Many people have heard the term ‘puppy mill’ in the news or when dealing with pet rescue organizations, but what is it, really?
There is no legal definition of a puppy mill, but the ASPCA defines it as “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.”
What is a Puppy Mill?
So what does it mean when profit is prioritized over the health of the dogs? Often, it looks like little more than a line of overcrowded cages.
Usually puppy mills house dogs in unsanitary conditions without proper veterinary care, food, water, or shelter.
Female dogs are bred every time they come into season in order to have as many litters as possible, and therefore have as many puppies as possible to sell.
These puppies are then sold directly to pet stores, through the internet or newspaper, at flea markets or swap meets, or wherever else they can be shuttled, often as young as eight weeks old.
The adult dogs are kept confined and are often killed when no longer useful for breeding. They may suffer many health problems and many genetic problems due to inbreeding.
Because the goal is to sell as many puppies as possible, puppy mills do not care about hereditary conditions that may be prevalent.
Oftentimes disease also runs rampant because of the close quarters and unsanitary conditions, including things like parasites, kennel cough, and pneumonia.
Since the puppies are taken from their mothers so young and aren’t properly socialized, they often also have behavioral problems.
How to Avoid Getting a Dog from Puppy Mills
Most dogs sold from puppy mills are sold either in pet stores or through online distribution. Many pet stores or websites will have paperwork that ‘prove’ the animals are kept in humane conditions, but these papers are basically useless.
The dogs may be registered through the AKC as purebred animals, but this means nothing other than that their lineage is papered with the AKC or other organizations.
If you want to get a purebred dog, it is actually really easy to avoid puppy mills. A responsible breeder will not sell through a pet store, and almost never sell online.
Most breeders will want to meet you in person or at least have extensive communication over the phone or e-mail because they want to make sure that their dog is going to a good home.
Many breeders will also have a contract with your purchase and may include things like taking the dog back if you are no longer able to care for it, in order to prevent it from ending up in a shelter.
Some breeders will even give you health guarantees with the option of returning the dog should a genetic defect come up.
Most of all, a responsible breeder will let you see the conditions in which their dogs live. They will gladly invite you to see not only the puppies but the parents and the rest of the dogs in the kennel so that you can be assured the dogs are kept in good conditions and in a loving home where their health and temperament are both managed.
How to Stop Puppy Mills
There are many puppy mill rescue organizations that are looking to make laws against this kind of industry, and save the dogs that are being kept in these conditions.
The highest concentration of puppy mills, according to the ASPCA, is in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and upstate New York. They estimate that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the United States.
The best way to stop puppy mills is through education. Buy your dogs from a responsible breeder, and do your research into that breeder before making a purchase.
Meet them, see their dogs and the conditions they live in, and never purchase a dog from a flea market or pet store. Or, adopt through your local animal rescue.
If you are looking for a particular purebred dog, there are many breed-specific rescues that can connect you with the one you’re looking for, and they will often let you know ahead of time of any health or behavioral problems the dog may have.
If you know someone is looking to purchase a dog, educate them as well.
It is also best to beware of ‘designer dogs’ such as the variety of breeds crossed with poodles, as many of these specialty ‘breeds’ come from puppy mills.
If you want to make a monetary contribution, consider donating to your local rescue organization, but beware of larger corporations like PETA, who spend most of their donations towards campaigns instead of helping animals directly.
Many local rescues will also take donations of products like dog food and paper towels, so you can help these animals directly to be fed and well loved.
The video below goes into more detail about the reality of puppy mills.
Do you have any experience with puppy mills?