There’s no denying it: puppies are adorable. With their wiggly bodies, clumsy footing, and their adorable puppy breath, it’s easy to understand why everyone gushes over them. Having a puppy is exciting, and from teaching a child about responsibility to wanting a “certain” type of dog, many people like to buy puppies, instead of adopting from their local shelter.
A dark past comes with dogs from puppy mills. Puppies that are bought from pet stores almost exclusively come from large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, also known as puppy mills.
There are between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeding facilities (puppy mills) in the United States. However, this number does not take into consideration the number of breeders not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. The size of these facilities varies from having only a few breeding dogs to having a thousand.
Even though it’s difficult to get an exact number of how many puppy mills are in the United States, the miserable lives of these dogs is certain. Rescuers have consistently found puppy mills filled with feces, over-bred mothers, as well as diseases running rampant.
If you or someone you know is considering buying a dog from a puppy mill, please consider the following common illnesses and rethink your decision to buy, instead of adopting.
1. Overgrown Toenails
Dogs that are well-cared for in shelters and homes have their nails trimmed on a regular basis (regular exercise also wears down the nail). But, in puppy mills, long nails can grow or get caught around the wire of the cage, trapping the dog. It’s even possible that the toenail can painfully grow back into the dog’s skin. Even the most basic of grooming practices are commonly neglected in puppy mills.
2. Health Problems
Puppy mills and breeders have one thing in mind: maximizing profits. Female dogs are bred at every opportunity, with little to no time to recover in between litters. According to the ASPCA, “Because puppy mill operators often 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.”
Health problems on puppy mills can include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
- Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
- Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
- Upper respiratory infections
- Kennel cough
- Intestinal parasites
- Chronic diarrhea
Because they are confined to such small cages, their fur mats catching urine and feces in the process. This excess of matted fur makes the dogs look bigger than they actually are, and once they are shaved, their emaciated bodies are revealed.
Not only do these unsanitary conditions contaminate their food sources, but they infect the dogs themselves. Most of these dogs aren’t give the necessary medication or doctor’s visits. It isn’t uncommon for them to go undiagnosed and untreated. The puppies that are ultimately sold to consumers are commonly sick before they even arrive at their forever homes, and sadly, some die shortly after they are purchased and brought home.
4. Behavior Issues
It isn’t uncommon for a dog from a puppy mill to lack socialization and to exhibit fearful behavior with humans and other animals. Puppies are typically removed from their littermates, as well as their mothers at just six weeks of age. But, the first months of a puppy’s life are critical for the socialization of puppies, and spending time with their mother and littermates helps prevent puppies from developing problems such as:
- Extreme shyness
5. Genetic Issues
Genetic deformities such as cleft palate or an overly large underbite are frequently discovered in dogs who have been rescued from puppy mills. Needless to say, these unfortunate animals are not the ones breeders decide to show to the public. Only the cutest puppies are considered worthy of being put up for sale, while the rest have to remain in cages, being used as breeder dogs until their “productivity” declines … at which point they are usually killed.
That would have been the fate for Lily, an Italian Greyhound in the photo above, who was rescued from a puppy mill by non-profit National Dog Mill Rescue.
Save a Life: Adopt
Many pet stores will say that they get their puppies from “licensed USDA breeders” but often pet stores use this to provide a false sense of security when in reality, they do in fact get their puppies from puppy mills. Being registered or “having papers” means nothing more than the puppy’s parents both had papers, according to the ASPCA.
Please always adopt and never buy. With millions of animals waiting in shelters and over 1.5 million dogs and cats being euthanized in U.S. shelters every year because they don’t have a home, adoption is always the best option. Shelters and rescue groups do have puppies and purebred dogs, so it’s not necessary to go through a breeder when there are already so many animals looking for a loving home.
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The following has been adapted from Bustle.
1. Take the 7 day veg pledge.
What better time to try vegetarianism then during U.S. VegWeek? Take the pledge and get free recipes and product coupons!
If 1,000 people decided to go vegetarian just one day a week, around 58,000 animal lives would be saved. That may not seem very significant in the grand scheme of things — but it’s certainly significant to those 58,000 animals.
2. Help baby animals beaten and bullied on a Canadian veal farm.
Mercy for Animals recently released a new undercover investigation showing baby animals being beaten, bulled on a Canadian veal farm. You can take action here: http://www.cratedcruelty.ca/
3. Try cruelty-free products.
You can make a point to not buy products from companies that test on animals, and doing so isn’t as difficult as it might seem. You just have to know who to avoid.
Big name companies that test on animals include L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, and Procter & Gamble. A full list of cosmetic and cleaning companies that test on animalscan be found here, courtesy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
As for alternatives, Tom’s of Maine is reliably cruelty-free. So are Fábula, Aurelia, and Dr. Bronner’s. For more, check out PETA’s list of cruelty-free companies.
4. Tell Congress to Pass the Pups Act
Puppy mills are an especially insidious form of animal cruelty, as they thrive on generally good intentions of well-meaning pet owners. While there are federal standards for the housing and care of commercially-raised animals, they’re not very well enforced, and due to a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, they only apply to breeders who sell to pet stores or brokers, exempting those who sell directly to consumers. As a result, tons of puppies are raised in truly horrific conditions.
The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act would change this. It would expand the definition of a “high-volume retail breeder” to encompass those who sell directly to the public, mandate adequate living space for dogs in breeding facilities, and require that dogs being raised for commercial purposes be given regular opportunities to exercise.
The law has been introduced twice in Congress but never passed, so you should tell your local representative, who you can find here, to support it until it becomes law.
5. Sign this petition to shut down the Surabaya Zoo.
In general, you should avoid zoos altogether. Animals in zoos are separated from their natural environments and families, subject to constant harassment and disturbances (children banging on windows, etc), and forced to live in a confined space for the rest of their lives. Zoo life is so intolerable that some zoo animals have actually been given Prozac to help manage their moods.
But conditions at the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia are cruel on a whole new level. Over 100 animals have died at the zoo in less than a year, including a lion who strangled after getting his neck snared on the cable used to open his door. The pelican cage is so overcrowded that some of them have started destroying their own eggs. When the last giraffe in the zoo died, examiners found 40 pounds of plastic in its stomach.
A petition at Change.org demands that Indonesian lawmakers take action to shut down the zoo. It has over 184,000 signatories. You should be one of them.