One of the toughest calls the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare gets is when we find out about a suspected puppy mill in the CSRA. What investigators ultimately find is often something you simply canít un-see.

Puppy mills are different than good breeders who follow guidelines of organizations like the American Kennel Club and who are seeking to produce the best examples of a particular type of dog or cat.

The mentality behind a puppy mill is different; money is the singular motivation for breeding animals.

Puppy mills found their origins on large scales in the Midwest after World War II when farmers began looking for alternative crops and sought to meet the growing demand for puppies throughout the country.

Because of the condition in which the puppies live (lying in chicken coops, rabbit hutches or other areas not designed for puppies) and lack of veterinary care, many of the animals raised this way display physical and emotional issues.

Mothers are bred indiscriminately and far too often, and their puppies are often taken away too early to ship them out somewhere while still very young.

Where are these dogs sold? These days, the Internet is a puppy mill breederís best friend. They either sell them directly or find a wholesaler to do the work for them. These puppies also show up in flea markets, classified ads, pet stores, even being sold out of the back of the truck or van in some parking lot. The buyer sees the cute puppy, buys it impulsively and finds out later that often the puppy has medical issues, emotional issues and other physical problems resulting from inbreeding, overbreeding and indiscriminate breeding.

Recently, the SPCA received a call from a nearby county about raiding a suspected puppy mill. The hope was that most of the animals would be in good enough condition to be rehabilitated and adopted out to good homes after the dogs and puppies were given veterinary care, including having been spayed or neutered.

The volunteers who helped with this effort reported the kinds of conditions heard about too often Ė dogs crowded together, living in their own filth, riddled with fleas and desperately needing grooming and bathing.

Unfortunately, when making money is the bottom line, quality care, socialization and sanitary conditions donít often follow.

Luckily, in this case, the group, led by the Humane Society of the United States, mobilized quickly and came to the rescue of these great dogs and other animals found on the property.

After good grooming, flea treatment, vaccinations and spay and neuter surgeries, these animals will be available for adoption.

At the time of this article, the animals are still awaiting final disposition from the previous owner and the court system and are not ready to be adopted just yet. There are two things the SPCA Albrecht Center wants you to take from this story.

First, if you want a purebred dog, there are good options for you. Nationally, about 25 percent of dogs at shelters are purebreds, so try there first.

If these shelters donít have what you want, investigate breed rescue groups. Most are found on the Internet with a quick search. These people are experts in their breed and will do a great job putting the right dog with you.

If these avenues donít work, there are good, legitimate breeders out there, if you do your homework. Ask to see the parents of the puppy. See firsthand where the dogs live. Ask for references and interview the breeder to learn more about why they breed the dogs.

Asking a few questions and doing the research will show them you are serious about the responsibility of dog ownership and help you determine whether you want to buy a puppy from them.

Donít buy from pet stores or flea markets, and be skeptical about buying puppies over the Internet. You may be inadvertently helping a puppy mill stay in business.

Finally, if you suspect a puppy mill is operating near you, contact your local animal control and request an investigation. You might just save the lives of dogs and puppies in need.