What Is a Puppy Mill?
A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.
Puppy mill puppies are typically sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.
What Problems Are Common to Puppy Mill Dogs?
Illness, disease, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
- Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
- Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
- Respiratory disorders
On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores—and their new homes—with diseases or infirmities. These can include:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Kennel cough
- Intestinal parasites
- Chronic diarrhea
How Are Animals Treated at Puppy Mills?
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. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns. Breeder 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 a gust of fresh air on their faces.
How Often Are Dogs Bred in Puppy Mills?
In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The mom and dad of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive—and neither will the many puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable to pet stores.
How Can I Help Fight Puppy Mills?
There are many ways you can fight puppy mills, starting with refusing to patronize the stores and websites that sell their dogs.
- Do not buy a puppy from a pet store—in fact, do not buy a puppy from any place that does not allow you to see its entire facility and meet the mother dog. This includes websites that sell pets online. Anyone can put up a great-looking website boasting the highest standards of breeding and care, but you really have no way of knowing if such businesses are what they claim. Truly responsible breeders want to meet you before selling you one of their prized pups to be sure that he or she is going to a good home.
- You can also take a more active role in fighting puppy mills by working with the ASPCA to pass legislation that ensures that all animals bred to be pets are raised in healthy conditions. Stay up-to-date about current legislation to ban puppy mills by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. Please also read our Ten Ways You Can Help Fight Puppy Mills.
10 Ways You Can Help Fight Puppy Mills
1. Do Not Buy Your Puppy From a Pet Store
That puppy who charmed you through the pet shop window has most likely come from a large-scale, substandard commercial breeding facility, commonly known as a puppy mill. In these facilities, parent dogs are caged and bred as often as possible, and give birth to puppies who could have costly medical problems you might not become aware of until after you bring your new pet home.
2. Make Adoption Your First Option
If you’re looking to make a puppy part of your family, check your local shelters first. Not only will you be saving a life, but you will ensure that your money is not going to support a puppy mill. There are many dogs waiting for homes in shelters all across the country—and an estimated one in four is a purebred! Your second option is breed rescue. If your heart is set on a specific breed you haven’t been able to find in a shelter, you can do an Internet search for a breed-specific rescue organization.
3. Know How to Recognize a Responsible Breeder
If you’ve exhausted your options for adopting and are choosing to buy from a breeder, remember that responsible breeders have their dogs’ interests in mind. They are not simply interested in making a sale, but in placing their pups in good homes. A responsible breeder should screen you as thoroughly as you screen them!
4. See Where Your Puppy Was Born and Bred
One sign that you are speaking to an unscrupulous breeder is that they will not let you see the facility in which your puppy was born. Always ask to see the breeding premises and to meet both parents (or at least the mother) of the puppy you want to take home. You should also ask for an adoption contract that explains—in terms you understand—the breeder’s responsibilities, health guarantee and return policy.
5. Internet Buyers, Beware!
Buying a puppy from the Internet is as risky as buying from a pet store. If you buy a puppy based on a picture and a phone call, you have no way of seeing the puppy’s breeding premises or meeting his parents.
6. Share Your Puppy Mill Story with the ASPCA
If you have—or think you have—purchased a puppy-mill puppy, please tell us your story. Every bit of evidence gives us more power to get legislation passed that will ban puppy mills.
7. Speak Out!
Inform your state and federal legislators that you are disturbed by the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills, and would like to see legislation passed that ensures that all animals bred to be pets are raised in healthy conditions. You can keep up-to-date about current legislation to ban puppy mills by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade.
8. Tell Your Friends
If someone you know is planning on buying a puppy, please direct them to our puppy mill information at ASPCA.org. Let them know that there are perfectly healthy dogs in shelters waiting to be adopted.
9. Think Globally
Have a webpage, a MySpace page or a blog? Use these powerful tools to inform people about puppy mill cruelty by adding a link to our puppy mill information at ASPCA.org.
When people are looking to buy or adopt a pet, they will often ask the advice of their veterinarian, groomer or pet supply store. Download and print our flyers (pdf) and ask to leave them in the offices of your local practitioners.
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