Puppy mills are a scourge on the animal industry and a heartbreaking reality for many dogs. Dogs are kept in terrible conditions, don’t receive the physical and emotional care they need, and many suffer from a range of health issues and behavioral problems. What should pet parents know about puppy mills and how to avoid them?
What is a puppy mill?
Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs for sale through pet stores or directly to consumers. They commonly sell very young puppies through internet sales, online classified ads, flea markets and pet stores. In fact, according to PAWS, roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills.
Puppy mills may contain between 50 to over 1,000 dogs. These facilities pump out as many pups as possible to maximize their earnings. Usually, they have little to no experience in dog breeding and they typically breed whatever breed is trending at the time, or any breed they can get ahold of easily and cheaply.
Overview of the puppy mill industry
The mass breeding of dogs began as means for cash-strapped Americans to raise and sell puppies during the Great Depression and following World War II. In reaction to crop failures in the Midwest and growing struggles for pig and poultry farmers, farms began raising puppies for extra income. This puppy mill model was less labor intensive and more cost-effective for farmers, some of whom converted chicken coops and rabbit hutches to house breeding dogs and puppies.
Amish puppy mills are particularly prolific because dog farming is a major part of the economy in some Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere. While many Amish dog breeders are considered puppy mills, not all Amish breeders are irresponsible. It just takes some extra investigative homework to tell the difference.
Where are puppy mill dogs sold?
There are three primary markets for the sale of dogs bred through puppy mills:
- Pet stores: Nearly all pet stores that sell puppies are supplied by mills. More and more communities are banning the sale of mill-bred pets in stores, but many Americans are still unaware of the connection between pet stores and puppy mills.
- Websites: Just like pet stores, most websites that sell dogs are selling mill-bred pets, and most of these sites market the puppies as well-bred and lovingly raised. These ads may list several breeds for sale, and it’s common for the breeder to not let you visit a physical location so that you can see where the dogs and puppies live.
- Classified ads: Puppy mills will often place classified ads on mainstream websites, offering purposely bred animals for “adoption.” Red flags to look for include a high adoption fee, a cash-only transaction, several breeds of puppies for adoption, and any offers of a free puppy shipped to your door with payment of a transport charge.
Impacts of puppy mills
Puppy mills have devastating impacts on dogs’ health, contribute to the overpopulation of animals in shelters, and put a strain on local resources.
Animal welfare concerns
For facilities classified as puppy mills, profit takes priority over the health, comfort, and welfare of the dogs. Inhumane conditions include:
- Confinement: More breeding dogs equals more puppies, which equals more money, so cruel breeders maximize space by keeping dogs tightly contained. Dogs often spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week in small, stacked, wire-floored crates or in outdoor pens exposed to heat, cold and rain. They eat, sleep and give birth in confinement.
- Unsanitary conditions: Puppy mill operators rarely take the time and effort to clean urine, feces, or any other bodily materials from dogs’ spaces. Lack of hygiene practices at these facilities encourage the spread of diseases, especially among puppies with undeveloped immune systems. Puppies often arrive in pet stores with health issues ranging from parasites to parvo to pneumonia.
- Poor veterinary care: Because it can be costly and time-consuming, veterinary care is limited at puppy mills. Breeding female dogs and puppies don’t get to see a veterinarian often—not for regular checkups, vaccines, teeth cleanings or even when they’re sick.
- No grooming, exercise, or socialization: Puppy mill dogs are not bathed, brushed, nor have their nails trimmed. There is also little to no incentive for dogs to receive much physical or emotional care, so they are not walked, played or engaged with, and often develop stress and behavioral issues.