What Is A Puppy Mill?

Published November 9, 2010 @ Examiner.com by CAPM Founder, Lorry Schlick

Despite a barrage of publicity lately concerning the plight of puppy mill dogs, people still ask, "What IS a puppy mill?" It's been in the news, the 2010 political arena and on Oprah, but yet despite the huge public outcry, the question still remains unanswered for many of us.

A puppy mill, in the most concise sense of the term, is a breeder mass-producing puppies in environments where the parents are confined to small wire cages for life to breed or die. Maximum emphasis is solely on profits, not the welfare of the breeding dogs. Mostly females, living a life of isolation, sickness and despair, they generally don't live past the age of 6 or 7 as veterinary care is an expense the breeder does not want to incur. It is a shocking revelation, but it is a reality that finds its ugly presence in 99% of pet stores in the US according to Humane Society statistics. Puppies from mills are also sold online to the unknowing public who see a cute face on the internet and does not know the truth behind it. These commercial kennel breeders, often owning hundreds of dogs of all breeds, sell puppies, sight unseen, for enormous profit margins.

So where are these puppy mills and how does one know a puppy mill puppy when they see one? The latter question is easily answered by simply stating that any conscientious breeder who values his reputation within the finicky breeding community will not tarnish it by selling puppies without a thorough interview of the prospective owners. In turn, the prospective owner will see the pup's mom on the premises looking healthy and normal. This is never the case in a pet store or with an online adoption, for obvious reasons. The assembly line must move quickly and without regard to what problems an owner may incur with the family's new addition. Problems with sick or genetically defective puppies run rampant in the commercial kennel trade and many owners may then face enormous veterinary expenses.

The numbers are staggering when it comes to sheer numbers of mills in each and every state. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the number of registered puppy mills exceeds 10,000 nationwide and it’s estimated that Missouri has 30 percent of all the puppy mills in the country with 200,000 breeding animals producing 1 million puppies a year. Even more disheartening, the HSUS estimates that the number of adoptable dogs euthanized in shelters at 2 million a year.

These notorious breeders and their middle men, known as "brokers", such as the infamous Hunte Corporation in Missouri, will market North American pet stores and the internet voraciously. The unwitting customer sees an adorable puppy, but is hidden from the dark side of this growing industry.

Where are the laws protecting these animals? The US Department of Agriculture is the regulating agency overseeing these commercial kennel breeders. Yes, we're talking about the same agency that governs the care of our farm animals! "Man's Best Friend" has no stand alone agency to protect his interest and animal welfare laws provide for only food, water and shelter. Obviously, this is a perfect formula for the evolution of the puppy mill industry which has had disastrous results. The inhumanity toward our most beloved pets, the family dog, has turned the image of pet ownership into an ugly monster that rears its head in every state in the union. And we all must be ashamed when we continue to ask one another, "What is a puppy mill?"

To view this article online with add'l photos including a slideshow, go to Examiner.com

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Puppy Mills: What Can We Do to Stop Them?

by Lorie Hustion, DVM

Yesterday, I saw a puppy in my practice. He was an adorable little puppy and his new owner had just purchased him from a local pet shop. Naturally, they were very proud of the new member of their family and very excited. I don’t blame them. I would be too. The problem is that on examining this puppy, I found lots of different problems, most of them genetic in origin. I’m not going to go into the details because they really only matter to the puppy’s new family and to me as his new veterinarian.

However, this puppy’s story is indicative of a much bigger problem. This puppy started life in a puppy mill and his story is played out every day in veterinary hospitals all across the United States. In fact, Dr. Laci Schaible writes about the same topic in her blog post, My Puppy Mill Plea. The unfortunate part is that these puppies are destined to lead unhealthy lives and many of them will die earlier than necessary because of the health issues they were born with. The other unfortunate thing is that we, as a society, continue to let this happen.

Why Do Puppy Mills Continue to Exist?

Is it just because we, as a society, don’t care? I really don’t think that’s the case. In fact, when the public became aware of the plight of these puppies and their parents through coverage by the mainstream media, many people rushed out to rescue these dogs and the number of puppy mill puppies sold sky-rocketed. Obviously, this was a well-intentioned reaction with an unwanted result!

What Can We Do to Get Rid of Puppy Mills?

I wish I had all the answers here. Unfortunately, I do not! However, here is what I know:
  • If you buy a puppy from a puppy mill, you’re part of the problem instead of part of the solution, no matter how good your intentions are.
  • Most, if not all, pet stores that sell puppies obtain these puppies from puppy mills. When you buy a puppy from a pet store, you increase the demand for these puppies and once again, you are part of the problem.
  • Pet stores (and puppy mills) are not the only source of purebred puppies. And they are not even the best source. Reputable breeders produce much healthier, better adjusted puppies as well as mixed breed rescues who also make wonderful companion pets. (See the link on this website called "Reputable Breeders".)
  • Tell all your family and friends not to shop for puppies in pet stores or at puppy mills. Join a local pet shop protest group, if one exists, to bring attention to pet store puppies and the truth behind that puppy in the window.

Is There Something You Can Do to Help Stop Puppy Mills?

There are several things that you can do to help put an end to puppy mills and the cruelty, neglect and abuse that the animals housed there are forced to endure.
  • Do not purchase puppies from pet stores or the Internet.
  • If you are considering purchasing or adopting a new puppy or an adult dog, consider adopting from a shelter or rescue. Check out www.petfinder.com where one can readily see all the dogs available in your area up for adoption from puppies to seniors, purebred to mixed, all health checked and altered.
  • If you have your heart set on a purebred puppy, purchase from a reputable breeder. Or better yet, consider adopting from a breed rescue. There are breed rescues for all breeds of dogs.
  • Contact your local legislators by writing or calling and telling them you demand better laws for suffering puppy mill breeding dogs. Support legislation that regulates what type of housing and care must be delivered in puppy mills and kennels. Support legislation that bans the sale of live puppies in pet shops. Pet shop owners would have you believe that these laws are part of governmental attempt to legislate small business and argue that this type of legislation oversteps the role government should play in business. Perhaps that’s true in part. However, there is much more at stake here than just a businessman’s ability to run his business. The price that must be paid in animal lives is far too high to allow this particular business decision to persist. How many animals is it okay to sacrifice is the name of free enterprise?
  • Consider fostering or adopting a dog rescued from a puppy mill. Many of these dogs have never seen the light of day, have had inadequate care and are in tough shape. These rescued dogs need safe homes with patient owners.

"Blood Pups": A New Emerging Term for Puppy Mill Puppies?

My friend, Mel Freer, in her blog No Dog About It, recently wrote "Blood Pups: The New Term for a Pet Store Puppy". In this article, she suggests patterning the nomenclature used for pet store puppies (and puppy mill puppies) after the so-called “blood diamonds” that are sold in the jewelry industry. The theory here is to bring attention to the origins of these puppies.

Can this approach work? Can stopping puppy mills be as simple as renaming them? Probably not by itself, but as part of an overall plan, it may be effective. One thing is certain: What we are doing now is not enough. We need to do more to stop this abhorrent practice. So perhaps it’s time to consider changing our tactics. The term “blood pups”, in my opinion, pretty effectively illustrates the plight of these puppies and the price being paid by the breeding parents.

Now, it’s your turn. What do you think about using the name “blood pups”? Do you have other ideas for stopping the puppy mills and putting them out of business? Have you rescued a puppy mill survivor? Or purchased a puppy mill puppy? Please leave your comments, suggestions and what you would like seen done on this website's "Contact Us" link!

Puppy Mill Video

What is a puppy mill and why do pet stores sell these puppies?

A Puppy Mill Raid: Some Get A Second Chance

The HSUS Rescues More Than 100 Animals from Arkansas Puppy Mill

LAMAR, Ark. — Approximately 100 dogs, five cats and two guinea pigs have been given a new lease on life thanks to the diligent efforts of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department and The Humane Society of the United States, who came together to rescue the animals from horrific conditions at a Lamar puppy mill.

"These dogs were being kept not as beloved pets, but as cash crops — churning out litter after litter of puppies for the profit of the property owner," said Scotlund Haisley, senior director of Emergency Services for The HSUS. "The animals on this property were in dire need of help — one dog was so matted that we had to cut him out of his cage."

The HSUS was called in by the Johnson County Sheriff's Department to assist with this case. This case originated when concerned citizens complained to the Sheriff's Department and The HSUS of inhumane conditions at the facility. Needy Paws Animal Shelter was also instrumental in obtaining information necessary to build this case. The HSUS is providing animal handling assistance and overseeing sheltering and transport of the rescued animals.

When rescuers arrived at the Lamar property they found a disturbing scene. The dogs, mainly small breeds such as Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, were being housed in cramped, filthy cages in trailers throughout the property. Some larger dogs were also being kept chained on the property with no protection from the elements. The cats and guinea pigs were also being kept in small cages. Responders found typical puppy mill conditions; many of the dogs were emaciated and suffering from skin and eye infections as well as other medical ailments. It is likely that many of these animals had never known life outside their cramped enclosures.

Rescuers removed all of the animals and transported them to a nearby emergency shelter. Once at the shelter the dogs were checked by a team of veterinarians and given any necessary immediate medical care. The HSUS and volunteers from United Animal Nations will care for the animals while they recover at their temporary home. PetSmart Charities® provided much-needed sheltering supplies. The Johnson County Sheriff's Department plans to pursue criminal charges against the property owners.