Most of us have heard the term “puppy mill” without really being certain of what that means, or why they connote such negatively. Here is a basic summary of what puppy mills are, what risks they pose, and why prospective pet owners should never purchase a puppy mill pet.
What Constitutes a “Puppy Mill?”
First of all, according to the ASPCA there is no actual legal definition of what a “puppy mill” is, which is why these kind of establishments are so dangerous. Puppy mills are privately owned mass-breeding kennels that house dozens of animals for the purpose of farming them out to malls, pet stores, and separate party pet sellers to turn a profit. Puppy mills may also be called “pet farms” or *backyard breeders (when done on a smaller scale). At puppy mills, the goal is the maximum turnaround for newborn puppies, shipping them out as soon as possible to sell, despite the quality of their health. The tactic is to try and sell the dogs when they are in the cute, puppy stage so that they will sell with few questions asked. Though there are continual undercover investigations conducted to identify and outlaw these kinds of institutions, thousands of puppy mills are still believed to exist in America.
Many pet stores advertise their pets for sale as coming from humane sources, “local breeders” with papers to prove their authenticity. This is often nothing more than a deceptive marking ploy, since most upstanding breeders are too invested in the well-being of their pets to turn over puppies and kittens to a distributing pet store, making the “local breeder” claim unlikely.
Responsible pet breeders devote meticulous attention to the health, genetic fortitude and wellness of their pets, and are greatly concerned with the quality of life the animals will enjoy with their new owners. Well-bred female dogs are given rest periods where they are enjoy substantial time to recover between litters, and newborns are allowed the full 8-week term to nurse with their siblings and mother before being sold to an owner. These basic physical pet care considerations are not given to the animals at puppy mills.
Why Pet Mills are Negative
- They mistreat the inmates. The pets housed at puppy mills are put through rigorous and taxing breeding schedules. The dogs are often over-bred repeatedly, with little time to recover, exercise, or live balanced and healthy lives. They are often kept all day long in dirty, unkempt kennels or metal crates lined in a row, or chained to trees and left to cope in all kinds of weather. When breeding bitches are no longer able to reproduce at the expected rate, either due to illness, exhaustion or age, they are often terminated.
- The dogs are riddled with disease, poor health and are fed low-quality nutrition. Because puppy mills are profit and production driven, inexpensive/mediocre pet food is given to the pets. This causes the animals to suffer from malnutrition, vitamin imbalances and eventual illness. Successful undercover investigations found that many puppy mill dogs suffered from serious health conditions, being offered no protection from the elements, and given no veterinary or medical care when ill. The most common symptoms included ear infections, mange, skin rashes, abscessed sores on the feet, oozing eyes, and kennel cough, etc.
- They are fundamentally dishonest establishments. Puppy mills conceal the conditions their animals are born into, by using others to sell their pets. They promote “healthy” dogs that have weak blood lines, medical and physical problems, and may develop destructive behaviors later in life.
- They perpetrate pet overpopulation in America. With the existence of puppy mills, it is no surprise that the over production of pets would result in overcrowded animal shelters, and homeless dogs. Because of the unvarying genetics of puppy mill dogs and the related behavioral problems and personality disorders associated with in-breeding, the dogs that are purchased from pet stores and puppy mill traders, often end up abandoned by their frustrated owners. Puppy mills are one of the primary reasons there is such a problem of homeless pets and overrun shelters.
Because of the overpopulation in pets, and the danger of inadvertently supporting puppy mills, we encourage pet owners to consider adopting a dog or a cat from shelters and rescue homes. While there are plenty of reputable breeders, it would be far better to support those offering help and a home to the pets who truly are in need, rather than funding dangerous puppy mills!
NOTE about backyard breeders: please be aware that not all backyard breeders should be categorized as “puppy mills,” as the term sometimes applies to unplanned pregnancies that may occur in domestic pets, or non-commercial breeders whose facilities are far less harmful to the dogs than the conditions found at a puppy mill. However, we still do not encourage readers to purchase pets from backyard breeders, in favor of shelters and rescue homes.