With that 2012 vote, however, came a limit on pet choices for LA residents. Prospective owners may now feel that their only option is to adopt, because they fear they would be supporting “puppy mills” if they get a dog elsewhere, or will be judged by others if they look beyond their local shelters and rescues.

PAW OUT WITH YOUR PUG OUT: To fight against puppy mills, wave your paw goodbye to pet shops and flea markets and shake with responsible breeders and adoption shelters.

Heed your living situation

It’s important to know there are responsible breeders who care as much about animals as we all do. And showing support for responsible breeders can make a big difference in the fight against puppy mills.

Don’t feel guilty; one of the best ways to reduce relinquishments to shelters across the country begins with identifying the ideal companion animal. In some cases, adoption is an excellent option; in others, it is not. Just like every pet, every family is different and has different needs.

“In some cases, adoption is an excellent option; in others, it is not.”

Responsible pet ownership begins with finding the right pet for each unique set of circumstances. City-dwellers may not have enough space for a pet with high exercise needs. Families with children may need a pet with patience and playfulness. Families with allergies need to take that into consideration. And, the pet they are looking for isn’t always found in a shelter.

Finding a breeder

While there is a pet sale ban, getting a dog from a responsible breeder is still an option, and there are conscientious, caring breeders available. So how do you find a responsible breeder that breeds healthy, happy dogs in clean and humane conditions?

If you’ve checked shelter and rescue groups and just haven’t found “the one,” here are some additional considerations to help identify a responsible, ethical breeder: if you can, visit the breeder’s facility and see for yourself where they are born and raised. Ask for referrals from trusted family and friends or pet health care providers. Get references and photos from the breeders for other families who’ve purchased from them. Ask for information on the puppy’s parents. And check to see if the breeder is licensed and inspected and if they’ve had direct violations.

Poor matches make it much harder to form the kind of lasting bond that should be the goal of every prospective pet relationship. By protecting your right to choose the right pet for your family, you can take the first step toward forming a mutually beneficial bond for pets and owners alike.