In the past few years the lights exposing puppy mills for what they really are have become increasingly brighter. What exactly is a puppy mill anyway? A puppy mill is an inhumane, commercial “back yard” dog-breeding facility that focuses on increasing profit while spending as little as possible. The health and welfare of the animals is not a priority in any way, and the picture below tells a tale of how exactly most of these pups live out their lives.
Puppy mill dogs are never allowed out of their cage, have no soft bed and stand on the hard wire crates 24 hours a day. They are not seen by a vet, or fed proper nutrition. They have never felt the grass beneath their toes, chased a ball, chewed a bone or cuddled up on anyone’s lap. They are victim to hot and cold climates with no reprieve from the heat, rain, wind or snow. Essentially, puppy mill dogs are prisoners and their sole purpose in life is to make more puppies. In America, it’s estimated that 2.11 million puppies are sold that originated from puppy mills every year, all while 3 million dogs left in shelters are euthanized because they are simply over crowded and there aren’t enough people out there willing to adopt.
Why do puppy mills exist?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and sad at the same time: Because there is a demand. Puppy mills exist because people continue to buy their puppies from pet stores, instead of rescues, shelters or reputable breeders. They take their new pet home, and still have no idea that the pups were most likely born in a place like this. A reputable breeder will never sell their pups to be resold at a pet store.
In most states, puppy mills are illegal, and the Humane Society Of The United States ( HSUS) has estimated that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. alone. Fewer than 3,000 of these are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can click here to view a map of guidelines for your state, and then be sure to watch this short video about the HSUS investigation of pet stores in VA.
What about Internet-based “breeders?”
In most cases, what you see is not what you get. The owner of this online puppy store was charged and convicted of 14 counts of aggravated animal cruelty and 16 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. In 2008, seven hundred animals were removed from the property, and not all of them were alive. The bottom line is that you need to do your research. You can find more reports like this on the HSUS website here.
If you meet a breeder online and they want to meet you somewhere other than where the dogs are bred, you should look elsewhere for your new pup. A reputable breeder will always allow you to see where the pups were born. If not, walk away.
What Can You Do About Puppy Mills?
1 .Do not buy a puppy from a pet store, or online breeder where you cannot first see for yourself the living conditions of the animals. The first and most important step in the fight against puppy mills should be self explanatory.
2. Be an advocate and promoter of your local shelter, rescue, and Humane Society on social media. Explain the benefits of rescuing a shelter dog, and remind people to stay away from pet stores unless the pets are specifically from rescues. Most chain pet stores will invite local animal rescues to come and hold adoption events thanks to the Puppy Friendly Pet Store initiative. Please do not be mistaken, this is not the same thing as buying a pup from a store that sells dogs exclusively.
3. Contact your legislators. let them know that you’re concerned about the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills and want the puppy mill issue to be a priority for Congress. Ask them to expand the reach of the Animal Welfare Act to include kennels that sell large numbers of puppies directly to the public.
The HSUS has a wealth of information on the subject, and is a fantastic resource for puppy mill awareness. They even offers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for illegal animal cruelty. Persons wishing to phone in a tip are encouraged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP. Your information will be kept completely confidential. You can also view the website information here.
If we all do our part, educate each other, and share what we know and learn, we can help make puppy mills a thing of the past.