There's not a whole lot that can be done except to educate people; most have no clue what a puppy mill is, or if they've heard of it, that's the extent. Oftentimes, they don't know what puppy mills do to these poor animals.
I also covered this topic in my college English speech class as a persuasive speech, if I remember correctly, to persuade people to not buy pets from pet stores because I think over 90% of all commercial pet stores that sell dogs and cats (not from outside non-profit organizations as adoptions) get their "merchandise" from puppy mills. I also did a features story about puppy mills in one of my communication classes.
The states that have the worst reputations for puppy millers are Pennsylvania (especially in Lancaster) and Missouri. Other states that made the list are all mostly concentrated in the midwest and south.
I have made personal phone calls to the ASPCA and PETA (not that I'm a fan of PETA, but they had excellent info on this topic that I used for my features article, not to mention ways to get in touch with pet stores and speak with the operators of pets stores in order to get them to give you info they normally wouldn't give) on what measures can be taken to stop puppy milling. Both said the same thing I mentioned above: the key is to educate people.
Many people unfortunately buy a pet on a whim without really knowing anything about what it takes to care for that specific animal or breed. They walk past a pet store in a mall (Hey, is that pet store still in the CH Mall in your city?), see the puppies out on display at the front and think, "Awwwwww! I want that cute widdle puppy!" Either that, or holiday shopping is a major time for these unfortunate animals, as people buy their loved one or child a pet for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, or a birthday.
In cases like these, very rarely do these animals end up with forever homes. Uneducated people buy a large breed puppy that was just "so cute and cuddly" and then it grew, and they can't deal with it. Or they get an aggressive breed like a chow chow, akita, or pit bull, and then the dog starts biting people (poor breeding increases risks for behavioral issues significantly). Or the poor breeding results in a sick pet who is constantly at the vet and a real drain on the wallet.
That's just all if the puppy is "lucky" and even gets a chance to find a home, even if it's temporary.
The breeder dogs at the mills are bred literally to death. If they get sick or can't breed anymore, they are inhumanely euthanized to get the "cheapest way out," which could be a bullet between the eyes, a blow to the head, poisoning, drowning, hanging, throat thrashing, or...the dog might be sold to dog fighters to use as "bait" for dogs that are being trained to fight.
Breeders are kept in kennels that are usually not sheltered from the weather or elements, grooming, nail trims, vaccinations and worming are not kept up with, sanitary keeping is not a priority. Dogs usually stand on a wire grate and their pads wear off, or their toenails grow too long and get caught and ripped out.
Puppies that are born sick, deformed, runts, or ones that just don't "look right" are usually killed just as inhumanely as the no-good breeders.
I called that pet store in the city where you live at the CH Mall when I wrote my features article. I asked them the questions as was recommended by PETA, but those pet store owners are either trained to not say a word, or wise to the ways of animal rights people asking questions. I was polite as could be, and asked up front if I could talk about the dogs they sell for an article I was writing about people who are looking to buy a new pet. This woman immediately got hostile and defensive with me! She said she would only answer questions that she believed people should know for my article; well, I was gonna take what I could get. I got the 100% "read-off" answers they're supposed to give: We get all our dogs from professional AKC registered breeders, and all have top quality pedigrees (she would not name any "AKC registered breeders"). She refused to read off a pedigree for me that was from a dog that was for sale there because she said I'd have to show an interest in buying it first, that they don't just show off the dogs' pedigrees. She refused to tell me what they do with dogs that don't sell and get too old or big to keep at the pet store; she said that was confidential information (most pet stores send dogs back to the puppy mill if they get too old and won't sell, or they dump them off somewhere).
What people need to realize first of all is that this is not just puppy mills doing such a horrific thing; the pet stores that buy from the millers can be just as bad.
So what about all the puppies at the pets stores if no one recommends buying them? If people do know about the behind-the-scenes milling, sometimes they feel compelled to "rescue" a puppy from a pet store.
This is a bad idea, as it accomplishes nothing. It only feeds the profit of the pet store and the millers and encourages this to keep happening.
It's unfortunate what this really boils down to, but basically, we can only hope for the best that the puppies do somehow find their forever home, just not through the profit of the pet store and millers.
The biggest blow to pet stores and millers that would be most effective to eliminate this atrocity is to starve their profit.
DO NOT BUY PETS FROM PET STORES.
AJH84- That was an "Excellent Post".....
April2 - I have 2 Puppy Mill rescues that live with us. Both were from Mills being busted. One in Missouri, the other in Oklahoma. Both of mine came to me as adults. They were used for the sole purpose of breeding for the greed of the millers. Fortunately, they were not killed before their release. I will add: Samson is psychologically damaged past the point of no return. On occasion, he will allow me to pet him. He is absolutely terrified of people and will potty in the floor if you make eye contact with him. Isn't that sad? He's been here almost 2 yrs.! Both of their medical issues are astounding....One will NEVER be potty trained! The female (Ginger) cries over all her toys....Were her babies taken away too soon, every time??? I don't know! The horrors they have lived through make me sick, but it's not their fault...The good news is that they both will live out their lives (In safety) with us.
There is alot of good information (For your daughter) On the "Small Paws Rescue" websight in Oklahoma....Education is the key here...I'm glad your daughter has chosen to spread the word.... Karla
We work with a rescue group. The stories are so sad and the conditions are terrible.
AJ is absolutely right about buying from pet stores.
This topic is a hugely controversial one simply because no one can adequately and legally define a puppy mill. You would think it would be easy...but everytime you set a limit on number of dogs or a specification on cage space, etc, bad breeders will find a way around it. In addition, many of these types of breeders simply pack up and move to a different locale where they won't be bothered by inspectors.
The following is an excerpt from a blog I wrote several weeks ago after Cesar Millan had his show on puppy mills.
This story may have stimulated me to think of a potential workable plan to do away with puppy mills. If you follow any legislative alerts, you will see that regulating breeders is a common item on many states' law-making agendas this year. Right here in Indiana, a new law caps the number of dogs you can own (or breed) before you are considered to be a "commercial breeder" Many other states are looking at similar laws as well as the ideas to control pet over-population, such as mandatory spay-neuter laws. I don't know for certain, but my gut tells me that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is behind many of these legislative efforts. Although I do applaud their surface efforts to help, I can't help but continue to be concerned about their less than apparant motives. Both HSUS and PETA leaders have publically declared their goal of "no-more pets".
But let's be realistic, people want to own pets and the "don't shop..adopt" program is not working. American consumers will continue to buy puppies because 1) puppies in stores are cute and 2) its really convenient.
Instead of working through legislatures, why not put some money up front to help develop an enforcement agency/operation/organization that can help police breeders and help educate future pet owners? As it stands now, each new law that passes in every state adds to a financial burden at a time when it is difficult to get funding for any project. I have friends who work currently in enforcement type of agencies and their funding is absolutely pitiful. In fact, recently in Michigan, the state government dropped the program designed to inspect pet stores, etc due to lack of funding.
The website, Charity Navigator shows that HSUS has in excess of $225 Million in assets. Why not free up some of those assets to develop an organization that will work with the American Kennel Club, veterinary organizations, and other dog-related groups to come up with a workable and fair outline of "good" breeding practices that is not solely determined by number of dogs or number of puppies sold?
Think on it...I don't know how much money the AKC has, but if HSUS could give about $20 Million (10% of their assets), the AKC could chip in and partner that money with funds already allocated for the USDA for enforcement of existing laws, we might make a bigger dent in the puppy mill industry. Its all about working together and stopping the "in-fighting" that accompanies any attempt at creating new laws.
Other benefits: Breeders who met "good" breeding practices could sell puppies through any outlet they choose...to individuals or to stores. People looking for puppies could buy them through "HSUS Approved Stores" to save the difficulties of finding a "good" breeder. Portions of all sales, through breeders or stores, would be funneled back into the organization for further enforcement and inspection of facilities. And best of all, we could avoid a lot of government interference. Breeders and stores who don't meet the requirements would eventually perish from lost business and consumers, good breeders and good stores would be able to work together to get puppies into homes.
This is just a basic outline and I know that many people will have a lot of issues with it, but...it's a much better start than simply throwing up some numbers and saying you can't breed dogs if you own x number of dogs. Work with DVMs to find good breeding practices, make potential breeders outline their breeding facilities/plans and submit them to this new organization annually along with their license fees, and finally, utilize technology to help eliminate the fraud that is often associated with AKC/CKC and other kennel club registrations. Maybe even mandate microchips for all new puppies that make it to 6 weeks of age.....
This obviously needs a lot of work and, of course, a lot of money. BUT...money is something the HSUS has alot of and my gut feeling is that the AKC has a fair share too. Let's put their monies together for a good common cause and start stamping out this horrendous nightmare breeders!
One complicating factor you might not be aware of is that in Pennsylvania and Ohio, there are a LOT of Amish breeders. In their culture, dogs are considered livestock, just like sheep or cattle. Now personally, I would never treat any livestock this badly, and most family farmers I know wouldn't either. However, it's not unheard of for farmers to leave livestock out in terrible weather, not get them vet care because they assume a margin of loss, and put them down inhumanely when they're no longer profitable. I think it's important to understand this mindset when trying to come up with a solution to the problem. There's no sense of anything being wrong with treating dogs this way, so Mr. Dock is right, there has to be a way to take away the profit.
The problem I see with approved stores though, is that really serious breeders are obsessive about their litters and would never let a pup go to a random person they don't know. Many are watching and judging potential buyers much more closely than the buyers are judging the potential pups. Often, they will call/visit then new family at intervals to make sure everything is okay. I think this is the kind of breeder we should want to buy from, and I don't know how that would work in a storefront.
The problem with PETA and the HSUS is that neither one of these organizations is truly interested in solving the problem of puppymills or animal cruelty, they are animal rights organizations that are trying to completely stop ANY interaction between humans and animals, right down to a complete cessation of the keeping of animals as pets.
They rely on the fact that people THINK they are interested only in the welfare of the animals, but nothing could be further from the truth. People think that animal rights and animal welfare are one and the same, but they are COMPLETELY different, and to support organizations that promote animal rights is only giving these people the power they seek to put their plans into action.
If people are interested in helping animals, they would be MUCH better off donating money directly to their local shelters or local SPCAs. Each county in every state has its own SPCA. THEY are the ones who are interested in animal welfare.
As far as puppymills go, no responsible breeder would ever allow their puppies to be sold in pet stores, therefore, if you see a puppy in a pet store, they were bred by either a puppymill or a local person who isn't truly interested in the betterment of their breed, but merely in producing puppies to sell to make a few bucks. Every parent club of every AKC breed has a Code of Ethics that prohibits their breeders from selling their puppies in pet stores. Buying a puppy from a pet store, even at a greatly reduced price, is not "rescuing" the puppy, it's simply buying the puppy at a reduced price.. All this does is make room for the pet store to bring in yet another puppymill puppy. The stores buy these puppies at prices ranging anywhere from about $35 for beagles and other small breeds to about $250 for English Bulldogs. The price markups are INSANE, with Beagles and other common breeds selling for $500 and up, and English Bulldogs selling for $2500 AND UP. So someone might THINK they are "rescuing" a dog because they only paid $100 for it, when it was originally priced at $800 or more, but the price was marked up so many hundreds of percent that even at what appears to be a giveaway, the pet store is STILL making a profit on a puppy that is nowhere near meeting its breed standard.
I could go on for days about the evils of puppymills, pet stores, and backyard breeding, but I have got to get to bed (I work nights) because I have to be in work at 3. When I get home tonight, however, I will add to my post because this most definitely IS a subject that deserves a LOT of attention.
I completely agree with your assessment of both HSUS and PETA. Both are huge money making and marketing machines that give lip service to animal welfare but both have hidden agendas. Both Ingrid Newkird (founder of PETA) and Wayne Pacelle (CEO of HSUS) have publically said that they would like to see a world where there were NO PETS. (I have references for those who need them).
BUT, why not make use of the HSUS money making ability? Why not ask them to put their money where their mouth is and pony up some serious money to actually try and stop this through action rather than through ineffective legislation.
As far as pet shops...that's a tricky one. You are both right in that a well established breeder (I am purposefully avoiding the word "good") wants to know how the pup will be treated etc. These dogs are truly extensions of their family. But, finding this type of breeder is difficult unless you are on the "inside" of dog shows and breeder circles. Plus, while I appreciate their passion for keeping their pups safe, I find it odd that these same breeders are often the ones who, through maintenance of breed standards, perpetuate conformational problems (short faced Bulldogs, etc) that affect the health of the dog. Most people looking for a pet dog won't seek out this type of breeder, good or otherwise.
We as a society are used to instant gratification and immediate results. That will be difficult to change over-night. I worked in the pet industry and I can tell you that the vast majority of people are not interested in the puppy's background...they like THAT puppy. And, if a pet store doesn't sell it, then someone else will out of the back of their trunk, along a highway, or from an Internet site.
The AKC needs to be involved as well. That code of ethics is only as good as the paper it is written on. AKC papers are easily available and I have doubts that any of these parent breed clubs enforce this stipulation of "don't sell to pet stores". How can they? Next, the AKC and the parent breed clubs must take a stance on puppy mills (as well as tail docking and ear cropping per my blog) and work towards a solution. I thing they need to cough up some money as well.
When both the HSUS and the AKC have some serious "skin in the game", we just might start seeing some results.
Let me state...I don't like the way that "puppy mills" and the operators are allowed to get away with the abuses that they do. They need to be shut down...but, the current fad of using limited numbers of dogs and special licenses will hurt legitimate breeders and the puppy mill folks will go underground and find new ways (i.e. the Internet) to sell their mass produced puppies at an even higher price. There has to be a better way!
I too have my qualms about AKC. I lean much more toward the hunting terrier standards than the show. In fact, my first Scottie, aka "The Best Dog Ever" was from a breeder who did not show or sell to the show ring. However, the breeder's entire family became friends, as did some of the other families with dogs from the same litter, because the breeder kept track of them all. This was the most laid back, friendly Scottie I have ever seen; he would also appear from another room if I so much as thought the command "come". Many breeds would be vastly improved if they were bred for personality instead of looks. Sad to say, but AKC breeders can also often be in it for the money, as a "show ring quality" dog also has a drastic markup compared to "pet quality". And you're right. So many people pick a dog because it looks so cute or does a funny trick in the store. It sure would be helpful, though, to have people familiar with the breed available to people looking at pups to pick the right breed. Terriers, sadly, look like stuffed toys to small children, but they NEVER act like stuffed toys. There are always tons of Jack Russells in shelters because of this. I guess there needs to be some third kind of breeder...
Just because a breeder's dogs are registered with the AKC doesn't mean they are a "good" breeder. All that is necessary for a litter to be registered with the AKC is for both parents to be of the same breed and registered with the AKC. There are absolutely no requirements placed on the breeders themselves other than they cannot have been convicted of any type of cruelty to animals. Being convicted of cruelty to animals usually results in the breeder being suspended by the AKC, removing their priveleges with regard to showing or breeding and registering litters for a period of time that is considered to be acceptable considering the magnitude of the offense they were convicted of.
As far as the price of a show quality vs the price of a pet quality puppy, most hobby breeders (that is, breeders who show and breed their dogs) do not differentiate between the show and pet quality puppies when it comes to price. In truth, very few puppies born ARE show quality. Out of every 10 puppies whelped, MAYBE one or two will have what it takes to succeed in the show ring. The others, while still excellent examples of their breed, are pet quality, and are sold to pet homes with contracts mandating that they be spayed or neutered by a certain age and not used for breeding. Backyard breeders, on the other hand, usually charge more for female puppies than they do for male puppies, because they theorize that the extra money paid for the female can be recouped by the sale of her first litter. Backyard breeders also often take traits that would disqualify a dog from the show ring (misplaced white patches, albinism, colors that are not recognized by the breed standard, to name a few) and refer to those puppies as "RARE!" and charge more money for them. Some of these traits can even be detrimental to the health of the dog, but backyard breeders don't bother to learn these things, they still feel these puppies are special and deserving of a higher price tag. For example, successive merle to merle breedings in collies result in pure white collies. While color-headed whites ARE a recognized color according to the collie standard, pure white collies are not, and are not only not eligible to be shown, but pure white collies are fraught with health issues, sometimes even being born without eyes! Breeders who don't know any different, however, only know that pure white is a "RARE!" color for a collie, therefore it MUST be worth more money!
I totally agree with you that too many people purchase a certain breed because they like the way the breed looks. They don't give a thought to whether or not the breed is a good fit with them as an individual or as a family, and as a result, the poor dog ends up in rescue or in a shelter because the person or family decides they cannot live with the dog's instincts. It is SO important to research the breeds thoroughly, to learn what they were originally bred for, and whether or not you are prepared to live with the dog's instincts. People think Siberian Huskies are gorgeous. And they are! But they are bred to run. And run. And run. Oh, and they run. And run. And just when you think they have GOT to be tired out, they want to run some more. If you live in an apartment or have a very tiny yard and nowhere to exercise a dog, DON'T get a Siberian Huskey no matter HOW much you love the breed or think you might like to have one.
Too many people think it is their right to own whatever breed they want, as long as they have the money to buy one. In my opinion, owning a dog (or ANY animal) is NOT a right, it's a privelege. If you cannot provide what an animal needs, both monetarily, physically and psychologically, then it doesn't matter how well-off you are, you should think of the animal and not get it, only to subject it to a life in an environment that cannot support its needs based on its instincts. If more people did this, there would be far fewer homeless dogs, cats, birds and other creatures.
I am aware that it takes little to get AKC papers. However, I was speaking from personal experience of people I know who breed and sell show dogs, and ought to be totally unimpeachable breeders. One I stopped being friends with after I saw her kennel. Her family has had one of the leading show lines of her breed for generations (people generations, that is) and charges accordingly, and the condition of her dogs that were not being shown was atrocious. There were feces everywhere that had been in place for days, if not weeks, fleas and ticks were totally out of control, so the dogs were all shaved, there were too many dogs to get enough human interaction or exercise, the dogs were all underweight, and the list goes on. And before you say it, yes, I should have turned her in. I was young and timid at the time. She is the worst example I've seen, but I've seen others who treat their dogs much worse than I would. The AKC can't even hope to inspect all the kennels out there, and obviously they miss some. Yes, there are some fantastic "real" AKC breeders and show-ers out there. I've met them through rescue groups. But my point is, even AKC dog club breeders can be almost as bad as puppy mills, so AKC oversight isn't the answer either.
And yes, I'm very aware of poor traits being passed on. White fox terriers have terrible deafness. However, I've also seen show ring terriers whose behavior really gives the class a bad name. There's no reason for them to be hyper, surly, snappy, or yappy. I have known more well-tempered family pets that show ring dogs.
I guess I'm terribly naive. I didn't know about pet stores and these puppy mills. I don't know if I can ever get those images out of my mind.
AJ, I asked the pet store in the mall where they got their puppies and they said reputable breeders and I believed them. I guess I tend to believe the best in everyone.
Is this a fairly new thing or has it just gotten worse over the years or is there more information now?
I remember growing up we got our first puppy from a pet store. My mom was newly divored and felt like us kids needed a pet so she brought home a little puppy in her pocket. She was a little toy poodle and just the cutest thing ever. She wound up being the best dog we ever had, too. Well behaved, no health issues, not hyper (like some can be!) and so smart. We got our next toy poodle puppy from a breeder a couple of years later. My brother picked him because he came over and crawled into his lap. He was a good dog but did bark more and was more hyper than our first. Interesting. Maybe we just lucked out. I don't know. Or maybe this stuff wasn't so prevalient back in the 70's, I don't know.
I don't know exactly how long puppy milling and "backyard breeding" has been going on; but it certainly is nothing new.
In the last few decades though, more and more education is coming forth, and people who were clueless about it are now getting some idea of what puppy milling entails.
Oh, and that mall pet store you mentioned--"reputable breeders" is a textbook term they use. I got that line over and over and over again in my phone interview with that pet store. But no names of "reputable breeders" were ever given so I could contact one of those "reputable breeders" for further interviews. That information was "confidential" along with sharing any of the dogs' pedigrees, since I "wasn't interested in purchasing a dog from them," or what they do with "merchadise" they get that doesn't sell by a certain age, size/weight, or timeframe.
Backyard breeding is another issue that *can be* much like puppy milling, depending on the person doing the breeding. Generally, however, backyard breeders take much better care of their animals as far as housing, veterinary care, and humane treatment...but not always. Sometimes backyard breeders are just small-operation puppy mills.
One of my interviews for my features article was from a backyard breeder; a woman who bred dachsunds (she was the only breeder with whom I could get in touch with and who gladly voluntarily spoke with me). She literally kept the majority of her dogs in her backyard in a climate controlled shed; air conditioned for the summer, heated for the winter, well-insulated, concrete floor for easy cleaning, and claimed that pregnant dogs ready to give birth were moved inside the home for the first week or two. Any veternary care needed was always given, which I followed up on with the vet she used (who also happened to be the vet I was working for at the time). She claimed she did not breed females past a certain age, which I think was 5 or 6 years old, and claimed she would sell those breeders at low prices to "good homes." However, she said she did not interview any buyers, she would just sell puppies to people with no type of contracts for spay/neuter or return to breeder if unsatisfied with the dog.
I have personal experience with purebred dog breeding, as I grew up with my mom, who for years raised, bred, and competitively showed westies. She was VERY picky about breeding, and only did a breeding about once every 1-2 years because she said it was so stressful financially and to find homes for puppies. She would not breed any of our dogs unless the two dogs being were veterinary tested first for Brucellosis, (an STD in dogs caused by breeding and contact with aborted fetuses. Brucellosis can occur in humans that come in contact with infected aborted tissue or semen) and other fertility measures. In other words, lots of money--and that doesn't include the stud fee or the "pick of the litter" the other breeder might get as a deal, or the unexpected vet costs that could include emergency c-section, for example. She would also only pick dogs to breed that showed good tempraments; for example, a few of the top breeders with the top show dogs had dogs that were indeed beautifully composed, but the *nastiest,* most aggressive and unpredictable dogs you could ever come across.
Advertising the puppies for selling was done through the AKC club that sponsored that breed--they were never advertised in the newspapers or streetlamp flyers. Each potential buyer was thoroughly interviewed by my mom, where she'd ask them to come and see the puppies, handle them, and to bring their kids if they had any, so she could get a feel for how the buyer would treat the dog and how the family functioned together (if the kids were unruly hellians, or the potential buyers were only interested in breeding and tried to talk their way out of the spay/neuter contract, it was a no sell).
Most puppies were sold as pets; very few were sold or dealt to other competitive show breeders. The more the puppy showed "pet quality" traits, such as a soft, curly coat, a long snout, oversized ears, a kinked tail, etc., all of which are not show quality composure for a westie, those pups would be sold for about $300-600, just based on their pedigree (which my mom proudly told to anyone interested). Show quality pups sold for $800-1,000.
Those are the differences between REAL reputable breeders, backyard breeders, and puppy millers.
But, as Ghilly said above, show quality breeders may not be any better than puppy millers, although this is rare. But my mom and I have run across a couple of those before, where the showers have so many dogs that they are not taken care of properly and it is sickening that they get away with it just because they are competitive showers and are supposedly "enhancing the breed." Those types of breeders are what my mom and I termed "glorified puppy millers" that get away with what they do just based on their reputation with the AKC and the cliques of the show rings.
Another thing about the glorified puppy millers that is noticed is how certain breeds are getting "ruined" now because the "enhancement" of the breeding program is breeding out certain qualities that were supposed to be natural to the dog. For example, the westie was originally bred for going to ground for rats and other large rodents, so the bigger and longer and narrower the body and tail (for getting into the holes), the better. Now westies are bred to have short bodies, hind leg outward angulation, a barrell chest, and short tail.
Border collies are another example. To be a successful at quick turns and jumps to herd sheep and cattle, they need to have long, limber legs, a long neck, and a lanky body. The AKC show quality border collies in the ring are generally bred to look and have the long hair (like in the movie "Babe"), short legs and neck, and floppy ears (pricked up ears are just as common with BCs). A BC with this kind of build has a harder time with prolonged stamina and isn't as fast as a "farm dog BC."