What Is a Puppy Mill
What Is a Puppy Mill? A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.
Puppy mill puppies are typically sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.
What Problems Are Common to Puppy Mill Dogs? Illness, disease, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
How Often Are Dogs Bred in Puppy Mills? In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The mom and dad of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive—and neither will the many puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable to pet stores.
When and Why Did Puppy Mills Begin? Puppy mills began sprouting up after World War II. In response to widespread crop failures in the Midwest, the United States Department of Agriculture began promoting purebred puppies as a fool-proof “cash” crop. It is easy to see why this might have appealed to farmers facing hard times—breeding dogs does not require the intense physical labor that it takes to produce edible crops, nor are dogs as vulnerable to unfavorable weather. Chicken coops and rabbit hutches were repurposed for dogs, and the retail pet industry—pet stores large and small—boomed with the increasing supply of puppies from the new "mills." Today, Missouri is considered the largest puppy mill state in the country.
Seeking a puppy supply source on the East Coast, puppy brokers—the middlemen who deliver the dogs from mills to pet stores—convinced many of Pennsylvania’s Amish farmers in the 1970s that puppies were the cash crop of the future. Brokers conducted seminars to teach farmers how to operate their own breeding facilities. Thirty years later, Lancaster County, PA, has the highest concentration of puppy mills of any county in the nation and has earned the dubious nickname of “Puppy Mill Capital of the East.”
How Can I Help Fight Puppy Mills? There are many ways you can fight puppy mills, starting with refusing to patronize the stores and websites that sell their dogs.
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