Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The horrors of puppy mills

I am sure you’ve heard the term puppy mill, but you may not be aware of the true horror associated with it. A puppy mill is a commercial mass-breeding facility that produces multiple litters from different breeds of dogs. Their goal is to produce the greatest possible quantity of “product”--puppies--to sell to pet stores or directly to consumers via Internet and newspaper ads.
In puppy mills the dogs are housed in wire-mesh cages, often stacked on top of one another to maximize space. Because these enclosures are as small as possible, the dogs must sit in their own excrement. There are no beds or towels to provide any comfort for the dogs. The animals are rarely allowed out of their cages, and are forced to spend their entire lives cramped in these tiny, filthy spaces.
Regarded merely as puppy-making machines, these poor animals are bred continuously from their first heat until they are no longer fertile. The Humane Society of the United States reports that once they cannot produce any more puppies they are disposed of. The lucky ones are shot or bludgeoned to death, while others are simply let free to eventually die on their own.

Because maximizing profit is the overriding goal at a puppy mill, the dogs almost never receive any humane attention--let alone veterinary care. Let us ignore common basic ailments such as heartworm disease and infestation from fleas, worms and ticks to focus on more disturbing ramifications: If a pregnant female needs a C-section, it is performed by a non-veterinarian without the use of anesthesia or pain medication. If the dogs bark too much they are “debarked” by ramming a metal rod down their throat (also without anesthesia or pain medication), which effectively ruptures their vocal cords.
Once the puppies are produced, the ones that live past weaning are sold to pet stores or directly to consumers. As you can imagine, these are not healthy animals. Here at Friendship we routinely admit eight-week-old puppies, purchased at a pet store or via an unknown breeder, into the hospital for treatment of pneumonia or overwhelming parasitic infections. Almost every time the owners are shocked to learn that they were sold a sick puppy, taking for granted that appropriate care had been given to their new family member before they took him home.
Another huge problem is that puppy mill breeders give no thought to the genetic health of the parents. This results in a population of puppies with an unusually high incidence of breed-related genetic defects, such as hip dysplasia and brachycephalic syndrome.
So what can you do to help save these poor, abused dogs? The single most important act you can do to put an end to puppy mills is to be aware of where that adorable new puppy you bring home comes from. It is estimated that 98% of pet store puppies come from puppy mills, so NEVER buy a puppy from a pet store!
If you feel that you would like to have a pure bred dog, be sure to research potential breeders thoroughly. Make sure you can visit the breeder’s home or kennel and meet your new puppy’s parents. Ask how many breeds of dogs they offer: A “breeder” who has multiple breeds of puppy available is probably a puppy mill. In almost all cases, responsible breeders will only breed one type of dog. This allows them to reduce the incidence of breed-related genetic defects by careful selection of mates. Puppy mills have no interest in producing healthy, genetically sound animals; they only focus on quantity of puppies produced.
Another sign of a responsible breeder is that they will be very careful about the people to whom they sell their puppies. There should be some kind of interview process where they get to know the future puppy’s family and what kind of environment he or she will be living in. Also, they will typically offer to take the puppy back if any problems arise.
The very best way to bring a new dog into your home is to adopt one from a shelter or rescue group. There are over 4 million dogs and cats put to death in shelters every year due to the staggering pet overpopulation problem in this country. If everyone adopted a dog (and had their dog spayed or neutered) we could put an end to the horrors of puppy mills and drastically reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters.

** I have chosen not to add any pictures with this post as they are just too disturbing. If you are interested just Google "puppy mill" and you will be amazed by what you find.

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