FRANKFORT, Ky. (3/4/13) – Geographically, over time, puppy mills have spread throughout the United States. On average between 2,000-3,000 USDA licensed breeders operate in the US. However, this number does not take into consideration how many of those breeders are not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) estimates 2-4 million puppy mills are sold each year here in the US.
Puppy mills became accepted after WWII due to the widespread crop failures. The USDA began to promote purebreds as a fool-proof “cash” crop.
A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation that puts profits over the well-being of dogs. These dogs are severely mistreated and neglected their whole lives. The breeding is performed without the thoughtfulness of genetic quality, which results in unchecked hereditary defects. Puppy mills are sold to pet stores through a middle man and marketed as young as 6 weeks and most of the time lineage records are falsified. Other mills are sold on the internet, flea markets, newspaper ads and swap meets. Housed in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, these dogs go without proper or adequate food, water, veterinary care and socialization skills.
To reduce waste cleanup, puppies are kept in cages with wire flooring that eventually tarnishes their legs and paws. To conserve on space, these cages are also stacked in columns. To help maximize breeder profits, the mother dogs are bred with little or no recovery time between litters. Females are often killed if they are unable to produce what the breeder wants. In these cases, some puppy mill puppies experience fearful or socialization behaviors towards humans. Not only do these dogs encounter behavioral problems, but health problems as well. Living in unhealthy conditions, these dogs are prone to both hereditary and congenital conditions. They are more susceptible to heart and kidney disease, epilepsy, deafness and eye problems. They are also at high risk for musculoskeletal, endocrine, blood and respiratory disorders. Furthermore, upon arrival to their new homes, they also bring diseases or infirmities such as; Giardia, Parvovirus, Distemper, Kennel Cough, Mange, Heart worms, Intestinal parasites, Chronic diarrhea, fleas and ticks.
The FAWA (Federal Animal Welfare Act) requires breeders to be licensed if they have more than three female breeding dogs. In addition to the federal law, some state laws regulate commercial breeding. Unfortunately, the standards that breeders are required to meet are very minimal. According to FAWA, it is legal to keep dogs in a wire cage stacked into columns for long periods of time so long as the cages are 6 inches longer and taller than the dog.
Throughout the years, several states have made changes in protecting dogs and consumers from abuse and cruelty that is across the board among these operations. The HSUS is currently working hard with lawmakers to strengthen the laws in states and reaching out to state agencies to help provide guidance or on-site assistance for dogs to be removed from substandard facilities. There are ways for one to help with stopping these puppy mills. You can help make local pet stores puppy friendly by implementing puppy friendly policies. You can join the Advocacy Brigade and help inform your community. You can even adopt a “Mill Survivor.” For more information, you can contact your local Humane Society or go to www.humanesociety.org.
Photos provided by Amber Mena
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