Puppy Mill?

By Marion C. O'Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI

Are you thinking about buying a purebred puppy? Choosing the right breed for you and your family is an important decision, but where you buy your puppy needs to be the most important decision of all.  The SPCA website says “A puppy mill is a breeding facility. To maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The parents of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive.

Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise, or basic grooming. Breeding dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or breathe fresh air.”

According to the Humane Society website, “Consumers who purchase puppies from pet stores or over the Internet without seeing a breeder's home firsthand are often unknowingly supporting this cruel industry.”

I have a friend who said she “felt bad for the puppy at the pet store,” so she purchased him.  I had to tell her, “If you think you’re saving a puppy from a pet store you are in fact making room for another puppy mill puppy to take its place.” Unfortunately she ended up spending thousands of dollars for veterinarian bills because of major behavioral and medical problems.

 The SPCA website says “Fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are typical of puppy mill dogs. Puppies born in puppy mills are typically removed from their littermates and mothers at just six weeks of age. The first months of a puppy's life are a critical socialization period for puppies. Spending that time with their mother and littermates helps prevent puppies from developing problems like extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.”

The highest concentration of puppy mills is in the Midwest, specifically in Missouri, but there are also high concentrations in other areas, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, and upstate New York. Commercial dog breeding is very prevalent among Amish and Mennonite farmers. There are typically between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders (commonly referred to as puppy mills) operating in the United States. This number does not take into consideration the number of breeders not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. Because so many of these breeders are operating without oversight, it's impossible to accurately track them or to know how many there truly are. The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the nation.

I went online to see how they prey on the consumer who is looking to purchase a puppy. “Wow” would be an understatement. The websites really look like you are buying from a caring reputable family business. The Brokers even have photos of themselves with their families posing with their dogs. They have videos of cute puppies playing together. The Broker’s site says “We make it easy for you to find the perfect puppy for your family. We work with breeders that meet our high levels of care for your future pet.” They go on to say they make sure your puppy is guaranteed to be healthy. They can ship to anywhere in the country. 99% of the puppies shown were from the Lancaster area where there is the largest concentration of puppy mills in Pennsylvania. Having your puppy shipped? Unless you are buying a top quality show dog for thousands of dollars, you are actually buying a puppy mill puppy.

Do your research when looking for a reputable breeder. Look for puppies raised indoors around humans, specifically around people who have devoted lots of time to the puppies. Avoid puppies raised in an outdoor kennel, seller’s backyard, basement or barn. These are not pet-quality dogs. They are livestock. Look for litters that were born and raised in a kitchen or living room. Always ask to meet the puppy’s parents, at the very least the mother. If the breeder is asking you a lot of questions about you, your family and seems a little hesitant about selling you her puppy she might be the best choice because she cares what happens to her puppy.

Stop the cycle of cruelty by opting to adopt from a shelter or rescue, or by purchasing from a reputable breeder. You can do even more by refusing to shop for pet supplies from any store or website that sells puppies. Where you spend your money can make a difference.

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