The Animal Rescue Corps, an outfit that specializes in rescuing and protecting dogs and other animals from cruelty and abuse, recently paid a visit toa kennel outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and found an appalling scene—dogs and puppies everywhere, some locked up in cages inside the building, some in cages outside, unprotected from the elements, all of them sick, mangy, cadaverously underfed, and in some cases dead.
The place was a puppy mill, one of the worst they had ever seen. Most of the dogs were purebreds—Chihuahuas, Yorkshire and Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus and Poodles among other breeds.
The rescuers managed to save forty-eight puppies, and the sort-of happy ending is that the dogs are being well cared for now, most of them are getting better, and some have been adopted.
Unfortunately, puppy mills are a major growth industry in the United States and in other parts of the world.
The business actually got started in the U.S. after World War II, when a growing population began doing better financially, able to buy things, including houses and pets to put into them. At that point a new kind of breeder got into the act, people who bred new puppies as fast as they could to meet the demand, with little or no concern about the animals’ wellbeing.
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are, at any time, four thousand puppy mills doing business, producing half a million puppies a year. The parent dogs are typically bred every time they come into heat, until they are finally worn out. The pups are usually weaned prematurely, so that they can be sent to market as soon as possible, and they are sent out with no real attention paid to their health or physical condition.
Weak Lawn, Weaker Enforcement
In the U.S. puppy breeders are supposedly regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act. That law is supposed to be enforced by the already understaffed and overloaded Department of Agriculture, which means it mostly isn’t enforced at all. In Europe the situation may be even worse, as the open borders there make it easy for people running puppy mills in central Europe to ship dogs in all directions. Ireland is a positive example of what might be do-able. It was once known as the “puppy farm of Europe,” but has now passed laws that have essentially wiped the business out.
What You Can Do
There are no magic answers, but two things can help.
First, if you know of, or hear about, a puppy mill operation in your area, go to the authorities. Calls the SPCA or your local Humane Society office and alert them.
More important, if you are planning on getting a dog of your own, never go to a pet shop. Almost all of the dogs sold in pet shops come from puppy mills.