Puppy Mills: The Sickening Truth Behind Illegal Breeders and How You Can Stop Them
What are Puppy Mills?
The term ‘puppy mills’ is literally defined as ‘an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane’, and you already know there’s something not so right about them.
In this article, we try to breakdown exactly what is wrong about puppy mills, how these wrongs affect our pets, society, and the ecosystem as a whole, and how can we bring an end to this problem.
Why do Puppy Mills exist?
According to Euromonitor International, India is the fastest-growing pet market in the world. This growth also means an increased demand for the animals themselves. As fascinated as we are by everything foreign, Indians have developed an obsession for pedigreed dog breeds. And we want them at the lowest price possible.
To meet these demands breeders set up Puppy Mills. Puppy mills help them avoid import and other overhead costs. Only providing for the animals’ bare minimum necessities to survive until they are sold or dead. Puppy mills let breeders get the maximum returns for minimum investment.
Are Puppy Mills legal?
Technically, yes. If run abiding by the laws and regulations put down by the Government of India, puppy mills are legal. The ones treating the animals cruelly though are not. And let’s be honest, most puppy mills do not care about the condition their dogs live in.
What goes on inside a Puppy Mill?
Dogs in puppy mills live in conditions as filthy as you can imagine. They are caged in cages barely their size and kept cramped in dimly-lit, damp spaces. Neither are they cleaned, nor their bodily waste disposed of properly. They survive on contaminated water and stale food.
Animals in puppy mills are treated as nothing more than a profit-making commodity. It is hence very obvious that the mill runners do not bother about treating diseases in these animals. Ill and suffering puppies are often passed off and sold as fit, or meet their death in the mills itself. Sickness in breeding dogs that could pass on the litter isn’t treated either. The rampant inbreeding practice gives birth to a variety of birth defects or other genetic disorders.
While there can be no comparison drawn as to who suffers the most in a puppy mill, the breeding female dogs are definitely put through the most physical and psychological trauma. They are forcefully bred (using rape stands) without enough resting period in between litters, injected hormones to speed their Estrus cycles, right from their first heat to when they wear out and cannot give birth anymore. Many die in the process, others are abandoned once useless to the mill runners.
Puppies aren’t socialized and live in horrible conditions putting them through trauma at such a young age – eventually leading to behavioral and psychological issues in dogs as they grow.
Who do Puppy Mills affect?
The first and most important party that faces the impact of Puppy Mills are our pets. The environment inside puppy mills leads to a compromised immune system, increased genetic disorders, behavioral issues and an overall inferior quality of life for the animals. These issues are passed down the bloodline leading to a whole generation of weak, unfit, and suffering dogs. This is a big reason why home breeding of pets is discouraged.
Buying pets that are susceptible to multiple health and/or behavioral issues turns the experience of pet parenting sour. Know that the only one to blame for this would be humans and not the animals. However, these issues are a major reason why a number of pets are abandoned all over the country. Abandoned pets lead to packed animal shelters and sparse resources to care for them. Many also face unfortunate deaths on the street.
Ever since Puppy Mills were established (after World War II), they have only been treated as money minting factories by their owners. Diet, healthcare, hygiene, and sanitation were never paid heed to. This continues to happen to this day.
Hundreds of dogs die inside these puppy mills. They are almost never cremated in a proper manner, just dumped. The feces of dogs living in puppy mills are never cleaned or disposed of properly. These produce extremely hazardous pathogens that enter the soil (hence vegetation), water, and the air that we consume every day.
Laws regarding Puppy Mills and Breeders in India
The Government of India has clearly outlined the rules and regulations for the activity of breeding dogs. These rules are also revised often and public suggestions for the same are taken into consideration. The latest edition came out in 2017, it is referred to as the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017’. These impose:
- Prohibition on breeding dogs without registration:
The rule states that no breeder can breed, or own and house dogs with the intent of sale without a certificate of registration of the establishment being used for breeding from the State Board [Para 3.(1)]. The certificate must be displayed at the establishment at all times [Para 3.(2)] and the establishment must be kept open for inspection by authorized personnel of the State Board [Para 3.(3)].
- Registration of breeder and establishment:
A breeder is required to be more than 18 years of age and in a sound mind or a duly registered corporation/association [Para 4.(1)]. Every establishment the breeder uses for breeding needs its individual registration [Para 4.(3)]. This registration is valid for 2 years only and must be renewed thereafter [Para 4.(9)].
- Inspection of establishment:
The State Board can send an inspector to the breeder’s establishment on receiving a complaint or for any other reason [Para 7.(1)]. The inspector has unconditional access to all the areas in the establishment, its animals and records [Para 7.(2.a)]. They can take photographs, videos and make copies of their records [Para 7.(2.b)].
Every registered establishment will be inspected at least once a year [Para 7.(3)].
- Conditions of sale:
Breeders are prohibited from selling pups less than eight weeks old [Para 8.(1.a)], and intact dogs over six months of age (unless being sold to another licensed breeder) [Para 8.(1.b)].
The breeder must provide details of the dog, like feeding schedule, dates of inoculations and de-worming of the pup, and the name and address of the veterinary practitioner who was attending to it in writing to the purchaser [Para 8.(2)]. They must also screen prospective purchasers for their potential to take proper care of the breed (especially if it is a large one), to attend to its grooming, socializing, spatial and veterinary needs, and to bear the expense for its upkeep and maintenance [Para 8.(3)]. They must also maintain records of every purchase and take timely updates on the state of the dog, at least once a year [Para 8.(5)].
Breeders are also prohibited from selling their pups to unlicensed pet shops, or for any other activity that is illegal [Para 8.(4)].
‘The Second Schedule’ also prescribes the ‘facilities to be provided by the breeder in an establishment’, ‘general requirements’, ‘health-related requirements’, and ‘housing facilities and manner of housing dogs’. These cover all other aspects of the conditions puppy mills are expected to operate in.
How you can help make things better?
Puppy Mills are yet another man-made mess to meet his greed. Both, the breeder and the buyer are to be blamed for engaging in something so heinous. Puppy Mills are a societal evil whose effects go beyond pet-owning families. The responsibility to have them function in order and in compliance with laws, hence, lies on the shoulders of all of us, not just animal lovers or pet owners.
If we want to see change, we need to start working towards it as a community. Here are some ways, big and small, through which you could help make things better.
Awareness is the first step towards change. A majority of people out there still do not know about Puppy Mills or what happens in them. Educating others is the easiest way you could contribute towards the cause. When you get to know of a friend or family member that is planning a dog, speak with them and let them know how buying a dog can affect them on various levels. Especially about the health issues that come along with a poorly-bred pet.
Another way is to use the tool at your hands – Social Media. Share informational content, busts, stories, etc. in order to inspire people to adopt pets and not shop.
Puppy Mills exist to meet our need for pedigreed dogs and fondness for foreign breeds. But once you have a look at the ugly conditions these pups are bred in you’d want to disassociate with the whole process of buying dogs. If it is for the love of an animal and the need for a companion, we swear you’d feel the same with an adopted one.
Boycott pet stores, shops, and websites selling dogs online. Reach out to local shelters and rescuers instead. You’d be surprised at the options you’d still have to choose a pet that suits your needs. Plus the amazing feeling of giving them a second chance at life, a home, and a place to rest their head.
If, for whatever reason, you want to bring home only a pedigreed dog, buy responsibly too. Get in touch with an ethical breeder. Ethical breeders are definitely more careful of the manner their pups are raised in.
Here are some Red Flags in the Process of Buying a Dog:
- Unrealistic pricing
If a breeder is offering you the pet at a very cheap price, chances are they did not spend enough resources, time and attention on how the pup was bred. The breeder could also be trying to get rid of a sick pup. Know that a well-bred, healthy, pedigree dog will cost you money and there is no hack to get one for cheap.
- Visit the establishment
An ethical breeder will never have an issue with you wanting to visit their facility. Ethical breeders barely ever have massive factories. If a breeder gives you a incredulous reason to not allow you to visit, know something may be cooking.
- Infant pups
According to law, breeders cannot sell pets under the age of 8 weeks. Ethical breeders may even choose to keep their pups for as long as 3-5 months before giving them out. If a breeder is selling you a puppy under 8 weeks, know what he is committing is not only a crime but also unfair to the puppy.
- No inquiries
Ethical breeders bring their dogs up with a lot of care and affection. When you are in talks about getting one of them, they will generally want to ask you questions to ensure you are equipped, ready and capable of taking care of the dog further.
- No formalities
An ethical breeder will make you go through the law-prescribed procedure of getting a dog. They will make you sign a contract and hand over your pup’s veterinary records, vaccination details, and all the information that may come handy to you. If your breeder just lets you walk in, pay up and take the pup, you are buying at the wrong place.
Become an advocate
If your schedule allows you to, take time out to do something solid. You could even help shut down some unethical puppy mills and be the superhero of dawgies and kitties. Here’s how you can do that,
Step 1: Know the Laws
It is very important to know what is right before you step out to fix the wrong. Read up from legitimate sources on the laws present in our country and your state specifically too. You could also reach out to a law professional in your circle to help you understand them better.
Step 2: Be Vigilant
That is why they call them a vigilante! Be on the lookout for suspicious activities always. If you know of a puppy mill around you, watch for them breaking any laws. You will be surprised at how soon you will find something.
Step 3: Reach Out
Once you are sure that the establishment is wrong, reach out to the authorities. Contact your State Animal Welfare Board and register a complaint. The board will send an inspector to the site on receiving a complaint. Simultaneously, contact an animal organization, NGO or someone working with animal safety. Tell them about the establishment and that you have complained to the Board. An organization can help you fast track the response by the Board.
NOTE: Do not try to initiate conversation or get into an argument with the mill owners on your own. Having people and the law, with you always keeps you in a better, safer position.
Once the inspection takes place and the breeder is found guilty he may be fined and/or his license canceled. The animals in the facility will then be taken by the authority to state veterinary hospitals for treatment and then to a shelter. Through this process, follow up and ensure the animals reach a safe place soon.
Who are Backyard Breeders?
To put it simply, backyard breeders are amateurs, not professional breeders. They generally know nothing about the science, requirements, and process of breeding. Pet-parents who own a good-looking, supposedly purebred dog generally want to have their dog mated. Once the litter is born, they sell the puppies. This practice is known as backyard breeding.
It is indeed a very wrong way to bring life into the world, and also illegal.
So, Is it Illegal to Breed my Dog at Home?
No. As long you plan to parent the puppies yourself and not sell them for profits, you’re fine. However, it is not ideal to mate your dog and let them have a litter on their own. The job should be left to professional ethical breeders that go through the rigorous process of ensuring the puppies born are healthy and wary of any genetic disorders.
Pet overpopulation is a real issue in our country that needs a solution. Thousands of dogs in shelters wait all their lives in the hope of getting adopted to a loving home. Hence, adding more puppies to the ecosystem is not what we need.
Genetic issues are another major problem in irresponsible breeding. Not every dog is right to be bred. Breeding goes beyond just how your dog looks. Your pet may have issues, physical or behavioral, that will be passed down to their offsprings.
Worldwide Movement Against Puppy Mills
The brutality of Puppy Mills is no more a secret. They exist all over the world and numerous NGOs and animal welfare organizations work towards tracking and shutting them down, rescuing the animals, and treating and rehabilitating them.
NMDR (National Mill Dog Rescue), in the United States was founded in 2007 in memory of Lily. Lily was an Italian Grey Hound that Theresa Strader bought from a puppy mill that was shutting down (Along with 12 other dogs).
This is Lily. She was 7 years old when Theresa rescued her. These 7 years of her life she lived in a puppy mill and gave birth to two litters of pups every single year.
Just at 7 years, she was worn out. Her jaw had decayed and rotten away, she had four mammary tumors and a uterus filled with black pus. Even after the best treatment, Lily could barely live a year more. The average life expectancy of her breed is 15 years and Lily passed away at just half that age. The pups that she gave birth to though must be out there somewhere living in their forever homes.
Countless female dogs like Lily endure the suffering and pain for our fancies. If you bought your dog from a pet store, a mill, online or using any other cheap means know that you are equally responsible for this condition of your pup’s mother.
Do your bit towards stopping the atrocities puppy mills inflict on our animals. Know that every living being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and not as a money-making commodity. Humans chose to domesticate dogs ages ago, and since then the species has only been loyal, giving and loving towards our race. What do we give them in return?
How do you feel about Puppy Mills? Tell us in the comments.
FOR INFORMATION ONLY – NOT VETERINARY CARE
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