What is a Puppy Mill?

And why should you care whether the puppy you buy comes from one?

By the formal definition, a puppy mill is a large-scale breeding operation that produces large numbers of puppies for profit.  What the formal definition overlooks is that most puppy mills are inhumane in their treatment of breeding dogs and puppies.  Many are filthy, and are run by people who have no idea about or concern for the genetic implications of breeding or about what dogs require in terms of basic health care and socialization.  Many are simply hellholes in which the breeding dogs are kept in the most deplorable conditions—dogs confined to small wire cages for their entire lives, fed inadequately, kept in unheated buildings, denied basic veterinary care.  The breeding dogs are sick, wounded, and malnourished.  And their lives are miserable.  When their breeding usefulness is over, they may be killed or dumped.  Large-scale mills do not take their older dogs to shelters, as a rule, because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. 

In rescue, we are sometimes fortunate enough to rescue breeding dogs from mills. These dogs always—without exception—have health problems, most of which have been chronic and neglected for years. 

So why should you care whether the puppy you buy comes from a place like this?  Because the chances that the puppy you buy will have genetic defects that will cause disease are extremely high.  Because puppies in mills are so poorly socialized that they often develop severe fearfulness and shyness.  And because the money you pay for that cute puppy in the window will go right back to the mill owner, who can use it to buy and mistreat more dogs. 

If you are thinking of buying a puppy from a pet store, if you want to take part in the efforts to eradicate puppy mills, or if you just want more information, use the links below to educate yourself. 

If you have purchased a sick puppy from a pet store, click here to find information on how to report the problem. You can help shut down a mill!



Links to Information about Puppy Mills

www.canismajor.com.  A good place to start, this site includes extensive definitions of all types of businesses involved in dog breeding, as well as a link to a harrowing eyewitness account of a puppy mill.

Hearts United for Animals. A personal favorite of many dog lovers and AHDRS members, HUA began as a no-kill rescue shelter in Nebraska. HUA has become one of the strongest voices against puppy mills in the U.S. They work tirelessly to educate the public about the evils of puppy mills and they are a significant lobbying force, urging government officials to enforce existing animal welfare laws and to pass stronger new legislation.

HUA has a web site devoted entirely to puppy mills. It's probably the most comprehensive web site about puppy mills on the Internet.

www.millbusters.com. This web site offers not only educational information about puppy mills, but a forum for discussions and a comprehensive, up-to-date page of news items about puppy mills and millers. An excellent site, but not for children; many of the photos of actual mills are graphic and heartbreaking.

Flawdogs Adoption. This Missouri organization rescues dogs from puppy mills and always has a long list of available dogs, many of them dachshunds, for adoption.

Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project. An excellent and complete source of information about puppy mills in general and in Wisconsin in particular, where Amish and Mennonite "farmers" are following the lead of the Pennsylvania Amish and adding dogs to their "livestock."

www.wonderpuppy.net. Wonderpuppy.net is a great web site, containing numerous links to information available on the Web about various issues related to dogs. This particular link will take you to their page with info on puppy mills, breeders, and breeding your own dog.


A Heartening Decision
It is all too rare an event when puppy millers find themselves at the gavel end of the long arm of the law. It happened in June, 2002, in Memphis, Tennessee, as reported in the July 7 edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. We can only hope that other judges and jurisdictions take a page from Judge Alan Glenn's book.

Judge Glenn, of the Court of Criminal Appeals, turned down the appeal of a couple who had bred and kept as many as 350 dogs sick and starving in filthy kennels. Judge Glenn has the heartfelt thanks and appreciation of all humane people for doing what so few jurists seem willing or able to do. Here is the text of his ruling. The names of the millers have been deleted.

The Court finds that [these people] have been found guilty of 11 counts of cruelty to animals. Bonds are set at $1,000 in each of the 11 counts, which was done by a jury of good and lawful citizens of Gibson County.

Over 350 puppies and dogs were victims of this gross violation of the law. The victims of this crime were animals that could not speak up to the unbelievable conduct of [these people] that they suffered. Several of the dogs have died and most had physical problems such as intestinal worms, mange, eye problems, dental problems and emotional problems and socialization problems.

Since dogs have entered domestic service of human beings, they have given solace and companionship when needed. They have helped hunt, guard flocks, and in ice and snow have pulled sleds. They have rescued people when lost in snowdrifts. They act as police in sniffing out crimes, and they become eyes for those who cannot see. They guard homes and possessions. All this these creatures do for kind, humane treatment.

Watching this video of the conditions that these dogs were subjected to was one of the most deplorable things this Court has observed in the 22 years in the course of being on the bench.

And you, [the woman] you urge this Court to take into consideration the mitigating factors that you've been sick up to two years prior to them being rescued from your care. You say you've been sick. You talked about reducing the population, but the only thing you did was sell puppies.

The Court finds that you have a previous history of criminal convictions or criminal behavior, that the offense involved more than one victim, that the victims were particularly vulnerable, that you have a previous history of unwillingness to comply with conditions of a sentence involving release into the community, and that you abused the position of public or private trust.

The Court further finds that you were charged with this exact same charge in 1993, and after a period of probation, the matter was dismissed. You are sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in each of the 11 counts of cruelty to animals. These will be run concurrent. Further, this Court finds that probation would not serve the ends of justice, nor be in the best interest of the public, nor would this have a deterrent effect for such gross behavior. Therefore, you shall serve six months of your sentence on condition that you make restitution to the Dyersburg Humane Society for $3,242 for the expenses involved in freeing those dogs from their purgatory and your payment of the fine and costs in full. You are further prohibited from ever running or owning any animal kennel or owning any animal as a pet.

[The man], the Court finds that your offenses involve more than one victim. The victims were particularly vulnerable. You treated the victims with exceptional cruelty. You abused the position of public or private trust. You were charged with the exact same charge in 1993 that after a period of probation was dismissed.

You are sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in each of the 11 counts. You shall serve 90 days of your sentence on condition that $3,242 be paid to the Dyersburg Humane Society for the expenses involved in removing the helpless dogs from your custody. You are further prohibited from ever running or owning any animal kennel or owning any animal as a pet.

There are those who would argue that you should be confined in a house trailer with no ventilation or in a cell three-by- seven with eight or ten other inmates with no plumbing, no exercise and no opportunity to feel the sun or smell fresh air. However, the courts of this land have held that such treatment is cruel and inhuman, and it is. You will not be treated in the same way that you treated these helpless animals that you abused to make a dollar.

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