How Bad Are Puppy and Kitten Mills?
Today is puppy mill awareness day. An article from September 17th's USA Today reports that protests against puppy mills will take place across the nation. Here is a quote from the article:
Puppy mills large, inhumanely run breeding operations that sell puppies to some pet stores and online have for years been in the crosshairs of animal welfare groups. Breeding stock, they say, are kept in tiny cages, fed subsistence diets and given no medical care, exercise or socialization; then the animals are killed when they no longer produce large litters. The puppies, they say, are often sick when sold, or genetic issues soon emerge.
I have never visited a puppy mill, but reports (such as the one above) in the media are appalling.
As a veterinarian, I have the pleasure of working with plenty of puppies and kittens. In most cases, it is not possible to ascertain whether a young new pet has come from a puppy (or kitten) mill.
But I can say this. There is a big difference between pets that come from responsible breeders and those that don't.
Responsible breeders take their actions seriously. They ensure that their dogs or cats are properly vaccinated and de-wormed before breeding. Vaccination before breeding helps protect the newborns from diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia. De-worming reduces the likelihood that intestinal parasites will pass to the puppies or kittens through the placenta or mother's milk (these worms can spread to human beings--especially children).
Responsible breeders test both parents for hereditary diseases such as hip dysplasia, Von Willebrand Disease and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) before they breed them.
Responsible breeders ensure that litters are evaluated by veterinarians, vaccinated appropriately, and treated for parasites prior to adoption. They work to start socializing young animals before they are adopted. Puppies and kittens aren't separated from their mothers prematurely, nor are they transported long distances before they are confirmed to be in good health.
Animals that are bred responsibly are beloved pets. They are not bred when they are too young or too old. They are not bred too frequently. They are not bred accidentally. After retirement they are spayed or neutered, and they go on to lead pampered lives.
Responsible breeding makes a big difference. Puppies and kittens from responsible breeders are much less likely to suffer from diarrhea, intestinal parasites, respiratory infections and much more serious (and potentially life-threatening) conditions such as liver shunts.
If you want to adopt a purebred cat or dog I strongly recommend that you avoid anonymous breeders. Find a dedicated, responsible breeder. Get to know him or her.
Responsible breeders are proud of their animals. The ones I know will be as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them--they want to make sure that their animals go into good homes.