Here we can all agree: Nobody should ever buy a puppy from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are terrible and should be taken out of business.
An estimated 2 million puppies are “produced” annually in puppy mills in the United States. With the number of dogs euthanized by animal shelters in this country estimated at 1.2 million each year, you can see why simply turning off puppy mills is such a tempting idea for those of us who have worked in shelters. But it is difficult to put an end to a practice that some people benefit from, no matter how cruel it is.
That’s why we try to educate people – to make sure, first of all, they understand that any “thoroughbred” or “designer mix” puppy for sale in a pet store is made by a puppy mill, regardless of the store’s employees was told to say.
We also try to make it clear to potential buyers that when they pay for a puppy from a pet store, they are directly supporting the suffering of dogs from all the seedy breeders, brokers, and scammers who supply pet stores.
Most of us have seen photos and videos taken by animal welfare groups after a raid on the worst kind of puppy mill, where the dogs’ living conditions are indescribably horrific, and cages with wound-covered dogs are piled on more cages. and all full of filth. Nobody would advocate that “companies” like these are allowed to continue their operations.
It is much harder to see the cruelty of puppy mills promoting the number of vets, discussing their health and socialization programs, and displaying pictures of sparkling clean facilities alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses. Conditions look better – but their breeding dogs are still puppy production machines that have no semblance of quality of life. And the pups are being sold to anyone willing to pay for them and shipped all over the country in too early years.
The bottom line for mills is that puppies are simply “products” – and so is the bottom line of the puppy miller always be more important than the well-being of the dogs.
The USDA’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) sets legal requirements for the care, handling, housing, transport and sale of animals in approved breeding facilities. Puppy Millers and their downstream co-conspirators like to claim their USDA licenses and unannounced AWA compliance checks keep the industry honest. However, the reality is that these laws are absolutely inadequate. For example under the AWA:
• The number of dogs on the premises is unlimited. A puppy mill could have hundreds or even thousands of dogs.
• There is no minimum requirement for the number of staff that must be available to care for the dogs.
• Dogs can be kept in stacked cages.
• Mesh or wire floors are permitted.
• Dogs may be forced to relieve themselves in their cages.
• Dogs may be locked in spaces that are only six inches longer than their bodies, excluding the tail.
• A dog can be locked up 24 hours a day for its whole life and only removed from the cage to be bred.
• There are no exercise requirements when dogs are housed with other dogs and the minimum size requirements for the dog’s enclosure are met.
• Dogs can be housed indoors or outdoors with minimal temperature control.
• Human interaction is not required.
• The breeding of females in the first heat cycle and in each subsequent heat cycle is permitted.
• Unwanted animals can be auctioned or killed in various ways.
• There is no transparency to consumers or the public about the results of USDA inspections.
Finally, it should be obvious that the USDA cannot adequately inspect the entire puppy mill industry. There are currently only an estimated 110 inspectors on staff to inspect everything the animal facilities it oversees, including zoos and research laboratories, as well as commercial dog breeders and brokers.