your Mind, Even if your Voice Shakes"
There is a lot of info
here accumulated via the other branch sites as well as my own research
and info. There will be a lot of changes and improvements as we
go along ! These are documented, eye witness accounts of visits to and
raids of puppy mills as well as various editorial viewpoints.
This site is dedicated to the education
of the public to the conditions that breeding
animals live under in the "puppy industry." We also wish to
educate the public to the genetic and
behavioral problems of puppies that are bred in
puppy mills. As volunteers who have become aware of this problem, we
want to help the public to understand as well. We are united by
the animals we love, many of whom are the products of puppy mills.
Most people are not aware that the majority of
those cute puppies and kittens sold in pet stores are bred under horrid,
inhumane conditions in the puppy mills of the United States. The best way to
stop puppy mills is not to purchase a puppy or kitten from a pet store, and
educate people about from where and what these animals come. This is what we
are trying to do.
No matter how "classy" a pet shop may
look, how clean and healthy looking those pups and kittens appear to
be, you must understand this is not the case for the vast majority! A
pet shop owner may assure you they use only "local breeders" and
would never get puppies from one of those horrible puppy mills you
see on TV. However that is exactly where most of these
"purebred" puppies and kittens do come from! It is semantics
whether they arrive as one of a hundred from a mill in PA or if they come
from the backyard breeder down the street!
We all need to understand that NO
REPUTABLE BREEDER of any animal would ever sell
their babies in a pet shop...ever. It is as plain and simple as that.
They spend all their time, effort and attention in breeding the best dogs
they can and each and every puppy goes to hand picked homes. A breeder
knows the flaws of their animals, the genetic problems of their chosen breed
and what to breed for and when not to breed. Paying a premium pet shop
price does not assure quality. Any true breeder will take a puppy back
if it doesn't work out or develops a genetic problem. So the promises
of a pet shop are a moot point. All the pet shop will do is refund or
replace the puppy (sometimes) like a defective appliance...because that is
all the animal is to the pet shop.
While it is true that some pet shops have local
puppies and kittens, they are not from reputable breeders who would want to
have their name or their kennel attached to the animal. These
small ones are from "back yard" breeders. Those people who
just happen to have a female collie named "Lassie" and decide to
have a litter with "Lad" down the street. Lad's owners are
the ones who chose to get a male because they then didn't have to pay to
have him altered and didn't have to worry about unwanted puppies.
Neither family are breeders. Chances are they don't even have a book
about collies, much less know that there are genetic problems found in that
breed...and there are a slew of them! No, they just toss them in the
back yard together and let them do "what comes naturally". Anyone
who gets a pup or kitten this way is just playing Russian Roulette!
However...this is infinitely better than buying them from a pet
shop! Because at least the pups might have been cared for. Which
simply is not the case for any purebred you will find in any pet shop.
Neither is this condoning the back yard breeder. They are simply the lesser
of two evils!
You never know how things are going to
affect you. I have had many puppy mill dogs in my years of rescue. I know what
they are and what I need to help them. It has always been a give and take
thing. I did volunteer work most of my live. On hospitals and nursing homes. I
have found old persons dead whom have died in their sleep so I have always felt
prepared. And until recently I have been very copasetic about who I am and what
I do and how..
Then came the Monroe NC mill bust. 260
dogs. 0er 100 Chihuahua....MY breed. The rest were other small dogs. Most
bitches and pregnant. All with distemper vaccines which would damage the
unborn. This whole thing was completely different for me. And
I drove a round trip of 10 hours to get there. I saw them and I heard the
people there crying for the ones turned in from the area because there is
literally NO ROOM AT THE INN for them. These mill dogs are evidence. and they
must be kept whole and ready to go back should the hell spawn who had them
should win...again. So the locals died until the mill babies were in foster.
They take my breath away. I have
spent literally thousands of dollars in blood work and tests to be sure
they were ok. I have cried knowing there were puppies and knowing that besides
the boosters, the bitch was too weak to deal with her needs and there was
nothing left for the unborn. And I had to make that call and in 30 plus years
in rescue it is the very first time I have deliberately killed the unborn...and
I am still dealing with it.
But here they are and the 2, 2.75 pounders
sleep with me on the bed and I can love them there and there
touch them somewhere else and they will break eyes and run...it
will get better with time. These are not my first and nit
do not know how to weep with their whole heart
do not know how to laugh either. --Golda Meir~
Finding a responsible breeder
Some hints for locating a responsible breeder
answer buyers' questions, keep puppies they cannot place, allow bitches to
recover sufficiently from one breeding before doing another, and take back
any puppy that does not work out. They breed dogs because they admire their
breed and want to contribute to its betterment. They guarantee their pups
free of genetic diseases common in their breed and replace the pup if the
disease should crop up. They consider the puppies they produce to be their
responsibility for the life of that puppy, so they follow-up frequently to
see what's going on. They evaluate their puppies as show and breeding
quality or pet quality and sell pet puppies with a spay-neuter contract. Pet
quality puppies are not deficient - they just may not meet the breed
standard for size, color, coat type, bone structure, head type, etc. Many
responsible breeders sell pet puppies at a lower price than show puppies.
Locating a responsible breeder
Area kennel clubs are excellent
sources of information about local breeders. Obedience training clubs
in your area also offer promising leads. Veterinarians, groomers,
boarding kennel operators, and pet supply outlets may also be good
Using newspaper classified ads
to locate a breeder is a gamble. Few responsible breeders advertise in
local classified ads because they have no trouble placing their dogs,
sometimes years in advance. Therefore most breeders who advertise in
these sections are amateurs who know little about their breeds. If you
must enter the classified sweepstakes at least learn
terminology of classified ads.
The first interview with a
breeder should be done without seeing the puppies so judgment doesn't
get clouded by adorable, furry bundles. Ask to see sire and dam of the
litter, if possible, and assess their temperament. If either is
overprotective or very fearful, head for the door.
Ask about the genetic diseases
that affect the breed -- you should have a good idea of what they are
from your reading. If the breed is a medium-to-large one, hip
dysplasia is likely to be a problem, so don't accept excuses for
failure to x-ray and certify the dog free of the condition.
Ask about the contract and the
guarantee and for names of previous puppy buyers as references. Ask if
dogs from this breeder are active in dog sports even if you never
intend to participate. Dogs that earn obedience, tracking, hunting,
herding, water, or conformation titles; work as sled dogs, therapy
dogs, assistance dogs, or search and rescue dogs; or participate in
sports such as agility, Frisbee, or schutzhund are definitely
trainable. The more complex the sport, the more there's a need for
Ask to see the pedigrees of sire
and dam. If there are lots of champions or titled dogs in the
pedigree, the puppies are most likely good physical examples of the
breed. Ask for the OFA ratings on the sire and dam, not only the OFA
number. Ratings can be fair, good, or excellent. Chances of good hips
in the offspring are higher with parents rated good than with those
rated fair, and are even better with parents rated excellent.
Expect the breeder to ask you
some questions as well. After all, a responsible breeder wants to know
what kind of a home and family his puppies are getting as well as the
color of your money.
When you decide the time is right for
a puppy, spend at least as much time looking as you would in shopping for a
new car or a special dress or suit. A puppy is a long-term investment:
hopefully he'll be with you for 10-12 years or more. Here are some questions
to ask breeders.
Will you help us pick
the right puppy for our needs?
Are your breeding
animals registered with the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)
Hip Dysplasia Registry?
What are their
Are your breeding
animals certified free of PRA and other eye diseases?
Do you guarantee the
hips and eyes of the puppies?
What are your terms if
the puppy does develop genetic problems?
Can we visit the parents
of the litter?
Will you give us the
names of other puppy buyers?
Do you require that pet
puppies be spayed or neutered?
Will the puppies have
their first shots?
At what age do you place
puppies? (Puppies should stay with Mom and siblings for at
least seven weeks.)
Responsible breeders are forthcoming
with this information. Make sure you have the answers before you
look at the puppies -- it's hard to walk away from a wriggling bundle of fur
that's licking your face or tugging on your ankle!
A truly responsible and professional
breeder cares where his puppies will grow up. He will keep any puppies he
cannot place in suitable homes and will question prospective buyers closely
to determine if this buyer really needs one of his precious puppies.
Good breeders ask some or all
of the following questions:
Have you ever had a dog
before? If so, what type of dog? How long did you have it? Some
breeds are not suitable for first-time dog owners, and some are just
what the doctor ordered for neophytes.
Are there children in
the family? How many? What ages? Some
breeds are good with children, some prefer older, considerate
children, and some don't get along with children at all.
(More on children and dogs)
Do you live in a house
or apartment? If an apartment, does the landlord allow dogs? Some
breeds do quite well in confined spaces, while others need room to
stretch and wander.
Do you have other pets?
Some breeds are naturally aggressive to
other animals, including dogs and cats, and some get along very well
with all God's critters.
Do you have a
fenced yard? No dog should
be left outside unattended, and no dog-aggressive or guardian breed
should be confined by only an electronic
fence. These fences may keep the dog in but they do not keep
trespassing children or other dogs out.
What do you do for
exercise? High energy breeds
such as Dalmatians, retrievers, Border Collies, and Australian
Shepherds need a brisk daily walk or jog of a mile or more to satisfy
their physical and psychological need for exercise.
Do you know the dog laws
in your community? No
responsible breeder wants to sell a puppy to a buyer who does not plan
to obey leash and confinement laws.
Do you plan to obedience
train this puppy? This is a
crucial question for breeders of guardian dogs such as Akitas,
Rottweilers, Boxers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. An untrained
guardian dog can easily become a domineering pet with severe behavior
Are you aware of the
costs involved in veterinary care, including spaying and neutering,
purchasing a good quality dog food, boarding the dog when you are
away, annual license fees, etc.?
Are you aware that you
are taking on the responsibility of another living creature who will,
for the rest of its life, be dependent upon you?
If you can answer these questions in a
positive manner, you are a good prospect for one of the breeder's puppies.
Remember though, the really good breeders have a sixth sense about people.
They will scrutinize your behavior with their dogs, the dogs' behavior with
you, and the behavior and attitudes of your children. If the children are
rowdy and disobedient, chances are your dog will be too, and the breeder may
not want one of her dogs going to your home.
Norma Bennett Woolf
you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures
from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man."
- St. Francis of Assisi
of America's Puppy Mills
conditions are yielding unhealthy and hostile pets
parked my car and walked up the dirt road toward a weathered barn. This was
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the land
yields corn, tobacco, and a a new cash crop-puppies. As I
approached the barn, I heard a cacophony of high-pitched barking. The owner
came out to meet me. "You have any puppies?"
I asked. "Poodles, Yorkies, Schipperkes, Maltese, Jack
Russells, Shih Tzus, Pekinese, boxers, cockers, Labs. "I asked to
see some Bichon Frises. Raising
a palm, cautioning me not to follow, the farmer went into a large kennel.
But he left the door ajar, and I took a good look inside.
was my first visit to one of those dog- breeding operations conventionally
known as puppy mills. In
fact, this facility had once
been licensed by the
U. S. Department of Agriculture. So, when I saw the conditions in
which these puppies were being raised, I was stunned. The animals lived
in small wire cages stacked four and five high. Some puppies had open
sores or hairless spots from lying on the metal wire. Urine and feces
from upper cages dropped into the ones below. Food was tossed in among
the waste. Some dogs had no water. They all seemed malnourished. When
the farmer returned, I bought a puppy for $200. Later I took him to an
animal hospital for an exam. Other than having
an ailment called kennel cough, he was okay, and someone soon adopted
him. He was one of the lucky ones.
governing dog-breeding operations have been on the books since 1971. But
legislation has not solved the problem of atrocious conditions. In a special
investigation for Reader's Digest, I interviewed government
officials and humane-society and pet-industry representatives. I also
studied hundreds of reports compiled by federal inspectors. Most important, I visited 53 puppy
mills-some licensed, others not-in seven states. What I saw not only broke
the law; it broke my heart. Puppy mills thrive because the
demand for pedigreed dogs has created a highly profitable market for small
farmers and for the chain pet stores they supply. The American Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of
the United States, and the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)
estimate that nine out of ten puppies sold at pet shops come from puppy
mills. Abuses occur in both licensed and unlicensed facilities. Just
how many unlicensed mills operate nationwide is unknown.
Last May I visited a puppy mill near Bunnell, Fla., that had been closed
down. When police and humane officials arrived six months earlier, they
were greeted at the gate by dozens of dogs, many of them sick or
injured. On the porch of the ramshackle farmhouse was a stack of filthy
cages, where the decomposing carcass of a terrier dripped fluids onto a
live poodle below. Inside, every downstairs room was piled
with excrement-filled cages. Rats scampered in and out of
them. Authorities seized 358 dogs. A few were in such poor health they
had to be euthanized. Many of the females had mammary tumors, and a
half-dozen dogs were blind from glaucoma. Nearly all the adult dogs had
severe periodontal disease, and many had to have teeth removed. Last
November the owners were convicted on 12 counts of animal neglect. They
are appealing. As appalling as this mill was, says Amy Wade-Carotenuto,
shelter manager for the Flagler County Humane Society, "There
are a lot more like this or worse around the country."
formal licensing was begun by the USDA in October 1971, facilities that fail
to meet minimum standards face penalties ranging from written warnings
to revocation of their licenses. But inspection is spotty. In the 18-month
period ending June 30, 1997, only 29 of the 4100 licensed commercial dog
breeders in the United States-less than one percent-had their licenses suspended or
revoked. No one claims that the low level of enforcement reflects a high
level of compliance by breeders. Marshall Smith, a former USDA
investigator who resigned in February 1997, says the agency "tends to
go lightly on violations of the Animal Welfare Act." The
main reason, according to Smith: "One of the USDA's major
functions is to promote the economic welfare of the farmer rather than the
health and welfare of dogs." In other words, there's a direct
conflict of interest. In 1995, 149 members of Congress condemned the
industry, citing "overcrowding, inadequate shelter, improper
veterinary care, lack of sanitation and incessant breeding."
The legislators asked the USDA to correct inhumane conditions through new
changes were adopted: plastic-coated wire for cages is now required,
and the tethering of animals is forbidden. But, as this report demonstrates,
violations are common. Many other recommendations-like increasing
cage size, requiring constant access to water, limiting the number of times
a female can be bred, and stipulating stronger
sanitation requirements-were not adopted. Sue Pressman, an ASPCA
consultant, says some of the worst victims of puppy mills are the
breeding bitches. "They spend their entire lives in one
place, producing one litter after another," she says. (The recommended
method is to breed no more than once a year.) "Under these
conditions, puppy-mill bitches live four or five years and are disposed
of." At one mill in Pennsylvania, I saw a breeding female chained to a
tree, trying to nurse a dozen hungry puppies of different sizes.
In many mills, the bitches are restrained in wire cages or pens and get no
exercise. The stress induced in these bitches by such
conditions often results in hostility to their offspring. The pups end
up treating littermates the same way. Not surprising, such
aggressive behavior does not yield good pets. In the typical
puppy mill, newborn animals receive little or no individual attention. This
lack of human contact is why puppy-mill dogs are so often aggressive,
distrustful and hard to train. "A lot of them end up abandoned in
shelters because their owners can't deal with them," says
George Watford, vice president for special investigations at the
ASPCA. I asked Melvin Nolt, a commercial breeder in East Earl, Pa., about
the criticism that operators don't adequately attend to their puppies.
"A lot of it comes from city people, who don't understand animals
or farming," he said. "They get overly emotional about
dogs, and they don't understand that dogs are different from
people." But Donald K. Allen, a Youngstown, Ohio, veterinarian and
member of the board of directors of CAPS, disagrees. "Sure, dogs
are different from people," he says. "But dogs are different from
livestock, too, because they're destined to live in someone's home.
It's difficult to house-train a pup from a mill because it's used
to voiding wherever it wants. And it's failed to bond with
people." The poor sanitation at many mills leads to another dire
problem:disease. To cut costs, many commercial breeders do not
vaccinate dogs against diseases, including Parvovirus, a highly communicable
and often deadly canine disease that especially affects puppies.
In addition, Watford notes, some puppy-mill puppies are less than
eight weeks old when sold. "Diseases and congenital defects
haven't had time to incubate and show up."
Myth of Pedigree
the whole puppy-mill industry is consumer demand. And part of that demand
stems from the notion that the "best" dogs are purebred. Says
Allen, "For the past half-century, the American Kennel Club
(AKC) has driven home the propaganda that a purebred dog is better than a
mixed breed. In doing so, it has created a popular demand for
pedigreed dogs, and puppy mills have sprung up to supply this demand at the
retail level." A policy statement of the AKC speaks
against puppy mills: "We oppose random, large-scale breeding
of dogs solely for commercial purposes. The AKC believes the solution is
scrupulous enforcement of the Federal Animal Welfare Act and state
and local regulations governing the humane care of animals." Yet
the AKC takes in hefty revenues from registering animals according to
breed. In 1996 alone the AKC collected registration fees totaling $26
million. "A conflict of interest arises when the group responsible
for enforcement benefits financially from the same groups that
it's investigating," says Richard Johnston, president of the
Connecticut Humane Society. There is a simple solution to the
puppy-mill problem: don't buy your puppy from a pet store. This
step is supported by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States,
CAPS, and most state and local humane organizations. "Without
pet-store sales, dog breeding would not be a lucrative business, and most
mills would be forced out of existence," says the ASPCA's
George Watford. Marshall Meyers, executive vice president of the
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, disagrees. "A boycott would be
unfair to the thousands of responsible pet-store owners and
operators. The reasonable answer to any problem is better enforcement of
existing regulations." To their credit, some retailers aren't
waiting for improvements in oversight. They've simply stopped dealing
with puppy mills; still others have never started.
a dachshund, began life on September 24, 1996, in a licensed Missouri puppy
mill. The farm sits in a hollow, out of sight from the gravel county road
some 100 yards away. At that distance, though, anyone passing by can
hear the dogs barking and smell the puppy-mill reek. In November, Oscar was
sold to a dog broker in southwest Missouri. There, he had a clean
kennel and room to run. But soon Oscar was air-shipped to his final
destination: a pet shop in central Ohio. In the baggage office of the
Columbus, Ohio, airport, Susan Lively, a 28-year-old airline employee, saw
the dachshund and fell in love. She told the pet-store employee that
she wanted to buy Oscar. The next morning Lively went into the store,
paid $400 and took him home. That night Oscar began spitting up his
food. The pet store told Lively that a veterinarian had examined
Oscar and found nothing wrong. The following day, Thanksgiving, Oscar began
vomiting every five minutes. A veterinarian prescribed
antibiotics, which helped briefly. Susan Lively was heartbroken when,
five days later, 10-week-old Oscar was dead from Parvo
virus-another victim of the mass production of puppies at
the lowest possible cost.
Puppies for sale...
do you know you’re buying
NBC Report on Puppy Mills
how do you find a pet that is healthy and right for you?
26 — When you
buy that tail-wagging, cute puppy from your neighborhood pet store or the
large pet store franchise at the mall, do you have any idea where those dogs
were raised? Are the dogs purebred and is a certificate from the American
Kennel Club (AKC) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a
guarantee of health? In a 10-month investigation, correspondent Chris Hansen
set out to find answers to these questions that few consumers bother to ask.
The bottom line is ask questions. And if a
breeder is hesitant to answer your questions, experts say they might be
hiding something about their dogs.
A MULTI-million dollar industry driven by puppy love. As puppies, they’re
all adorable, but buyer beware. Millions of Americans have fallen in love
with puppies in pet store windows. But there’s a different side of the
business that keeps many of those pet shops full and has nothing to do with
love. Many pet owners have no idea where their puppy started its life.
Dateline’s investigation examined the commercial dog breeding system in
the U.S., how many pet stores keep all those different breeds of puppies in
stock at any given time, who breeds these thousands of puppies, and if
anyone is inspecting the facilities or making sure the dogs are in fact
purebred. Dateline’s investigation found a commercial breeding industry
with, in some cases, cruel conditions for the breeding dogs which can result
in puppies with health and behavior problems. We discovered inhumane
conditions in the commercial dog breeding industry and learned that most
puppies in pet stores can come from these operations?
the question is, if you want a purebred pup, where do you find reputable dog
breeders and a good selection of breeds to choose from? Most people imagine
pet store puppies are bred in homey, hand-reared environments where dogs and
puppies have room to play. But these small, private breeders specialize in
just one or two breeds and they don’t sell to pet stores. So where do pet
stores get their puppies in all those shapes and sizes?
investigation found that more often than not, pet stores get their puppies
from puppy mills — the term used for a commercial dog breeder where
breeding dogs are confined to cages their entire lives. According to
experts, careless breeding is common and the puppies can inherit health or
behavioral problems that may make them difficult pets. They found hundreds
of breeding dogs in deplorable conditions. Dateline’s investigation
discovered Nielsen Farms in Kansas, where we saw 500 breeding dogs, many
with health problems — like rampant skin infections called mange, food
infested with maggots and disturbing behavior often caused by confinement.
We shopped undercover and learned Nielsen Farms sold puppies to pet stores
across the country, from the largest pet store chain to the most exclusive
of pet shops. Nielsen now says that the conditions which Dateline found don’t
exist any longer. Critics say pet stores have no choice but to buy from
commercial breeders if they want a large variety of young puppies in their
windows at any given time. Puppy mills are found all over the U.S., but are
concentrated in high numbers in these states: Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas,
Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
suppose you say you don’t want to go to a pet store? How do you find a
reputable dog breeder? Breeders of all reputations advertise in just about
every magazine, newspaper and pet magazine — even the Internet. Obviously
not all breeders who advertise in newspapers, magazines or magazines or on
the Internet are puppy mills. Some are genuinely careful, responsible
breeders. But the only way to really know is to get references and
preferably go visit the breeder in person and see the dogs. And while you’re
interviewing the breeder, pay attention. Is the breeder interviewing you?
Good ones will, to find out if you’re responsible and if you’ll provide
a good home for their carefully bred puppy.
are plenty of sources for purebred dogs and puppies. Check the Internet for
breed clubs all over the country that know all about their particular breed.
Ask veterinarians for breeder referrals. And we were surprised to learn that
about a quarter of all dogs in animal shelters are purebred. About 8-12
million dogs and cats enter shelters every year and 60 to 70 percent are
euthanized for want of a home. Most breeds have rescue groups that can find
the type of dog you want. The bottom line is ask questions. And if a breeder
is hesitant to answer your questions, experts say they might be hiding
something about their dogs. “There are wonderful sources of
excellent pet dogs,” says Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinarian,
internationally recognized as a leading expert in animal behavior. She runs
the behavior clinic at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Animal
Hospital that sees some 20,000 animals annually. She has applied for a
research grant from the American Kennel Club and is awaiting their response.
But you still have to do your homework say the experts, because a puppy
should not be an impulse purchase. Remember, a puppy is not a household gift
that can be returned, but a 10 to 15 year commitment. So you need to spend
time researching the type of dog that meets your needs before you make it
the newest member of your family.
First, pick a breed that’s the
right size and temperament for your lifestyle. Breed clubs — every breed
has one — can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about a
particular type of dog. Dr. Overall suggests even going to a dog show, where
breeds will be lined up in a row for you to check out for yourself. Once you’ve
narrowed down the choices, where should you go to get your puppy? Those
breed clubs recommend breeders. The American Kennel Club has a Web site,
which offers information. You can also check with your local veterinarian.
Then go visit in person. A good breeder should have just one or two breeds.
WHAT DO YOU
first thing you should ask is,” says Dr. Overall, “is it possible for me
to see any of the other relatives? The father may not be on the premises but
if the pups are young, you should at least be able to see the mother. If
they say things like a client did the other day, ‘yes, but she’s out in
the kennel and she’s not good with most humans so I’ll have to bring her
out on a chain.’ That was a clue.” Stay away. Dr. Overall says don’t
stop there. “The second thing they should ask is could you please give me
the names of some of the people with whom you’ve placed dogs before and
can I call them,” she says. “And if they say no, walk away.” A good
breeder should give you that information. “In fact, I’ve been to
breeders where I didn’t have to ask,” says Overall.
And you really don’t have to go
to a breeder for a purebred. “They can talk to rescue associations, animal
rescue leagues, humane shelters,” says Dr. Overall. “And those can be
wonderful places to get even young animals.” Experts stress that you need
to take time to make the best decision for you and your family. “It’s
your choice,” says Dr. Overall. “It’s your decision. You’re going to
have this dog in your household for many, many, many years. You’re
investing in a family member.”
not think dishonestly.
The Way is in the Training.
Become acquainted with every art.
Know the ways of all professions.
Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
Perceive those things that cannot be seen.
Pay attention even to little things.
Do nothing that is of no use.
- Musashi Miyamoto
Rachel A. Lamb
It was summer when I visited puppy
mills in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In the last few years, the area has
become a hub for large scale commercial dog breeding operations. And
although the Midwest still ranks as containing the highest number of dog
breeding operations, the concentration of puppy mills in Lancaster County is
Accompanying me was a Humane Society of
the United States investigator who had monitored the Pennsylvania mills for
years. He knew the county well, and had seen not only the proliferation of
puppy mills in the area, but at the same time, the increased press and
public attention in their operations.
Driving through the pastoral landscape, it
seemed impossible that animal suffering could exist amidst such beauty. This
illusion was quickly shattered with my first view of a puppy mill. For
years, I had seen and studied photos of infamous facilities, but nothing
prepared me for seeing the real thing with my own eyes.
We approached a farmhouse from the road and turned onto a muddy lane.
Rounding the corner, we didn't even have to get out of the truck to see or
hear what awaited us. Rows of dilapidated cages were lined up outside a
barn. Stopping the truck, my throat constricted with shock. Dogs were
crammed three or more to a small cage which were elevated over mounds of
feces. Matted fur covered their eyes as they rushed towards the front of
their cages, barking at uninvited visitors. Their plight was so dramatically
different than the dogs I knew, the dogs who lie lazily in afternoon sun,
waiting for their next meal or walk. No, these dogs were here for a purpose
and only one purpose: to make money.
We saw many mills that day. Posing as
buyers, we were able to handle and examine some of the puppies. Many seemed
sickly, disoriented, and underweight. And when we were allowed to see their
mothers, or sneaked onto a farm to view the conditions, the hopelessness of
their lives weighed on me like a heavy load that rests on my shoulders even
to this day.
Dogs hold a special place in our hearts.
Domesticated thousands of years ago, they were chosen to be our protectors,
companions, and best friends. And although we have betrayed our
responsibility towards them in many ways, none is so distressing or
disturbing as the puppy mill.
The term "puppy mill," coined in
the mid-to-late sixties to describe large scale commercial dog breeding
facilities, has only recently arrived in the mainstream vernacular. It is a
term that some claim is sensational and manipulative. The word
"mill" refers to an operation that churns out dogs in mass, using
female dogs as nothing more than breeding machines. The term conjures images
of dogs crowded in wire cages, living in their own wastes, shivering from
the cold, or baking in the heat. Tragically, this vision is not far from
reality. Most people, not just those interested in animal protection, are
shocked when confronted with the bleak images of dogs housed and bred in
puppy mills. But in the 5,000 puppy mills found across the country,
thousands of dogs are bred and raised for profit, valued not for their
companionship or loyalty, but for the cold hard cash they bring.
Many consumers possess an image of puppies
at a family farm, lovingly raised and cared for. Others may not even think
about where a pet store puppy comes from. Drawn to a pet store window by a
bin of wriggling puppies, the furthest thing from a customer's mind is the
origin of these cute bundles of fur. But by buying a puppy, often for a
price of $500 or more, the consumer is unknowingly supporting a cycle of
abuse that begins at the puppy mill.
What the consumer can't see is the puppy's
mother, imprisoned miles away, pregnant again, her body being used to
produce more money-making puppies. Starting at six months, she is bred every
heat cycle. She is often weak, malnourished, and dehydrated. Rarely, if
ever, is she provided with veterinary care. She cannot maintain her
productivity past her fourth or fifth year. After that, she is nothing more
than a drain on the mill's operation and must be disposed of. If she's
lucky, she'll be humanely euthanized. More often than not, she will be shot
or bludgeoned to death. Discarded, her wasted body will lie forgotten in a
local landfill or garbage dump.
This is the picture the pet stores will never show. And until recently, the
ugly truth of puppy mills has been hidden. But when problems with many of
the puppies bought at pet stores across the country began to surface,
consumers and animal lovers alike began asking hard questions. Puppies with
seizures, parasites, infections, bacteria, and behavioral problems were
being seen far too often to be merely coincidental.
Puppy mills and the pet store industry
have begun to feel this scrutiny. They insist that it doesn't make good
business sense to sell sick puppies or house breeding females in less than
humane conditions. But evidence gained after years of documentation and
investigation directly conflicts with these assertions. In addition, those
small scale breeders who do treat their animals humanely, who raise them in
their homes or in small, cleanly kept kennels, do not usually make a profit
off their dogs. It is virtually impossible to breed in a humane fashion and
make money at the same time. Although a pet store may sell a puppy for $500
or more dollars, most commercial breeders can only get around $35 per dog
from a broker who in turns sells to the pet store for around $75. In order
to make a profit and cover costs, corners must be cut, and puppies must be
churned out at a furious rate. The cut corners are the animals themselves:
their housing, their health, their cleanliness. Inherent in the
profit-making mills is the sacrifice of humane standards in order to make a
What protection, if any, do these dogs and
their puppies have? On the state level, puppy "lemon laws,"
existing in a handful of states including New Jersey and California, seek to
offer consumers protection against buying sick puppies. Although these laws
do chip away at the production of sick puppies, they do not address the
inherent problem of the whole system: the selling of dogs for profit.
The federal level offers even less hope.
The current system not only allows the continuation of a business that makes
money off the backs of dogs, but fails in its responsibility to provide even
a basic quality of life for dogs in puppy mills. Originally passed in 1966,
the federal Animal Welfare Act was amended in 1970 to include in its
provisions the oversight of large scale commercial dog breeding facilities.
Regulations were written with the intention of ensuring the proper care,
feeding, housing, and veterinary care for the thousands of dogs found in
puppy mills across the country. Mandated by law to enforce these regulations
is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). But with a shortage
of inspectors responsible for overseeing these facilities, the agency has
developed a reputation for failing to meet its mandate.
Not only have outsiders criticized the
agency's ability to enforce the Act in relation to puppy mills, but several
internal reviews have also illustrated the gross inadequacies existing at
the federal level. Recently, a damning internal review conducted by the
USDA's own office of the Inspector General of the agency's South Central
Regional Office offered a bleak picture. The South Central Office,
responsible for overseeing the majority of this country's puppy mills, was
found to be sorely lacking in its ability to enforce the Animal Welfare Act.
The report found that the office failed to respond to complaints from the
public, failed to report a large number of blatant violations of the law,
and that supervisors told inspectors not only where and when to inspect, but
instructed their staff not to write up too many violations of problematic
facilities. USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, embarrassed by the report's
finding, has demanded the development of an internal plan to respond to the
crisis within the agency.
The USDA is also feeling the heat over the
puppy mill issue from members of Congress. After receiving constituent mail
on puppy mills, Congressman Glenn Poshard (D-Il) and Senator Rick Santorum
(R-PA), sprung to action. Working with The Humane Society of the United
States and other animal protection organizations, they gathered over 100
signatures from members on both side of Capitol Hill in a letter to
Secretary Glickman expressing concern about the problems found in puppy
mills across the country. Sent late last summer, the letter has caused
anxiety within the USDA.
This Spring, the agency will consider
enacting stronger regulations covering puppy mills as well as examining ways
in which their enforcement powers can be increased. Although any change in
the way puppy mills are regulated is an improvement, and stiffer rules may
even shut down or discourage potential operators from opening a facility,
the changes will not directly eliminate the mills themselves. Until the
demand for mass-produced pet store puppies decreases, there will always be a
buck to be made in the production of dogs.
Rachel A. Lamb is Director for Companion
Animal Care at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in
Puppy Mill Facts
What Is a Puppy Mill?
A puppy mill is a breeding facility that
mass-produces purebred puppies, which are typically sold at eight weeks of
age to brokers and retail operations across the U.S. Puppy mills have long
concerned The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The documented problems of puppy mills include:
over-breeding dams, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of
food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and
the killing unwanted animals. To the unwitting consumer, this situation
frequently means buying a puppy facing an array of immediate veterinary
problems or harboring genetically borne diseases that do not appear until
Sadly, some dogs are forced to live in puppy mills
for their entire lives. They are kept there for one reason only: to produce
more puppies. Repeatedly bred, most of these "brood bitches" are
killed once their reproductive capacity wanes.
HSUS research shows that approximately 4,000 of
these mills currently operate in the U.S., many of them despite repeated
violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and other United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. In 1997, the agency used a
force of approximately 70 inspectors to enforce its code—an average of 57
facilities per agent per year that need inspection.
Although all 50 states have anti-cruelty laws that
should prevent neglect and mistreatment of dogs in puppy mills, such laws
are seldom enforced in rural areas, where most puppy mills are located.
The Pet Store Link
The HSUS strongly opposes the sale, through pet
shops and similar outlets, of puppies and dogs from mass-breeding
establishments. Puppy-mill dogs are the "inventory" of these
retail operations. Statistics from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)
suggest that approximately 3,500 to 3,700 of the 11,500 to 12,000 U.S. pet
stores sell cats and dogs. PIJAC also estimates that pet stores sell 300,000
to 400,000 puppies every year. HSUS estimates the number to be 500,000.
The HSUS's Role
The HSUS has been fighting a relentless battle
against puppy mills since the early 1980s, including monitoring the USDA's
poor performance in this area and pushing for better AWA enforcement.
In 1984, the General Accounting Office, the
investigative branch of the U.S. government, found major deficiencies in the
enforcement of the AWA regulations concerning puppy mills. Despite pledges
to improve its inspection process, the USDA failed to live up to its
In 1990, frustrated by the apathy of federal and
state officials, The HSUS led a nationwide boycott of puppies from the seven
worst puppy mill states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska,
Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. The boycott captured a great deal of national
media attention, including numerous newspaper articles and television news
reports on shows such as "20/20," "Good Morning,
America," and "The Today Show."
Raids on puppy mills subsequently took place in
Kansas, where the state legislature, attempting to protect recalcitrant
puppy mill operators by hampering investigators, enacted a law making it a
felony to photograph a puppy mill facility.
As the horror of puppy mills gains attention,
states are responding with "lemon laws" that protect consumers who
buy puppies. Thirteen states now have laws or regulations that allow
consumers to receive refunds or the reimbursement of veterinary bills when a
sick puppy is purchased. While these laws place a limited onus on pet stores
and puppy mills to sell healthy puppies, and theoretically improve
conditions for their breeding facilities, The HSUS feels that they do not
adequately protect the animals who suffer in these establishments.
Latest Developments and HSUS Action
Facing an unreliable regulatory environment and
legislatures unwilling to pass statutes that directly combat the problem of
mass breeders and their nationwide network of dealers, The HSUS continues to
target the consumer for its anti-puppy-mill messages. Consumer demand for
purebred puppies, more than any other factor, perpetuates the misery of
puppy mills. Unfortunately, a dog's lifespan often outstrips many consumers'
demand for this "product," sending millions of dogs to animal
shelters every year, where roughly half will be euthanized.
Unfortunately, data show that puppy sales may be
growing, bolstering this tragic system. Figures from the largest U.S.
breed-registration organization, the American Kennel Club (AKC), show that
purebred registrations increased slightly from 1995 to 1996. Meanwhile, the
AKC says that it "supports major scientific research to advance the
health of purebred dogs," but the only contributions listed in its 1996
annual report were for a total of $730,000 to the AKC Canine Health
Foundation, less than two percent of AKC's total income that year. In
contrast, it spent $10.5 million to fund dog and performance events (AKC
cleared $46.2 million in 1996, including $26.3 from registration fees).
Meanwhile, the AKC touts itself as "the nation's leading not-for-profit
organization devoted solely to the advancement of purebred dogs." AKC
papers do not guarantee the quality or health of a puppy.
In 1994, Time magazine estimated that as
many as 25% of purebred dogs were afflicted with serious genetic problems.
The HSUS estimates that 25% to 30% of the dogs that enter U.S. animal
shelters are purebred.
In 1998, The HSUS conducted focus groups to learn
more about the purchasing criteria of consumers who purchased puppies from a
pet store, as well as their perceptions and understanding of puppy mills.
The focus groups indicated that many people still do not understand the
connection between puppy mills and pet shops.
What You Can Do
To close down puppy mills and ensure the safety and
humane treatment of dogs trapped in commercial kennels, you can:
- Encourage state and federal officials to stop
the mass production and exportation of sick and traumatized dogs. In
addition to passing new laws, legislators can demand that existing
laws be enforced.
- Urge other people not to buy pet-store puppies,
particularly those who come from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri,
Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
- Write letters to the editor of your local
newspapers about puppy mills and pet stores. Explain the mills'
inhumane treatment of puppies and their contribution to pet
- Visit a local pet store to determine where it
obtains its puppies. Don't be misled by claims that its dogs were not
bred in puppy mills. Insist on seeing AKC papers or the interstate
health certificate for each puppy. The papers will list the breeder's
and/or wholesaler's name and address.
- Contact your member of the U.S. House of
Representatives and your two U.S. senators, asking them to urge the
USDA to strictly enforce the Animal Welfare Act. Express your outrage
that the USDA has been negligent in the enforcement of the AWA.
Members of Congress can be contacted at: The Honorable
_______________, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC 20510.
Copyright © 1999 The Humane Society
of the United States. All rights reserved.
Every dog must have a soul somewhere deep inside
Where all his hurts and grievances are buried with his pride.
Where he decides the good and bad. The wrong way from the right.
And where his judgment carefully is hidden from our sight.
A dog must have a secret place where every thought abides.
A sort of close acquaintance that he trusts in and confides.
And when accused unjustly for himself he cannot speak.
Rebuked, he finds within his soul the comfort he must seek.
He'll love, though he is unloved. And he'll serve though badly used.
And one kind word will wipe away the times when he's abused.
Although his heart may break in two his love will still be whole;
Because God gave to every dog
An understanding Soul!
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