msnbc.com
updated 11/20/2008 5:12:38 PM ET 2008-11-20T22:12:38

Once you've decided to get a dog and have researched what sort of pup suits your lifestyle, check out the Humane Society of the United States’ guidelines on finding the right one.

  • Adopt from an animal shelter. Animal shelters are your best source when looking for a pet. Not only do they have a large selection of mature animals and puppies, but 25 to 30 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds.
  • Want a purebred? Adopt from a purebred rescue group. Rescue groups keep adoptable animals — who may have come from failed breeders, boarding kennels or through local animal shelters — until they can be placed in permanent homes. To locate a rescue group that specializes in a particular breed of dog, contact your local animal shelter, newspaper classifieds or search the Internet. You can call The Humane Society at 202-452-1100 (ask for the Companion Animals section).
  • Don't purchase a dog from a pet store and be wary of Web sites and newspaper ads. Many disreputable breeders who are not regulated or inspected by any federal agency sell dogs directly to the public through the Internet and newspapers. Pet stores are typically supplied by large commercial breeders that may be puppy mills housing dogs in poor, unsanitary conditions. Puppy mill puppies often have health problems which can lead to thousands of dollars in veterinary bills.
  • A "USDA-inspected" breeder does not mean a good breeder. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the federal law called the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which regulates commercial breeding operations. But the act doesn't require all commercial breeders to be licensed, and the USDA establishes only minimum-care standards in enforcing the law. Breeders are required to provide food, water and shelter — but not socialization or freedom from confining cages. Many USDA-licensed and inspected puppy mills operate under poor conditions with known violations.
  • The Humane Society offers detailed information on finding a good breeder.

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