How to Buy Pets Ethically, Avoid Puppy Mills in Missouri

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Missouri is home to some of the worst puppy mills in the country.

The Associated Press

For the 10th consecutive year, Missouri ranked #1 in the Humane Society of the United States’ Horrible Hundred Report. The report lists 100 dog-breeding establishments, also known as puppy mills, that are committing violations based on state and federal inspection reports.

Twenty-six of the 100 worst puppy mills included in the report were in Missouri, followed by Iowa, which had 17. Kansas had seven puppy mills included in the list.

The Humane Society of the United States defines a puppy mill as a high-volume dog-breeding establishment that sells puppies for profit and ignores their health and well-being. John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society, said puppies from these mills are often sold online or in pet stores.

The purpose of the list is to flag dog breeders nationwide that people should avoid because of the way they treat their animals. He described horrific cases of emaciated and dying dogs, filthy conditions, endemic diseases and dog fights.

What to look for when buying a dog

Goodwin recommends a three-step process for getting a pet safely and responsibly:

  1. Meet the breeder

  2. Meet the mother dog

  3. See where the mother dog lives

He said with these three steps, you’ll usually have enough transparency to know if you’re dealing with someone who has a human operation. He said to exercise caution when looking for pets in pet stores, as these stores are designed in such a way that the customer never sees the parents of the dogs.

You will often see the puppy at the window, but never the mother locked in a cage in the back. If you order a puppy online, you have no idea how it has been treated before.

Adopt, don’t shop?

Local animal shelters like KC Pet Project and Great Plains SPCA are seeing more pets returned than adopted, and it’s spilling over into their spaces. Shelters around Kansas City are looking for more families to adopt or foster animals, especially larger dogs.

Keegan Prentice, manager of marketing and fundraising programs at Great Plains SPCA, said you should always try to adopt a pet from a shelter when possible.

She recommends people check the shelter’s website before showing up, where you can see a list of all the animals available.

Websites from places like SPCA and KC Pet Project list information including a pet’s breed, age, size, personality traits and needs, such as if it’s not good with children or if he would do better in a home with other animals.

Shelter staff can work with families to find an animal that fits their lifestyle well, whether a family is really active or wants an animal to snuggle up on the couch.

“It’s really about getting to know the family and what they’re looking to get out of owning a pet,” Prentice said. “We make sure to find a pet that we think will be the best fit for their life.”

Joseph Hernandez is a member of The Star’s duty journalism team. A Kansas City native, Hernandez is a graduate of Cristo Rey Kansas City High School and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously wrote for the Columbia Missourian and The Pitch.

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