Today is Stop Puppy Mills Day. It is the day we can all come together to educate ourselves on how we can hopefully stop this awful industry.
Puppy and kitten mills have been around for decades, filling the gap in supply from concientious breeders and demand from an under-educated public. Demand for certain breeds ebbs and flows. When a Paris Hilton wanders around with one of her chihuahuas, it becomes all the rage amongs some of the more impressionable people. A good breeder, aiming to produce puppies sound of health and temperament, will not suddenly ramp up their breeding schedule to fill the gap in supply.
This leaves it to mills, who see the opportunity for a quick profit. As you can imagine, to increase that profit, any cost that can be cut, will be. This includes such basics as good quality food, veterinary care, flea and tick prevention, and adequate shelter. It is common practice for mills to be largely based outside- open to the elements, including rain and snow. Mums and their litters are forced to huddle together, to try and share some warmth.
A failure to test for genetic diseases, and then the inbreeding of stock rather than paying for Stud or Queening services, means a prevalence of genetic disorders in mill animals. Weak genes are reinforced, and it is common for those who have bought mill animals to have to shell out for veterinary care after getting their new aquisition home, if their new puppy or kitten survives the first few weeks.
Many mills onsell to pet shops. This helps them to avoid attention from concientious buyers who want to see the conditions the animal and parents live in. Store's like Petland and Dave's Petbarn support the profiteers in the mill industry by turning a blind eye to where the animals come from.
Auctions are held for mill animals, where unsound animals are sold for inflated prices, and added to the breeding programs (if you can call them that) of other mills.
Possibly the worst implication of mills is that these animals live in cramped, filthy places, with a total absence of human care and affection. Many mill animals do not even have names, let alone know how to play, walk on a lead, or generally enjoy the company of humans.
Those people interested in a purebred animal are especially at risk of being taken advantage of by a mill. There are some basic steps you can take to check out a breeder, prior to taking an animal home.
-Is the breeder registered with a recognised state or national registry?
- Insist on seeing where the kitten has been living, the mother and rest of the litter, and if possible the father. Do they seem healthy and alert? Clear eyes and noses, good activity levels?
- Ask for results of genetic testing done, and discuss how the breeder has taken steps to decrease the likelihood genetic diseases have been passed on.
- Does the breeder show animals? How are they regarded in the show world?
- A good breeder will be open and honest with you. They should encourage you to check them out, and will discuss the breed charachteristics with you, to make sure they are a match for your family.
- A good breeder will be easy to contact. They will want to stay in touch after you take the puppy or kitten home. Remember, they breed because they love these animals, and will want to know how they are getting on.
- A good breeder will never let you take an animal before they are at least 8 weeks of age.
-Are the puppies or kittens living in a home environment, and are they being well socialised towards people and other animals?
Some red flags:
-Does the breeder want to meet at a neutral site, such as a park or at your home?
- Does the breeder identify themselves as being registered with an obscure or little recognised registry?
- Attention from a humane or rescue organisation.
- The breeder makes excuses for not seeing the parents, or claims to be an agent for the sale, rather than the breeder.
- The puppy or kitten looks dirty and not well groomed, has gunky eyes or signs of an Upper Respiratory Infection.
If you are not interested in a purebred animal, but don't want to support the mill industry, there are ways to do this. Some pet shops, such as several PetSmart stores in the US, support local rescue groups, and allow their groups to set up stands to show their kittens and puppies. Local rescue organisations and humans societies like the RSPCA are a great starting point. There are also some dedicated breed rescues, so if you are after a purebreed, they can be a great help.
If you would like some more information,
A Day In The Life of a Rescuer by E.S. Everitt is a very informative read on what a rescuer goes through at a mill auction, and their first hand experiences.
The Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project has a lot of very good information, first hand accounts, laws and legislation, rescue stories and what you can do to help.
"...if one person is unkind to an animal, it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people." -- Ruth Harrison