We have lived with dogs for thousands of years. Our relationship with these animals stretches back to before the invention of agriculture, before Rome was an empire, and long before Socrates was bothering the Athenians with so many questions. So maybe it’s not really surprising that people seem to love no other creatures as much as we love dogs. And why not? They’re loyal, playful, intelligent and hilarious. They are great companions.
But in our long history with dogs, we have often not been as good to them as they have been to us. Today dogs are more popular than ever. This has created a huge industry not just for dog food, treats and toys, but an industry in the sale of dogs themselves. In malls and shopping centers around the world, parents bring their children to pet stores where they can see the puppies that are kept in small cages or enclosures, waiting for someone to buy them. The deprived conditions in pet stores are bad enough for an energetic, explorative young dog. But how did these dogs come to be in the pet store in the first place?
The answer is puppy mills. Puppy mills are profit-driven enterprises where pure bred dogs are produced as fast as possible for sale at pet stores. Breeding females are forced to undertake pregnancy after pregnancy with the minimum possible amount of rest time between litters, leading to physical depletion and exhaustion. While some wind up being adopted by rescue agencies, many are simply killed once they are too drained to continue carrying litters. The stress of so many continuous pregnancies often results in the loss of teeth and hair for these mothers who have their puppies taken away from them long before they are old enough.
Pure bred dogs are well known for high rates of genetic diseases, from hip dysplasia to cataracts. This results from small breeding pools designed to maintain the desire breed characteristics. This problem is greatly exacerbated by puppy mills, who have no concern for the genetics of their dogs, and will happily inbreed generations if it means a quick profit.
The dogs are kept in tiny cage, often cheaply made from wire mesh which can painful lesions and sores for the animals that must endure them for extended periods of time. Puppy mills treat these intelligent, curious creatures like factory products: the goal is to produce as many of them as possible with minimal expenditure. So puppies end up being torn away from their litter-mates and their mother far too early, which can leave them with lasting trauma which can effect them long after the dog has been purchased by a loving but ill-informed family.
The obvious truth is that dogs are not objects. They are emotional, conscious beings. Responsible breeders who care for the well-being of their dogs would never sell to a pet store, where there is no vetting whatsoever of the potential buyers. Puppy mills exist solely to supply animals for unscrupulous profit-drive pet stores who don’t care who they sell dogs to and care even less about the well-being of the dogs they sell.
As a responsible dog adopter and someone who cares about animals, it is important not to support this sordid and disgusting industry. Shelters around the world are overcrowded with wonderful animals who desperately need a loving home to go to. The endless breeding of dogs on puppy mills aggravates this crisis. Adoption should always be the first choice for anyone looking to introduce a dog into their family. But if for some reason you cannot adopt, then find a responsible, independent breeder who cares for their dogs and for the health of the breed, and meet them in person.
There is absolutely no reason, aside from ignorance, for anyone to support the awful industry which is puppy mills, and the suffering it creates for the species which we consider our closest friends.
To learn more about how you can help to reduce the suffering in the world, see our Ways to Help page.