March 23rd is National Puppy Day and it's aimed at celebrating puppies and promoting adoption for the millions of pooches who are looking for forever homes. When it comes to picking up a furry friend, there are a few ways you can go about it – head to the local animal shelter, check out a pet store, search online or look at the classified ads in the newspaper. While all seem like viable options, there are some red flags you need to be aware of because puppy mills and backyard breeders are becoming more problematic all across the country.

The unfortunately reality is that many people are unknowingly supporting these 'black market' practices and you should know how to identify the red flags associated with them. First, a puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding compound that puts a priority on profit over the well-being of the dogs. Backyard breeders are people who breed animals, often without proper registration and in some cases, produce inbred puppies for looks with little to no regard to their health.

In both cases, these poor animals can suffer from a slew of health problems, which in turn can result in significant medical care costs because medicine for dogs is expensive. You want to be sure you get a healthy puppy that hasn't been exposed to diseases or environmental conditions which may affect their well-being. While all dogs deserve a good home, you can do your part to help and still find an adorable puppy along the way. Here are some tips for finding a new puppy!

Know the Signs Of A Puppy Mill

Puppy mills generally house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without sufficient food, water or veterinary care. Some puppy mills will have cages upon cages of animals, and the cages have only wire flooring, which injuries the puppies’ paws and legs. If you visit a property like this to look at puppies in these conditions, it's definitely a red flag. Instead, consider leaving and calling the police to report that the animals are in unsafe conditions. Additionally, the local animal control department may also be able to step in for help.

Know the Difference Between Breeders

Like mentioned above, there are 'backyard breeders', which breed dogs in an irresponsible manner that puts the focus on profit rather than the well-being of the dog. With that in mind, it's important to understand the differences between a responsible breeder and an irresponsible one.

Responsible breeders don't sell their puppies to or through pet stores because they personally want to screen and select the homes for their puppies. They will take many factors into consideration when selecting an adoptive family, and will turn people away if their lifestyle or home situation does not fall in line with the breed they are raising.

Additionally, responsible breeders don't sell multiple dog breeds; they typically only specialize in one or two main breeds and they will demonstrate an extensive knowledge on that breed's history, traits, conformation and temperament. On top of that, they will allow you to visit their home so you can see the dog's living conditions. They also have their dogs’ health evaluated frequently and make sure they are up-to-date on their shots. To make your search even easier, you can use the American Kennel Club's breeder referral search tool to find one in your area!

Finding a healthy puppy to take home just takes a little bit of research, and knowing where to adopt one can make a huge difference in your experience with your new pet Use the above tips when you search for your new puppy to find one that is a good fit for your home and your family!