This will be the first in a series of posts on the subject of puppy mills. There is so much information to be covered; I couldn’t possibly do it in one post! I need to do a lot more research to get it all out here. My purpose is to make more people aware of this problem, so we can all join together to put an end to it.
What exactly is considered a puppy mill? Puppy mills are high volume commercial dog breeders, who sell either online or to pet stores. Their animals are often kept under deplorable conditions, such as:
- Unsanitary cages, so small the dogs have just enough room to move around. The dogs become dirty, matted, and often sick.
- Little to no veterinary care, meaning poor dental care leading to complications; as well as dogs with diseases such as heartworm and respiratory infections.
- Very little human interaction due to the large volume of animals kept. Puppy mills might have up to hundreds of dogs.
- Females are bred every 6 months, whenever they come into heat. This can go on for up to 5 years.
- No toys, no games, no exercise. Their sole purpose in life is to produce puppies for the financial gain of the breeder.
- When they are no longer useful for breeding, they are killed, abandoned or sold cheaply at auctions.
It is estimated that 4-5 million dogs die in shelters every year, with 20% of these being purebred. So why in God’s name do we need all these puppy mills to keep producing puppies that ultimately end up homeless? There are approximately 6,000 licensed kennels in the United States, and unknown numbers of unlicensed ones. There could be up to one million breeder dogs in puppy mills at this time, and up to 4 million dogs and puppies. Puppy mills are all over the country, but my research turns up that Missouri is one of the worst states (said to have 10,000 puppy mills, 30% of the country) and that the Amish are also highly involved in this industry.
Puppy mills have been around since the 1960’s, coming about when farmers needed to supplement their income by raising puppies. In 1966 the Animal Welfare Act was passed, requiring that “minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.” (per USDA.gov) It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates this. Other laws may be more specific, but this act is considered the minimum acceptable standard, and it is enforced by the USDA. However, the USDA inspectors have over 1200 research facilities, 2700 exhibitors, and 4900 dealers to cover. They have 70-80 inspectors. I’ll let you do the math on that one.
This is my quick overview of what puppy mills are all about. What can we do? To start with, we can refuse to buy puppies from pet stores or from online breeders. If you want to buy a purebred puppy, you should try to do that locally, from a reputable breeder. You should be able to visit the kennel and see the conditions for yourself, meet the parents, and be assured that you are getting a healthy and well-adjusted puppy. Puppies with little to no human interaction won’t know how to act with humans.
It’s not all bad news: my next post will discuss more on the legislation that has been passed and is in the works on both the state and federal level, to deal with this problem. In the meantime, you can read more information here: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/
“DON’T SHOP: ADOPT”