Mass breeding of puppies has been a hot-button issue for decades with animal welfare activists, but until a NBC Dateline investigation revealed the inside of a puppy mill in April 2000, the general public was unaware of the deplorable, inhumane conditions breeding dogs endured, while their puppies were sold through mass market sources.
Overcrowding, filth and lack of food, water, shelter and veterinary care characterize conditions in puppy mills. Breeding-stock dogs eat, sleep, give birth and relieve themselves in the same 2-by-2-foot wire cage their entire lives, with little human contact. Skin infections, open wounds and ear and eye infections are widespread and usually not treated. Inbreeding is common, and dogs are not tested for genetic defects that can be passed to their offspring. Females are bred repeatedly, some as young as 6 months old. When they can no longer produce, they may be abandoned or killed.
The Humane Society of the United States has long identified Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkan-sas, Ohio and Pennsylvania as the major puppy-mill states. According to the Columbus Dog Connection, an animal welfare organization, Holmes and Tuscarawus counties in Ohio have some of the largest concentrations of puppy mills found anywhere in the United States. Mills sell pups wholesale to buyers that put cost, convenience and the need to have a variety of dogs available above health concerns and genetic problems.
Purchasing pups from online sources, sight unseen, also may be risky, regardless of photos provided online. The organization advises people to purchase pets from sources where they can see both parents and the facility in which the puppies are raised.
Claims that dogs are from local breeders, even with American Kennel Club papers, donâ€™t guarantee theyâ€™re from good breeding stock or raised in loving homes. The AKC provides pedigree papers to anyone filling out a form and paying a fee. It doesnâ€™t guarantee the dog is purebred or healthy.
Puppy mill puppies, raised without human contact and taken from their mothers before theyâ€™re 8 weeks old, miss out on important socialization skills. Chuck Stella, of Elite K911 Obedience and Dog Behavior Training, has documented many cases of behavior problems directly linked to pups being taken from the mother too soon. Specific issues that come out later are separation anxiety and anti-social behavior toward other dogs and people that turns into growling, nipping and fear-biting. In addition, a dog forced to sit and sleep in its own urine or feces is difficult to housetrain. Common health problems they may exhibit include internal parasites, parvovirus and congenital defects that donâ€™t become apparent until years later.
The commercial pet trade is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ€™s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. Under the Animal Welfare Act, breeders must provide nutritious food, clean water, adequate vet care and housing that is kept dry and clean. However, inspectors are responsible for monitoring thousands of breeders, brokers and dealers, as well as zoos, circuses and research facilities. There are fewer than 100 inspectors for the thousands of breeders, so enforcement is spotty, especially in rural areas, where most puppy mills are located. In response to complaints, state legislators across the nation are attempting to crack down on mass breeding operations and bills establishing standards for breeding operations have been introduced in Ohio.
Educating the public to the shocking conditions in puppy mills is the strategy being used by animal welfare advocates to begin awareness and eventually shut down the puppy mill industry.
In July, an art exhibit, â€œPuppies are Biodegradable,â€ raised awareness (www.puppiesarebiodegradable.com). On Sept. 15, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Network hosted the fourth annual Puppy Mill Awareness Day at Intercourse Community Park in Lancaster County, Pa. Protests also have been held at Ohio area dog auctions.
The Humane Society of the United States advises that the best way to close down large scale mills is to not buy from sources unable to provide access to the pupâ€™s parents and a look at the breeding facility. It also suggests supporting legislators trying to pass better laws. Consider adopting puppies from an animal shelter or rescue group.
Puppy mills are in the business for profit, and theyâ€™ll continue to breed dogs as long as people buy them. The only way to stop their inhumane business is to eliminate the demand.
o Contact federal and state legislators and let them know youâ€™re concerned about the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills and want the puppy mill issue to be a priority for congress. Support Ohio Senate Bill 173 and House Bill 223. For information, visit www.banohiodogauctions.com/Legislation.html
o For more information on Ohio puppy mills, go to: www
Barnosky can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.