Report says Missouri puppy mill problem among worst in the country

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COLUMBIA - Missouri tops the Humane Society's "Horrible Hundred" report exposing the worst puppy mills in the country for the third year in a row. 

Twenty three of the 100 listed puppy mills are in Missouri. One of the puppy mills listed in the report is in Montgomery City, Missouri, approximately 37 miles from Fulton. Another is in Linn, Missouri, approximately 20 miles outside of Jefferson City.

The Humane Society said its report is a "small, yet representative sampling of the puppy mills in the United States."

Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas make up the top five states with the biggest puppy mill problems. The geographic location of the states might have something to do with it. 

"In the Midwest there is so much land and so many small's easy to disguise [puppy mills]," Central Missouri Humane Society Assistant Director Michelle Casey said. 

Puppy mills are large scale breeding operations that act without regard to proper breeding practices. 

"Usually dogs are housed in overcrowded unsanitary conditions without proper food, water, veterinary care or socialization," Casey said. 

The report described the intolerable conditions of the featured Missouri puppy mills. Some reported conditions included emaciated animals, insufficient shelter for animals from extreme weather conditions, buildings without proper light and ventilation and animals with untreated medical conditions.

Casey said puppy mills in disguise might use tactics like promoting their establishment as a healthy breeding facility and using cute names and nice websites to trick consumers. 

However, there are ways to figure out if a puppy mill is hiding behind the defense of a breeder. 

"No responsible breeder is going to sell you a dog without meeting you first, because responsible breeders want to ensure [their] dogs are going to great homes," Casey said. 

Casey also said responsible breeders pride themselves on having the healthiest puppies available. On the other hand, she said most puppies at puppy mills are removed from their mothers and litter mates when they're young, which can have implications for their adult behavior. 

"A lot of puppies that come in from puppy mills are very fearful and show antisocial behavior and it's just because they didn't get what they needed as puppies. The mental stress really takes a toll on a lot of these animals," Casey said. 

The Humane Society recommends not buying a puppy from a pet store or a website. 

The organization said, "The only way for a potential buyer to know if they are purchasing form a humane and responsible breeder is to visit their breeder in person and see how and where their puppy was raised."