IFAW “Likely” Puppy Mill Label Methodology Challenged by Animaroo

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The criteria used by the IFAW to identify "likely" puppy mills are questionable given today’s technology and media consumption habits.

flagged any that could be classified as “likely puppy mill” based only on the information transferred onto the spreadsheet

On December 11, 2012 the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) published a study which states that 62% of advertisements on the top six puppy sale web sites are from “likely” puppy mills.

The criteria used by the IFAW to identify "likely" puppy mills are questionable given today’s technology and media consumption habits. Attributes outlined in IFAW’s study signifying a “likely” puppy mill include such items as accepting credit/debit cards, willingness to ship animals and offering designer breeds. The complete list used for the IFAW study is as follows:

Puppy Mill Criteria
An expert panel created a list of criteria used for determining if an ad was “likely a puppy mill” based on the information provided on the face of the ad. The criteria were as follows:

Must meet at least one to be “likely a puppy mill ”

  • No screening of potential owners
  • Breeder offered to readily obtain any breed of dog, even if not featured on website
  • Puppies offered under 8 weeks old
  • Breeder accepts payment through Western Union or money order
  • Multiple breeds offered (3 or more breeds)
  • Breeder will ship the dog anywhere, sight unseen
  • Breeder will only meet someplace other than the kennel
  • Puppies clearly in dirty conditions or look matted
  • Seeing the same dog in different ads advertised as a different dog
  • Ad says no refunds or has no return agreement
  • Ad is from a puppy broker
  • Ad is from a retail pet store
  • Large inventory (more than 20 dogs advertised for sale at a time)

Must meet two of the nine to be “likely a puppy mill.”

  • Free to good home and buyer is only asked to pay shipping fee
  • Breeder won’t offer papers for the dog with an excuse
  • Breeder willing to meet someplace other than the kennel
  • Breeder takes credit cards
  • Non-standard deviations from a purebred being marketed as “rare” to justify exorbitant prices
  • Use sale slogans; “Christmas Pets” or “Easter Pets”
  • Photo has been manipulated/altered or has a dubious setting
  • Offers “designer mixed breeds” for sale
  • 2 or more different breeds offered

By using the above criteria, a Labradoodle advertisement accepting credit cards and displaying a photo with name, e-mail, and phone number on the image would classify this breeder as a “likely” puppy mill. This breeder may provide a well respected business offering healthy, well-socialized animals living in pristine conditions, but will still be labeled as a “likely” puppy mill. Today credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, especially with the new card swipe technology via smart phone allowing small businesses to accept cards anywhere. In today’s society some people only use a debit card. Another criterion referenced by the IFAW is offering designer dogs. Many “designer” dogs have been recognized as official breeds by the American Kennel Club (AKC). One top dog in America began as a “designer” dog, and that is the Labrador Retriever. This dog was originally a cross between the Newfoundland Dog cross bred with Setters, Spaniels and other Retrievers. This dog has had residency on the AKC’s list of “most popular” list for 21 years. “Designer” dogs are no longer designer, but loving members in many families across the nation.

Most breeders and puppy specific websites are small businesses, and the stigma of the “puppy mill” label can be detrimental to their business. Web based pet businesses, such as Animaroo.com, indicate they would like to work with the IFAW to ensure this horrible practice is put to an end and that standards are set to adequately and fairly determine a set of criteria to identify these breeders. Although not all agree with the methodology of IFAW’s investigation, reputable breeders and website owners are all advocating the same cause. Animaroo.com indicates it has requested a copy of the specific ads on the site referenced in the study in effort to inspect breeders in question. The IFAW report seeks to identify "likely" puppy mill operations; Animaroo.com has offered to take this one step further by inspecting an accurate sample of facilities in question in an effort to validate the IFAW findings. “If there the findings are validated, those breeders will be promptly removed from Animaroo.com site and reported to the authorities.”


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