Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
8 September 1999 Issue

Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are low-budget, backyard breeding factories that churn out puppies for profit. Most puppy mills are located in the Midwest with Missouri leading as the number one puppy mill state. Approximately 5,000 puppy mills are believed to exist. Pinning down the exact number is hard, since most of these operations aren't licensed.

Puppy mills are the factory farms of the companion animal industry. What are you likely to find in a puppy mill? Overcrowding, filth, malnourishment, exposure to extreme elements, females serving as breeding machines, and lots of unhealthy, starving, neglected puppies. The American Humane Association reports:

"Undercover visits to puppy mills have revealed what some have termed "canine concentration camps." Puppies were found to be living in wire cages scattered with animal carcasses, piled with feces, and unprotected from snow, rain, freezing, or blazing hot weather. Few were allowed to exercise. Food and water were scarce, and often contaminated. In fact, an investigator at one puppy mill found a breeder feeding dogs the heads of slaughtered animals."

Animals that come from puppy mills are unhealthy due to many factors:

* Removal from their mother at too young an age results in impaired natural immunity to disease.

* Puppy mills subject the animals to filthy conditions.

* Overcrowding contributes to the spread of disease.

* Animals receive little or no veterinary care.

These animals not only have physical problems, but also suffer from behavioral problems. Their lack of contact with people and early removal from their mother often results in unsocial behaviors which surface only as the pups grow into dogs.

Who ends up with these puppies? Approximately 360,000 puppies from puppy mills are sold to pet shops across the nation annually, the largest market being franchise pet stores, such as Docktor Pet Center. California is a large market for Midwest puppy mills, as is the East Coast. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) reports that "at least 90 percent of the half million purebred puppies sold in pet stores" are from puppy mills.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says that the problem of sick animals from pet stores is so prevalent that many states, including New York and New Jersey, now require the stores to compensate people who buy animals that are sick at the time of purchase. The store may be liable for veterinary bills (up to the purchase price of the animal) or may have to allow an exchange or refund.

Animals also suffer in kennels licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for inspecting them. The USDA admits that as many as 25% of licensed kennels have substandard conditions. The USDA just doesn't have enough staff available to stay on top of the problem.

Stricter laws and stricter enforcement of those laws would go a long way toward helping close down inhumane puppy mill operations. Unfortunately, local law enforcement is often lacking, and even when kennel owners are charged with cruelty, they too often get off with a warning or a laughable "penalty." One kennel owner was given the "choice of selling her dogs within 60 days or facing charges of cruelty. What kind of deterrent is that? One major puppy mill state, Kansas, even went so far as to make it a felony to photograph the goings-on at a puppy mill. This makes investigation difficult, if not impossible.

Puppy Mill Information

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