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A puppy mill, according to Orek, is "a high-volume industrial dog-breeding system in which benefit and overall production take precedence over the health and safety of the animals." The concept catches the essence of puppy mills as for-profit companies that would go to whatever extent to satisfy their needs while torturing breeder puppies. The conditions in puppy mills have gained little recognition because the public prefers to disregard them because regulations to protect and establish living conditions for breeder dogs are not yet in force and are not being effectively enforced. Our silence and the lack of effective laws and platforms have seen an industry grow financed by hard-earned American dollars to expand cruelty and hardship for “human’s best friend.” Taking a step towards reason in the state of puppy mills requires information and understanding of the state of puppy mills countrywide. Breeding dogs in puppy mills should be stopped because it is cruel and there are other ways to get purebred dogs without supporting their operation.
Current state of puppy mills
The main reason for the need to stop breeding occurs in puppy mills is the deplorable conditions. Canada’s National Companion Animal Coalition defines a puppy mill as a “high-volume, substandard dog breeding operation which sells purebred or mixed-breed dogs. Facilities that mass-produce puppies and put profit above welfare, puppy mills create living conditions for their dogs that are deplorable at best” (Dionne). The inclusion of deplorable in the dentition captures the sad state of puppy meals, and the mistreatment breeder dogs undergo to meet the high demand for pets with the customers unwilling to stop and reflect on the conditions under which these pets are bread. Dozens of puppies are cramped in makeshift cages stacked above each other. Puppies “frequently hungry, sickly, and covered in the feces of the “inventory” shelved above them” is a common feature of puppy mills (Dionne). The treatment of dogs as a line item and not living animals allow the operators of puppy meals to perpetuate these heinous crimes. The cruelty these dogs undergo is enormous and cause unbearable pain that the society conveniently chooses to ignore when purchasing puppies from pet stores. “Minimal vet care, poor-quality food, and small living quarters make up the substandard sub conditions” in puppy mills (Dionne). The treatment of puppies and transport is also inhuman. The puppies are separated from their mothers at an early age and “sold to brokers who pack them into crates for transport and resale to pet stores” (PETA). The puppy mills also kill or abandon female dogs no longer in a position to produce puppies and most often mothers and litters suffer from “malnutrition, exposure and lack of adequate veterinary care” (PETA). The conditions at pet stores including closure in small cages and lack of exercise and human contact make the animals develop undesirable behavior including excessive backing and are unsociable. Pets become part of families and are one of the best gifts to children; hence the need to ensure they are bred under the best conditions.
The ideology of puppy mills is also flawed and provides the other reason it should be discontinued. The focus on producing puppies for sale under the cheapest conditions regardless of the inhumane treatment of the puppies and breeders is unacceptable. According to Orek, “Puppies bred in these factory-like settings are regarded as nothing more than a cash crop commodity.” The puppy mills treat dogs as a commodity yet they are to be regarded as a friend and companion once they are purchased and brought home. There is a need for nurturing this relationship from the puppy’s birth and puppy mills are not the best bet. Puppies are a companion and form a major part of the family and should not be treated as a line item as the puppy meals do. The flawed business ideology is lost to the consumers and requiring a change to make the end of puppy mills a reality. The focus on quantity over quality also causes the passing on of “unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders” from one generation to generation (PEFA). These genetic conditions affect the quality and health of dogs bred in puppy mills.
Large expenses for the pet owners are also another ground for the closure of puppy mills. The deplorable conditions in puppy mills cause the dogs to have conditions that require treatment one’s purchased and at times these states are for life costing the owners a lot. According to Oreck, frequent reports show that the puppies have “congenital or communicable diseases, which cause heartache and expense” to the owners. The owners believed they were making purchases of healthy pets from best sources. With time the costs of caring for the puppies increase as the owners try to treat one condition after another. The puppy turns into a problem causing distress and draining finances for the new owners. Within no time, the family chooses to surrender the puppy to a public shelter. The dogs from puppy mills also have other costs to their owners including low levels of trainability, have high likelihood of aggression, and have noise phobias (Becker).
Regulations on the operation of puppy mills are not effective in providing a guideline for the conditions and standards of care. Unless there comes a time when the regulations and laws are effective and enforceable, there is a need to stop puppy mills from the operation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is tasked with the licensing and regulation of commercial dog breeders but there “required standards of care do little to protect dogs and nothing to ensure responsible, quality breeding” (Orek). Dogs are confined for years, “reduced to lives of constant breeding in dirty, stacked, wire-bottomed cages that are required to be only six inches larger than the dog on all sides, and with few, if any, opportunities to play, be walked, or receive basic grooming or veterinary care” (Orek).
Rehabilitation costs are very high and costly for the government and the public. The dogs that get lucky to be rescued from the deplorable conditions are often in states that require acute care and rehabilitation that costs a lot of taxpayers and other nongovernmental organizations. These finances could be used in setting up state of the art facilities that provide conditions for proper breeding and supply of puppies. The facilities would also be well labeled and licensed allowing for easier control and adherence to set regulations. The best conditions would also ensure diseases are controlled and healthy puppies with known pedigree identified and sold to the families at fewer purchase costs and considerably lower total costs. The other costs also arise from sick dogs surrendered by families after trying their best to care for them. The tax-payer subsidized shelters are mostly crowded further complicating the problem caused by the puppy mills and facilitated by purchases which don’t give a damn how the pets they buy are breed. The inability of the shelters to adopt out to the dogs and the sickly conditions cause the killing of approximately 4 million puppies a year equivalent to the number of puppies produced in the 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills in the U.S. (Oreck). The high supply of puppies is mainly because of retailers buying puppies cheaply and selling at a high markup. Removing the profit component and letting all puppies be supplied from shelters and rescue centers will remove the profit component ultimately causing the demise of puppy mills.
Solutions to the puppy mill problem
Achieving the goal of eradicating puppy mills is no easy task and concerted efforts by all stakeholders including the government, breeders, the public, lawmakers, and retailers, department of agriculture and law enforcement officers. The retailers including pet stores should be encouraged to source their puppies from rescue centers and shelters. The effect will be a reduction in the stress and costs of shelters and rescues and cut off demand from commercially bred puppies.
Legislation should be put in place to make it mandatory for pet sellers both online and offline to inform the buyers of the backgrounds of the puppies and the conditions the puppies were raised. Frequent checks on the breeding stations for all dog sellers should be undertaken as is the case in checking the cleanliness of the restaurants in the hospitality industry. The checks and information delivery required by all sellers will ensure the breeders take measures to improve the conditions for the dogs. The information provided by organizations including Humane Society of the United States will also guide customers in shunning blacklisted sellers and purchase from reputable sellers. This will provide the industry participants especially breeders and retailers a push to institute changes. Such tactics have helped improve the conditions of farmers in the coffee industry, and the purchase of blood diamonds has also been shunned. However, a perspective change by the community is required to look at cruelty to animals as unforgivable and seek at all costs to go the extra mile to purchase from socially responsible breeders. The consumers should be in a position to request to know the puppy’s parents, check the living conditions, and know the puppy’s medical history including vaccinations and veterinarian’s contact information before making purchases. Laws should also be put in place both at federal and state level to ban the sale of commercially bred puppies. The laws should offer options for adoption from shelters and rescue facilities for individuals and retailers. The laws will help reduce the supply of poorly bred low-quality puppies, improve conditions in shelters, and reduce the close to 5,500 animals being killed daily in shelters (Oreck). A law limiting the number of animals an individual or organization can breed for commercial purposes and set standards on housing, exercise, nutrition, and mandatory veterinary care should be enacted.
Limiting the supply of commercially produced puppies to reputable organizations such as the American Kennel Club will solve the costs problems from high costs of communicable diseases and other conditions. The owners will also have a piece of mind knowing the background of their puppies and suffering no increased costs from diseases. The dogs will also be healthy enough to live long and reduce the need to make purchases frequently allowing for the reduced supply to meet the demand. The stringent conditions on quality care and breeding will also reduce unscrupulous players in the industry and limit chances of outrageous markups. Convenient consumerism is a problem that will need behavior change in the community to solve. There is increased the purchase of puppies online affecting the ability of regulations and laws to protect consumers and the public from low-quality sales. The unscrupulous puppy sellers hide behind slick catalogs and attractive websites and ship dogs that could be unhealthy and raised in deplorable conditions to consumers. The risks of fraud increase a notch higher that can only be solved by consumers making a culture shift towards make puppy purchases from reputable sellers.
The analysis shows that it is a collective responsibility to stop the puppy mills. Consumer decisions are at the forefront of making changes towards a time when puppies are bred in best conditions providing families with quality, healthy companions. The choices include adoption and rescue and creating a culture change in the current and future generations will help achieve this goal. The government and policymakers have significant roles to play in developing laws and regulations that guide and promote healthy breeding and do away with mass production of puppies. Organizations seeking the better treatment of animals in the society also have a role to play in advocating and promoting information delivery on businesses that offer best services.
Becker. Dogs From Irresponsible Breeders, Puppy Mills Have More Behavioral Problems. https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2017/08/17/puppy-mills-behavior-problems.aspx. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Dionne, Mary-Jo. Puppy Hell: The Horrors of puppy mills. Modern dog Magazine, n.d. https://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/puppy-hell-horrors-puppy-mills/269. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Oreck, Elizabeth. Puppy Mills: Tough life for dogs. Best Friends, n.d. https://bestfriends.org/resources/puppy-mills-tough-life-dogs. Accessed December 7, 2017.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Puppy Mills: Dogs abused for the Pet Trade, n.d. https://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animal-issues/companion-animals-factsheets/puppy-mills-dogs-abused-pet-trade/ Accessed December 7, 2017.
Solotaroff, Paul. The Dog Factory: Inside the sickening world of puppy mills. Rolling Stone, January 3, 2017. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/the-dog-factory-inside-the-sickening-world-of-puppy-mills-w457673. Accessed December 7, 2017.
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