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Puppy mills a well-kept secret of the pet trade

Sunday, January 25, 2015
Your Pet & You
Puppies bred in such conditions often suffer from health and/or social problems. They are generally psychologically scarred for life and exhibit behaviours such as fear aggression; pain-induced aggression; intra-dog aggression; and depression.

A well-kept secret of the pet trade is the puppy mill. A puppy mill is also known as a puppy farm and as the name suggests, it is a commercial dog breeding operation. The emphasis on this type of operation is profit, which is prioritised over the welfare of the animals, so sub-standard conditions of care tend to be the norm.

Puppy mills originated during the post-World War II era in response to widespread crop failures in the Mideast, United States. The United States Department of Agriculture began promoting purebred puppies as a fool-proof “cash” crop. As the demand for puppies grew, the prevalence of puppy farms grew, with both small and large retail outlets selling puppies through pet departments. This was when the first pet store chains were born. Chicken coops and rabbit hutches were repurposed for dogs, and veterinary care for the puppies was often overlooked due to the cost factor.

Modern-day puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food and water. Puppy mill dogs do not receive adequate attention, exercise or basic grooming, and lack any opportunity for socialisation. Dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs to minimise waste clean-up, and such cages are often stacked in columns with waste matter from the top cages falling into the cages below—and onto the occupants within. Dogs kept for breeding purposes are used as “breeding machines” which is unhealthy, especially for the females which are bred at every heat then often killed at just four years of age due to body deterioration. 

Puppies bred in such conditions often suffer from health and/or social problems. They are generally psychologically scarred for life and exhibit behaviours such as fear aggression; pain-induced aggression; intra-dog aggression; and depression. Dogs are then transported over long distances in poor conditions, resulting in animal stress and sometimes, death. Puppies from mills are usually sold as purebred dogs in an attempt to attract the higher prices associated with purebreds. However, due to the indiscriminate breeding practices of puppy mills, the dog may not actually be purebred. The vast majority of puppy mill animals are sold to pet stores by “dealers.” Some puppies are sold by dealers masquerading as authentic breeders. Other puppy mill puppies are sold directly to the public through avenues including over the Internet and through newspaper advertisements. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.

Additionally, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. Puppy mill operators often fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools. Some of the congenital and hereditary conditions that these puppies are prone to include epilepsy, heart disease, kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc), endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism), blood disorders (anaemia), deafness, eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc) and respiratory disorders. These puppies often arrive in pet stores and their new homes with diseases or infirmities such as giardia, parvovirus, distemper, upper respiratory infections, kennel cough, pneumonia, mange, fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, heartworm and chronic diarrhoea.

The most important thing you can do to help shut down puppy mills is refuse to shop at a store that sells puppies, even if you are just buying food or toys. Puppies in pet stores are usually sold quickly. If they don’t sell quickly, the owners continue to slash the price until the puppies are sold. The less they sell for, the less profit the store makes. That means the store will order fewer puppies the next month. And puppy mills will ultimately produce fewer and fewer dogs.

Make it your business to know where your puppy came from.

Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2015. For further information contact 689-8113 or [email protected] 


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