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About Puppy Mills

Puppy Mills

By Anna Rivera, Copyright © 2005 by Anna Rivera

Puppy mills are places where dogs are kept in deplorable conditions, receives little or no veterinary care, and the breeders practice improper breeding habits, such as inbreeding. The puppy millers are only in the breeding game for the profit, not to improve the breeds. They sell to pet stores and the general public. They also ignore the AKC breeding standards and register their dogs with novice registries, such as the Continental Kennel Club (CKC-USA).

These puppy mills continue to thrive because of the demand for pedigreed dogs has created a highly profitable market for farmers and the chain of pet stores they supply. An estimated nine out of ten puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. These mills are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Ecenbarger 2).

Puppy milling, or farming, is considered animal cruelty and the puppy millers must be stopped for their actions. The USDA believes that the puppy millers arent doing anything wrong and that they are people just making money for their business. But animal welfare organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) tend to disagree with the USDA.

Statistics from the Pet Industry Advisory Council (PIJAC) indicate that approximately 3500 of 3700 of the 11,500 to 12,000 U.S. pet stores sell cats and dogs.

PIJAC also estimates that pet stores sell 300,000 to 400,000 puppies every year. The HSUS estimates the number to be 500,000 (HSUS, 2).

A puppy miller will not tell anyone that he or she is running a puppy mill. Many times they keep it secret, because if the public found out, they would be charged with animal cruelty and have their kennels shut down. Here is a list of a few things a puppy miller will do:

- Puppy millers will not let the buyer see their kennels or even visit their home

- If the buyer has a puppy on hold, the puppy miller will force another puppy on them, one of either bad quality or poor health.

- Puppy millers will often deny that their dogs have any health problems, even if the buyer notices them.

- Puppy millers will always have puppies for sale and they prefer cash upfront, no payments.

I have had similar episodes with puppy millers before. The first two were very evident to make me believe that the breeder was actually running a puppy mill. My motive was that I told other people who wanted to buy a puppy not to go to this person because she would try to force another puppy on them thats different from the puppy the buyer places on hold.

Our first modern attempts at breeding dogs began about 6000 years BC with the Arabs. They put together greyhound type dogs bred for the tasks of hunting, shepherding, guarding and companionship (Pugnetti, 12). It is believed that dogs, after horses, were one of the first animals to be domesticated by man. Many of the dog breeds that we see today came from centuries of breeding. Very early in its history, the dog was bred into a variety of races, or breeds, depending on climate, environmental selections, and master preferences (Dogs, 235).

After World War II, when farmers began losing their business because the production of crops was failing, they desperately began seeking alternative methods of making money. The USDA encouraged raising puppies as a replacement. However, these puppy farmers had no knowledge of canine husbandry and often began with little money and already rundown facilities (Woolf, 2).

Because of their desperation to make money, puppy millers ignored the rules and regulations set by the AKCs code of ethics, which involves breed standards, and breed studies. The dogs were placed in tight conditions, due to lack of space, and all they had were old chicken hutches to keep the dogs confined. They provided no socialization because most of them live in remote areas where there was little or no other human contact. No veterinary care was provided to the dogs because the farmers could not afford it. Animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States investigated these conditions, and were successful in focusing national attention on the conditions of puppy mills.

Today, there are about 450 known dog breeds, and each carries a trait of standards recognized by some national breed or kennel club. Among the most reputable registries are the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), The Kennel Club of Great Britain (TKC) and the Federation of Canines, International (FCI). These are the oldest kennel organizations, and have standards set for each breed they recognize, in close association with their national breed clubs. For an example of a breed standard, lets look at the AKCs version of the standard set for the Chihuahua. The Chihuahua should be no more than 6 pounds full grown, the angle of the ears, and the round dome are also very important in this breed. The eyes should be large, but not protrude. It is also important that they are free from genetic defects, such as luxating patellas (kneecaps), encephalitis (water on the brain), and heart problems. Puppy millers deny those standards because they feel the standards are not important.

Often the puppy millers purchase pet-quality dogs, with limited AKC registration, from reputable breeders at pet prices, and re-register them with another registry. This way, they can still provide the public with a registered dog and keep their costs down as well. Among the registries that cater to this are the Continental Kennel Club (CKC-USA) and the American Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI). The problem with this is, reputable breeders use AKC limited registration for a reason. Often there may be a genetic default that someone, who doesnt know what theyre doing, could bring out. Or maybe the dog is not up to proper physical standards. This is why the puppies raised by puppy millers often have inherited genetic health problems.

More problems Puppy millers have is that they release their puppies before they are 8 weeks old, which causes a lot of trauma in a puppys life. Also, the kind of breeding practices that they consider the average. Lets look in detail at the types of breeding and the puppy mills views of them:

Inbreeding This is a process where relatives from the same litter are bred together, usually brother to sister or mother to son. The puppies develop a serious health problem that is often considered life threatening. More often, the puppy dies during or after birth, or they live for a few weeks to a few months. These puppies must be euthanized immediately. Puppy mills practice inbreeding because they seem to think there are not enough males and females from different litters. They also refuse to control the males arousal during the females heat season, so that the male will mate with any female whether or not they are related. Inbreeding is most common in puppy mills and it is an extremely cruel way to breed.

Mixed breeding Mixed breeding is involving two dogs of different breeds to be bred. This is a very common type of breeding in everyday life. However, puppy millers will purposefully breed mixed breeds to fill the demand for the so-called designer mutts. These designer mutts, known as cockapoos, schnoodles, labradoodles, etc, unfortunately are in high demand. But purposefully breeding them is very unethical. No reputable registry accepts them as breeds, and will not allow them to be shown or bred.

Over breeding Over breeding is when a female dog is mated every time she goes into a heat cycle. This can create severe problems in the female, including ovarian cysts and cancers, also the internal organs can come together. Many puppy-mill females have broken bones and had the teeth fall out because pregnancy constantly takes away from their internal calcium supplies. The dogs spend their entire lives in one place, which creates hostility toward the puppies. Females often kill, eat, or refuse to feed, the puppies they gave birth to. The reason for this type of breeding is one word money. The more litters a female has mean more money for the puppy miller.

One other type of breeding which is commonplace among puppy millers, involves the mating of a large dog to a small dog. This is extremely dangerous, especially if the small dog is the mother. As the large puppy begins to grow inside the mother, she could die of a ruptured uterus during pregnancy. The puppy miller will try to do this to bring on an entirely different kind of dog breed. This method should never be done, but if it happens, the puppy must be aborted immediately to prevent any further complications.

Such types of breeding practices as the ones listed above should never be done under any circumstances. Breeding is a very careful process that should only be accomplished by a knowledgeable, reputable breeder. Getting the right lines takes a reputable breeder many years of breeding to accomplish.

So, what is the actual argument against puppy mills? The fact that puppy milling is a form of animal cruelty and neglect. However, anti-cruelty laws are not firm or strict enough. All 50 states have anti-cruelty laws that prevents the mistreatment of dogs. But such laws are seldom enforced (HSUS, 1). Animal cruelty is considered a misdemeanor and the usual maximum penalty is a very short jail sentence, fines or community service. This is not a firm enough punishment for the puppy miller because it makes them only want to go out and run another puppy mill. Sometimes, they will even move to another state or county. I believe that anti-cruelty laws need to take a much firmer approach. Some examples would be longer jail time, pay back their customers for the dogs they bought, pay for these puppys vet care, and to shut down their facilities and place a restraining order to keep known puppy millers away from all animals, period.

These are just a few ideas, however, the anti-cruelty laws say that, in this state for example, sentences must be served one after the other and not all at once (Craig, 1). Puppy millers have done something really bad and they dont care about the safety of their dogs. But the fact is some people do not find anti-cruelty laws to be harsh, and that present punishment will work fine on the puppy miller.

Also, anti-cruelty laws need to enforce more protection for the puppies. For example, puppy millers refuse vaccinations in all their dogs. These puppies then develop parvovirus, serious forms of kennel cough, and so many other diseases. The reason is that puppies are exposed to other dogs with the diseases and the puppy millers do nothing to separate them. Another problem is that wounds and sores come in contact with urine and feces. These can cause massive infections that these dogs will have to have treated by a veterinarian or be euthanized in extreme cases. If dogs are rescued from puppy mills, the anti-cruelty laws suggest shelters can come in contact with the diseases in puppy mill dogs. I suggest placing each dog in isolation is a better protection from all dogs.

However, groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) have been working together to stop the sale of dogs to pet stores, shut down all puppy mills, and reinforce animal cruelty laws. The AKC also opposes random, large scale breeding of dogs for commercial purposes. The AKC, however, has placed strict breeding laws due to the rise in genetic problems. These laws state that every male must be DNA tested before the litter can be registered. Puppy millers do not like this rule because of the added costs it incurs, so they simply do not do the DNA testing on their dogs, which can cause a litter to carry genetic disorders.

There is however an opposition to the puppy mill issue: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Continental Kennel Club (CKC-USA). The USDA licenses kennels under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). But the major function of the USDA is to promote the economic welfare of the farmer, rather than the health and welfare of the dogs. They often fail to halt cruel and inhumane practices at puppy mills which can lead to the injury, illness and death of untold numbers of animals (HSUS, 2). In other words, the USDA believes that puppy millers are just contributing to the bread basket of America that is, they are taking part of the economic system of making money (Randolph, 3).

Recently, the USDA has been charged with going lightly on the violations of the AWA. Government officials have asked the USDA to correct inhumane conditions through new regulations. Two changes were adopted plastic coated wiring for cages is now required and the tethering of animals is forbidden. However, many other recommendations, such as cage size, requiring constant access to water, limiting the number of times a female can be bred, and stipulating stronger sanitation requirements were not adopted. The USDA did not support these other recommendations (Ecenbarger, 3).

The CKC-USA is a relatively new kennel registry. They have been around only since 1991. They have been known to register purebreds and designer mutts. If you look on their list of recognized breeds, you will notice they list such breeds as labradoodle (a labrador, poodle cross), cockapoos (a cocker spaniel, poodle cross), and chi-pom (a chihuahua, pomeranian cross). Also along with these, they recognize bogus breeds such as an Altmans white English bulldog, basically an English bulldog that is all white. Most of their recognized breeds have no supporting breed club registry, and they actually seem to encourage purposefully breeding mixed breeds and registering them as purebreds. They call them hybrid crosses. Hybrid is a term used to describe two separate species that have mated and produced young. The CKC-USA seems to have let go of the fact that these hybrid crosses are still nothing more than designer mutts, created to help people make a fast dollar.

CKC-USA registered dogs are not allowed in AKC events, because AKC does not see the CKC-USA as a reputable registry. This comes from the fact that most of the dogs registered with CKC-USA were bred in puppy mills by people who could not tolerate the rise in standards set by the AKC. The scandal is that since puppy millers sell their dogs with CKC-USA registration to pet stores, the buyer has no idea where the pups have been before they were sold at the store. When a person buys a dog from a pet store, they are supporting an empire of puppy mills and novice registries like the CKC-USA (CKC website).

A Case Story

This is a true story. Jeanette and Sven Bergman ran the Mountain Top Kennel in Pend Oreille County. Public officials and animal welfare organizations received thousands of phone calls from angry customers who bought puppies from this kennel and said their dogs had to be euthanized. Some people paid thousands of dollars on dogs that arrived sick or without promised pedigrees. When the officials examined the kennel, they found mastiff puppies with ears cut off almost all the way to the skull, and dismembered dog ears on the ground. Some suffered severe wounds on sex organs, eyelids, and also had collars growing into their necks. All these dogs were forced to sleep on straw soaked with their own urine and feces. Some dogs were even suffering from a lack of food and dehydration because clean water was not available.

The Bergmans were charged with animal cruelty and was fined. They also wound up spending 90 days in jail. The dogs were taken to a local animal shelter where they would receive veterinary care. But sadly about half of the dogs had to be euthanized.

-John Craig

Spokesman Review

Reading this case story really has got me thinking that one should take action and save the puppy mill dogs from becoming the prisoners of greed. With that in mind, one question always comes up: What can I do to stop the puppy millers actions? There is a solution to the puppy miller problem; don't buy puppies from a pet store. The ASPCA believes that without pet store sales, most mills will be forced out of existence (Ecenbarger, 4).

Buy puppies from reputable breeders, but know your rights when you buy a dog. Ask about the dogs quality, any health problems, vaccinations and guarantee on the dogs. Ask to see the pups parents, and the conditions in which it was raised. A good breeder will let you see their kennel. Be sure that the breeder has all the information in writing, or you will get cheated out of the deal. As said by Hearts United for Animals: All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.

Works Cited

Anonymous. Puppy Mill Bill Raises Red Flag for Breeders. DVM. Jan 2002. Proquest. South Puget Sound CC Lib., Olympia, 16 Apr. 2003.

Craig, John, Kennel Owners Face Animal Cruelty Charges at a Puppy Mill

Spokesman Review, 25 Jan 1997. B-1. Proquest. South Puget Sound CC Lib.,

Olympia, 22 Apr.2003.

Dogs The Encyclopedia Americana. 1999 ed. Vol.9

Ecenbarger, William. Scandal of Americas Puppy Mills. Readers Digest. Feb. 1999: 114-119.

Giffin, James M. and Carlson, Lisa D. Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook, 3rd Edition. Howell Book House, 2000.

HSUS, Get the Facts on Puppy Mills. Humane Society of US. 7 May 2003. www.hsus.org

HUA, Prisoners of Greed. Hearts United for Animals. 2003. www.hua.org

Pugnetti, Gino. Simon and Schusters Guide to Dogs. Simon and Schuster Inc. 1980.

Randolph, Mary. Your Rights When Buying a Dog. Consumers Research Magazine, June1994, Vol.77, Issue 6. Ebsco. South Puget Sound CC Lib., Olympia, 16 Apr.2003.

Woolf, Norma What is a Puppy Mill, Dog Owners Guide. 16 Apr. 2003.www.canismajor.com

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