MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

What Is a Puppy Mill?

I have written about puppy mills before, but because there are still between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders (or puppy mills) known to be operating in the United States, we still have much work to do to raise awareness to end this horrific treatment of our best friends. This number does not include the breeders who are not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of illegal puppy mill breeders operating without a license, it's impossible to accurately know how many there truly are. "The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills in the United States."

The highest concentration of puppy mills is in the Midwest, with Missouri being the leading puppy mill state. There are also high concentrations of puppy mills in Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York, and parts of Wisconsin. "Commercial dog breeding is very prevalent among Amish and Mennonite farmers."

What Is a Puppy Mill

Although there is no legal definition of a puppy mill, according to the ASPCA, a puppy mill "is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."

Some puppy mill puppies are sold to pet shops and their lineage records are often falsified. Others are sold directly to the public "over the Internet (many puppies sold online come from puppy mills), through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets." Because breeding at puppy mills is done with no consideration of genetic quality, generations of dogs are born with hereditary defects which the unsuspecting public "inherits" when they purchase a new puppy through those means mentioned above. A responsible breeders, on the other hand, "places the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible."

When a pet store owner tells you they get their puppies from "licensed USDA breeders" or "local breeders," it means they get their puppies from puppy mills. A breeder must be licensed by the USDA in order to sell puppies to pet stores, and pet stores often use this licensing to provide a false sense of security to their customers. Responsible breeders want to screen potential buyers to ensure that their puppies will go to good homes, so they would never sell a puppy through a pet store.

Conditions Are Deplorable in Puppy Mills

The conditions most puppy mill dogs are kept in are deplorable. According to the ASPCA, "puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns. Breeding dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or breathe fresh air." Female dogs are bred with little to no recovery time between litters. After a few years, when they can no longer can reproduce because they are so depleted, they are frequently killed.

Having Papers Means Nothing!

Being "registered" or "having papers" merely means that the puppy's parents both had papers. Many registered dogs are sold in puppy mills. "Many, many pedigreed dogs come from puppy mills! The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself."

What You Can Do?

Adopt! Many purebred dogs end up in shelters or rescue groups, so please explore these options before you search for a reputable breeder. If you do buy a dog from a breeder, be sure to meet the puppy's parents or at least the mother. Check out their living conditions. "Never meet a breeder at an off-site location, and never have a puppy shipped to you sight-unseen."

Better yet, adopt a puppy mill survivor. "Puppy mill survivors often need patient, loving adopters who can help them learn to trust people."

Above all, refuse to shop at any store that sells puppies, even if you are only buying food or toys. This is the best way to put puppy mills out of business.

Thank you to the ASPCA for this information. To learn more about puppy mills, the health and behavioral problems found with puppy mill dogs, and what you can do to help this cause, visit their website.

Posted by Dawn Kairns, author of MAGGIE the Dog Who Changed My Life