Last month, Facebook and the ASPCA worked together to put an end to ads for puppy mills on Facebook Marketplace. I wrote an article about it for Pet Pardons News, and while I was researching it, an interesting fact came to my attention.
The ASPCA commissioned a poll that found while most Americans have heard of puppy mills and say they wouldn’t buy a dog that came from one, most Americans also believe that the dogs in pet stores come from legitimate sources. Many people also mistakenly think that anti-puppy mill campaigns are about the puppies.
Think about the word mill for a minute. Two of the definitions of “mill” are
- A factory where something is manufactured
- To grind, crush, or pulverize.
Both of these definitions apply to the places referred to as puppy mills. The purpose of a puppy mill is to produce as many puppies as possible, which are then sold to pet stores, and which are then, in turn, sold to consumers. Like any factory, the owner is in it to make money; which means spending as little as possible on overhead to make a maximum profit. There is a lot wrong with that picture.
The victims are not really the puppies. The puppies get out. They are loveable and cute and the lucky ones will end up in homes where people love them like a family member. But the puppies parents never get out. They live their lives out at the puppy mill in conditions that are no better than a concentration camp.
Spending as little as possible on overhead means that the breeding parents are kept in tiny cages. Sometimes multiple dogs are crammed into a single cage. A cage which has a wire floor so when the dogs urinate and defecate, it falls through the grate. Cages are often stacked on top of each other in overcrowded conditions, so the waste falls through to the cages below. The cages are only big enough to stand up, lie down and bear puppies, and they are unprotected from the heat, the cold and rain. The breeding parents aren’t groomed, are only minimally vetted (if at all), do not receive an ounce of attention or affection, and spend their entire lives in a tiny box where they have to stand on wire. They develop eye infections from the concentration of ammonia from the urine, sometimes to the point of blindness. Their feet become cut and infected from the wire. Sometimes they become so matted their fur catches in the wire and actually hold them to one spot. They never go for a walk, never get to run, never get to curl up in a clean warm bed. They never know the gentle touch of a caring hand. The females are bred every heat cycle so they will be pregnant as many times a year as physically possible – for their entire lives.
That’s where the second definition of mill comes in; because these dogs have their spirits and their bodies ground to dust.
A couple of posts back, I wrote about compassion being a great motivator. In that post I mentioned a scientific finding about dogs; that studies have shown that the average dog has the intellectual and emotional intelligence of a three-year-old child. I think that bears repeating – because these dogs kept as breeding parents, they’re not ‘things’. They are conscious living beings, and they know what is happening to them. Can you for one second, imagine their despair? Their hopelessness? Their loneliness? Their sadness?
When a person goes into a pet store, and buys that cute puppy they have no idea what has been left behind. They have no idea of the suffering. That’s why it’s so important to cut off the demand for puppy mill puppies by not buying puppies in pet stores, and by not buying anything from a store that sells puppies; because as long as there is money to be made, the cycle will continue. There are an estimated 15,000 puppy mills in the U.S. that produce an estimated 4 million puppies per year.
Now that you are armed with that information, what can you do? You do want to do something, don’t you?
Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t EVER buy a puppy from a pet store. There are puppies of all breeds in shelters across the country – all in danger of being killed because there aren’t enough homes. You never have to set foot in a shelter – you can find the dog you want online at Petfinders. It doesn’t even matter anymore if the puppy is in a shelter out of state, because there are groups of volunteers that will transport shelter dogs to anywhere in the US.
- Spread the word! Share this blog with others, and if someone tells you they are thinking of getting a puppy, tell them why they shouldn’t buy one from a pet store.
- Support groups like the HSUS and Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), who work to shut down puppy mills and rescue all of the dogs.
- Support legislation to end puppy mills and dog auctions (which are trading venues for puppy millers) In Ohio, the group: Ohio Voters Against Puppy Mills and Dog Auctions has been working tirelessly on a ballot initiative to ban Ohio dog auctions. If there is similar legislation pending in your state, let your representatives know you support it.