12/20/2011 09:54 EST | Updated 02/19/2012 05:12 EST

This Holiday Season Boycott Puppy Mills

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This holiday season we can end puppy mills and choose the adoption option.

Images of cute, wide-eyed puppies, dressed in ribbons and bows are danced before us during the holiday season, stirring strong emotions in even the most hard-hearted. Puppy mills thrive because the cuteness of puppies is easily matched by the impulsiveness of dog buyers. Getting a dog can be as easy as the click of a mouse, a moment of weakness at the pet store, or a snap phone call in response to a classified ad. But uninformed decisions are a quick path to heartache, expense, and guilt, when your dog shows the health or behavioural problems that often come with mass breeding.

The realities of puppy mills are emaciated, feces-covered dogs suffering from the cruelty inherent in these operations. In Quebec, the 607 dogs (90 of which were born after their pregnant mothers were rescued) from the Clarendon puppy mill are finding loving forever homes, however, as I write this, thousands of dogs continue to suffer in puppy mills.

The puppy mill problem has multiple facets: unscrupulous breeders looking to make a profit through mass breeding; laws that are difficult to enforce; and animal protection agencies that lack the resources required to investigate complaints (humane societies and SPCAs receive no government funding), to name a few. Don't get caught in the puppy mill web.

Ending puppy mills is easy. Simply put, puppy mills, or any unethical business for that matter, depend upon one thing -- demand. End the demand by not buying dogs online, never buying a dog from any individual who refuses to let you see where the dog was raised, and avoid buying dogs from a pet store (with the exception of pet stores that have animals from a local shelter).

Currently several places, including Richmond, B.C. and Toronto, are choosing to ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores unless they are sourced from a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), humane society or rescue group.

End puppy mills by adopting a dog from a humane society, SPCA, or reputable rescue group. These organizations test their dogs for temperament and will help match the right dog to the right family. They can tell if the dog you think you want loves children, hates cats, has lots of energy or prefers to cuddle on the couch. These organizations also have specific breeds, if that's what your heart is set on, or they can direct you to a breed rescue group.

As part of the adoption price, dogs are usually spayed or neutered, microchipped or tattooed, vaccinated, and given a full check-up by a veterinarian. This makes adoption by far the best value for your money.

Most important, adopting a dog means you are saving a life. There is a huge pet overpopulation problem, with as many as a quarter million cats and dogs ending up in Canadian shelters each year. Nearly half are euthanized. Imagine if people stopped buying dogs from puppy mills and chose the adoption option. During the holiday season the Canadian Federation of Human Societies (CFHS) teams up with pet food brand Iams to promote animal adoption.

Dogs are loving creatures. They are our best friends. Those of us who share our lives with a dog know all about their loyalty, intelligence, and playfulness. We know how much their all-too-short time with us enriches our lives.

Dogs are for life -- they are not disposable products. It's time for the public to eliminate the cruel mass breeding industry. Think carefully, choose wisely. and love deeply; stop supporting puppy mills.