The cruelty of puppy mills (also known as puppy farms) is becoming a global talking point, and governments are finally taking steps to outlaw them completely. 2017 saw California passing legislation to outlaw puppy mills within the state. Earlier this year, the UK also severely cracked down on puppy farms with inhumane standards and practices.
In Singapore, a 2010 controversy saw 85 dogs being rescued from horrific conditions in a puppy mill in Pasir Ris; sadly, though, not all of the dogs survived. Since then, Singapore has seen a significant increase in awareness of puppy mills and in the crackdown on substandard conditions for pet breeders.
While there is some comfort in the growing number of laws regulating or banning puppy mills around the globe, the unfortunate truth is that they will continue as long as they are profitable. For this reason, the ultimate power to end the cruelty lies with us, the consumers.
Puppy mills and similar breeding farms for other pets are typically hidden away from prying eyes, but they are more common than most people realise. These farms are designed to exploit as much money as possible from the breeding and selling of dogs.
The animals are typically kept in horrific, cramped, and dirty conditions with no thought to their wellbeing beyond their selling value. Puppies are often sold to stores without having any experience in life beyond a crowded and filthy cage. Breeding dogs suffer worse, as bitches are forced to carry one pregnancy after another with no concern for their health. What’s more, injuries and diseases are often left untreated. If a dog is in pain, it is still profitable, and if its condition means that it cannot breed, it is simply disposed of.
While the new laws and regulations in parts of America, Europe, and Asia are excellent steps forward, they are not nearly enough to remove the use of puppy mills, even within their own borders. As states like California and Ohio have passed new laws to eliminate inhumane conditions for breeding pets, with Pennsylvania poised to follow suit, there are still concerns. There remains very little to stop breeders outside these states from selling privately to residents, meaning that the private market for puppy mills in these states might simply have shifted over the borders. As such, within these states, it is safer to buy from pet stores or adopt from rescue shelters. Responsible breeders will be able to supply documentation for their puppies, which should also indicate if the dog was born in another state or country.
To avoid this concern entirely, it is generally better to adopt from a shelter or rescue group. After all, your new dog is going to be a part of the family, so why not start things off by saving their lives, rather than shopping for specific breeds?
Millions of dogs are put down in the USA alone each year and around the world, unadopted shelter dogs can face worse fates. Adopting from a rescue group gives a dog the chance to have a loving home and can avoid funding the puppy mill industry.
Unfortunately, not all rescue groups are true to their name, so research and vigilance is required.
According to PETA, there is a growing trend of purebred rescue groups which attend breeder auctions and pay large sums of money for pedigree breeding dogs, which they can then sell to private individuals willing to pay small fortunes for a purebred dog, potentially to use the dog for more breeding. In effect, these purebred rescue groups function as middlemen, giving greater profits to puppy mills and themselves, under the guise of saving the animals they profit from. In fact, some puppy mills will set aside animals with the intention of selling to purebred rescue groups for more money than they could hope to get from a pet store. Many purebred dogs from puppy mills are the result of inbreeding and often have associated health problems. It’s better to adopt from a shelter you know and trust and to prioritise quality of life for puppies over the idea of owning a purebred.
Private online sellers offering people the chance to buy from their new litter of puppies are, unfortunately, sometimes puppy mills in disguise. Puppy mills are eager to disguise themselves as something more innocent and the internet allows them to do this. Mills may disguise themselves as multiple different sellers across different online platforms. However, cutting corners means that many of these deceptive advertisements will have the same contact details across multiple advertisements. In many cases, they’ll also use the same words or images, copied and pasted into different posts. One or two minutes on a reliable search engine should allow you to avoid exploitative breeders posing as innocent individuals.
The most valuable resources that puppy mills profit from are apathy and ignorance. They benefit from abusing dogs, forcing them to live in conditions which are often filthy, cramped, crowded, dark, cold, and full of disease. They are able to maintain these terrible conditions because they trust that the people they’re selling to won’t know or won’t care about the abuse.
The most influential thing that we can all do to eradicate the puppy mill industry is to speak out and spread awareness. If dogs truly are man’s best friend, then we owe them our voices and compassion. We owe them a better quality of life.