Puppy mill puppies are typically sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.
Illness, disease, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores—and their new homes—with diseases or infirmities. These can include:
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. Breeder 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 a gust of fresh air on their faces.
Puppy mills began sprouting up after World War II. In response to widespread crop failures in the Midwest, the United States Department of Agriculture began promoting purebred puppies as a fool-proof “cash” crop. It is easy to see why this might have appealed to farmers facing hard times—breeding dogs does not require the intense physical labor that it takes to produce edible crops, nor are dogs as vulnerable to unfavorable weather. Chicken coops and rabbit hutches were repurposed for dogs, and the retail pet industry—pet stores large and small—boomed with the increasing supply of puppies from the new “mills”.
Today, Missouri is considered the largest puppy mill state in the country.
Seeking a puppy supply source on the East Coast, puppy brokers—the middlemen who deliver the dogs from mills to pet stores—convinced many of Pennsylvania’s Amish farmers in the 1970s that puppies were the cash crop of the future. Brokers conducted seminars to teach farmers how to operate their own breeding facilities. Thirty years later, Lancaster County, PA, has the highest concentration of puppy mills of any county in the nation and has earned the dubious nickname of “Puppy Mill Capital of the East.”
There are many ways you can fight puppy mills, starting with refusing to patronize the stores and websites that sell their dogs.
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