Using Animals for Profit: Puppy Mills

posted July 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Sherri Goodall

 Three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S. animal shelters every year. Yet, nearly one third of the nation’s 11,000 pet stores continue to sell puppies.  Most come from puppy mills.

Everyone knows who is man’s best friend …but, what happens when these adoring pets are mass-produced without socialization skills? You get a frightened and nervous animal whose basic instincts have been reduced to simple fear.

Dogs need a pack…whether it’s another dog, or a human. They learn that positive behavior garners rewards, like food, praise, and most importantly, trust.

Dr. Mike Jones, DVM, used the example of Greyhounds. He worked with Dr. Ross Clark many years ago in rescuing Greyhounds. All they knew were crates and a running track. You put them in front of stairs, and they didn’t have a clue. It’s like putting a horse in front of a cattle bar…”

It’s the same thing with a puppy mill. The dogs are not used to human contact, so they’re mistrustful. What is play, what is a house, what is a yard, what is grass? Behaviorists tell us it takes two years for every year in a puppy mill to rehabilitate a dog.

What is a puppy mill?
 

Puppy mills exist for one reason—profit. Sell as many puppies as possible in order to make as much money as possible.

In the worst cases, conditions at these “kennels” are horrid. Dogs are stacked in wire cages. Waste drops to the lowest crate. Dogs aren’t exercised, many go “crate crazy,” turning in endless circles. Females are bred every time they come into heat. Most lose their hair and teeth from being bred so often. If there are several in a caged area, they must fight for food. Human contact is scarce. Those in concrete-floored kennels  get hosed down along with the waste. Puppies barely have time to bond with their exhausted mothers before they’re sold. 

Obviously, long-term psychological and physical problems abound that can cost thousands of dollars down the road.

 After the breeding dogs are no longer fertile, they are abandoned, taken to auctions, or sadly, killed. Their lives are short and desperate.

Who is the target market for puppy mills?

YOU, if you buy from pet stores, classified ads, internet breeders or “parking lot” breeders without checking them out. 

Dr. Jones, “There is no such thing as an ugly puppy. Impulse and convenience make it so easy to buy from that person with a box of puppies at a busy intersection, in a parking lot, or at a flea market. Usually these breeders will only take cash.” That is not to say that people with a litter of puppies can’t sell them. We’re talking about the mass producer. 

Petsmart and Petco DO NOT sell puppies. They both sponsor pet adoptions through local animal shelters. However, many independent pet stores still sell puppies. Where do they get them?   From puppy mills.   In many cases, puppy brokers act as a middle man to buy from puppy mills and sell them to pet stores.

Who is a reputable breeder?

Dr. Jones, “A reputable breeder breeds dogs for one reason—to keep the breed up to its highest standards. Most compete in confirmation trials where the breeds are judged on very strict breed standards. They will sell puppies, but only after certain conditions are met.”

 If you decide to choose a breeder:

  • Visit the premises (bona fide breeders do not meet in parking lots).
  • Check out the kennel conditions and the other dogs, especially the puppy’s parents.
  • Check references, other clients and vets.
  •  Breeder must provide you with AKC papers, a written contract, and health guarantee with provisions to take the puppy back if problems occur.
  •  (The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a licensing organization only. Anyone can get AKC  papers if they send in the fee. This does not guarantee breeding purity or practices).
  • Dogs should be at home in the house as well. They should be frisky, friendly, and          accustomed to humans. 
  • Breeder should ask you questions about your home, family and interest in breed. 
  • Expect fixed prices, no bargaining. 

Is there an organization that oversees puppy mills?

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governing body of the Animal Welfare Act, and is charged with licensing and inspecting breeders, including puppy mills. Each state has its own laws regarding puppy mills. Many puppy breeders get around the laws by selling directly to the consumer or simply avoiding the few USDA inspectors that are on the job. If they are caught, many are happy to pay the fines and continue breeding.

Several states have passed consumer protection laws that specifically address puppies. These laws are called “puppy lemon laws” as in auto sales. If the puppy is defective in any way, the buyer is supposed to be able to return it or get a refund.

Seventeen states have consumer remedies when purchasing certain animals from commercial establishments. The consumer has between seven and twenty days to have the dog or cat checked out by a veterinarian. If the pet is “defective,” refunds or exchanges are the remedy.

Oklahoma is not one of the states. According to www.stoppuppymills.org, Oklahoma does not require licensing or inspection of puppy mills and no agency is charged with oversight.

 Dr. Jones concurs, “Oklahoma lags behind other states, in that it has no legislation at present.The Oklahoma Veterinarian Medical Assoc. (OVMA) is currently at work trying to get legislation passed.”

Dr. Jones, “We hope to do it right, once we do it, rather than pass easily neglected laws as in many states now. We saw what happened with cock fighting in Oklahoma. Certain counties would not stand behind the legislation, even though it was passed.”

According to Dr. Jones, one of the major problems in legislating breeding is how to differentiate between legitimate breeders and puppy mill breeders.

What can you do to help? 

Visit www.stoppuppymills.org

  • Visit your local animal shelters first
  • If you want a specific breed, find the breed-specific rescue group in your city/state. For example: Online, Labrador rescue. You’ll get group locations for each breed.
  • Neuter your pets. Many cities have neutering facilities that are free or very reasonabl
  • Deal with REPUTABLE breeders.
  • Avoid parking lot, classified ads or internet breeders unless they allow you to visit their facilities and investigate their breeding practices.
  • Call your local SPCA to report animal cruelty

Dr. Mike Jones, an OSU graduate, has been a veterinarian for 16 years with the Woodland Pet Care Family.    He’s a past president of the Oklahoma Veterinarian Medical Association (2006) and is currently Medical Director and co-owner of Woodland West Pet Care Facility.

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