Help Dogs Caught in the Pet Trade: End Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are those aptly named businesses that mass produce dogs. Puppy mills are not much different from the factories that churn out blenders, toasters, televisions, DVD players, and the like. And that is one of the many dirty little secrets about puppy mills. They are kept in business by consumers, people like you and me.

People see the cute puppy in the pet store window and want to give it a home. Pet stores thrive on impulsive shoppers. And puppy mills are where most pet stores get their dogs.  

The shoppers or consumers don’t realize, at least not at the time, the sweet looking dog has been strategically placed in the window to attract their attention. The puppy may well have "papers" issued by the American Kennel Club. The consumer will think this means the dog is a purebreed. How would they know the AKC issues purebred registration papers to anyone who submits an application and pays a fee?

The papers simply indicate the purebred lineage the breeder stated on the application. The AKC has said it "is the largest and only significant not-for-profit dog registry …in the US. We register nearly 1 million purebred dogs and over 400,000 litters of purebred puppies every year. "

The AKC does not actually travel to every breeder’s facility to inspect it. Nor does AKC check to find out if the puppy even qualifies for registration. Though the pet stores and breeders may not tell consumers this, the AKC has announced it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry."

A would be consumer may be shown a photo of a beautiful farm in Pennsylvania or Missouri. It may well be of an actual place, even the home of the breeder. But, of course, nowhere in the photo will the consumer see the cramped, dirty cages where the puppies are born and kept until they are sold in pet stores or at auctions.

There is no photo of the puppy’s mother who is likely nursing yet another litter. She will be bred over and over. At times the puppies may literally be ripped from her body through caesarian sections that are closed with fishing line or some other homemade suture.

The mother will be bred until her reproductive organs fall out of her body. It is unlikely she will ever see a veterinarian or even a USDA inspector or local animal control officer. Eventually, if she does not die first of illness or disease, she will be killed, dumped at the local pound or sold to a research facility where she will be the subject for experiments and testing.

The cute puppy’s mother will never know human companionship or love. No one may ever even pet her. She will never run or play with a ball. There will be no dog treats or a toy or soft blanket for her. She may not see much sunlight. Instead, she will live her life in a dark cage, crowded with other dogs. If she is lucky, the wire bottom of the cage she lays on all day will not be covered in feces, spoiled food, flies or garbage. There will be little relief from the extremes of weather.

The puppy’s mother would not be very photogenic. It is likely her fur will be matted and dirty, her nails overgrown. She may have fleas, ticks or worms. This would not make for a good photo for a breeder or pet store trying to sell one of her puppies.

If the consumer asks about the puppy’s litter mates, they may not learn that the litter is inbred. It is a common practice at puppy mills to inbreed dogs. Inbreeding increases the likelihood of illness or disabilities in the litters.

But the consumer may not realize there is anything wrong with the puppy until after they get home. Any littermates that are obviously sick or disabled are killed or sent to the local shelter. They are just inventory after all. A breeder will not let the fact dogs are sentient beings interfere with profits.

As the consumer admires the puppy in the window, he may not realize the dog may be ill or diseased. It is unlikely the cute looking baby dog has been properly socialized. Indeed, it is unlikely the puppy has been socialized at all.

It is tempting for the consumer to think the puppy arrived at the pet store in a big basket lined with a soft blanket and a favorite toy. But this dog has never had a soft blanket or any toy. At least not until he was posed in the pet store window on a blanket surrounded by toys. The dog was probably warehoused in a tractor trailer in a crate along with hundreds of other puppies and shipped by a broker to an auction. That is how the cute puppy came to be in the pet store window.

Last year one of those tractor trailers stuffed with crated puppies caught fire while it was en route from Missouri to New England Pet Centers in Nashua, New Hampshire. The puppies were from facilities owned by Hunte Corporation, a large dog breeding enterprise. All of the puppies died.

It is estimated there are approximately 400,000-500,000 puppies born to breeders each year. Last Chance for Animals, reports, "Each of the 4,000-5,000 puppy mills in the U.S., most of which are located in the Midwest, houses between 75 to 150 breeding animals. Only half of the dogs bred at puppy mills make it to the pet store; the other half die from the mill’s squalid conditions, hypothermia starvation, or other horrors of transport."

The consumer who sees the puppy in the pet store window will not learn much about the breeders. The breeders will seem like nice people, very experienced, at least from what the purchaser can tell from the information provided by the pet store. No one really checks to find out the sort of operation run by the breeders, how they treat their dogs.

But if the AKC is registering the breeders’ dogs, they must have a clean facility where the dogs are well cared for, right? Most consumers do not realize a truly reputable breeder does not sell dogs in a pet store or market. Instead, they interview prospective purchasers to assure the dogs will have a good home.

The consumer may actually investigate the breeder. The consumer may point to the claim the breeder is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA does license breeders under the Animal Welfare Act. 7 U.S.C. Sec. 2131, et seq. And, the consumer can obtain a list of licensed breeders known as Class A breeders. There is also available a list of those who broker, purchase or sell animals. They are called Class B dealers. 9 C.F.R. 1.1.  The problem is that the regulations require only enough care to keep the dogs breeding. There are no limits on the breeding. This is an agricultural business after all. The dogs are simply commodities like corn or carrots. And, there are very few inspectors to enforce the regulations. So having a license doesn’t mean much.

How You Can Help End Puppy Mills 

 1.  Don’t ever buy dogs from pet stores, online or newspapers or other ads! Instead, adopt a dog from your local shelter or rescue.

2.  Encourage family and friends to adopt instead of buying dogs.

3. Learn about puppy mills

4.  Educate others about puppy mills and encourage them to avoid supporting commercial dog breeders by adopting not buying dogs

5.  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or contact local radio stations about puppy mills and call on people to adopt not buy dogs. 

6.  Join a local group that advocates against puppy mills. 

7.  Organize or join a protest at pet stores that sell dogs. Most pet stores get the dogs they sell from puppy mills.

8. Encourage local pet stores that sell dogs also to offer dogs for adoption.

9.  Many puppy mill dogs are sold at specially held dog auctions. Organize or join a protest at these auctions.

10. Support legislation to regulate puppy mills. Contact your Congressional, state or local representatives to learn existing laws and how they could be made stronger and more effective or how they can be better enforced. Look for proposed laws to regulate puppy mills and write or call your legislator and urge their support.

11.  Start or sign a petition in protest of puppy mills.  

12. Look for puppy mills that may be just starting and are applying for permits, or those that are renewing their permits. Work with local officials to oppose permits for puppy mills or set stringent requirements for the permit. Or attend hearings on the permit application and write or call local officials to let them know they should oppose the permit or conditions issuance of the permit on compliance with strict requirements.

13.  Report all cruel, inhumane treatment you observe at a commercial dog breeding operation and potential violations of regulations governing commercial dog breeders.

14.  Volunteer at your local public shelter. 25-30% of puppy mill dogs end up in shelters. They often need special care and attention because they typically have received poor or non-existent care and no socialization.

One thought on “Help Dogs Caught in the Pet Trade: End Puppy Mills”

  1. I have a feeling that someone advertising a kitten ‘for free’ online is actually a front for a kitten mill. I have an email to back up my suspicions. What can I do to bring someone’s attention to this matter? So far, I’ve contacted Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as well as the Animal Law Coalition group. Is there a particular group that can help investigate?

    -Rivergull in NJ

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