How Did It All Start
The breeding of dogs began as a cash crop for strapped Midwest farmers. Following widespread crop failures in the late 1940s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began promoting a new crop for farmers to raise—puppies. Unlike farming to produce food, raising puppies was less labor intensive and not vulnerable to the vagaries of Mother Nature. Farmers already had out buildings on their properties so converting chicken coops and rabbit hutches to puppy cages entailed little time and expense on their part.
With the increase in the number of puppies being produced, a new player came on the scene—the puppy store. Sears Roebuck used to sell puppies in their pet departments and from there the stand-alone puppy store flourished. Next entered the puppy broker. This person would deliver the puppies from the mills to the pet stores. Some puppies would travel miles, often in pickup trucks, tractor trailers, and other conveyances, many unsuitable to the transport of young animals, from where they were bred to where they were sold. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has been considered the Puppy Mill Capital of the East. Other states that have concentrated numbers of puppy mills are Missouri and Nebraska, although almost all states have puppy mills within their borders.
- You are not permitted to visit the puppy’s parents, or at least the mother.
- You are not permitted to visit the breeding site.
- You are required to complete a sales contract (rather than an adoption contract).
- The puppy is obtained unseen through the Internet and shipped directly to you.
You Still Want a Puppy
You do not want to support a puppy mill, but you still want a puppy. Here are some suggestions:
- Search out reputable breeders of the type of dog you want—check with your veterinarian, the local animal shelter where often as many as 25 percent of the dogs are purebred, and other reputable animal rescue groups.
- Contact breed-specific rescue groups for the breed you want. They are far more knowledgeable than any puppy mill breeder on the nature of the breed you are interested in adopting.
- Many pet stores, instead of selling puppies, now host adoption fairs by local animal rescue groups. Attend those. By adopting rather than buying, puppy mills will cease to exist.
To absolutely ensure you are not buying a puppy mill pup: Never buy from a pet store. Never buy off the Internet. Sellers off the Internet are not held to the Animal Welfare Act’s (AWA) regulations and are not inspected by USDA. Never buy out of a truck in a parking lot.
- Support local animal shelters and reputable rescue groups with your time, talent, and money.
- Report animal cruelty wherever you find it.
- Write your legislators to urge increased inspections of kennels under the standards set in the AWA. Express dissatisfaction at the lack of USDA enforcement of the AWA.
- Write the USDA urging them to enforce the AWA by hiring more inspectors. Only 70 USDA inspectors are responsible for inspecting nearly 4,500 kennels a year.
- Support legislation to curb the number of dogs one can breed.