ASPCA website links pet stores to puppy mills

When a customer asks a pet store employee where the cute little puppy in the playpen comes from, they will invariably say, "We don't buy from puppy mills, we buy from responsible local breeders."

Well, the ASPCA just blew the lid off that tall tale.

The nationwide animal welfare group has assembled and posted online a massive database, including 10,000 photos depicting conditions in federally-licensed commercial kennels.

The website allows consumers to draw the direct link - with a click of the mouse - between pets stores to puppy mills.

Here's how the website No Pet Store Puppies works: Say you want to know where We Love Pets gets its puppies. This pet store, which has two locations (Media and Springfield) outside of Philadelphia, has been the subject of anti-puppy mill protests and recently tried to take in strays from Delaware County in violation of state law.

Its website advertises: "All our puppies are from licensed breeders who strive to raise the bar for quality and health."

The ASPCA website shows that We Love Pets buys bulldogs and beagles from breeder Henry Wagler of Loogootee, Indiana, who has a string of federal animal welfare act violations.

The consumer learns that not only are the very young puppies shipped 750 miles, but they were raised - and their parents kept - in pretty miserable conditions.

USDA inspection reports reveal cages with broken wire floors, rusted food containers, green slimy water bowls, dogs living in outdoor boxes, adult dogs with overgrown toenails and sores on their pads from continuously standing on wire floors.

And there is a photo gallery of the conditions at the Wagler kennel to back up the report's findings.

See for yourself. You can search by zip code or store name.

You can also find out which stores in your area adopt dogs and which sell dogs.

(Buyer beware, however, there have been incidents at PetSmart stores and Tractor Supply Company stores involving individuals posing as rescues charging outlandish prices for sick dogs.)

Lest we forget, as the ASPCA puts it, many of the photos released by the group depict the poor conditions the adult breeding dogs are forced to endure for their entire lives.

“Consumers need to know that they should not be falsely reassured when a pet store tells them their puppies come from USDA licensed breeders,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. “Unfortunately, USDA standards alone do not ensure that dogs are raised humanely in an environment in which they can thrive. We hope this new tool will allow consumers to make informed decisions and refrain from buying puppies at pet stores, and instead make adoption their first option, or seek a responsible breeder if they choose not to adopt.”

According to a newly released poll conducted by Edge Research and commissioned by the ASPCA, 71 percent of Americans are confident that commercial dog breeders licensed by the USDA treat their dogs humanely.

However, the public’s definition of humane treatment of dogs in commercial breeding facilities differs in many ways from what is legally required under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the USDA.

The public believes that daily exercise, routine vet care, cage sizes six inches larger the size of the dog's body, protection from extreme temperatures and socialization  are “absolutely necessary for a breeder to be considered humane.”

But none of these are currently required by the USDA: