Many dog owners may have heard the term “puppy mill” thrown around, but not everyone knows what they are. Puppy mills are a nickname for bad or negligent large-scale commercial breeders. Of course, not all breeders who sell dogs are bad. A puppy mill usually refers to a place that doesn’t provide dogs with adequate space or services. Puppy mills work similarly to large commercial farms, with anywhere between 10 to 1,000 breeding dogs.
Organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are actively opposed to puppy mills, many of which are legal operations, because they claim that these large-scale breeders put profit above canine well-being.
“Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water, and socialization,” the ASPCA explained. “Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise, or basic grooming … Breeding dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or breathe fresh air.”
The sanitary conditions are also often bad, leaving dogs to live near their waste. Puppy mills typically sell their dogs to pet stores, through brokers, or over the Internet. They’re known for lying about records and falsifying documents, the ASPCA explained.
Blurred lines with some breeders
Online magazine Dog Owner’s Guide argued that, although puppy mills are bad for dogs, some measures to prevent puppy mills make it tough on responsible breeders. Taxes, fees and restrictions can sometimes punish caring breeders as well because of how they’re written.
The issue comes from the inability to adequately define a puppy mill. Although they are universally seen as a bad place for dogs, distinguishing between them and legitimate breeders is more challenging than it appears.
Dog Owner’s Guide explained that puppy mills started after World War II to supply pet and department stores with puppies. However, many of the people who were breeding these dogs were farmers who didn’t know anything specifically about dogs, keeping them living in poor conditions.
Over time, animal groups tried to address this through lobbying and public awareness. This has led to many local rule changes and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the breeding and selling of puppies on a large scale. This act did not define a puppy mill, however, and hasn’t gone as far as many think it should.
Under the law, it’s legal for dogs to spend their entire lives in cages stacked on one another with no more than 6 inches of space in each direction, according to the ASPCA. But it also requires feeding, water, cleanliness and veterinary care.
Puppy mills today in the US
The ASPCA reported that there are 2,000 to 3,000 USDA-approved breeders in America that could be called puppy mills. Although they’re federally regulated, they don’t necessarily provide the care that the ASPCA, dog lovers, or other advocacy associations may want. Missouri has the most commercial dog farms in the U.S., with other dense pockets in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.
There are also some puppy mills that are illegal and not regulated. Organizations like the ASPCA, various state SPCAs and humane societies have worked to close down specific puppy mills around the U.S. Also, they suggest that people don’t get their dogs from stores in order to collapse the puppy mill supply system over time. Instead, adopting or buying directly from a smaller, respectable breeder is preferable.
If you’re especially concerned about the well-being of dogs from puppy mills, some have been rescued and you can adopt them. When you’re training your survivor dog, turn to PetPlus for medication, healthy food and other goodies to help your dog lead a fulfilling and rich life.