May 2 to May 8 is Puppy Mill Awareness Week and a time where you can sign pledges on various animal advocacy websites and learn more about what a puppy mill or puppy farm is, how animals are treated there, and what problems acquiring a pet from one of these places can have behaviorally and/or health-wise. In this two part article, the history of puppy mills, facts about the conditions the animals are kept in, and how we can responsibly choose a new pet will be discussed.
Right now, there are bills in several states that would create more regulations around large-scale dog and cat breeders in an effort to curb breeders from keeping animals in unsafe, unhealthy conditions, and allow annual inspections, background checks, and proper licensing. These bills are also advocating for proper shelter, lighting, ventilation, water, food, and adequate sanitation.
A simple Google search looking up “puppy mills” brings up pages and pages of news articles with headlines like, “20 Poodles seized during puppy mill raid” and “Puppy Mill Law on Table.”
Why Would Laws Regulating Breeders Be Necessary?
Right now, the laws regulating animal breeding seem to be very easy to get around, loopholes allowing puppy mills to sell animals over the internet, in your local newspaper, and in pet stores are easy to get around and the care and conditions that these future pets are kept in are not inspected.
Imagine a plot of land with a lot of fencing, maybe a barn, and rows and rows of coops or cages. The cages are often outside with a simple rooftop over them and inside are several animals per cage. The bottom of the cages are often wire allowing urine and feces to fall through the openings. Whatever doesn’t fall through the dog or cat must stand in. Some other setups may be inside of a large room with stacks of dog crates where a female dog and her puppies may be living. Regardless of the setup, these dogs are often neglected, rarely let out of their confined space, and fed low quality food, do not receive regular vet checks, and once they are no longer “useful” (able to breed), the animals are destroyed.
History of Puppy Mills
Puppy breeding began as a means of income after World War II. There was a widespread crop failure in the Midwest and the USDA promoted breeding purebred dogs as a way to recoup losses. At the time, this seemed like a great idea. Everyone likes to have a pet and many farms had a setup that would be fine to house a few litters of puppies. Dogs do not require the same physical labor as crops and the coops and hutches were refurbished as dog kennels. However, as time went on, breeding was seen as a “cash crop.”
As with many things, without careful regulation or controls put in place, something as simple as breeding litters of puppies for some extra money can become distorted and be what we see today on the news, 100s of dogs living in bad conditions with injuries, illnesses, and psychological damage.
5 Truths About Puppy Mills
1: Puppy mills often generate health problems for the dogs that are being sold. The puppies may have parasites, respiratory problems, and genetic diseases.
2: Puppy mills house dogs in over-crowded, unsanitary conditions, without adequate food, water, and socialization. These dogs may exhibit anxiety, insecurities, and have other problems that manifest as aggression.
3: The purebred dogs that come from puppy mills often are not the breed standard due to poor selection of a male and female. The breeders will often lie about the lineage of the dogs and the puppies may not actually be purebred.
4: Breeding dogs are often kept in cramped, small cages. This is to maximize the number of cages that can be kept. The breeding dogs are sometimes also litter mates which increases the risk of genetic defects and physical deformities.
5: Puppy mill breeders receive about $100.00 per puppy. The more puppies they sell to pet stores, the bigger the profit. The cheaper the set up, the more money that is pocketed.
To gain some more insight about puppy mills, the following videos may help:
Photo Courtesy of The Humane Society Of The United States