Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders
Part of being a responsible dog owner is being a responsible dog buyer or adopter. If you decide to purchase a pooch, it should be from a reputable breeder - not a backyard breeder or puppy mill. Reputable breeders produce a few, stable and healthy dogs. Puppy mills breed too many dogs with little concern for their health or the conditions they live in.
The History of Puppy Mills
How did puppy mills get started? They're fairly recent - after WW II, crops were failing and farmers needed to supplement their income. Some started raising and selling puppies, even though they had little knowledge of correct dog care. Puppies were raised as cheaply as possible, often without attention or care. There are now thousands of puppy mills in the U.S.
Who Runs Puppy Mills?
The federal government considers the dogs livestock so anyone can start a mill. But perhaps the best-known group is the Amish in Pennsylvania. Amish puppy mills have been in the news again and again. The Amish defend their practice, claiming dogs are no different than other livestock and that the conditions are not deplorable like some say.
Regulation Of Puppy Mills
People breeding large quantities of dogs and selling them are required to have a license by the USDA. The Animal Welfare Act also requires they be regulated. Unfortunately, the regulations are for minimum standards, more for survival than humaneness. Puppy millers aren't incentivized to follow them. And, of course, there are many puppy mills without licenses. Many people are trying to change this. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is one agency working for reform.
Definition Of A Puppy Mill
Puppy mills are high-volume commercial breeders that sell dogs for profit without providing public access to the breeding site, and breed female dogs every time they come into heat. Conditions usually do not meet our society's idea of taking care of pets.
Issues Related To Puppies From Mills
Health: Puppy mills are often dirty and unsanitary. You often see dogs in cages with their own filth, left out in the heat and cold, mal-nourished and with skin problems.
Behavioral: Puppies are not hand-held from birth like most reputable breeders' are. This means they have little or no human interaction until they're sold. This can lead to aggression, anxiety, fear, indifference and a whole host of behavioral problems. Also, living in a small cage crates a poorly adjusted dog.
Inside A Puppy Mill
Newsweek did an even-handed review of puppy mills in 2007. The HSUS also did a hidden-camera investigation of puppy mills.
Cages: Dogs are usually caged their entire breeding life.
Breeding: Dogs are often bred every six months, with never a break. After their fertility ends, they are often sold or, sometimes, killed.
Noise: The noise can be deafening with so many dogs in small spaces.
Poor Care: Dogs with long hair are often matted. Injuries go unnoticed and/or untreated.
The Elements: Dogs and puppies are often left out in ice storms and 90 degree weather. Some even don't have roofs over their heads.
Getting to a New Home: Puppies are often packed into crates in cargo trucks for transport to a broker or pet store. Often, some die in transport.
Puppy Mill Statistics
Around 3,500 of the 11,500 pet stores in the U.S. sell cats and dogs, according to the Pet Industry Advisory Council.
Puppy mills make about 400,000 litters a year. Dogs are often sold online and to pet shops.
Approximately 500,000 puppies are sold at pet stores each year. (HSUS)
There are more than 6,000 licensed commercial kennels in the U.S. (and untold numbers of unlicensed).
In the U.S., there are more than 1,000 research facilities, more than 2,800 exhibitors, and 4,500 dealers that are supposed to be inspected each year.
Puppy Mill Facts
Puppy millers will usually not let buyers see their kennels.
Puppy millers are not willing to discuss possible health or behavior issues of their pups.
Puppy millers almost always have puppies for sale. If you visit a breeder?s website with price tags next to the puppy photos or a "buy it now" button, you are most likely on a miller's webpage.
There is documentation of overbreeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages and the killing of unwanted animals in puppy mills.
There are things you can do to help stop puppy mills. First, don't buy a puppy from a pet shop. If you answer an online or newspaper ad, make certain you're dealing with a reputable breeder. The AKC site has a list of breeders by Breed Club and offers information on finding a reputable breeder. You can also check out www.stoppuppymills.org and www.hsus.org, which have information such as how to lobby for better laws.
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
A Word on Small Family Breeders
Contrary to some here there are those small family breeders who breed one or two litters a year because they want to offer a loving pet or companion. They are not disreputable but may be limited in how they advertise. With the internet often cheaper than many newspapers for placing ads the internet has become the source of the family-run breeder's advertisements.
The thing that needs to be done is ask for pictures and study them carefully. Look at the puppy: does he look clean and healthy? Are his eyes bright and shiny? If you can answer yes then you are likely dealing with a family breeder who cares for the dogs as if they were fully part of the family. Family breeders are often the best choice for a puppy because they spend the time and energy to socialize the puppy and play with it getting it used to being handled. I would never again buy a dog from a large breeder as I have found the dogs to be anti-social and very skittish.
~Angi A., owner of a Mini Dachshund
Give Dog Rescues a Chance
I made the mistake years ago buying a dog at a store before the puppy mill thing came to my attention. I would never buy there again. My dog, who I had to put down, had so many health problems. I spent well over $10,000 for her treatments. I believe it's because of poor breeding practices. She had a bad spine. Undoubtedly she was the best dog I ever ever had and I'm glad I was able to care for her and give her the life she deserved. There are so many unwanted animals out there that it seems ridiculous to even think of buying from breeders. I'm sure a lot of them love their animals but it does come down to the dollar. To make money. Why not rescue? Seems like better solution to all this. Just my opinion.
~Lance N., owner of a Redbone Coohnound
My Puppy Mill Story
Here's my experience from over 35 years ago: My husband got a puppy from a pet shop for my birthday. We took it to the vet since it was running into things. The pup was apparently born with cataract issues. We returned it to the pet shop and was given another puppy, which died in two weeks from Pneumonia. This was Petland Pet Shop in Florida.
I always tell friends about this so they do not make the mistake we did. Please pass this along to others. These places should not be allowed to sell them. They should be banned, as well as those puppy or kitten mills.
~Christa , owner of animal shelter cats
There Are Responsible, Reputable Breeders
This is the question I feel like asking every single person who asks me where I got my puppy. They mostly follow up my answer by telling me their dog is a rescue. Great! Wonderful!
think it is great that so many dogs are being given a chance to live. But why on earth is it getting to the point that if a person gets a dog from a reputable breeder they are almost frowned upon?
I despise puppy mills, selling dogs on the roadside, and puppy stores. But if all breeding of dogs stops, there won't be any more dogs. It's a personal choice. I really want to ask these people if they adopted their children or had them by birth. Really, there are so many children without homes -- why birth more? Just adopt. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium.
~Julie H, owner of a Bichon Poo