It’s been said for time immemorial – dogs are man’s best friend. The bond between human beings and our canine companions is a special thing, after all – we’ve developed a trusting relationship over millennia. There are even studies that suggest humans have learned from wolves and dogs, changing our social structures and cultures based on a pack mentality, and cooperation when hunting, exploring, and communicating. We have a lot in common.
This complex relationship deserves respect. Ethical breeders and dog owners should pay close attention to the conditions they raise their dogs in, and the types of places and people that play a role in where we find our poochy friends in the beginnings of their life.
What’s a Puppy Mill Anyway?
A puppy mill is often known for inhumane conditions, and is officially defined by the Canadian Kennel Club as a high-volume, sub-standard dog-breeding operation which tries to sell the maximum number of purebred or mixed breed dogs directly or indirectly to its buyers.
Its official declaration notes 4 specific traits of Puppy Mill operations:
1. Sub-standard health and/or environmental issues
2. Sub-standard animal care, treatment and/or socialization
3. Sub-standard breeding practices which lead to genetic defects or hereditary disorders
4. Erroneous of falsified certificates or registration, pedigrees and/or genetic background.
While we may have an idea that puppy mills are huge places with many dogs, we have to remember that Puppy Mills can include small volume or single breed establishments as well.
Mills usually sell to pet stores through a broker, and also sometimes sell directly to people looking to adopt a new pet. These animals are sold only for profit and very little care is put into their emotional and physical well-being. They are forced to breed constantly.
Mills are almost always hidden from the public and usually store their animals in small dirty crates and awful living conditions.
How Do Mills Affect the Dogs?
Puppy mill animals almost always have genetic defects and physical abnormalities because of over-breeding, and sometimes inbreeding. They can also develop physical problems and health issues from lack of exercise, lack of food and clean water, cramped space where they are confined to a certain position.
Dogs that are raised in puppy mills can struggle throughout their lives, after they’ve left the puppy mill. They understandably carry a natural fear of humans.
When they’re treated so poorly and neglected for the sake of profit, they can become timid, fearful and have difficulty adjusting to being around humans, including kids and other dogs. Because they are kept in cages until they’re sold, these dogs are often not used to strange sounds,
Long-lasting effects that mills have on dogs include increased fear, compulsive behaviors like spinning in circles and pacing, uncontrollably going the bathroom in the house, and a hyper sensitivity to being touched or picked up.
What to Look for in the Puppies
There are many physical traits that puppies raised in puppy mills can have. They range from obvious defects to things that are harder to notice.
1. They may be too young – Puppy mills don’t like to spend much money because they’re in the business of making a profit, so a mill may try to sell puppies at an earlier age to avoid paying for food and vaccinations. If the dog is younger than 8 weeks, it’s too early for them to leave their mother.
2. No vaccinations – Puppy mills force-breed parents that are sometimes not vaccinated as a result of trying to keep profits high. The puppies may not be vaccinated either. Look for strange cough’s and snorts in the puppies, a common sign of Bordetella, or Kennel Cough - an illness dogs can get when they’re kept in dirty cramped conditions. Excessive scratching may be a sign of ticks, fleas, or skin irritations.
3. Number of pups – An ethical breeder should only have one litter of puppies at a time. If the response from the breeder is that they have multiple litters and more on the way, it’s definitely a puppy mill.
4. Several breeds – A good responsible breeder will only focus on one breed, two maximum. If you find that the breeder is selling many different types of puppies at the same operation, it’s probably a puppy mill.
5. Matted fur – Being neglected and trapped in cramped cages means that the dogs urine and feces often become matted in their fur over time.
How to Report a Puppy Mill Operation
The sad thing is, technically, puppy mills are not illegal in Canada. Canada’s animal cruelty laws do not protect mill dogs unless they are living in terrible conditions. The Canadian government also doesn’t regulate commercial breeders, so knowing who and where these puppy mills are operated by, and are located is hard.
If you think you’ve been to, or have witnessed awful, dirty conditions in a puppy mill like the ones described here, or you’ve witnessed cruel behavior committed against these dogs, the first step is contacting your local police department. Give them as many details as possible, and if you can, take photos of the conditions you see.
You can also call your local SPCA or Humane Society immediately and tell them what you have seen. It’s up to us to speak out against the awful treatment of man’s best friends in places like filthy, inhumane puppy mills.
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