By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 05/03/2022, edited: 08/18/2022
Ever gaze into the windows of a pet store at those pawdorable pup faces and wonder where they came from? It’s estimated that 90% of pet stores buy their dogs from puppy mills rather than adopting or finding a reputable breeder.
Puppy mills are places where dozens of dogs are housed solely for the reason of breeding more puppies. Some may be kept outside in all kinds of weather, while others spend their entire lives inside a cage in the midst of their own waste. Breeding adults and puppies are often subject to illness, injury, and mental trauma. Puppy mill owners avoid expenses to optimize their profits, so these dogs don’t generally receive check-ups or vaccinations from professionals, are often fed low-quality food in small amounts, and are deprived of fresh water. And because many of the puppies are inbred, they can suffer from hereditary conditions and may also demonstrate behavior problems. People who purchase puppies from pet stores are likely to end up heartbroken with a sick, expensive dog.
Why should you care about puppy mills and how to stop them? The short answer is that they’re disreputable, cruel, and unhealthy places for dogs. Unlike registered breeders, there are regulations to follow and no one to ensure the health and safety of these innocent animals. There's a reason why forty-eight states and municipalities in the U.S. and Canada prohibit sales of pups acquired from puppy mills.
Convinced? Let’s consider three ways you can help eliminate the puppy mill problem.
Organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society in the US (HSUS) offer programs that work toward reducing the number of puppy mill dogs produced and sold. Monetary donations keep these associations afloat and fund courses, publications, and interventions that speak the truth about mills.
HSUS has developed a pledge that pet store owners can sign, promising not to sell dogs and cats in their stores except those obtained from rescues and shelters. Puppy mills have flooded the huge companion animal market with 2.6 million puppy mill puppies being sold annually. Stores and individuals who buy from these cruel mills deprive adoptable dogs of a home, sometimes ending in death for the dogs.
Donations of money, pet food and other supplies, and volunteer time to these organizations, rescue homes, and shelters enable them to accept more adoptable animals and actively find furever homes. Some shelters have to turn dogs away because they lack the resources to care for them adequately, but donations may help them to expand their buildings, build a large outdoor run, or get the word out to potential adopters.
There are many things, large and small, that people can do to stop puppy mills and backyard breeders. While legislators and other officials debate the pros and cons of shutting the mills down, the people on the ground can reach them and others with urgent voices. Reaching out to federal and state legislators and urging them to support animal advocacy initiatives can help lawmakers stand up to those who are afraid or unwilling to act against puppy mills.
Attend events sponsored by animal advocacy groups to show support for their work. Or organize your own, as simple as a get-together on the town green, in your front yard, or town hall, where people can be enlightened about the issues around puppy mills and recruited for action. Sign petitions for legislation supporting the humane treatment of animals, or volunteer to get more signatures to turn it into a reality.
Check online and on social media for organizations that educate and mobilize people like you to act. Post a few supportive comments or “like” a tweet or Facebook post that supports the abolishment of puppy mills. "Follow" the pet advocacy organizations you find there, and take action when needed!
Initiate efforts to educate and inspire others to oppose puppy mills, their owners, and those who buy from them. Talk about the topic over coffee at the local shop, or suggest to your book club that the group read Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills to start a conversation. Raise the topic at a family dinner – involving children in the discussion will help them become better companion dog parents when they grow up.
Make and hang postcards, notices, flyers, posters, and banners in public places like supermarkets, school bulletin boards, and the local flea or farmers’ market. These creations may catch the attention of one or many people, and inspire them to act as well. Letters to the editors of local newspapers and other publications can bring attention to the seriousness of the problem, one reader at a time.
See if your local schools would participate in a Pet Advocacy educational event that includes information about puppy mills and the damage they do to dogs and society as a whole. Invite students and teachers to join in with artwork, stories, and talks. You could even bring a few shelter pups along!
When home breeding first began, it was meant to be a source of supplemental income for farmers and others who were struggling. Because the dogs involved were most often family or neighbor pets, there were fairly predictable outcomes. And as family pets, they received good nourishment, health care, and a warm, comfortable environment to live in. Greed led to what we know as puppy mills today, where canine heredity and dogs’ health and well-being are secondary to profits.
With over 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., there is still a long way to go, but every person can do something large or small to help overcome the challenges. Remember, our best furry friends are counting on us!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the tragedy of puppy mills and what you can do to stop them, be sure to visit advocacy groups online that are making a difference, such as:
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