Puppy mills also tend to falsify the information on a puppy's papers when they sell them to a pet store. Though a pup's papers may say he's old enough for adoption, that may not actually be the case. Puppy mill puppies are often taken from their mothers and siblings when they're just 6 weeks old, which can have lasting effects on their ability to socialize with other dogs.
What's the solution?
If you are looking to add a furry member to your family, consider adoption first and foremost. Even if a pet store claims that their puppies come from "USDA-licensed breeders," such a claim is meaningless: Every breeder who sells to a pet store is required to be licensed by the USDA, and most puppy mills have USDA licenses. By adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, you are not giving money to or supporting the existence of puppy mills. If you are looking for a certain breed, breed-specific rescue groups are available to show you purebreds that are also in need of loving homes.
You can also push for more legislation regarding puppy mills by contacting your state representative. Tougher laws for pet stores and breeders can help squeeze the puppy mill industry. Just this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that will require pet stores that sell dogs to tell their consumers exactly where the animals come from.