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Berrien County made national news during the first week of March but not all news is good news. Instead, this community learned they were home to one of the largest dog breeding operations ever busted in Georgia. Over 700 dogs and puppies were pulled out of a facility licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

They were housed on top of each other in wire crates with no solid floor. Their hair was matted with a pomade of urine and feces. Many had never left their cages to be walked or held. They were warehoused for the purpose of breeding and whelping puppies that were sold for as much as $600 a piece.

With a population of just under 20,000, Berrien County is described by the local chamber of commerce as “unique” and “loaded with Southern hospitality and charm.” It must have come as a terrible shock to learn what was happening in their lovely community. The reality is that puppy mills are based in small communities all over America.

These were toy Poodles, Yorkies and pint sized “designer” mixes. They are both highly desirable to consumers and highly profitable given the modest space required to produce them. Large scale breeding operations like these are the foundation of the supply chain for retail and on-line puppy outlets. Most people who buy this way have no idea of the suffering behind the cute puppy.

Last November, Atlanta became the ninth Georgia city to ban the sale of puppies in retail stores, joining the ranks of more than 250 cities nationwide. It’s officially a movement. The people are saying no to the mass production of puppies and municipal governments are saying they are tired of having to foot the bill to clean up breeding operations gone bad.

In the humane world we say, “Adopt Don’t Shop”. We hope you will adopt your next pet from one of your local shelters where puppies, kittens, dogs and cats are fully vetted, including spayed or neutered, prior to adoption. The problem can end with us and the choices we make as consumers.