I’m really excited to welcome one of my closest friends and favorite colleagues on the Dogster Guide to Behavior & Training this week, behavior consultant and trainer Kim Pike. Kim and I actually met on dogster (many moons ago) and she now works with behaviorist Ali Brown at Great Companions. Kim began learning about behavior when she became heavily involved in rescue, specifically rescuing toy breed dogs out of puppy mill situations. Please join me in welcoming Kim!
You are in the mall, shopping for clothing or furniture or just browsing, and you walk by that store. You know the one, the mall pet store with those cute, cuddly puppies in the window. You stop to oooh and aahhh at the puppies playing in the pen in front of the store. You venture into the store to see the other puppies there. A clerk approaches and before you know it, you are holding one of those little bundles of fur in your arms. Being the savvy consumer, you ask the clerk where the puppy was born and the clerk assures you that none of their dogs come from puppy mills. You ask the price and before you know it you are leaving the store with a cuddly, new puppy.
Where does that puppy come from? In spite of the clerks assurances, it is almost certain your new puppy started his life in a puppy mill.
There is no standard definition for a puppy mill. Some define it by size. Some define it by condition. I would define a puppy mill as a large scale breeding facility where the emphasis is on profit rather than the physical and mental well being of all the dogs in the facility.
According to the ASPCA, there are at least 10,000 mills and 3500 pet stores that sell puppies in the United States. There are mills in every state, but they are predominantly located in the states of Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, Florida and Oklahoma, with the majorityabout one-thirdlocated in Missouri. The greater part of those mills sell to pet stores.
Pet stores that sell puppies have become very savvy in regards to the mill controversy. Pet store employees tell concern buyers that their dogs do not come from puppy mills, but from reputable, local breeders. Make no mistake; a reputable breeder does not sell their puppies to pet stores. Pet store puppies come from puppy mills or back yard breeders and starting life in a puppy mill can have ramifications that extend throughout your new puppies entire life.
Breeder dogs are often kept in substandard conditions, undernourished with little or no vet care. They are not evaluated for their suitability as breeding stock or kept in prime physical condition for breeding. They are not health tested. Puppies born to these dogs are often susceptible to hereditary illnesses and diseases that stem from the lack of hygiene in the kennel. Many of these illnesses will not even manifest until your puppy has grown.
Once born, these puppies are not properly socialized, or exposed to the world. They live their lives in crates and cages, isolated, until they are taken home by some unsuspecting shopper. This lack of socialization during key periods can lead to behavioral issues, from extreme shyness to aggression. Having never left their cages, they have been desensitized to eliminating where they eat and sleep, making them difficult to potty train. They often have impulse control issues and have no experience with living in a home.
But the true cost of that puppy in the window is the price paid by the breeder dogs, living their lives in small cages, undernourished, without vet care, often exposed to the elements throughout the year, unloved until they are bred out or die.
So the next time you pass by that shop in the mall, remember, the price of that puppy in the window exceed the immediate monetary cost and each and every puppy purchased from a pet store rewards a miller and feeds a cycle of greed that survives on the misery of breeder dogs.