Monday, June 20, 2011

Puppy Mill
What Is a Puppy Mill?
The ASPCA defines a puppy mill as a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on careful husbandry for the integrity of their litters, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.

Puppy mill puppies are typically sold through pet shops and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The accuracy of their pedigree and purebred status is often questionable. Illnesses, diseases, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are not uncommon characteristics of dogs from puppy mills.

What Is the ASPCA’s Policy on Puppy Mills?
The ASPCA is not opposed to dog breeding when it is done humanely and responsibly. One hallmark of responsible breeders is that they assume lifetime accountability for the animals they have bred. Since puppy mills, by their very definition, are operations that fail to meet the ASPCA’s standards for responsible breeding, we are opposed to them. For more information, please see our Position Statement on Criteria for Responsible Breeding.

When, Where and Why Did Puppy Mills Begin?
Puppy mills began sprouting up after World War II. In response to widespread crop failures in the Midwest, the United States Department of Agriculture began promoting purebred puppies as a fool-proof “cash” crop. It is easy to see why this might have appealed to farmers facing hard times—breeding dogs does not require the intense physical labor that it takes to produce edible crops, nor are dogs as vulnerable to unfavorable weather. Chicken coops and rabbit hutches were repurposed for dogs, and the retail pet industry—pet stores large and small—boomed with the increasing supply of puppies from the new “mills.” Today, Missouri is considered the largest puppy mill state in the country.

Seeking a puppy supply source on the East Coast, puppy brokers—the middlemen who deliver the dogs from mills to pet stores—convinced many of Pennsylvania’s Amish farmers in the 1970s that puppies were the cash crop of the future. Brokers conducted seminars to teach farmers how to operate their own breeding facilities. Thirty years later, Lancaster County, PA, has the highest concentration of puppy mills of any county in the nation and has earned the dubious nickname of “Puppy Mill Capital of the East.”

How Are Animals Treated at Puppy Mills?
Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. The dogs never get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns.

In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they can no longer reproduce, breeder dogs are often killed. The same goes for puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable to pet stores.

Are There Laws to Protect Dogs in Puppy Mills?
The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) defines the minimum standards of care for dogs, cats and certain other species of animals bred for commercial resale and exhibition. The AWA also requires that certain categories of commercial breeders be licensed and routinely inspected by the USDA. However, violations regularly go unpunished, and there are innumerable loopholes and faults within the current system. For one thing, only those animal breeding businesses considered "wholesale" operations—those that sell animals to stores that will resell them—are overseen by the USDA. The AWA does not apply to facilities that sell directly to the public, including the thousands that now do so via the Internet.

Breeders who sell to the public often fall through the cracks on the state level, as well. The federal government doesn't require them to be licensed as they are considered "retail pet stores," leaving them to states and consumers to regulate. However, states often deem these facilities "breeders," not "retail pet stores"—thus leaving them to be regulated by the USDA.

The result is that no one regulates these facilities. There are no inspections, no standards that they are required to meet, and no consequences for providing inadequate care. As more people purchase puppies via the Internet, more and more breeders are using this loophole to get around regulation and inspection. Lack of enforcement by the USDA and state agriculture departments means that thousands of dogs are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions year in and year out

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