Puppy Mills are notorious for their poor living conditions and mass producing puppies on demand. There is little or no regard for dog welfare or health. Pet ownership is big business and the pandemic has only increased the desire of many families to adopt, buy and even foster. Dogs and cats the most common and sought after pets are the most at risk from backyard breeders.
How do Puppy Mills work?
Puppy mills work on the principle of a quick turnover of animals. Many produce only the most popular breed in demand. Think of the Vodafone dog in India, and a pug comes to mind. The movie 101 Dalmatians had puppy mills mass producing Dalmatians. It is a simple supply and demand dynamic, except they deal with lives. This pursuit of profit is at the expense of not only the animals, but also the human beings involved. Just as we would not blame a victim of human trafficking, it is unfair to paint every single person in the puppy mill industry as heartless. Poverty often drives people to make decisions and work in industries they would normally shun.
Dog rehabilitation and rehoming of especially female dogs rescued from these conditions is particularly difficult. They are riddled with physical ailments for which rehabilitation may help. But they are also emotionally and mentally broken most bitches are discarded on the streets once they no longer produce litters. Adopting one of these puppy mill reject dogs means the new family must be ready to spend not only time but money for treatments and therapy. So while it is noble thought to run out and pick up the first abandoned breeding bitch you read about please keep in mind the financial demands or therapy, veterinary care and rehabilitation.
For every shiny cute puppy mill pup you buy you condemn it’s mother to a miserable life
Who is a dog breeder?
Dog breeders are unfairly labelled cruel and selfish people who shamelessly exploit innocent animals for profit. It is not our intention to begin a lengthy debate but if we use this “standard of morality” every person involved in animal agriculture is fair game. We know that the human mind is exceptional at compartmentalising information and we excel at selective outrage. Getting back to the subject of puppy mills, they are indeed vile creations of individuals whose only motive is profit. A responsible dog breeder has an intimate knowledge of genetics, health and reproductive processes. This means when you choose to deal with a responsible breeder they will make you work for the pup you want. A responsible breeder goes through a long process before considering breeding from a dog.
The basics a good breeders checks for before breeding
Breed standard this simply means the ideal standards or features of a specimen for a particular breed.
Bitch health (includes temperament, genetic defects) if there are defects they will not breed her.
Vaccination records for both bitch and sire must be upto date.
Nutritional needs during pregnancy “Veterinary nutritionists strongly believe that malnourishment of bitches before breeding and during pregnancy is a major factor in neonatal puppy mortality, which is estimated to be between 20 and 30 percent.”
The Care and Feeding of the Breeding Bitch – Part One (AKC.org)
This is just an overview of the extensive list of pre breeding check, care and education it takes to produce healthy well adjusted dogs. It cannot be over stated that legitimate breeders have an intimate knowledge of the breed. They work closely with veterinarians and do not “sell pups” to anyone who wants one. Stringent checks, procedures and advise are all standard practices for licensed registered breeders.
The link between dog rehabilitation and puppy mill breeding
A good breeder maintains breed standards so you do not end up a puppy who heads straight to rehabilitation or grows up with a number of health problems. Social media tends and ‘fad breeds’ never factor into a serious breeders work or decisions. Dedicated breeders are often breed specific, they will breed for example only Golden Retrievers. Which makes them an authority on the breed, it’s genetics, personality traits and they can safely guide potential pet families.
Dog breeding is not about producing puppies. It is about maintaining a breed standard and ensuring healthy puppies go to good loving homes. They are mindful of the fact that mother and pups are healthy throughout the pregnancy. Which means the bitch has access throughout to veterinary care, nutritious food and a clean calm environment. A stress free environment for a pregnant dog is essential for her health and the puppies she produces.
Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, boxers and in the case of cats Persians are at the greatest risk from back yard breeders.
Why do we need rehabilitation centers?
Rehabilitation centers are seeing dogs as young as 6 and 8 months for hip and spinal problems. Two main circumstances drive this problem uneducated/ new pet owners taken advantage of by puppy mills. Once these pet owners have a puppy they do not know the basics of puppy care. Puppy mill breeding also contributes to dog theft for difficult to breed dogs like French Bulldogs. ‘Exotic breeds’ and flavours of the month are not products of qualified breeders, they are the products of puppy mills.
German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are among the most popular dog breeds. They are also prone to hip dysplasia’s a legitimate breeder will never breed a dog who shows signs of the disorder. They will first perform a test for any inherited genetic defects. Though the dog may appear normal, one abnormal gene can pass on a defect. Which means your adorable Retriever pup may inherit “bad hips” and need the specialists service of a rehabilitation center while still a puppy.
Why are puppy mills and back yard breeders still around?
Basic access to the internet is all a person needs to understand the horrors of badly bred dogs and the filthy conditions of these places. The only explanation one can think of is “out of sight out of mind.” So many aspects of our lives have become dependant on this mantra we live by.
We’ve extended to the food on our plates and the pets in our homes. Education and compassion for the conditions and realities of how we acquire things – food or pets- is a vital way forward. Shelters globally are full of discarded pets which families did not take the time to care for and learn about their needs.
Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava: Pexels
Your puppy mill bred pet often needs more than physical rehabilitation and medical attention. They are taken away from their mothers and litter mates too early. They do not nurse as long as they need to develop a strong immune system (like any infant – animal or human). Because people want “puppies for my kids” breeders separate them from the mother and litter mates too soon. So you bring home a maladjusted puppy who does not know how to behave around dogs or people. Behavioural problems are more often created than inherited.
Is pet cloning the new trend?
We now seem to be a step ahead of quick fix breeders with pet cloning gaining popularity. This raises a number of ethical, medical and moral questions. But the one thing most pet owners will ask themselves, does the cloned canine have the soul of the original? Once this trend takes on a life of it’s own one might say we’ve crossed into the territory of ‘playing God’
Anyone who has pets will tell you that breeds may look the same but no two dogs are the same. You may clone the looks but you’ll never clone the soul.