The mass breeding of dogs began as means for cash-strapped Americans to raise and sell puppies during the Depression. Raising puppies was less labor intensive and cost-effective for farmers, some of whom converted chicken coops and rabbit hutches to house breeding dogs and puppies. With the increase in the number of puppies being produced, puppy stores and puppy brokers came to fruition. Puppy mills continue to be a major problem in mid-western states such as Missouri and Nebraska, although all states have puppy mills and/or “backyard breeders” within their borders.
Puppy mills maximize profits by minimizing expenses, at the ultimate expense of the animals they breed.
Conditions in Puppy Mills
- Puppy mills may contain between 50 to over 1,000 dogs.
- Dogs live in wire cages stacked on top of each other. Urine and feces fall through the cage floors onto animals below.
- Puppies and breeding dogs in mills are given little water and food and no veterinary care.
- Puppy mills do not have adequate temperature controls.
- Only two or three people care for 500 or more dogs.
- Inbreeding abounds and causes congenital and hereditary conditions.
- “USDA-inspected” breeders may still be puppy mills. The USDA enforces the only federal animal welfare law pertaining to dog breeding, The Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Care standards mandated by AWA are weak and seldom enforced.
Puppy Mill Puppies
- Puppy mills may produce purebreds or “designer breeds” such as puggles and maltipoos.
- Puppies and breeder dogs are raised in the absence of enrichment with no human interaction.
- Many puppies are fed kibble laced with antibiotics to keep bacterial infection at bay. Meanwhile, they are not vaccinated against diseases like parvo virus or distemper.
- Breeder dogs are forced to produce litter after litter until they die; they do not leave the puppy mill. Puppies may become breeders or are sold wholesale to pet stores.
How to Spot a Miller
Puppy mills exist for one reason and one reason only—greed. If you buy a puppy from a pet store, an Internet site, or a private home advertising a variety of breeds, you are most likely buying from a puppy mill. The best way to avoid funding a puppy mill is to adopt from an animal shelter or rescue. If you decide to purchase from a breeder, beware of the following warning signs:
- You are not permitted to visit the puppy’s parents, or at least the mother.
- You are not permitted to visit the breeding site.
- You are required to complete a sales contract (rather than an adoption contract).
- The puppy is obtained unseen through the Internet and shipped directly to you.
- Sellers that pose as rescue/adoption advocates. These unscrupulous people may sell puppy mill animals for high “adoption fees” and will require little of the adopter (such as an adoption contract, a home visit, or even a preliminary interview).
Take Action to Stop Puppy Mills
- Support local animal shelters and reputable rescue groups.
- Only obtain dogs and puppies from reputable animal rescues and shelters.
- Report animal cruelty.
- Write your legislators to urge increased inspections of kennels and higher standards of care in the AWA.
- Support laws and ordinances that limit or ban the sale of puppies and kittens.
- Download and print or mail order NHES’ Puppy Mill brochure to distribute in your community.