By some estimates, as many as 99% of all dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania also reports that dogs born in puppy mills often suffer long-term emotional and psychological effects. No matter how caring or loving the homes where many of these animals end up, some are so severely traumatized that they never fully recover from the conditions they began their lives in.
What Are Puppy Mills and Why Are They a Problem?
Puppy mills are, literally, breeding grounds where dogs are bred for the sole purpose of supplying pet stores with live animals to sell to the public. While animal rights activists have made great strides in terms of exposing some of the abusive and cruel practices that take place in these mills, their lawful operations still present a huge problem. Often, emphasis is placed on the cleanliness of mills, as well as the overt treatment of the animals. Despite authorities cracking down on puppy mills that blatantly disregard the health and safety of animals, the abusive nature of mills, in general, continues to be overlooked.
Even in puppy mills where dogs are well fed and exist in a relatively clean environment, they are treated inhumanely. Many are kept in cages their entire lives never knowing what it is like to take a walk, run outdoors, eat outside of a cage or even rest peacefully. Some dogs spend their entire lifetimes either being continuously impregnated or continuously forced to impregnate another dog. When not acting in one of these capacities they are caged.
Disease is Rampant in Puppy Mills
In addition to suffering from neglect, a lack of social interaction and a lack of freedom, dogs born and raised in puppy mills often suffer from a variety of health conditions. Among these are heartworms and other parasites, respiratory illnesses, skin disorders, physical deformities and organ failure. It is not uncommon for dogs with treatable conditions to go without proper veterinary care and are, instead, replaced with another dog that can be bred to produce more puppies that are seen strictly as profit for mill owners.
Our Responsibility to Puppies Everywhere
While activists have been hard at work lobbying against puppy mills, so much more must be done in order to assure their extinction. Instead of purchasing puppies from pet stores, puppies should only be purchased from responsible, licensed individual private breeders. Visiting a private breeder in person (more than once if possible) should reveal the conditions that puppies are being bred in, as well as the care of their parents. It is particularly important, in fact, that prospective owners demand to see a puppy’s parents in order to determine the quality of their care, as well. This is because it is often the parents that suffer the most in puppy mills and at the hands of irresponsible private breeders, this is because breeding dogs are never sold and are sometimes literally bred to death. Remember, also, that puppies and dogs can be adopted from local shelters in order to prevent their sale to laboratories or being put to sleep in order to create room for incoming shelter animals.
Concerned animal lovers can also pressure local lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of other cities, such as the city of Irvine in California. There, lawmakers have completely banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores within that city. Without a demand for puppies, mill suppliers will begin to close shop. Attacking this industry on a financial level is, perhaps, the best way to assure that puppy mills cease to exist forever.