Today is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. I would ask you to please read this post, even though it is a hard subject to read about.
A puppy mill is usually defined as a breeding facility that produces puppies in large numbers. In my neck of the woods (the Interior of British Columbia), we often include backyard breeders and smaller-scale operations in the definition of a puppy mill. What I focus on is the treatment of the animals, rather than defining a puppy mill merely based on numbers of puppies bred.
So, for me, a puppy mill is a place where dogs are bred and some or all of the following are present:
- lack of sanitation in the breeding facility;
- poor quality food and inadequate shelter;
- overcrowded cages or pens;
- inability of the animals to express behaviours that are natural for those animals, and necessary to their well-being;
- minimal vet care;
- lack of human contact and socialization of puppies (and their mothers); and
- focus on profit rather than on the welfare of individual dogs.
One of the reasons that I don't like to focus on the total number of puppies produced is because the conditions in which the dogs and puppies live is to me far more important. I have seen many puppy mills where there are many adult dogs forced to live in space that is too small for that number of animals. Where cages are piled on top of each other in every available space. Where the dogs live out in the open, without a roof over their heads.
Or where there is either a lack of food and/or water, or the quality of that food and water is deplorable. (And here I'm not necessarily talking about the food being of minimal quality in the way that many dog owners would judge. I am talking about food that has gotten wet and allowed to mold, or rotten human food given to the dogs, or dogs having to cannibalize other dogs who have died and not been removed from the area. And water that is dirty, nasty, or just not there at all.)
Where urine and feces are never cleaned up, just allowed to build up and rot. Where the breeding females are bred every time they come into heat, from their first heat onward. Until they are too worn out and no longer of value to the breeder. Where no one ever spends any time with the pups or the dogs, and they are not socialized to people or to situations. Where disease and genetic health problems are widespread, and veterinary care is lacking (often completely).
I know this is hard to think about. But if we don't think about it, and make decisions based on facts and evidence, then we unwittingly support the practice and perpetuate it.
Where do puppy mill puppies end up? In pet stores. Even if they say that they don't buy from puppy mills, those puppies are highly likely to have come from a situation of poor welfare and poor standards of care.
Where else? On the Internet. In the newspaper. From the breeder's backyard. From the mill itself. And if you go to breeder, you will not likely see where the dogs and pups really live, or how they are really treated. And if you ask to see the parents of the pups, you have no way of knowing whether they truly are or not. It is a common practice for bad breeders to show you better cared for animals that the parents actually are.
If you want know more about puppy mills and what you can do about them, please go to the Puppy Mill Awareness Day site. The number one thing that you can do to stop these inhumane breeding practices is to adopt a dog or puppy from a shelter, or pound, or rescue group.
And please don't think that all animals at shelters and pounds are "problem dogs". Most of the dogs who wind up at an SPCA, humane society, or other shelter are there because:
- the people who brought them there didn't know the dog would get so big/need so much exercise/have so much hair;
- they have developed allergies, or their children have;
- they have a new baby;
- and the number one reason that dogs are brought into shelters is that the people are moving and cannot find a place that allows dogs!
Dannan, my fabulous little dog, came into the SPCA as a stray. He is smart as can be, loves to learn, is healthy, and has no behavioural issues. He is also typical of the kind of dogs that are at shelters.
So please, think about where your dog has come from, and if you are getting another (or know someone who is getting a dog), please think about this issue! For the love of dog, please think about it.