What is a puppy mill?
Puppy mills are large-scale commercial dog breeding operations. These mills are able to operate outside the boundaries of what would be considered neglectful treatment of an individual pet. Dogs that are bred in puppy mills are often kept in conditions that are emotionally or physically damaging. The dogs are also often bred without regard for genetic health, which means that many puppy mill dogs are unhealthy or are more prone to developing diseases.
Puppy mills are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, more specifically the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. You might be wondering, why is the USDA in charge of regulating puppy mills and not the Humane Society?
The answer can be found in the history of the puppy mill. After World War II, the USDA began promoting puppies as a cash crop. Pet stores began accepting these puppies, purchased wholesale, and the retail pet industry was born.
How are the dogs treated at puppy mills?
Puppy mills frequently house dogs in crowded and unsanitary conditions. Only the basics of food, water and shelter are legally required. Female dogs are bred at every opportunity and are often discarded or abandoned after their bodies are incapable of bearing litters. Puppies that are physically marred from disease can also be euthanized as unsalable stock. Dogs are often housed in cramped cages and do not receive proper veterinary care for diseases.
Where are these puppies sold?
Wholesale puppies can be found everywhere: online, in your pet store even at swap meets or flea markets. The term wholesale is a term that applies to the cheaper price that comes from streamlining the mass manufacturing process. The concept of breeding an animal for wholesale consumption usually has the literal denotation of edible livestock; and when pups are raised to satisfy a desire for companionship, the implications can disturb even the most detached of animal lovers.
Until you personally see where the puppy was born, you would do well to err on the side of caution and assume it was from a puppy mill. Paperwork and licenses do not serve as insurance for your dog’s health. Often, sellers will produce paperwork to provide consumers with the false sense that the puppy was bred in a healthy environment. This is true even for purebred dogs.
What can I do to help?
The Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights organizations are working tirelessly to change legislation to protect puppies from lewd mass breeding and poor conditions. Until then, the power of the consumer must take charge.
When you begin searching for your pet, first take a trip to the animal shelter. Even purebred dogs can be found in shelters, and these animals are often on a path to death row. If you are unable to find your companion at an animal shelter, personally meet with the dog’s breeder. Responsible breeders will not only welcome your evaluation, they will want to evaluate you as well!