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Eight Things to Know about Adopting a Puppy in Minnesota

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Is your family looking to add a canine member? You may be asking yourself, “Where can I adopt/buy/get a puppy?” Having worked in veterinary clinics for over three decades, I have seen puppies come from a lot of different sources—some better than others. Here’s what you need to know before you start looking!

  • Puppy mills, or commercial dog breeding operations that breed dogs for financial gain over the well-being of their dogs. The Midwest, including Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and especially Missouri, contains many puppy mills. Puppy mills are legal so long as they have a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) license. The Animal Welfare Act contains the standards that govern the care of these dogs and cats, but they set a low bar, and regardless, the USDA doesn’t effectively enforce them. Puppy mills then sell their puppies over the internet, to pet stores, at flea markets, on a corner out of a box, or in the newspaper.
  • I’ve heard many people say, “But I rescued him from the pet store, so that’s a good thing, right?” While this opinion might seem logical, it ignores the ramifications to future litters of puppies. Consider that the pet store doesn’t care that you “rescued” a puppy; in their view, you purchased a product that they will now “restock” as they continue to supply a demand that you helped to create. Pet stores that sell puppies keep puppy mills in business.
  • How do you find a puppy in a cruelty-free way? First and foremost, the Twin Cities abound with humane societiesand rescue organizations. Some of them do euthanize animals that are found to be unsuitable for adoption. If you object to that philosophy, there are rescues that only take in pets that can be successfully re-homed. Many of these can be found at

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  • Looking for a particular breed? In Minnesota, start with the Minnesota Purebred Dog Breeders Association. In order to obtain membership, a breeder must apply as well as be sponsored by two current members.
  • It is important to see where the puppies are raised and kept, so don’t agree to meet a breeder anywhere but where they keep their dogs. Good breeders often live with their dogs in their home. In contrast, puppy mill operators may offer to either bring the puppy to you or meet you in another location, like a parking lot. Along the same lines, never buy a puppy over the internet or on a corner out of a box, even if the seller says they are “home-raised.”
  • Ask to see the mother of the puppy and if possible, the father too. The more access the breeder grants you, the more trustworthy the operation.
  • Ask what happens if the puppy becomes sick. Good breeders will want to resolve health issues to the benefit of the puppy and often express a desire to provide support (other than financial) for their puppy owners for the life of the dog.
  • Good breeders will be as picky about placing their puppy in a home as you are about selecting one. Don’t be offended if the adoption contract asks about your house, yard, or family members. Breeders who love their puppies will want them raised by a caring family.

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The process of adding a puppy to your family can be time-consuming, but rest assured, the work that you put into finding the right dog will pay off in the long-term!

Heidi Brenegan, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

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