rights of the seller and buyer, health information, genetic health guarantees (should be at least 2 years), required altering and buy-back/return policy. A reputable breeder will alway take a dog back if they don’t work out in their new home.

5. A reputable breeder typically has a waiting list (often years long) for the unborn puppies and does not advertise them on social media, Nextdoor, Craigslist, etc. If they are breeding responsibly and have a good product there will be a much higher demand than their supply. BEWARE of breeders who claim to have a long waitlist, but “we had someone who changed their mind” so they have a dog immediately available. A reputable breeder would contact the next person on their waitlist in this scenario, not offer it to the next person to contact them.

6. A reputable breeder will hold on to puppies as long as it takes to place them in the right homes. He or she will often interview potential buyers thoroughly, will make referrals to the local rescue group, ask for references and will refuse to sell a dog if the home is not appropriate for the breed or for a puppy.

7. Prices will be at the high end of local range. Most Shiba Inu puppies from reputable breeders are at least $3,000.  The price does not reflect all that is invested in these pups.  Reputable breeders who spend all the necessary monies on genetic testing, high quality food, veterinary costs, pedigree registration and whelping supplies make no profit from breeding and are lucky if they break even. Be concerned with a good deal, puppies listed for under $1,000.00–you will get what you paid for in the end.

8. A reputable breeder will have zero hesitation about you coming by for a visit and/or pick up your dog. A reputable breeder will NOT ship a dog to you, or ask you to meet them somewhere to pick up the dog. They raise their puppies in a loving environment (typically their home) that is clean, safe, and well-maintained. The puppies are socialized with humans and other dogs. A reputable breeder will allow you to meet the puppies parents if available and, if the father isn’t available, they will show you pictures and provide you with the information on how to contact the owner of the sire (father). If you are allowed to come to the breeder’s home, be wary if they only bring puppies out one or a two at a time, not actually showing you where they and their mother are kept.  Trust your instincts on this.

9. A reputable breeder is actively involved in the dog fancy, including showing dogs and/or breed clubs. While there are exceptions–i.e. someone who has shown dogs for 20 years, but is now retired–a person who is not actively involved in showing, or with breed-related organizations, or clearly an breed enthusiast, can be suspect.

10. A reputable breeder is willing to provide answers to questions you may have and is willing to provide names of others who have purchased pups from them.

11. A reputable breeder follows up on puppies. He or she is interested in how the pups develop physically and mentally, difficulties in the owner/dog relationship and health problems.

12. A reputable breeder will not let puppies leave their home prior to 8 weeks of age and often not until 10 weeks of age. It is actually illegal to sell, buy, or give away puppies or kittens under 8 weeks of age.

13. If dew claws have been removed from the puppies, this should be done by 3 days old.

Viewer Discretion is Advised: 

Wanna know what really goes on with the cute puppies that go to the pet store or are shipped from states like Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, etc., and their parents that are left behind?  Click on the following links and watch the videos:

This is of the dogs that are auctioned off in various states to go from one mill to the next, all is discussed is the dog’s ability to reproduce and the money that it will make the breeders:        

These videos are of mill raids by the Humane Society of the United States:                                                                          

And this shows them from the mill to the local pet shop:                                                                                                           

So, tell me, do you still want to get a puppy from a pet store?

What is a puppy mill: A puppy mill is a place that breeds dogs for profit only, without a care to health, temperament or behavior. Every month rescues all over the state of Colorado and across the nation receive the parents of these adorable pet store puppies.  These are adult dogs (ages range from 2-12 years of age) that can no longer produce puppies or the occasional young dog that has health problems and therefore cannot be bred or sold and once this happens they are slated to be euthanized. The conditions these dogs once they arrive are horrific.  The kind of treatment companion animals receive in puppy mills is cruel, intolerable and inhumane.  Rescues put forth a lot of money, time, and patience to help these dogs recover so they can move onto a better life.  We will never turn down a dog being released from a puppy mill.

The entire Midwest region is considered ‘puppy mill country’. That includes Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Missouri, which is labelled the “puppy mill capitol of the nation”. So when the pet stores tell their customers that the puppies were either born in, or come from, “loving homes and/or reputable breeders” in these states, they are actually telling these customers that the puppies came from puppy mills.  And don’t be fooled when you are told that the pups come from USDA licensed breeders as all pet store puppies come from USDA licenced breeders. In fact it is illegal for a pet store to sell a puppy that comes from anything other than a USDA licensed commercial breeder.

Puppy mill puppies are almost always poor in health, and can often be unstable of temperament. It is not unheard of for puppies to be sold as purebred dogs, but are, in reality, mixed breeds that resemble the purebred.  Owners who buy from pet stores or puppy mills, even backyard breeders, often face serious illnesses or genetic health defects requiring extensive veterinary care shortly after or within the first year of bringing the dog home. In some cases the dog has long-term and ongoing problems.

Even if the puppy is 100% healthy, behavior problems are also a huge issue.  Puppies and their parents from puppy mills are kept in crowded cages where they are allowed to stand in or over their waste which falls through the metal wires that they have to stand and lay on day in and day out.  Because of these conditions, puppies lose their natural denning instinct to not go to the bathroom where they sleep and eat and as a result are much more difficult to potty train.  Puppies are also not handled much if at all in these situations by people and therefore can be incredibly difficult to handle and hold and may even attempt to bite their owner, people that attempt to pet them while their owner is holding them or people other than the owner that would like to handle the puppy.  Not to mention this also makes it increasingly difficult and stressful when it comes time to bathe, groom, and trim their nails.

It is also very common for puppies from puppy mills to be incredibly shy and scared, or have what is called neophobia–the fear of new things.  A puppy’s socialization period is between about 4 weeks and 16 weeks of age.  During those weeks it is crucial for a puppy to be exposed to as many new sites, sounds, surfaces, people, places, things and other animals as possible but in a positive manner.  When these puppies are kept isolated in cages and prevented from interacting with people and new situations, adverse effects are likely to result.  These puppies are very likely to become either overly shy and scared or over-reactive to new situations, people or animals.  A shy or scared puppy may very well end up biting a person or another dog when it becomes an adult as a way of feeling it needs to defend itself.  An over-reactive puppy may bark alarmingly at any little noise, movement, person or animal as their brain has not been properly prepared to process this new situation and therefore the dog does not know how to react and respond to such stimulus.

The livelihood of puppy mills totally depends on these things happening.

  • First, the public must be willing to never buy puppies in a pet store
  • Second, the American Kennel Club (“AKC”) and the American Pet Registry Inc. (“APRI”) must not be willing to issue registration certificates for the puppies born in puppy mills.
  • Third, legislation needs to be put into effect that bans the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores.
  • Fourth, pet stores need to pair with rescue groups that spay/neuter the dogs and cats/puppies and kittens, that are adopted out
  • And lastly, the public should agree NEVER to adopt a puppy/kitten unless the puppy/kitten is ALREADY SPAYED or NEUTERED as the follow up is just not where it needs to be in regards to deposits taken to ensure the the adopter will have the puppy/kitten spayed or neutered themselves.

For more information on puppy mills, please visit:                                                                                                                                                              

The public has options. If there is any compassion at all for the animals bred and raised under these miserable conditions then we need to stop buying puppies from pet stores. Instead, adopt from local humane societies/shelters or rescue groups. Each puppy purchased from a pet store, backyard breeder or via the internet adds to the problem and increases the demand for more over population.
Although it is not common for Colorado Shiba Inu Rescue to have puppies under 6 months of age available for adoption, it does happen.  Pure bred Shiba puppies typically do not end up in rescue for a few reasons.

We thank you for opening your hearts and home to a rescued pet. We appreciate the fact that you are not purchasing your pet from a pet store that sells lives animals since most of those animals come from terrible situations such as puppy mills.