Compiled from information from The Humane Society of the
As you are shopping at the mall, you come to the mall
pet store and canít help going in. You are instantly captivated by the
beautiful puppies in shiny cages along one wall. Their tails wag
ferociously as they reach their paws between the bars, eyes and fur
shining, eager to go to their new home.
What a contrast to the place these puppies left behind.
These puppies probably came from puppy mills. A puppy
mill is a commercial breeding facility that mass-produces dogs for
resale in pet stores. The majority of puppy mills are located in the
Midwest, with the largest concentration in Kansas and Missouri. Profit,
not quality pets, is the ultimate goal of the puppy mill owner, so
breeding practices are often shoddy, and the breeding dogs are kept
under the most inexpensive conditions that will keep them alive and
Investigators from The Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS) visited hundreds of puppy mills across the Midwest, and
found that almost all puppy mill dogs endure inadequate housing and poor
sanitation. Indoor dogs inhabit converted chicken coops, pig pens,
barns, sheds, or even old house trailers. Most outdoor dogs are chained
to small doghouses or kept in pens with wire bottoms. The wire bottoms
allow waste to fall through and make it easier to clean up after the
dogs. Investigators even found dogs living in wooden rabbit hutches,
rusty barrels, discarded washing machines, empty fuel tanks, and junked
The HSUS also found a disgusting, and possibly
hazardous, lack of sanitation at most puppy mills. It was all too common
to see piles of excrement in and under the cages, exposing the puppies
and their mothers to parasites, viral infections, and the threat of
diseases carried by flies. The investigators even found dead puppies and
dogs in some of the pens.
Puppy mill owners also cut costs by neglecting the dogs'
nutritional and health care needs. At one puppy mill, all of the water
in the dishes was frozen and the only food available was the remains of
a carcass. A mill owner admitted that he had paralyzed more than one dog
by hitting a nerve in its back leg while giving shots. Several mill
owners said they never took sick puppies to the vet because it was
cheaper to expect some to die and take the loss.
The fate of the puppies
At around seven weeks of age, the lucky survivors are
removed from their mothers and shipped hundreds of miles across the
country. They change hands several times through middlemen called dog
brokers before they reach their final destination Ė the pet store.
Even adoption into a loving home may not end the
nightmare. According to veterinarian and columnist Dr. Michael Fox,
severely inbred dogs often develop emotional problems such as excessive
shyness or nervousness and even fear biting. The lack of human contact
during the first eight weeks of their lives, coupled with the trauma of
separation from their mother and shipping stress, frequently results in
these animals not growing up to be good pets. In addition, the
unsanitary conditions that the puppies experience in the vulnerable
first weeks of their lives often leave them with parasites and diseases.
As you can imagine, these puppies often die or are taken to an animal
There ought to be a law!
All fifty states have anti-cruelty laws which should
prevent this neglect and mistreatment. At the federal level, the Animal
Welfare Act (AWA) requires wholesale commercial breeders to be licensed,
inspected, and regulated to ensure humane standards of care. However,
state anti-cruelty laws are seldom enforced in rural areas, and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for enforcing the AWA,
is apathetic about this law and never has enough funds to enforce it.
What can I do?
It is natural to feel sorry for the puppies in the pet
store window, but purchasing these dogs only keeps the industry
profitable and encourages them to churn out more puppy mill puppies. If
you have your heart set on a purebred puppy, buy one from a local
breeder. Good breeders are happy to have you come visit their kennels or
homes and meet one or both parents of the puppies. If you just want a
good family pet, and/or a purebred adult dog, visit a humane society or
animal control shelter and save a life.
Go on to Animal Rights
& Animal Welfare
Return to 17 May 2000 Issue
Return to Newsletters
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