What is a puppy mill?

The Cycle of Cruelty

The sad faces are unforgettable, the suffering explicit. They stare at you with hollow eyes and mangy fur, longing for a home where they are loved. These faces are the sad reality of puppy mills. These faces are the dogs that are ignored by their cruel and heartless owners, bred every time that they come into heat and shoved into cramped cages without room to turn around. These faces are the dogs that deserve a chance.

A puppy mill is a mass breeding facility that breeds dogs purely for profit without any regard to the well-being of the animals. Often puppies are born with diseases, defects, and mental problems resulting from the unsanitary and cramped conditions at puppy mills. Some of these diseases are truly horrendous, resulting in the painful death of the puppy after purchase, leaving the owner heartbroken and faced with a pile of costly veterinary bills. Other defects, especially those pertaining to mental problems, can result in raised aggressiveness, fear of people, and destructive behavior. All of this leads to one thing; a life of horror for the dogs involved.

Although no two puppy mills are the same, they are all based on one true evil: cruelty. A typical puppy mill will have hundreds and hundreds of malnourished, sick, and whimpering dogs, all stuffed into small wire cages barely big enough to stand in. The wire on the cages hurts the dogs' paws; as the dogs attempt to move around, their delicate paws slip between the cracks in the wire, leaving them sore and cut. The breeding dogs are kept in the same awful conditions, even when they have young puppies. Once a breeding dog reaches the end of his or her reproductive life, they are disposed of in one of many ways. They might be killed, abandoned, shot, drowned, or otherwise tortured just because they grew old. The dogs are bred by force every time that they come into heat, producing many puppies in her lifetime.

The puppies are separated from their mother early on, resulting in social issues later in life. Congenital diseases and defects are left untreated; the heartless operators feel no need to waste money on a dog that can be sold for good money regardless. As the puppies enter their key development time, they are already malnourished, diseased and defective. These puppies are then sold, at too young of an age, to pet shops, unsuspecting consumers, and possibly other breeding facilities. Within weeks of purchase, the new owners will likely discover that their new puppy is incurably ill.

How Much is That Doggy in the Window?

What about pet shops? The middleman, a classic shop in the history of our nation. No town is complete without one. Children wander by, begging their unsuspecting parents for a puppy, prominently displayed in the window. Many accounts of pet shops describe them as sweet, quality, and a good value. These accounts leave out one of the most basic facts; evil. Pet shops almost always acquire their puppies from a puppy mill. How much is that puppy in the window? Or do you mean how much is it suffering? Prospective pet owners should never buy their dog from a pet shop, or even buy supplies or another animal from a shop that sells puppies. You might think that by purchasing these animals, one is saving them from their misery, but the truth is just the opposite. The money you pay funnels its way back to the owners of the puppy mill, supporting their cruelty.

Adoption is always the best option. Local animal shelters house many loving, sweet, and perfectly good dogs longing for a home of their own. These dogs are rescued, found, or brought in by people who can no longer keep them. Dogs at shelters have nothing wrong with them. If you are set on acquiring a purebred dog, there are even breed-specific rescue organizations that rescue only purebreds! Nearly all the dogs from shelters will be a welcome addition to your family, and will provide years of love.

If, for some reason, you feel that you haven't found the dog of your dreams at a shelter, have been searching for months, and feel that you must buy your dog, do not go to a pet shop. Instead, find a reputable breeder. A reputable and responsible breeder loves their dogs and treats them as members of their family. Visit the facility to ensure that your puppy is being taken care of with love and compassion, and be sure to see both of the parents in their breeding environment. If you ever have a doubt in the back of your mind, do not buy the puppy and report the facility.


Compassion, Education, Legislation

If puppy mills are so cruel and evil, why can't we just outlaw them? It might seem simple: implement legislation with standards for animal care in the targeted facilities, and puppy mills will be gone. Unfortunately, like many other problems in today's society, outlawing something doesn't make it disappear. Eliminating puppy mills is a long, difficult process. It starts with compassion. The compassion to adopt. The compassion to report a puppy mill if you find one. The compassion to advocate for animal rights. Project Puppy Mills began with compassion. Theresa and Audrey both love animals, and wanted to help them. So we advocated for animal rights.

The next step, legislation, is a little more complex. A law aiming to improve the standards of care in mass breeding facilities is a start, but it alone will not end the problem of puppy mills. To do this, we first need the enforcement of existing animal welfare laws to prevent conditions from every becoming so terrible and the addition of newer laws to help stop the cruelty. Project Puppy Mills began this step by lobbying for the passage of ESSB 5651, which became a law on January 1, 2010. Now, if a puppy mill is found, the owners can be prosecuted under this law.

We believe that the third and most important part of stopping puppy mills is education, as well as enforcement of SB 5651 and other puppy mills. Although we must leave enforcement up to bigger organizations, Project Puppy Mills is in the education phase of our mission. We're busy educating the people in our state about puppy mills and spreading the word about the benefits of adoption instead of buying from pet stores. One of the ways we do this is giving presentations to local elementary schools. The other means is through social media and through our website. Become a member of Project Puppy Mills and check out our Facebook page to receive occasional educational updates!

What can YOU do?

It is estimated that over 90% of the dogs found in pet stores are from puppy mills. Think about it. How much is that doggy in the window suffering? Although puppy mills are awful forms of cruelty, we are firm believers that they can be stopped with compassion, legislation, and education. Whether it's by adopting your next pet or making a donation to an organization that targets these facilities, you, too, can help end the suffering of puppy mill dogs nationwide. Make the right choice. The first step is compassion.

For more information about puppy mills, and what YOU can do to help, please visit the following websites:

The Humane Society of the United States: http://hsus.org

The Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS): http://paws.org

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: http://www.aspca.org


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