Pet store windows are often full of adorable puppies ready to be sold to anyone with money to buy them. Virtually all of the puppies are sourced from puppy mills that mass-produce puppies at the lowest possible cost in order to make the maximum profit. Puppies are taken from their mother at six to seven weeks of age and packed in crates to transport them to pet shops. They often travel with no food or water and little ventilation. Not of all of them reach the pet store alive.
Puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations where dogs are generally kept in small wire cages often stacked one above another. They are never let out to exercise or play and they are never groomed. They often live in filthy conditions with feces and urine, which can contaminate their food and water, especially for dogs in the lower cages. Flies attracted to the smelly conditions transmit diseases and many dogs develop eye problems. Females are kept continually pregnant until they can no longer produce large litters, and are then disposed of.
Somewhere between 500,000 and a million puppies are produced through the mills each year. They tend to be in rural areas and are found nationwide, but are more prevalent in the agricultural states like Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Nebraska. Friends Of Animals has also found the Amish have a puppy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Some states of the U.S. have laws to regulate commercial kennels to prevent cruelty, but the laws are hard to police.
Wholesale breeding of dogs and other animals is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure they meet the minimum standards of housing, care and medical treatment. It is legal to keep dogs in cages that are 6 inches longer, wider and higher than the dog is, even though they are kept in them their entire lives. It’s also legal for them to have wire cages that hurt their feet, and for females to be bred at every opportunity. According to the animal advocacy group website, Friends of Animals, fines under the Animal Welfare Act can be up to $1,500, but due to a lack of inspectors for the thousands of puppy farms in the U.S., fines are rarely given. Although puppy mills may be in compliance with USDA requirements, puppy-mill dogs are bred in filthy and unhealthy conditions for much of their lives, according to the ASPCA.
Many people are aware of the existence of puppy mills but perhaps do not understand their connection to pet stores. If you buy a puppy from a store you can give it a good life, but the Petfinder website states that you are doing nothing to give a better life to its mother and thousands like her; buying from a pet store keeps the trade going. According to a 2013 article in Psychology Today, it is harder to socialize and housebreak puppy-mill puppies, and they often develop psychological problems. Petfinder suggests you should rescue a dog from a shelter that would be euthanized otherwise, or buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who can show you its parents.
- Petfinder: Where Do Pet Store Puppies and Kittens Come From?
- Life With Dogs: Where Do Pet Store Puppies Come From?
- Friends of Animals: Puppy Mills, Pet Shops and the AKC Basic Facts
- Forbes: Where *Not* to Buy a Dog: The Pet Store Connection to the Business of Puppy Mills
- Psychology Today: Behavior Differences in Dogs from Pet Stores Versus Breeders
- No Pet Store Puppies: Puppy Mills Are Cruel
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