Puppy Mills and Why You Need to Steer Clear of Them

When you picture a dog, the first thing that comes to mind is a dog with a shiny coat running free, its tail going around like helicopter blades, playing some mischief every other minute! It wouldn’t take a genius to understand that this is a happy and healthy dog, the kind of dog we all picture having (or have had the privilege to have) in our lives at least once.

The moment you picture this happy, free, and healthy dog in your mind, you feel instantly happy and overjoyed. Because you know that this dog is getting everything it deserves, just like every dog should.

Now, bring this image to your mind – a sick dog tied up in a cramped, dirty cage with sad, miserable eyes. The thought itself terrifies you, right? No dog deserves to be kept in such poor conditions. But unfortunately, this is the exact scenario in puppy mills out there.

Quite a lot of us know of puppy mills but aren’t aware of what exactly happens in these mills. I’ll be talking in depth about puppy mills and why it is best to steer clear of them. Let’s understand better:

What are Puppy Mills?

Understanding what is a puppy mill is critical because most people who wish to bring home pet dogs end up approaching puppy mills. There are a number of reasons to avoid puppy mills, which I’ll be running by you in detail. But first, let’s understand what are puppy mills.

A puppy mill is basically a commercial dog breeding center where dogs are bred and kept in the most inhumane conditions. The whole purpose of puppy mills is to cut down operation costs and maximize profits, and the owners of such puppy mills are least concerned with dogs and the conditions they are kept in.

Puppy mills function like factories (they are also known as ‘factory farms’), and dogs here are treated like commodities. The prime task of puppy mills is to keep breeding dogs and produce litter continuously. Female dogs here are bred at every available opportunity, irrespective of their health conditions. The female dogs are not spared, even if they are unwell or unfit to produce puppies. And the consequence of this is a  litter of unhealthy, weak, and disease-prone puppies.

Almost always, puppy mills are cramped spaces with no space to accommodate the number of puppies they keep producing via unethical breeding methods. The puppies and their parents are stashed in tiny cages, which are piled up one on top of the other.  Due to poor sanitation, excessive breeding, no proper veterinary care, and no personal attention, both puppies and their parents suffer throughout their lives.

The puppies have had a variety of issues since birth, and these health and behavioral issues continue for the rest of their lives, even after loving families take them home. As for the parents of the puppies, they are killed or abandoned the moment they are incapable of breeding.

How Do Puppy Mills Function?

Puppy mill owners don’t want prospective pet parents to see where their puppies are coming from. If pet parents know of the miserable conditions their puppies have been bred in, no person who genuinely loves dogs will ever purchase a puppy from a puppy mill.

This is why puppy mill owners prefer selling puppies on the internet or in flea stores. Most of the puppies we see in pet shops, too, are sourced from puppy mills. This way, puppy millers discreetly continue their unethical dog breeding activities, without pet parents knowing what conditions their little puppies have been exposed to since birth.

Why Are Puppy Mills Bad for Dogs?

I’ve just given you a brief above about puppy mills and how they function – the reality of puppy mills is far more disturbing. But it’s also essential for people to know about the misery of dogs in puppy mills so that such unethical breeding practices are not encouraged at all. I’ve listed below the reasons why puppy mills are bad for dogs:

●       The Exploitation of Female Dogs

Puppy mills are hubs for the exploitation and abuse of female dogs. The female dogs bred at puppy mills undergo extreme physical and mental trauma, as they are force-bred to produce multiple litters all around the year. Forceful breeding takes a toll on not just the mother dog’s health but also that of her puppies.

Female dogs are injected with hormones to speed their Estrus cycles (heat cycles) and prepare them to give birth multiple times a year. These females are not even allowed to rest between two litters. The excessive injection of hormones between two litters also results in the death of female dogs. This process continues until the female dogs are unable to produce puppies, rendering them useless for puppy mill owners.

●       Extremely Unhygienic Conditions

Puppy mills are cramped, overcrowded, and unsanitary spaces. Maintaining one litter of puppies is a huge task requiring a lot of time and effort, but in puppy mills, there are multiple litters at once. Needless to say, neither of the puppy litter gets the attention, care, and love they deserve. They are not kept clean and often lie in filth in their cages.

The puppies and dogs in puppy mills aren’t even fed proper food in a timely manner and often survive on stale food and contaminated water. The dimly lit, damp spaces and lack of attention and care have lasting physical and psychological impacts on puppies.

●       Behavior Issues in Puppies

Most of the time, puppy mill owners separate puppies from their mothers before their weaning period is complete. At times, the mother of the puppies even passes away due to the inexplicable trauma she undergoes. Due to this, the puppies in the litter don’t get the nourishment, grooming, care, and correction from their mother, which is essential in the initial phase of their lives.

Under their mother’s care and watch and the company of their siblings, puppies in a litter don’t develop issues such as extreme shyness, fear, anxiety, or even aggression. But when separated from their mothers, these puppies are susceptible to all these problems and even more behavioral issues, which makes it difficult for them to adjust to their homes.

●       Disease-inflicted Puppies

Overbreeding and inbreeding are the two leading causes of chronic diseases in puppies. The unhygienic conditions in which the puppies are kept, too, contribute to extensive health issues such as skin problems, intestinal parasites, ear problems, and respiratory issues – most of which are transmittable. The puppies are kept in metal wire cages, which also leads to injuries.

Some of these illnesses are genetic and may develop into serious health ailments later. Some of these ailments are treatable, but puppy mill owners do not ensure the puppies have access to treatment. Most of these ill, sick, and suffering puppies end up being sold off as ‘fit’ to families, and some unfortunate ones die before even leaving the mill.

Unfortunately, despite the disastrous consequences, puppy mill owners continue their business of churning out litter after litter with no concern for the health of both parents and puppies. And as most people aren’t aware of what goes on behind the scenes in puppy mills – all we see is a cute little puppy in a store or online, and rush to purchase it. But now that you’re aware of how puppy mills work, let’s also look at what you can do to avoid them.

How to Avoid Supporting Puppy Mills

●       Make Adopting Your First Preference

Adopting a dog from a local dog shelter is the best decision you can make. These shelters are home not just to strays but also to dogs abandoned by their families. Among the latter, there are many puppy mill dogs whose families are unable to (or don’t want to) take care of the puppies due to their innumerable health issues. If you’re open to bringing home a dog, do check out the local shelter and bring home one of these dogs. All they’re looking for is a loving family who will give them the love and care they deserve!

●       Avoid Buying Puppies Online

When you purchase a puppy online, you won’t know its source and whether it has come from an ethical breeder or a puppy mill. Mostly, ethical breeders never sell their puppies online; it’s just puppy mill owners who sell their puppies at prices that are too good to be true. If you don’t want to adopt a dog and want to buy one, do ensure you check the list of affiliated and registered ethical puppy breeders and make an informed choice,

●       Meet the Breeder and Visit the Breeding Facility

An ethical breeder will be happy to show you their breeding facility and answer all the questions you have on your mind. If any breeder refuses to meet in person, the probability that they are running a puppy mill is very high. Even if they do allow you to visit, make sure you look for the following signs, which are a clear indication that the breeder isn’t ethical and is just another person running a puppy mill.

How to Identify a Puppy Mill?

Knowing how to identify a puppy mill can help you not just to avoid them but also report them. Here’s how you can identify a puppy mill:

1.     Crammed Space

A puppy mill is usually a small space filled with tiny cages. These tiny cages are stuffed with puppies and are stacked one on top of the other.

2.     No Hygiene Maintained

A puppy mill typically smells awfully bad, as the dogs and the space, both aren’t kept clean. The stench emanates from dog poop and pee, as well as the puppies that are not cleaned regularly.

3.     Absence of the Mother Dogs

Puppies have to be kept with their mothers for a minimum of 8 weeks – if you notice that the mother of the puppies is not with them, it’s because she has been forcefully separated from them much earlier. This happens only in puppy mills.

4.     Multiple Breeds and Multiple Litters

Only in puppy mills can you spot multiple breeds and litters at the same time. Reputable, ethical breeders specialize in one or a maximum of two breeds only. So if you spot anything more than that, know for sure it’s a puppy mill and not an ethical breeding facility.

5.     No Screening Process

Puppy mills are only concerned with selling their puppies and are least bothered to find the right families for their pups. Ethical breeders have a process via which they find out everything about the prospective pet parents and will hand over the puppy to them only after proper verification. If no questions are asked, or there is no verification process, know that you’re dealing with a puppy mill.

6.     No Medical Records of Puppies

Puppy mills are negligent towards the health of their puppies and do not provide them with veterinary care. Hence, you will not find any medical records of your puppy with the breeders, as they do not have them in the first place.

7.     No Waiting List

Puppy mill owners put out ads and tie up with pet shops and other online agencies to sell off their puppies as soon as possible. They do not have a waiting list, a process followed strictly by ethical breeders.

If you notice these even signs, you must have ended up connecting with a puppy mill owner and not an ethical breeder. There is a lot of difference between puppy mills and breeders, which I have listed below.

Are Puppy Mills and Breeders the Same?

Now the obvious question in your mind is – what is the difference between puppy mills and breeders? Are they the same? Will it be ethical and safe to bring home a puppy from a breeder? Well, having these questions in your mind is totally justified – in fact, every responsible pet parent or prospective pet parent should have a clear idea of the difference between the two so that they don’t end up bringing home a puppy from a puppy mill.

Differentiating between a puppy mill and a breeder can be difficult, especially if they sell the pups online. If you’re looking to bring home a puppy, you need to meet not just the breeder in person but also visit their breeding center and have a look at the parents of the puppies. Most ethical breeders would be more than willing to show you their breeding facility. You’ll have a clear idea of the conditions the dogs are kept in, their health, hygiene, and overall emotional state as well.

Ethical breeding centers will not have more than one or two litters at any given time. They ask pet parents a lot of questions to people interested in buying puppies from then on in an attempt to get to know them better. This also helps ethical breeders understand whether they and their lifestyle are well-suited to meet the requirements of the breed of puppies, with them ensuring the well-being of puppies. Ethical breeders also have long waiting lists, which is an indication that they allow the mother dog to recover from the birth of one litter and provide ample weaning time to the puppies.

On the other hand, puppy mill owners will not be interested in the well-being of puppies and are only concerned with the price they will get from the sale of puppies. They are not concerned with the health of the mother and will always have more than two litters ready for sale. And yes, puppy mill owners will not entertain requests to visit their breeding center at all.

Summing Up

I’ve told you everything you need to know about puppy mills, and I hope I’ve shed enough light on the menace of puppy mills. As responsible pet parents and dog lovers, it is on us to completely avoid encouraging such unethical breeding practices. Even if the puppies are being sold at dirt-cheap prices, we need to be cautious enough to check the background of the breeder properly, before you take the call.

Puppy mills are damaging not just to dogs but also to the humans who adopt them. The impacts of puppy mills are immense on dogs, but they can also prove to be disastrous for families who purchase them, who have no idea of their physical and psychological trauma.

Apart from reporting unethical puppy mills, we also need to stop purchasing puppies from them. Once the demand for puppies from puppy mills reduces, the now thriving business model of puppy mills will collapse. It’s all about demand and supply in the end, and as consumers who play an important role in this cycle, we have the power to nip the menace of puppy mills from the bud itself.



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