To many, puppy mills are synonymous with animal neglect and cruelty. Yet, while many forms of neglect and cruelty are against the law, puppy mills are not necessarily illegal.
Some of the first laws created to protect animals began in the 19th century. These have evolved over time to include the regulations we see today that strive to ensure the ethical treatment of animals.
Yet even with these laws, loopholes and negligent enforcement allow puppy mills to continue operating.
Puppy mills are notorious for:
- Neglecting and overbreeding the dogs
- Producing and selling puppies with poor health and hereditary defects
- Falsifying lineage paperwork for the pups
- Providing poor or no medical attention to the dogs
Dogs bred in puppy mills often:
- Spend their entire lives in small wire cages
- Are malnourished, ill or injured
- Live in unsanitary conditions
- Have no means to escape poor weather conditions
- Are not socialized and receive no exercise
An Industry Built on Deceit
With the stigma surrounding puppy mills, no pet store owner is going to admit to carrying puppy mill stock. They’ll tell customers that the puppies come from responsible breeders with the healthiest and happiest parents in the region.
That sounds an awful lot better than admitting that the puppies were torn from their ailing mothers too early, thrown on a truck and shipped to the pet store with a big red bow and an even bigger price tag.
The puppy trade is lucrative. And it’s even more profitable if the overhead costs — such as responsibly caring for the dogs — are cut drastically.
Current U.S. Laws
Laws pertaining to puppy mills vary from state to state and, in some cases, even vary by city or township.
In some regions, the number and range of animal welfare laws ensure that operating a puppy mill legally is impossible. In other areas, however, the few applicable laws are sometimes rarely enforced and lax enough that puppy mills are essentially unregulated — sometimes statewide.
In Pennsylvania and Texas:
- Laws require breeders/kennel owners to provide the animals with adequate exercise.
- Limits are placed on the number of enclosures (cages) stacked on each other.
- There is a maximum number of adult female dogs allowed per breeder.
- There is an age limit for dogs being bred.
In many states, regulations require:
- Adequate nutrition and access to potable water
- Regular veterinary care
- Shelter from inclement weather
However, licenses and inspections for breeders and kennels may not be required in all states. Some examples are:
- South Carolina
- New Mexico
Even in those regions where laws are strictly enforced, loopholes allow puppy mills to continue operating.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), “Only large-scale commercial facilities that breed or broker animals for resale…are required to be licensed and inspected by the USDA because they are considered ‘wholesale’ operations.”
In other words, if puppy mill owners sell their merchandise directly to customers (instead of having a middleman like a pet store or online shop), they don’t have to comply with animal welfare laws targeted at huge breeding operations.
In Ohio, a new law requires breeders to obtain licenses, as reported in this video:
4 Ways You Can Help
- Avoid accidentally supporting puppy mills. Refuse to buy a puppy without ensuring he came from responsible breeders. (Be sure to read our earlier article on how to spot the red flags.) An even safer option is to adopt a dog. You may even consider adopting a puppy mill survivor — one of the mother dogs rescued from a mill.
- Look into laws in your region and your state. Is there room for improvement? If so, consider contacting your local government officials.
- Join organizations that are actively trying to shut down puppy mills. (Here are 10 of them.) You may be able to support the groups by donating or volunteering.
- Finally, spread the word to family and friends. The best way to end puppy mills is through education.