What is a puppy mill? Why are they bad for dogs?


A puppy factory is essentially a large-scale commercial dog breeding business with the primary goal of profit, not animal welfare. The puppies that come out of the puppy mills are often plagued with disease and health problems, while the adult dogs that spend their lives in the facilities are forced to breed as often as possible.

Shops that rely on puppy mills as part of their business model do so because they always want their showcases full. It is no accident that these stores do not divulge essential information about where the dogs came from – and particularly the conditions the puppies and parent dogs are exposed to.

What is a puppy mill?

Puppy factories, sometimes referred to as dog “factory farms”, focus on producing the largest number of dogs as quickly and cheaply as possible. These commercial breeders are characterized by small cages that are often stacked on top of each other to maximize space, filthy living conditions that facilitate the spread of disease, minimal or poor veterinary care to reduce running costs, and the lack of basic necessities like Grooming, exercise, or socialization.

Most puppy factories bred bitches at every opportunity, whether they are sick, injured, or have genetic traits that can be passed on to the offspring. According to the Humane Society, over 200,000 dogs in the United States are kept in active USDA-licensed puppy mills for breeding purposes only. Each year, 2 million puppies sold in the United States come from puppy mills.

Puppy mills vs. breeders

Unfortunately, breeders and puppy factories are hard to distinguish on the surface, especially when buying online or in advertising. Because of this, it is usually up to the buyer to tell the difference between a puppy mill and a responsible breeder.

Basically everyone who wants to buy from a breeder should not only meet the breeder personally, but also get to know the parent dogs and see the breeding facilities with their own eyes – with special attention to factors such as hygiene and whether the animals are or not fearful, anti-social or unhealthy look.

A responsible breeder will also introduce prospective buyers with at least one parent of the litter and have background documents ranging from health records to recommendations from veterinarians and previous customers. They also want to learn more about a shopper, to make sure their pets get into a good home, ask for testimonials from veterinarians who have used them in the past, and even ask to visit their home.

Good breeders often have long waiting lists for their puppies – a sign that they are giving the mothers sufficient time to recover after giving birth and providing the puppies with the appropriate amount of weaning.

Both the Humane Society and ASPCA have printable checklists available for prospective buyers to bring with them when visiting breeders to ensure they are operating responsibly.

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Why Are Puppy Mills Bad For Dogs?

To save operating costs, puppy factory animals are often kept in small cages with filthy living conditions that can lead to illness, lifelong health problems, poor veterinary care and poor social skills.

Bad conditions

Puppy mill puppies are regularly removed from their mothers at a young age, before they develop important social skills and are fully weaned. According to the ASPCA, puppies should stay with their mother until they are at least eight weeks old and ideally be placed between 10 and 12 weeks.

A 2020 study in The Veterinary Record magazine found that a quarter of all puppies in the UK were acquired before eight weeks of age, despite recommendations from veterinarians, animal welfare organizations and even legal restrictions.

Since puppy mills are all about breeding as many puppies as possible using the cheapest methods, they often only treat injuries and disorders that could affect a dog’s fertility. The employees of the puppy factory can even be expected to provide veterinary care without a license.

Health problems

Common veterinary problems in puppy factory dogs include infectious diseases, intestinal parasites, respiratory diseases, skin conditions, ear problems, hypoglycemia, brucellosis, and congenital defects. A lack of veterinary care and general supervision, coupled with unsanitary conditions, can mean that even minor injuries or health problems persist and lead to the premature death of the animals.

Some of these health problems can spread to humans. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant infections that affected at least 41 people in 17 states (nine of which were hospitalized). The outbreak was eventually linked to Petland, a chain of pet stores with multiple locations across the United States.

Socialization and fear

Because of the way these animals are housed, weaned, transported, and ultimately housed, puppies born in puppy mills have behavioral and health issues. This is especially true for puppy mill dogs who are taken care of by their mothers without adequate maternal care, including the grooming and care of the puppies. This bonding process between puppies and their mothers plays an important role in the puppy’s social development. Newborn puppies have limited movement capacity, so the mother’s interaction is essential to their survival, nutrition, and protection.

Many of these problems can show up later in life and well into adulthood, and can have profound and long-lasting effects on dogs and their owners. In 2017, a consolidated analysis of seven different studies for the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that 86% of reports listed aggression against the dog’s owners and family members, strangers, and other dogs as the most common finding among dogs sold through pet stores or born in puppy mills.

This behavior can result in owners handing their dogs off to a rescue center, adding to the 6.3 million pets that end up in animal shelters in the United States each year.

An ASPCA survey found that 46% of people who moved their pet in 2015 did so because of problems with the animal, the most common of which were aggression (35%), destruction (29%) and health issues (26%) was.

Overbreeding and inbreeding

Overbreeding occurs when an animal is forced to breed more than its body can safely handle. The deliberate overbreeding of certain breeds, such as B. Flat-faced dogs, such as French bulldogs and pugs, have been linked to certain health problems such as vision and breathing problems. A study of 93 dogs of the flat-faced breeds showed that excessive pressure in breed selection resulted in extreme adaptation of skull shapes and facial changes that could compromise the dogs’ eyesight.

Inbreeding is also common in puppy factories to get a certain “look” of a popular breed of dog. Aside from exaggerated physical traits, inbreeding can lead to metabolic problems, loss of genetic diversity, poor growth, and negative effects on the lifespan of individual dogs.

Are Puppy Mills Legal?

In terms of federal law, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only law designed to enforce the humane treatment of animals raised for sale. However, the conditions under the AWA are essentially designed for the animal’s survival, so the standards are incredibly low.

Although many pet stores buy puppies from commercial breeders who are licensed by the USDA, it does not necessarily mean that the animals are being kept in humane conditions.

“Animal Welfare Acts have some very minimal protections in certain puppy factories, but the standards of care for these dogs are survival standards at best,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, said Treehugger. “A USDA licensed dog breeder can keep a dog in a cage that is only six inches longer than its body, can breed it on any heat cycle until its body is exhausted, and can kill it if it is no longer a productive breeder. It’s completely legal, and it’s these puppy factories that fill the pet shop display cases with the animals they’ve bred. ”

Not only are living standards low, but also AWA enforcement. “If a facility wants to wholesale puppies to businesses – such as pet stores or through websites – it needs to be licensed by the USDA. However, the USDA is not currently enforcing this law, rendering the intended protection for animals meaningless, ”said Ingrid Seggerman, ASPCA’s senior director of federal affairs. “Puppy factories exist because retail puppy sales are still legal in many states.

The USDA is responsible for inspecting farms and enforcing AWA through a government agency called APHIS or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. A report prepared by the Inspector General’s Office in 2021 found that APHIS “does not consistently handle the complaints received or does not adequately document the results of its follow-up” and concluded that “APHIS is incapable of promoting general health and humanity to ensure “. Treatment of animals in these facilities. ”

How to Avoid Assisting Puppy Mills

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The best way to avoid accidentally helping puppy mills is to adopt a dog from your local animal shelter, but if you end up buying from a breeder keep an eye out for red flags. The Society for Animal Welfare also offers forms for filing complaints about pet shops and breeders.

You can also be sure that you are not supporting a puppy mill operation by following these steps:

  • Adopt from a local animal shelter or rescue.
  • Avoid buying puppies from pet stores (unless they have a partnership with a local animal shelter), newspaper ads, or online ads.
  • Visit your prospective breeder in person and see for yourself the facility where dogs are bred and kept.

Avoiding puppy mills doesn’t have to stop there. It is also important to support laws that put an end to harmful commercial farms. For example, in June 2021, the ASPCA filed a lawsuit against the USDA for non-enforcement of the AWA, collected over 130,000 signatures for a petition, and called on Congress to adopt measures to reform the enforcement of the AWA by the USDA.

Take part

Help stop the puppy mill by volunteering at your local animal shelter, the Humane Society, or ASPCA. Avoid the temptation to “rescue” a puppy dog ​​by buying it from a pet store. This will just open up a new spot for another puppy mill dog and help keep the industry going.


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