What many pet dog window shoppers and serious buyers may not realize is that the cute, cuddly puppies they see in the pet store most likely came from a puppy mill. So, what exactly is a puppy mill? A puppy mill is a large commercial breeding operation where the housing is generally overcrowded and unsanitary with minimal care.
The main debate about puppy mills has to do with the conditions in which both the puppies and their parents are living. Many of these dogs become sick due to the poor living conditions. The dogs are seen as only a profit and not valued like household pets. The breeders run these mills strictly as a business and in their estimation it would take up too much time and money to properly care for the dogs. The breeders are continually fighting for their right to run a business, while animal activists are fighting to at least fix the conditions of these puppy mills, if not shut them down completely. The activists are also working on getting laws approved to help protect the dogs even more.
There are very few positive points one can make about puppy mills. The main purpose of them is to turn a profit, which is how the commercial breeders view them. Their main argument is that this is a free country and they have a right to run a business. They will also say that they are trying to support their family by running this business. This argument isn't a very strong one because there are other ways a commercial breeder could earn a living besides through the ownership and running of a puppy mill.
Though these commercial breeders are running a business for the sake of making a living to support their family, they aren't running it in an ethical way. The basic care of the many dogs they have on their farm would cost too much money and it would take away from the profit. Typically, the breeder will sell the dogs to a broker, who will in turn sell the dogs to the pet stores. Commercial breeders usually get no more than about $35 per dog, whether it's for purebreds or even hypoallergenic breeds of dogs. This is the reason why the conditions in the puppy mills aren't what they should or can be. All the dogs are used in every way for the most profit.
The cons of having puppy mills certainly outweigh the pros. Though every person has a right to own and run a business, the person has no right to abuse, neglect, and use the dogs the way they do. The dogs might live in small cages made of wood and wire mesh or crates stacked on top of each other to tractor-trailer cabs or simply on tethers attached to trees. With the dogs stacked on top of each other, feces from other dogs can fall into the lower cages onto the other dogs or can pile up in their own cage. This build up of feces if not cleaned can interfere with their natural instincts to keep the area clean. As a result of all this, the dogs get infections and their fur becomes matted, potentially attracting fleas. They can also suffer from severe dog allergies based on these various irritations and poor living conditions.
The dogs in puppy mills are often underfed and malnourished. Investigators have found food infested with maggots and water green with algae. Many of the dogs have suffered from starvation and not having any water. Not only do the dogs become malnourished, but they also develop other problems such as skin infections, open wounds, and ear/eye infections which don't usually get treated. Not only are their furs and bodies affected, but also their nails which don't get cut, causing them to grow out and possibly curl up. Being in the cages, the dogs' paws can get cut from the bottom wiring of the cage.
Female dogs in puppy mills are bred two times a year and then killed when they can no longer produce anymore puppies due to the excessive use of her body. This tends to happen around the age of four or five. Most of the time, the dog will be shot when she is of no further use to the breeder. Very rarely are the dogs euthanized. These dogs are constantly pregnant and don't have any veterinarian care during birth because of high costs for the breeder. The puppies that are born often have various illnesses. After their birth, they're immediately separated from their mother and sold. During their trip to the different pet stores across the country, many die from starvation, dehydration, and fatigue. Being constantly locked up in the cages, the dogs in puppy mills don't get socialization like they need. They don't get out of their cages to get exercise and play, and there is very little human interaction. So most of the dogs end up with behavior problems as they get older. This may not be ideal to the human that has purchased them and they may end up in a kennel.
Though there are laws that protect animals against cruelty, they are not being enforced as well as they should be. There are over 5,000 puppy mills in the country and the USDA is very understaffed with inspectors to check to see if the laws are being followed by them all. It's because of this that the commercial breeders are getting away with all the terrible things that the dogs have to suffer through. If enough households and people learn about the atrocious conditions under which puppy mills are operated, then it can go a long way towards eventually improving the conditions under which these pet dogs are raised.
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