Our puppy, Banjo, is almost a year old, and in the past year, she’s been through a lot.
Even if she doesn’t remember the journey that took her from a barn in Kansas to an apartment in Brooklyn, I have the records that tell her story.
And it’s the story of an apparent puppy mill dog.
Banjo was around 2 months old when she was purchased from a pet store. The employees at the store insisted that all of their puppies were handpicked from the most responsible breeders. They took great pride in their puppies, and the price tag reflected the high-quality product.
Flash-forward a month later: Banjo was still not potty-trained, crate-trained or being given enough attention. Her family found a new home for her — our home. We were given the new puppy with all of her original paperwork, and in that paperwork, I found her breeder’s information.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, a responsible breeder will “sell puppies only to people he/she has met in person, not to pet stores.”
Curious about what sort of “responsible” breeder would sell puppies to a Brooklyn pet store, available to anyone carrying the right amount of money, I researched the name of the kennel and the couple that own it.
The Puppy Mill
Banjo’s breeders have a kennel in Havana, Kansas. Still curious about what sort of place Banjo came from, I looked up the address on Google Maps. At first I saw a great big yard and lots of forested area. Then I saw the house and the barn.
Sure, it’s possible that Banjo’s breeders are responsible people who take fabulous care of their dogs, exercise them regularly, give them lots of attention and feed them a high-quality diet. But according to the ASPCA, responsible breeders “never [keep] more dogs or cats than they can provide with the highest level of care.”
The Havana breeders’ kennel was last inspected by the USDA in February 2015, the same month that Banjo was born. At that inspection, they had 35 adult dogs and 29 puppies. Somehow I doubt all those dogs are living a cushy, pampered life in the breeders’ house.
That makes me wonder what the conditions are in the barn I saw on the map.
What It Means for Banjo
If the Kansas kennel is a puppy mill, Banjo may suffer physically and emotionally because of it.
She was likely handled very little by humans from the time she was born until she was shipped across the country to be sold out of a small cage in a store. Her time in the shop was spent behind bars, stacked on top of other barking dogs, with little human interaction and socialization.
According to PETA, this lack of attention, exercise and affection can lead many puppy mill dogs to develop “undesirable behavior and may bark excessively or become destructive and unsociable.”
On top of the emotional and behavioral concerns, health problems are notorious with dogs bred in puppy mills. “Unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders that are passed on from generation to generation are common,” reports PETA. “This situation results in high veterinary bills for people who buy these dogs.”
Learn more about the sad lives of puppy mill dogs here:
Just because Banjo is a puppy mill dog doesn’t guarantee that she will suffer from emotional distress, behavioral problems or health concerns. But we don’t want to assume that her apparent mental and physical wellness now means that she won’t run into problems later.
We’ve taken certain precautions to avoid those concerns, including:
- Early socialization. From the moment we got her, we’ve tried to expose Banjo to other friendly dogs as well as kind people every day.
- New experiences. We walk Banjo a lot and try to take new routes to get her used to traffic and noises.
- Veterinary attention. Banjo sees her vet regularly. She’s up-to-date on vaccines, and we’re aware of common concerns for her breed.
Even with these precautions, Banjo may have issues later in life, but we hope she stays as healthy and happy as she is now.
Banjo will always have a loving home with us, and we will continue to speak out against puppy mills, the sickness and the sadness that they create. We will also protest the sale of puppies, like Banjo, in stores across the country.