The time has finally come for you and your family to add a new addition to the family, a puppy. So what do you do; you go to a local pet store or online to purchase your new bundle of joy. Often times people don’t ask the right questions when purchasing a dog. Where did this puppy come from? What are the dog’s medical records? Where and how are its parents being treated? What is my money supporting? Most likely a few weeks ago that puppy came from a puppy mill. According to the Humane Society of the United States, roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. A puppy mill is an inhumane practice of breading dogs because it commercializes dogs to be products instead of pets, risking each dog’s health.
Puppy mills sound harmless. As defined by Canada’s National Companion Animal Coalition, “a puppy mill is a high-volume, substandard dog breeding operation which sells purebred or mixed-breed dogs” (Dionne 184). If we look a little closer, puppy mills are even worse than substandard. Picture a factory with rows and rows of small cramped cages. Within these little makeshift cages there is 12 or more puppies covered in their own feces. Establishments that mass produce puppies for profit need to cut cost, so the dogs sleep, eat, poop, and pee in these cages. Often times the dogs on the bottom have it worse, having feces from higher cages fall on top of them.
A puppy mill is just one link in a chain of buying and selling animals. The puppy mills cage the parents of the puppies and breed them litter after litter. Then the puppy mill owners sell their puppies to a broker or online themselves. Then that broker sells the puppies to pet stores across the U.S. and even internationally. Then consumers purchase these puppies, creating a spot for another puppy mill pup to fill. The cycle never ends.
One of the biggest puppy brokers in North America is believed to be The Hunte Corporation. The Hunte Corporation is a multimillion-dollar company that ships approximately 80,000 puppies per year to pet stores nationwide (http://www.humanesociety.org). The home page on their website says, “Hunte does what’s right for our puppies no matter the cost. That extends to our expectations from partnering breeders. We have built our company on promoting quality and adherence to the highest standards in the puppies we distribute.” (http://www.thehuntecorporation.com/default.html). And the next page, which it signed by the founder Andrew Hunte, goes on to say, “Over the last quarter century, we have developed Hunte Brand Products and other technologies to help keep puppies happy and healthy” (http://www.thehuntecorporation.com)
Although The Hunte Corporation says they only buy from the best breeders, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture those breeders have a different side to them. The Dusty Road Kennel run by Virginia Hinderer in Kansas is a five-year offender of the USDA. Her facility had dogs with teeth so rotten, their tongues hung out of their mouths. Peter and Mary Schrock, another breeder, have failed at least three state inspections, having matted dogs outside with no protection from the elements. Both breeders provide puppies to the Hunte Corporation. (http://www.humanesociety.org).
How have puppy mills been able to operate under such a cruel practice all these years? The only official law throughout the U.S. protecting dogs in mills is the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. This federal law appoints the USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, to licenses, adopt, and enforce regulations. The rules enforced by USDA for commercial breeding allows dogs to live in cages with only six inches longer that the dog (not including the tails) in each direction. These tiny cages can be stacked on top of each other with open wire flooring. Often times puppies’ little legs hang below the cages, and their parent’s paws have wire marks imbedded in their paws. Also it is completely legal for the female dogs to be bred at any time, without giving their bodies rest. It’s also legal to breed dogs without screening them for painful and expensive genetic disorders like hip dysplasia.
The USDA mostly handles licenses and only really steps in when conditions are so extreme and take law enforcements help. According to the USDA, “Accordingly, the agency chose to take little or no enforcement actions against violators. However, taking this position against serious or repeat violators weakened the agency’s ability to protect the animals” (http://www.usda.gov). They went on to say they have little money and not enough staff to enforce the regulations and standards. Even the USDA realizes it is not able to fully regulate puppy mills. Also the USDA only handles breeders that register with them, so this leaves holes in the system for puppy mills that just choose not to get a license.
Sadly, purchasing a puppy online isn’t safe either. In fact, some of the worst USDA violators sell to websites like mypuppy.com, puppyspot.com and all over the internet. Mary Foster and Cathy Griesbauer, owners of Country Pets (repeat offender), run a massive puppy mill with more than 900 dogs licensed for one property, and were found operating a second unlicensed facility (http://www.humanesociety.org). They practice gunshot to brain at close range as a form of euthanasia for sick puppies, or mothers that cannot produce puppies anymore. Mitch and Alisa Pesek, Swanton, run a puppy mill with violations having underweight dogs, some without water or food. The worst part is nobody is stopping them. They will get violated by the USDA, and no repercussions are taken (http://www.humanesociety.org).
My family and I have fallen for the puppy mills trap. When we bought our dogs eight years ago; we had never heard of a puppy mill. We went online to find purebred golden retrievers. The breeders claimed they we resendable breeder with 10 years’ experience. Once we set eyes on those two golden fluffy roly-polys we didn’t think twice.
After a month of having Mia and Lucy we realized they hopped a little every time they ran. Which was cute as first, but something in the back of our heads told us to get them checked out. Sure enough something was wrong. Both our little girls had hip dysplasia in both their hips. Which is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. ( PetMD.com) It is genetically passed down when you breed both parent with hip dysplasia together. We tried contacting the breeders to warn them, and as we tried to reach out we discovered compliances from other costumers with the same issue. The breeders never did get back to use, but we found out they were gearing up to have another litter of puppies to sell. Then it occurred they were a puppy mill and had no intention on solving the problem.
We didn’t know what we were supporting. We fell victim to not asking those simple questions. If we had seen medical records of the parents and each individual puppy we would have stopped the cycle of buying a puppy mill pup.
Once again I ask how could something so horrible and inhumane continue to operate in our own backyards. It is simple because of us. We have closed our eyes at the mistreatment of these puppies’ parents. In the puppy stores we only ask how much is that dog in the window. Online we surf the internet and choose a puppy and within hours we go and pick it up. We buy puppies like how we buy food at the grocery store. “I want this one, oh wait I want that one.” Our willingness to close our eye when purchasing a puppy makes it so easy to puppy mills to exist.
This doesn’t mean never buy a dog from anywhere, this just mean do your research. There are small local breeders who are licensed and have the animals best interest at heart. You just have to weed out the bad ones. Also you can adopt instead of shop. About 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred (http://www.humanesociety.org). And the others are just as friendly and deserving of a home. So be the change and stop supporting puppy mills.
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2016 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. All rights reserved.
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