Are you getting a new dog or thinking about it? We're so excited for you and we know you'll give your new companion a great, loving home.

Once you've decided you're ready for a dog, the next big decision is where to find this lifelong family member. You'll want to make sure to not get an animal from a puppy mill and that's not always easy to recognize.

Sadly, some places that seem like great puppy sources may not be, but if you follow our top puppy-buying tips, you'll be far more likely to secure a healthy, well-socialized dog who doesn't drain your emotions or your wallet.

Consider adoption first

Adopting a dog who needs a home is one of the best things you'll ever do. Animal shelters and rescue groups often have scores of great dogs, both mixes and purebreds, just waiting for homes. There are also breed-specific rescue groups for every breed of dog, including "designer" or "hybrids" like Labradoodles and Puggles. The Shelter Pet Project can help you find a great dog or puppy in your area!

Read more about adopting a puppy through a shelter or breed rescue group

Find a responsible breeder and visit the premises

Responsible breeders provide a loving and healthy environment for their canine companions, one that they will be proud to show you. You should never buy a puppy without seeing where the dog and its parents were raised and housed with your own eyes, no matter what papers the breeder has. Be aware: AKC and other types of registration papers only tell you who a puppy's parents were, not how they were treated.

Read more about how to find a responsible dog breeder

Don't get a puppy from a pet store

Despite what they may tell you, most pet stores do sell puppy mill puppies. Unless the store is helping place homeless pups by sourcing animals from local animal shelters, you have to be very careful about pet stores' link to puppy mills.

Read more about pet store doublespeak

Don't believe promises that puppies are "home-raised" or "family-raised"

Many puppy millers pose as small family breeders online and in newspaper and magazine ads. The HSUS has often helped local authorities in the rescue of puppy mill dogs. In almost all cases, the puppy mills sold puppies via the internet using legitimate-looking ads or websites that made it look like the dogs came from somewhere happy and beautiful, claims that couldn't have been further from the truth.

Avoid the temptation to "rescue" a puppy mill dog by buying them

Unfortunately, that just opens up space for another puppy mill puppy and puts money into the pockets of the puppy mill industry. The money you spend goes right back to the puppy mill operator, ensuring they will continue breeding and treating dogs inhumanely. If you see someone keeping puppies in poor conditions, alert your local animal control authorities instead of buying the animal.

Do your part: Pledge to help stop puppy mills!

Choose not to buy your next pet from a pet store or Internet site, and refuse to buy supplies from any pet store or internet site that sells puppies.

Take the pledge

Help stop this cycle of cruelty by pledging to adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue, or purchase only from a responsible breeder who will show you where your puppy was born and raised.

Mikhail, a dog rescued from a Jefferson County, Arkansas, puppy mill on 2/27/14