Back to School with Golden Rescue - What You Need To Know About Puppy Mills
Lesson #3: What You Need To Know About Puppy Mills
You have possibly heard of them, or seen segments about their busts on the evening news. They are the ugly underbelly of the dog world, the story behind the irresistible faces you see in the pet store or online, and yet they continue to run rampant in both Canada and the United States. They are puppy mills.
The discussion of puppy mills is not for the faint of heart, and defies most people’s perceptions of how animals should be treated. A puppy mill is a commercial breeding facility that operates to maximize its output of puppies at minimal cost, with no regard for the psychological welfare or health of a dog. Since each puppy can sell for $400-1500, these operations become a multi-million dollar industry. Ontario Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that there are 400 mills operating in Ontario alone.
Depending on the size of the puppy mill, operators of these farms can own hundreds of dogs, females typically outnumbering males. The females are forced to breed every season cycle and whelp litter after litter, which takes a tragic effect on their bodies. The puppies are commonly taken from their mother prematurely, leaving them with weakened immune systems and susceptible to illnesses such as respiratory disease, canine parvovirus and distemper. These puppies are being produced by the thousands in Canada, and sold to an unsuspecting public.
Puppy mills are notorious for their commercial breeding systems, in addition to the deplorable conditions that dogs are forced to endure. Dogs are confined to a cage, often for their entire lives, with nowhere to escape from the other dogs or to relieve themselves. The animals are seldom provided adequate shelter, leaving them exposed to extreme heat and cold, and do not receive any exercise or socialization. The dogs rarely receive medical attention, leaving many to suffer through tumours, parasites, infections, and disease, caused from living in squalor. These conditions can take a severe psychological effect on the dogs, driving many to develop “kennel crazy”. Mill pups, understandably, can also develop a strong fear of human contact.
Mill owners want to make a quick and easy profit, and puppies are a lucrative exploitation market. The fundamental reason that puppy mills are so profitable is because they have companies willing to buy puppies for retail, and consumer markets willing to purchase them. It is estimated that at least 90% of puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills. When visiting the pet store, many people fall in love with the irresistible faces behind the glass, are hit by compulsion, and feel compelled to "save" the dog from this existence. These consumers have no idea the type of trade they are supporting, for when they buy that one puppy in the window, they make room for another mill pup to take its place.
So how can you help? There are a few ways that each dog lover can make an immense impact:
- Do not buy dogs from pet stores and encourage your friends and family to do the same
- Do not buy a puppy off an online classified website
- Lend your support and sign this petition seeking the ban of animal sales on Kijiji
Homework: Your homework for this lesson is to read and reflect on the following:
I keep my eyes tightly shut, because without having to look, I know out there it is dark. The kind of dark where even shadows melt into blackness. I know I am not alone though, because I can feel the warmth of several bodies packed in beside me. We wait in silence until we hear the heavy footsteps approach the door. Then the familiar creak of the barn door swinging open. The silence breaks. Now there are frightened voices. Hundreds, maybe thousands of voices. I really cannot tell, because they come from beneath me, beside me, and from above, but the silence is broken and I hear a circus of screaming fill up the black room.
As the door opens, light floods the room and invades our eyes. I cannot see him, but I can hear him enter. A cage opens, and I hear a soft whimper, a plea to be left alone, but no one here is ever alone. I freeze. Maybe if I don’t move I can be invisible. I am a puppy mill dog and today is another day.
I have never been anywhere but here. The walls of my cage are all I know. I was born here and will live my life here. I will continue to raise litter after litter until my tired body cannot do it anymore. Then I will be useless to him. I am not one of the lucky ones. The lucky ones get out. The lucky ones are puppies that go to a home. I am not a lucky one. I am a puppy mill dog and today is another day.
I am hungry, but I will not eat. I will have to swallow the hunger pain for another day. It is so hard to feed your pups when you feel that familiar pang. I try to forget, but I have never been able to stomach the stench. That toxic smell that pierces your lungs and waters your eyes, making it hard to breath. My feet hurt. I have many sores from my feet getting snagged in the wire. The mats in my fur pull at my raw skin and make it hard to see. Out here, there is no place to escape the summer heat or winter freeze. I am a puppy mill dog and today is another day.
I have never known a family. I do not know what it means to be loved as a pet, to be showered with kisses or consoled when I am scared. I have never felt grass beneath my feet, sunshine on my face, or the comfort of a soft bed to sleep in. Hands do not bring me joy, they cause me pain. I do not have a name. I am a number. I am a puppy mill dog and today is another day.
I keep my eyes tightly shut, because without having to look, I know out there it is dark. The kind of dark where even shadows melt into blackness. We wait in silence until we hear the heavy footsteps approach the door. Then the familiar creak of the barn door swinging open. The silence breaks. The frightened voices fill the room. But now men in boots tread in and begin to unlock cages. Now he is in front of me. I freeze. Maybe if I don’t move, I can be invisible. A hand enters my cage, and softly strokes my ear. He tells me he is here now. This feels differently. I feel lighter. I have hope.
I am a puppy mill dog and today I am free.