Most people have heard of puppy mills and recognize that they are very bad places. What many people don’t understand is that they, their friends, or their relatives may be directly supporting puppy mills when they buy animals instead of adopting them from shelters. The history behind those adorable puppies and kittens in the pet store window is anything but cute.
Puppy mills are breeding facilities where dogs are raised in cramped, filthy conditions. The only goal is to produce as many puppies as possible to sell, with little to no thought given to their well-being.
At puppy mills, dogs are confined to tiny, filthy cages. Breeders are focused on making a profit, not providing animals with proper shelter, food, and veterinary care. They often inbreed dogs, which makes them more prone to genetic defects. On top of all of this, the puppies are deprived of adequate socialization, which they need in order to be happy, well-adjusted companions.
Female dogs are usually bred twice a year and then killed or abandoned when they are no longer able to produce litters. The puppies are torn from their mothers at a very young age and sold to brokers, who then sell them to pet stores. They’re packed into tiny crates and can be transported hundreds of miles in pickup trucks, tractor-trailers, and airplanes—often without adequate food, water, or ventilation.
Things don’t get much better when the puppies reach the pet stores. They’re kept in small cages and denied regular human contact, affection, and the opportunity to exercise. Because they aren’t properly socialized, many develop undesirable behavior characteristics like excessive barking.
Unlike in good animal shelters, which typically screen potential adopters before allowing them to take an animal home, pet stores sell to anyone willing to pay, including people who are unprepared to care for them—or who might even be cruel. Many pet stores even sell sick animals to unsuspecting buyers. And even if a store claims that it doesn’t buy from puppy mills, there is a good chance that it buys from a broker who does.
Dealers can find ways around the few federal animal-trafficking laws that do exist. There is a network of breeders who smuggle animals into the U.S. from Mexico. Puppies have actually been found stuffed into speaker boxes, hidden inside car door panels, and wrapped in blankets stuffed under seats!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is supposed to monitor and inspect kennels to ensure that breeders aren’t violating the housing standards of the Animal Welfare Act, but kennel inspections are a very low priority. Inspections, when they’re performed at all, are rarely thorough. Puppy mills aren’t usually monitored by state governments, and regulations vary from state to state. Many states lack the funding or resources to monitor puppy mills, so the abuse, neglect, and other illegal activity that occur in many of these facilities goes unnoticed and unpunished.
And there is another heartbreaking consequence of puppy mills: They often cater to the latest “fashion” in dog breeds, which can be a result of seeing a popular movie featuring a canine star. But many people who run out and buy certain breeds during a fad quickly grow tired of them after the craze fades and get rid of them, which only contributes to the surplus of animals who need homes.