Why Are Puppy Mills Bad?

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Animal-lovers across the country have been busy trying to push puppy-millers off Craig’s List and Facebook. I applaud their efforts to make doing business more difficult for these scum. I’m a Craig’s List lurker: I read for a while until it makes me sick to my stomach, all the selfishness and greed, and then I stop for a few months to recover. But the fight animal-lovers have been having with one Missouri puppy-miller has been pretty interesting, of late.

Puppy-millers and back-yard breeders often claim that anyone who’s against their operation is part of some PETA-backed plot to eliminate all pets. While it’s probably true that there are anti-breeder forces who paint with so broad a brush, I am not among them. I support shelters, rescue groups, and reputable breeders. I want people who have healthy, temperamentally sound pets from sources that do not trade in misery.

So Why Are Puppy Mills Bad?

Let me take you on a virtual trip to backyard breeders home.

Driving down the winding back roads of America’s heartland our eyes take in the beauty of the world around us as we listen to the radio and forget about the cares of the world we live in. We feel the warm sun as it shines down around us and look at all the trees and wildflowers and wonder how things could get any better than this as we roar on down the highway to our destination.

If we were to turn off the highway on to almost any one of the millions of miles of back roads in the heartland of our country, turn the radio off, roll down our windows and drive slow, we would hear a much different sound. We would hear the sounds of songbirds singing in the trees, we would hear the sounds of cattle as they called to each other, and we would hear the sounds of gravel as it crunched under our tires as we drove.

We wouldn’t have to drive very far before we would hear a much different sound way off in the distance. This isn’t the sound of some happy bird or the sound of any cow as it calls to its calf.

It is the sound of an animal in distress.

blind pug puppy_small
Deformed and Blind puppy

It is the sounds of hundreds of poor defenseless animals held prisoner because of greed.

If you followed the sound, it would take you to some locked gate with a sign that said,

NO Trespassing, or Keep Out 

and what lies behind the gate would be left up to your imagination as you slowly turn around and drive away.

Let me tell you what lies past that gate and just out of sight. The first thing you would hear is the sounds of hundreds of animals whimpering and crying, begging for someone to help them. Your stomach would turn over as the intense smell of ammonia drifted out through every crack in the dilapidated buildings were the cries from help came from. Your heart would be breaking as you reached for the handle to the door of the first building, take a deep breath and try to hold it and rush inside.

As the light streamed inside the building, the sounds of the animals get louder as some bark while others too weak to bark just lay and whimper. You would see rows of tiny wire cages stacked one on top of the other where the urine and feces of the animals above fell down on the animals below — the piles of animal waste all along under the bottom row of cages. You would see them crammed full of animals almost unrecognizable by any breeds you know of.

You would see adults and puppies with missing limbs from being attacked by other animals while trying to get enough food to eat, injury from getting their limbs caught in the holes in the cages, and from mutilation by the miller. You would see animals that are terrified of people because all they have ever known was pain and exploitation at the hands of the millers. You would see diseased and dying and dead animals in some of the cages. One look in their eyes and you can see their plea for help. “Please help me.”

Why Are Puppy Mills Bad
“Please help me.”

If you haven’t already lost the cheeseburger, you had for lunch in the first building we could venture into the next building or room of the puppy mill. Behind that door, you would see rows of cages full of mothers with puppies. You would quickly notice the deformed faces of many of the mother dogs, and when you asked, I would explain how the millers break the jaws of the mother dogs if they try to defend their puppies when the brokers come.

How most of these animals have never had proper medical care and the broken bones are left to heal on their own. You would see puppies so far from the breed standard they looked like a totally different breed than the one they were supposed to be. You might see dead or sick puppies laying in the cages as the others walked over them. Like the rock song says, “The smell of death is around you.”

Why Are Puppy Mills Bad
Sick puppy being treated NOT by a licensed veterinarian, but by the broker herself with IV fluids.

If we had time to hang around, we could wait for the puppy broker to come. You would see a truck or van stacked full from the floor to the ceiling with tiny plastic cages – many of them already crammed full of puppies of every imaginable breed – all stacked in there like cordwood.

The sounds of hundreds of terrified puppies waiting in those dark, cramped quarters waiting for their ride into the unknown. The broker will take most of the puppies if they aren’t too sick or so deformed he can’t sell them.

He will take any puppy the millers say is eight weeks old. Many of the animals are under six weeks, but they are the right weight and size, so they are torn away from their mothers, by force at times, and sold to the broker.

As we walk away from this place, you remember back in school when you read about the concentration camps during WWII; this place is just like that. The animals are abused and exploited until they are no longer profitable to the miller and then they are sold, and most are killed. The females are bred every cycle from the time they first come in heat until they die. The puppies are sold to unsuspecting pet buyers all over the world as registered animals, and no mention is ever made about the hell holes the parents live in or the genetic problems the puppy has. Animals in the puppy mills are truly prisoners of greed.

The next time you walk by a pet store, stop and listen. If you try, you will be able to imagine the suffering and pain it took to put that puppy in that window. The broken-jawed mother as she struggles to eat, so she has enough strength to go on another day. The tiny puppy with the lower part of its leg missing because it was torn off while trying to free itself from the holes in the wires of the cage it calls home or was eaten by another dog because it was starving to death. The whimpering of the animals as they beg for the tender touch of a humane hand. The cries for help as they slowly die from neglect and starvation.

People wonder why some rescue people do puppy mill rescue and now you know. They do whatever has to be done to help end the suffering of the animals in these places. You may not be able to go to a puppy mill and see the things many of us have, but you can help end the suffering right where you live.

Tell everyone you know not to buy products from pet stores that sell puppies and kittens. When the demand goes away, the mills will close. Help by promoting rescued animals as an alternative. Every animal that finds a new home from a rescue group makes room for another to be saved by rescue.

Send a little note to a rescue person, thanking them for what they do to save animals. It’s easy to become burned out in this business when we keep seeing so many animals that desperately need our help.

Where do they go?

To pet shops? Yes a lot and possibly most of the pet shops that sell puppies, registered or not, are supplied from puppy mill dogs.

To Auctions? Yes. When a puppy mill has been cited for having too many dogs, or older dogs that aren’t paying their way for their current owner by producing enough puppies on a regular basis, because of health or age, they are auctioned off along with pets that may have disappeared from your neighbor’s yard and any strays that are found and caught to turn a buck.

But where do these dogs go at auctions, to good loving homes? Not likely as millers looking for something that still has a couple of litters left in them to make a buck on will be there to get a good deal, produce a few litters and then “get rid” of the dog when it is no longer of any use to them.

Are they worth saving anyway we can, They are Just Puppy Mill Dogs?

Yes! They need love and to be loved just as much and probably more than any puppy produced by the most loving caring breeders in the world. The puppies produced by caring breeders give their babies love, and attention from birth on, but puppy mill dogs and their puppies are lucky to get enough food and water, and will never know what it is just to be loved and have someone care for them.

Controversial subject: Rescue them or buy their freedom?…

Rescues are wonderful and the most wonderful thing that can happen to a puppy mill dog or dogs in an unsafe, unhealthy, deplorable conditions.

Auctions are supplied by puppy-millers so if you buy them from an auction are you benefiting the dog or the miller? The dog benefits first. If it were not saved by a caring individual or group, who will see that it receives proper food and health care they are bought by other millers to go back to the hell they have lived their entire lives. And yes the miller may get something out of this but what should we do, let the dogs go to another mill or if they aren’t good enough killed or sent to Kill shelters where they “may” or “may not” be rescued from.

Is it really okay to rescue a dog from a puppy mill that has been raided or to rescue them from a kill shelter and not from any other source they may be in? No, their lives are important no matter where they are, and to say that it is wrong to “buy” their freedom but it is okay to wait and see if they are seized in a puppy mill raid or put into kill shelters, then to rescue them and this way is okay…

If these little ones could speak, do you think they would say, “No don’t give these puppy millers, who have never cared for or loved me a dime, to try to put them out of business, and get me to help now but wait until I am almost dead to save me? Because then I will not last long and those puppy millers you think you are going to keep from getting that dime will have many of my children to pray on and make their money”. We find that hard to believe that they would feel this way or agree with anyone that thinks they would.

While we would all love to see, the auctions stopped all over the world, do these precious little ones have to suffer a certain death or life sentence to hell, while waiting on us humans to find a way to stop Auctions and Puppy Millers?

Reputable Breeder vs. the Backyard Breeder

Backyard Breeder

Reputable Breeder

Motive for breeding:
“fun”, “good for kids”, “to make money”. Does not screen buyers and seldom refuses to sell, even if buyer is unsuitable.
Dedication to producing quality dogs is serious avocation. Has so much invested in dogs that he struggles to break even, not make a profit. Will sell pups only to approved buyers.
Breeds the family pet to any convenient pet of the same breed just to have purebred pups. Has no understanding or concern with genetics, pedigree bloodlines, or breed improvement.
Can explain how planned breedings are used to emphasize or minimize specific qualities through linebreeding, outcrossing, or more rarely, inbreeding.
Though the pets (sire/dam of pups) may be well loved, they were not tested for hip dysplasia or for other genetic problems such as cardiomyopathy and hypothyroidism.
Has breeding stock x-rayed to check for hip dysplasia, holtered within the last year for cardiomyopathy and thyroid screened. Can produce certification to prove claims.
Offers no health guarantee beyond proof of shots, if that. Unqualified to give help if problems develop.
Written contractural commitment to replace a dog with genetic faults or to help owner deal with problem.
Seller has little knowledge of breed history, the national breed club or of the AKC breed standard. May claim this does not matter for “just pets”.
Loves the breed and can talk at length about its background, uses, and ideal type.
Pups raised in makeshift accommodations, sometimes unsanitary, indicating lack of long-term investment in breeding and lack of true care for the puppies well-being.
Has an investment in dog equipment and the puppies environment is sanitary and loving.
Even when selling “just pets”, may produce AKC papers or “championship pedigrees” as proof of quality. Yet seller does not increase his own knowledge through participation in national, regional, or local breed clubs. Is not involved in showing their dogs to “prove” quality.
Belongs to national, regional, and/or local dog clubs, indicating a love for the sport of purebred dogs. Shows their dogs as an objective test of how his stock measures up.
May be unwilling to show a buyer the entire litter or to introduce the dam of the litter. Cannot or will not compare/critique pups or pup’s ancestors.
Shows litter and dam in a sanitary environment. Helps buyer evaluate and choose a pup. Explains criteria for “show prospects” versus “pet picks”.
Prices are at the low end of local range, since must move pups quickly. Advertises in the local newspaper classifieds.
Prices will be at the high end of local range. Price will not reflect all that is invested in the pups. A reputable breeder never profits from the sale of puppies. Does not advertise in the newspaper. Has an established waiting list for the pups.
No concern for the future of individual pups or the breed as a whole. Does not use AKC’s limited registration option or ask for spay/neuter contract to guard against the breeding of sub-standard pups. If you cannot keep pup, tells you to take it to a dog pound or to sell it.
After purchase, will help you with grooming or training problems. Will take back a pup you cannot keep rather than see it disposed of inappropriately. Sells pets with spay/neuter
agreement and on AKC limited registration.


A Few Guidelines for Selecting a Breeder

1. A reputable breeder will conduct (and can provide proof of) the following tests on their breeding animals and will require them of the sire (father) should they “hire” a stud dog for the litter:

  • Vaccination Record
  • Vet check up
  • Wormed
  • heartworm test

Beware of breeders who scoff at testing and say their particular breed/line is problem-free.

2. A reputable breeder requires that “pet-quality” animals be spayed or neutered and sells them on Limited Registration. Be wary of breeders who do not mention altering.

3. A reputable breeder provides a written contract with the sale of the pup. This will vary from breeder to breeder, but usually spells out the rights of the seller and buyer, health information, genetic health guarantees (should be at least 2 years), required altering and buy-back/return policy.

4. A reputable breeder typically has a waiting list for the unborn puppies and does not advertise in the newspaper classifieds.

5. A reputable breeder shows passion, love, and tremendous knowledge about the breed. He or she cares about placing puppies in excellent homes and will often interview potential buyers thoroughly, will make referrals to the local rescue group, ask for references and will refuse to sell a dog if the home is not appropriate for the breed or for a puppy.

6. A reputable breeder recommends the local rescue organization to potential homes. Explaining that these dogs make wonderful family pets and companions.

7. A reputable breeder will hold on to puppies as long as it takes to place them in the right homes and will continue to recommend rescue even though they have puppies available.

8. The environment (typically a home) in which the breeder keeps the dogs should be clean and well-maintained. Do not agree to meet the breeder off-site. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS ON THIS!

9. A reputable breeder is actively involved in the dog fancy, including showing and/or breed clubs. While there are exceptions–a retired individual who has shown dogs for 20 years–a person who is not involved with others in the breed can be suspect.

10. A reputable breeder is willing to provide answers to questions you may have and is willing to provide names of others who have purchased pups from them.

11. A reputable breeder will allow you to meet the puppies parents if available and, if the father isn’t available, they will show you pictures and provide you with the information on how to contact the owner of the sire(father).

12. A reputable breeder follows up on puppies. He or she is interested in how the pups develop physically and mentally, difficulties in the owner/dog relationship and health problems.

13. A reputable breeder will not let puppies leave their home prior to 8 weeks of age and often not until 10 weeks of age.

Backyard Breeder Vs Reputable Breeder – Boxermap.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://boxermap.com/reputablebreeder.html
When Is It Going To End? – Terrificpets.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.terrificpets.com/forum/32617.asp
Reputable Breeder Vs. Backyard Breeder – The Tampa Bay … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://tampabayvizslaclub.com/about-the-breed/reputable-breeder-vs-backyard-bree