Each year, millions of Americans fall in love
with "that puppy in the window." They are cuddly. They
are adorable. And you must have one. But let the buyer beware. There's
another side of the pet shop business that keeps those puppies coming
and it has nothing to do with love. Its about a multi-million dollar
industry driven by puppy love. Dateline NBC featured a story about
the cruelties that exist with in the commercial pet trade and the
puppy mills that supply those little wet noses to the pet stores
in this city and around the country.
What Are Puppy Mills?
A puppy mill is a breeding facility that mass-produces purebred
puppies. They are typically sold at seven to eight weeks of age
to brokers and retail operations across the U.S. The dams are over
bred, inbred, receive minimal veterinary care, poor quality food
and shelter, lack necessary socialization with humans, and live
in tight, overcrowded cages. To the unsuspecting consumer, this
situation frequently means buying a puppy facing an assortment of
veterinary medical problems or harboring genetically borne diseases
that do not appear until years later. On an even sadder note, these
breeding dogs are forced to live in puppy mills for their whole
lives so that they can continue to produce more puppies. Repeatedly
bred, most of these "brood bitches" are killed once their
ability to reproduce declines.
According to the Humane Society of the United
States, there are over 4,000 of these puppy mills currently operating
in the United States. Many of them are repeatedly sited for violations
of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and other United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. The agency uses a
force of approximately 70 inspectors to enforce its code--an average
of 57 facilities per agent per year that need inspection. Although
all 50 states have anti-cruelty
laws designed to thwart neglect and abuse of dogs in puppy mills,
such laws are seldom enforced in rural areas where most puppy mills
The Pet Store Link
Puppy-mill dogs are the "inventory" of the retail pet
store operations. According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
(PIJAC), approximately 3,500 to 3,700 of the 11,500 to 12,000 U.S.
pet stores sell cats and dogs. PIJAC also estimates that pet stores
sell 300,000 to 400,000 puppies every year. In 1984, the General
Accounting Office, the investigative branch of the U.S. government,
found major deficiencies in the enforcement of the AWA rules concerning
puppy mills. Despite promises to improve its inspection process,
the USDA has yet to live up to its promises.
Doggie Lemon Laws
Many states are responding to the horrific practices of puppy mills
by enacting "lemon laws" that protect consumers who buy
puppies. Sixteen states now have laws or regulations that allow
consumers to receive reimbursement of veterinary bills or full refunds
when a sick puppy is purchased. While these laws place a limited
onus on pet stores and puppy mills to sell healthy puppies, and
theoretically improve conditions for their breeding facilities,
they do not adequately protect the animals who suffer in these establishment.
What can you do?
It's simple: Never buy a puppy from a pet store! If you live in
New York City, visit one of the Center for Animal Care and Control
(CACC) shelters in Manhattan (212-722-3620) Brooklyn (718-272-7200
) or Staten Island (718-984-6643) and adopt a puppy or an older
adult dog. You will not only be sending a message to puppy mills
and pet shops by not supporting their businesses, you may also be
saving a very small and wonderful life.