- Adams County has fewer cases of cruelty in dog breeding than Lancaster County
- First breeder Greg Mellinger is breeding nine English Mastiff puppies and plans to sell for $1,500 each
- People interested in buying puppies from breeders should look for key qualifications, such as licenses and vaccinations.
A 6-week-old English Mastiff puppy picked up an empty iced tea can with his mouth and carried it over a foot or two before dropping it at his owner’s feet. She is surrounded by the owner’s children, her mother and eight siblings, seven women and one man, in a spacious yard in Abbottstown. The litter is the first for the Mellinger family, who are looking to find good homes for the puppies.
Greg Mellinger, a construction worker, said he started the process when his brother-in-law, a seasoned dog breeder, gave him a 2-year-old English Mastiff named Sasha, who gave birth to the purebred litter on 3 february. .
While Mellinger said the extra income from the puppies served as motivation, he also saw other benefits, such as how enjoyable it would be for his four sons, ages 10, 7 and 3, as well as his child. of 6 months. He also said he had an affinity for the English Mastiff breed.
“I’ve always loved a big dog,” he said as Sasha rushed into their yard. “They’re big, but they’re soft.”
Adams County has a smaller dog breeding scene than Lancaster County, known by some in the animal welfare community as the “Puppy Mill Capital of the East.” However, buyers should remain vigilant when making the decision to buy a dog in the area.
Abby Avery, humanitarian officer for the Adams County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there are two categories of dog breeders: good and bad. The Mellingers are aiming to land in the “right” column with their first experience raising puppies.
“I don’t want to take them out and make a lot of money,” Mellinger said, noting that he prioritizes Sasha’s health over when she can have her next litter.
According to Avery, good breeders are there for more than money and give their puppies the necessary vaccinations. Breeders must be registered with the American Kennel Club, where Mellingers are licensed.
Bad breeders may sell puppies around Christmas for easy money or sell “creative” mixed breeds, like Jugs or Cockapoos, instead of purebreds, Avery said. She also pointed out that it is a bad sign when breeders want to meet a potential customer at a location other than their home.
“If you buy from a breeder and they want to meet you, there’s something wrong,” she said. “It’s a red flag.”
Avery said she found instances of cruelty with dog breeders or puppy mills in Adams County, although it was on a much smaller scale than Lancaster County. She noted that she had seen poorly behaved puppies at local pet stores. Shop owners have no idea where the dogs come from, and they often have unkempt manes or lack the vaccines they need, she said.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website, Adams County has 22 open kennels. Only three inspections failed last year, and two of those violations rectified to pass an inspection later in the year. In the past 10 years, only one kennel in Adams County, Lil Dikens Kennel in Latimore Township, has been forced to close.
Jackie Keeney, the president of United Against Puppy Mills, is fighting to raise awareness of the issue in an attempt to eliminate the proliferation of puppy mills. Keeney said puppy mill dogs lived in cages their entire lives and could barely turn around. Some puppy mill owners even perform surgeries on their dogs without anesthesia.
“A lot of that turns into medical issues because of the lack of care for these dogs,” Keeney said.
Avery said puppies emerging from these environments can lead to disappointment for those who purchased them. These puppies are more likely to lack socialization or get sick.
“Handling puppies when they’re small is extremely important,” Avery said. “Otherwise you get that little bit of wildness in them.”
Mellinger said her young sons help socialize the puppies. He even said he was worried about how they would react once the puppies were sold.
“I’m afraid we’ll have problems when they start leaving,” he joked.
Mellinger puppies can start going home with interested clients in two to three weeks after they get the shots they need from the vet. Mellinger said he was testing the waters to gauge interest, post messages online and send photos to interested parties. He said he charged $1,500 for each dog because they had a championship line.
Avery said it’s important for people buying through breeders to check references, violations of dog law or cruelty and whether the breeder’s kennel license is clean and up to date.
“There are some good breeders out there,” Avery said. “It’s the bad ones that make them all look bad.”
Most importantly, Avery encourages those looking to buy a puppy for adoption. Through this route, consumers can ensure their puppies are vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered, and the cost will be a fraction of pet store prices, she said.
Pennsylvania has passed legislation in recent years to suppress bad breeding habits. The measures require breeders to have larger cages and more vet visits for their dogs, and additionally try to ensure animals are humanely euthanized. However, since these measures were passed, puppy mills have gone underground to circumvent the law, Keeney said.
“As long as they’re in demand, they’ll supply,” Keeney said. “Offenders find a way around it, and then they get what they want.”
Mellinger said he has prioritized the health of his puppies since birth. After Sasha was diagnosed with mastitis that put her milk at risk, he bottle-fed the puppies every two hours.
With his first breeding experience, Mellinger said he learned a lot, maybe “too much,” he added. Above all, he said he hopes each of the puppies finds a good home.
“They’re typical puppies,” he said. “They bite, chew and play.”