Puppy Mills: Did your Christmas present come from here?
THE WORLD OF THE PET TRADE: HOW TO AVOID PUPPY MILLS.
Puppies are by far one of the most common gifts to give during the holidays, I mean who wouldn't love an adorable puppy; but do you know exactly where your pet might have come from? Recently people will leave a pet store feeling perfectly satisfied after choosing the cutest puppy to only find out a week later they are racking up thousands of dollars in vet bills.
A lot of pet stores claim they get their puppies from ‘breeders,’ when the truth is that they most likely came from a puppy mill- a breeding facility that raises puppies and dogs by the hundreds. They are kept in small, cramped cages, under disgusting and filthy conditions. Most puppy mills are centered in the Midwest but can be found throughout the country, some even import their animals from other countries. Dogs raised in these mills are under constant confinement with no veterinary care, and as a result hundreds are left abandoned by frustrated buyers who realize too late that their brand new puppy is at death's door.
Puppy mills usually house their animals in cages made out materials ranging from wood and wire mesh, tractor trailer cabs or simple tethers attached to trees or posts. One particular facility was located in Arkansas and was described by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as having "cages hanging from the ceiling of an unheated cinder-block building..."
Female dogs are bred
twice a year and kept permanently at the mills for breeding purposes, only to
be later destroyed when they become too old to continue having litters.
When the mothers do give birth, their pups often suffer from malnutrition, exposure, and a lack of adequate veterinary care.
Puppies raised in these mills are taken from their mothers as soon as possible, and sold to brokers who pack them in large crates for transport and resale to your pet stores. Puppies who are shipped may travel up to hundreds of miles in pickup trucks, tractor trailers, and airplanes, often without adequate food, water, ventilation, or shelter. The Orlando Sentinel published an article on animal neglect in 2003 about three men who faced charges after trying to transport 38 puppies from Oklahoma to Florida in a feces-filled van without food, water, or space to move about. A passerby noticed the dogs' distressed barking and the foul stench that radiated from the van, which was parked at a Daytona Beach motel, and called the authorities. Another example comes from Tennessee when a 150 overheated puppies, bred at a Missouri puppy mill and being transported to several pet stores on the East Coast, were found in a cargo truck without air conditioning; as a result four of them died.
Why would any pet store or broker condone this kind of treatment towards animals and risk losing several customers? It is because puppies from these mills ensure maximum profits by not spending money on housing, food, or veterinary care. After the puppies have miraculously survived the transportation from the mills to brokers, and the pet stores, they are still not in the best of care. Dogs are often kept in small cages without exercise, love, or human contact which may result in unusual behaviors such as an excessive barking, or may become destructive and unsociable. Yet some humane societies and police departments succeed in closing down stores where severe abuse is uncovered.
Unfortunately, there are currently thousands of 'breeders' and brokers operating across the country. In Missouri alone there are over 1,400 licensed dog-breeding operations, although so many illegal breeders are in business that a state audit advised that the program designed to regulate commercial breeding was ineffective. Today the nation's largest puppy broker is the Haute Corporation in Missouri which exports their animals overseas and has been linked to several negligent pet stores and has sponsored the American Kennel Club meetings.
I know some people go shopping for a particular breed in mind even though they may not be correctly educated about that certain breed or ready for the commitment that companion animals require. A lot of influence towards choosing a pet is directed towards movies such as 101 Dalmatians, Frasier and Beethoven. One caretaker of Bouvier de Flandres Dogs states "every time Hollywood makes a dog movie, the breed goes to hell." When there is a surge for a particular breed puppy mills try and meet the overwhelming demand, but when Jack Russell's aren't exactly 'Eddie' or St. Bernard's don't turn out quite like 'Beethoven,' rescue organizations and shelters are flooded with these abandoned dogs.
At puppy mills dogs are bred for quantity, not quality, so unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders that are passed on from generation to generation are very common. This situation, not noticeable at first from customers, results in high veterinary bills. "There is virtually no consideration of temperament," says one dog trainer, "I wish legislators could sit in my office and watch people sobbing in extreme emotional pain over having to decide whether to euthanize their dog because of some serious behavioral problem."
With millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including purebreds, dying every year in animal shelters, there is simply no reason for animals to be bred and sold for the pet-shop trade. Without these stores, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear, and the suffering of these dogs would end.
How You Can Help!
To help fight against puppy mills, the best way to find a lovable and healthy animal companion is through an animal shelter or rescue group. Encourage pet stores that sell animals not to do so and report any sick or injured animals to you local animal control agency or police department immediately.
If you are still insistent of shopping for your pup at a pet store, here are a few things to keep in mind when you go in. Note how many puppies they have and type of breeds they sell. Healthy young puppies are usually energetic and have shiny coats. Look for signs of ill health, such as listlessness, diarrhea, emaciation, dull coats, runny eyes, and dry noses. Check also for the general sanitation conditions such as signs of cockroach infestation, rodent droppings on the floor, and rusty or dirty cages. Another common indication that the store deals with puppy mills is algae or scum in water bottles, empty water containers, or animals having trouble drinking from them.
Ask to see the American Kennel club papers. Look at the breeder and the broker. If there is a broker listed the puppies have most likely come from a mill.
Where is the breeder located? As I mentioned before most puppy mills are centered in the Midwest.
If you are really passionate and motivated, you can take a further step by protesting at your local pet store that sells puppies from mills. Many pet stores have been forced to close down by the efforts of a small but determined group of people. For supplies visit www.ihelppets.com for full color brochures.