If you love animals, you have probably stopped at a pet store to pet the adorable puppies and kittens. Sadly, very often these are the progeny of puppy mill parents that live in appalling conditions, where the owners are only concerned with making money and have no empathy for the dogs they use for breeding.
What exactly is a puppy mill?
It is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where the welfare of the animals is not taken into consideration. One or more of the following are common:
1. The animals are kept in small wire cages, often stacked on top of one another, and they are never taken out for exercise. They are forced to urinate and defecate in their cages and the mess is rarely or never cleaned up.
2. The cages are located outdoors or under a roof where heating or cooling is not provided, no matter how hot or cold the weather conditions.
3. The animals are not given adequate food and water.
4. The bitches are bred as often as possible until they are physically unable to reproduce, at which time they are killed.
5. No veterinary treatment is given to the animals.
6. The dogs are not protected from parasites.
The Animal Welfare Act requires breeders with more than three breeding female dogs, and who sell puppies to pet stores or middlemen—called puppy-brokers—are required to be licensed and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture. These inspectors make certain the breeders are complying with the law and that animals are provided with safe, clean housing, shelter from the elements, adequate heating or cooling, exercise, pest control and are fed and watered properly. Even then, federal law allows a dog to be kept in a cage only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, with a wire floor, and the cages can be stacked, which I don’t think is good enough.
Fortunately additional animal anti-cruelty laws are administered on a state-by-state basis, and many states have imposed stricter guidelines for dog breeding operations, plus greater penalties for cruelty to animals.
Unregistered, unlicensed breeders often manage to keep their operations hidden from the authorities, particularly in remote rural areas. These are what we call puppy mills.
I would never have found out about puppy mills if I hadn’t adopted a dog from a rescue society. My little Yorkshire Terrier, Purdy was rescued together with more than 100 other dogs from a puppy mill in Arkansas.
When the number of dogs rescued is too great to be accommodated by local rescue facilities, a wonderful organization called Pilots n’ Paws flies them to rescue societies in other parts of the country. http://pilotsnpaws.org/
Most members of the public have no knowledge of puppy mills and the extent of the suffering these poor dogs go through. I certainly didn’t until I went online and searched for ‘puppy mills’. You can do your own search but I’ve placed some links at the end of this article. Be warned, if you love dogs this information will bring tears to your eyes.
My beautiful little Purdy was emaciated, suffering from heartworm, filthy, and almost dead when they saved her. Her teeth were falling out because of malnutrition and calcium deficiency. She was also terrified of everything and everyone. The rescuers and their dedicated staff of veterinarians treated her for heartworm and other parasites, spayed her, and pulled the loose teeth. They guessed her age was around 10 to 12, but she was so debilitated she looked more like 14. Now we know she was probably actually only six.
Purdy’s health problems, caused by the way she was abused, will never totally end. She has a mass on her pancreas and can never eat fat. We’ve fed her all sorts of supplements and a special organic diet. Her immune system, once non-existent, has slowly begun to recover. It’s been a hard seven years;—emotionally draining for us, and physically tough for her; but things seem to be turning around for her. She has picked up a half pound in weight, which is a lot for a dog under 10 lbs, and she sometimes goes for long spells without throwing up.
Purdy lived with us for several years before I heard her bark—she was too timid. Now she is secure enough to find her voice.
This little Yorkie is certainly the most loving dog I’ve ever owned. She expresses her love by pressing her head into me or by just gazing into my face.
It’s hard to imagine how many more Purdy’s are out there. It is painful to imagine their suffering.
The Humane Society of the United States http://www.humanesociety.org/ and the ASPCAhttp://www.aspca.org/ are doing all they can to spread the word and educate people not to purchase puppies from pet stores.
The great thing is you can make a difference. Here’s how:
1. Spread the word about puppy mills. Tell people not to buy puppies from pet stores. Share this article on the social networks and with everyone on your mailing list.
2. If you live in a rural area and hear a large number of dogs barking from a single location, make it your mission to find out more about them.
3. Consider getting your next pet from your local animal shelter or a rescue organization. If you particularly want a pedigreed dog with papers, look to bona-fide breeders and visit their premises before making a purchase.
4. Give a donation to your local ASPCA or humane society, or to a rescue society online.
5. Consider being a dog foster parent. Keep one or more rescued dogs at your home and socialize them to ready them for adoption.
I love all animals and try to always incorporate some sort of animal in my writing. In the third book in my Redneck P.I. Series, which is still in the draft stages, redneck P.I. Twila Taunton rescues several dogs from an illegal puppy mill. I’m thrilled to have come up with a way to bring to people’s attention the appalling conditions these dogs have to endure.
I can’t say when the book will be published, but you can sign up to pre-order it on my website, or ask me to email you and let you know when it’s available: http://www.trishjax.com
For more info about puppy mills: http://www.puppymillrescue.com/