If puppy mills were as bad as activists say they are, they would be illegal, right?
WRONG. The truth is, there is a major loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that allows puppy mills selling directly to consumers to have no federal or state oversight. Some puppy mills, such as those that sell wholesale (for example to pet stores) are regulated by the USDA. But in Virginia in 2007, only 17 breeders were licensed, when HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) investigations revealed over 1,000 commercial breeders in the state. Only 4,600 breeding operations are licensed by the USDA nationwide, and roughly 80 percent of these or 3,700 are solely breeding for the pet trade. The HSUS estimates the number of unregistered puppy mills to be about 10,000 nationwide. Inspection records obtained by the HSUS revealed that facilities with repeated violations were allowed to constantly renew their licenses, and that many USDA licensed operations are not fined and do not have their licenses repealed even after violations of the Animal Welfare Act. And no state has laws against a breeding kennel keeping dozens or even hundreds of dogs in cages their whole lives if basic food, water and shelter are provided. Of all the states, only Virginia and Louisiana placed a limit on the number of intact dogs that a breeder can keep, but this only prevents the ‘mega-mills’ such as those with thousands of animals. An estimated 2 to 4 million puppy mill dogs are brought into the marketplace each year. A survey in California found that nearly half of pet store puppies were infected with or were incubating diseases, aside from genetic problems. In addition, many dogs from puppy mills are not purebred as sellers claim.
What are puppy mills?
Puppy mills- large scale dog breeders- are nothing short of legalized torture. At least 65 to 75 dogs (larger facilities have thousands) are housed in cramped steel cages. With wire floors designed to allow the dogs’ excrement to fall through, these cages are the breeding dogs’ homes for their entire short and miserable lives. Puppies, often slipping on those floors and injuring themselves (sometimes even cutting off their own paws and feet, and not being treated in the slightest) are filthy and matted with their littermates’, their mother’s and their own excrement. There is no escape from the dog fights that occur in those cages. With no heating in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer, dogs often die of heat stroke or freeze to death. Dogs are ‘debarked’ by stuffing steel rods down their throats, rupturing their vocal chords. The food puppies and mother dogs eat in puppy mills is purchased by the truckload and is sometimes made of the sweepings from the floors. This food has so little nutritional value that the dogs’ teeth rot at very early ages. Puppies are taken from their mothers at 5 weeks old and shipped without any food, water, ventilation or veterinary care. Those that survive the hellish trip are sold at pet shops to innocent families, whose hearts are soon broken when they find their puppy has horrible emotional, behavioral or genetic problems. Many puppy mill dogs don’t survive their first few months, even in a new home. At the pet store, cruelty is continued- puppies are housed in tiny steel cages, are forced to urinate and defecate in those cages, and don’t see the sun until the day of their purchase. In addition, the puppies are harder to housebreak as weeks of urinating and defecating in their cages rids them of their natural den instinct not to soil their sleeping place.
What else happens at puppy mills?
Female dogs are bred on every heat cycle until they can no longer reproduce- usually only around the age of five. Then they are killed, oftentimes being bashed in the head with a rock. Sometimes, they are sold to laboratories or simply dumped.
Some dogs are so emotionally scarred from their experience at puppy mills that they have developed repetitive habits, such as going around in circles, or barking at a wall, for hours.
Excrement drops through the wire floors onto the floor, which is hosed once a week if at all. This pile of feces, urine, decaying food, and vomit is often full of flies, maggots, rats and other pests that can transmit diseases.
Dogs housed in indoor facilities must deal with ammonia vapors, plus the horrible odor of hundreds of unwashed dogs.
The dogs are filthy and matted. Their teeth are rotting, their eyes have ulcers and leak pus. They have no veterinary care, grooming, or human interaction.
The reason puppy mills are so profitable is because breeders do not provide interaction, grooming, care, or even proper food and water to any of the dogs.
So what can I do to help stop this?
If the public stopped purchasing dogs from pet stores and puppy mills, the problem would end. Many people want to save this dog from misery, but they are only funding misery for millions of other dogs. For example, Vice President Joe Biden’s recently acquired pet is a puppy from a puppy mill.
You can raise awareness about puppy mill cruelties, encourage adoption and buying from reputable breeders and write to politicians to pass laws to stop cruelty once and for all. Sites such as www.puppymills.com, www.caps-web.org, www.nopuppymills.com and www.StopPuppyMills.com have more information and sample brochures. You can even contact your local newspaper or television station.
Boycott stores such as Petland that still sell puppies, and write to let them know why. Let politicians know that it costs taxpayers $2,500,000,000 a year to control pet overpopulation. In addition, eliminating puppy mills will keep strays off our streets and consequently stop thousands of dog bites a year. Write to your state Senator, and even the President (who was going to adopt a dog from a shelter but chose a purebred from a private kennel instead). Use some of the facts mentioned in this post. To find your state representative or senators visit www.legis.state.il.us.