Almost twenty years ago I answered an ad in the paper that a woman had placed to sell her min-pin puppies. When I called to talk to her, she assured me that she had bred the parents, and these were family bonded puppies. I had been looking for a min-pin, so I made arrangements to come meet the puppies. A friend of mine came along for the ride. However, we were somewhat delayed, and got to the house in a neighboring town about an hour after I had arranged to be there. We were met by the woman’s 12 year old son, who told us his mom had an appointment, but that he could show us the puppy (singular). We went into the garage, and there in a tiny wire crate was the smallest, saddest looking min-pin puppy ever. When I asked about the parents, I was told they were living off-site. My friend asked if they had any other puppies, and the young man excited assured us that they had “lots” and offered to show us.
We followed him on his bike as he rode past the edge of town and turned down a dirt road. There, in the middle of the prairie, was a ramshackle shed with boarded up windows. He took us into the building, and I saw, for the first time in my life, the horror of a puppy mill. Tiny wire cages were stacked floor to ceiling. There were no bottoms of trays to keep the feces and urine from raining down on the dogs below. The smell was indescribable. The only light was a 40 watt bulb dangling from the ceiling. Everywhere I looked I saw miserable, unhealthy looking dogs, who looked away when I tried to make eye contact. After 20 years I can still see the conditions in my mind’s eye. You would think that the breeder could be charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. And you would be wrong. For decades puppy mills have been an established way to make a living. Laws that are in place to protect family pets do not pertain to mill dogs.
Puppies mills came about during World War II. The midwest was in the middle of droughts and crop failures. So the USDA started promoting dogs as livestock. And rules were put in place to consider the dogs as just another cash crop…..not living breathing being who had been bred for centuries to serve and love humans.
Don’t worry. I will not show you pictures of conditions at a Puppy Mill. There is no point in poisoning our minds with graphic images…..they don’t change things, and they can keep sensitive souls from learning some critical information. What I will do is explain at length exactly what a Puppy Mill is, and why we should be working to close every single one.
For those of you who have been living in a cave, I will define Puppy Mill. According to the ASPCA, a Puppy Mill is a large scale commercial dog breeding operation that places profit over the well-being of the dogs – who are often severely neglected – and acts without regard to responsible breeding practices. In other words, a puppy mill is a farm where the cash crop is puppies.
Dogs are kept in wire crates, stacked several high, with just enough room for the dog to turn around. USDA standards just require a cage that is 6 inches larger than the dog, in each direction. It would be like you trying to live your life in a closet.
So how can you tell if your puppy is from a reputable breeder or a puppy mill? I developed this document to look at the glaring differences between the two.
Almost every single puppy sold at a pet store is the product of a puppy mill. No matter what the staff tells you, they are from a puppy mill. Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores. They want to screen potential families themselves, and would never sell their puppies to the first person with cash in hand. They may tell you the puppies come from “local breeders” or USDA licensed kennels. I’ll let you in on a secret…that is just code for Puppy Mill.
There are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in this country, who pump a combined 2,000,000 puppies a year into pet stores, internet sales, swap meets and flea markets. Although there is some oversight by the USDA the standards are to guarantee survival only. Food, water, shelter. Clean bowls, bedding, quality food…..not addressed at all.
In 2005 California investigated puppy mills and pet store puppies. At 44% of the locations, puppies were ill and/or neglected. 32% held dogs in cramped, crowded conditions. 25% had no access to adequate food or water.
So why isn’t more being done to shut down these pits of despair? Because big money lobbyists are making sure that doesn’t happen. One of the biggest organizations to fight against puppy mill regulations is the American Kennel Club (AKC). You don’t have to look very hard to figure out why. In 2003 they registered 917,247 puppies at the cost of $25 each.
You can help to shut down puppy mills. Do not buy anything from a pet store that sells puppies. Join peaceful protests to stop the sale of puppies in pet stores. Donate to organizations like the National Mill Dog Rescue, who help rehab and find homes for worn out puppy mill parents. Lobby your legislators for laws that will help make a difference. For more information, please pursue the following links.