Let’s Talk Puppy Mills!
In all of the years that we have been exposing the puppy mill industry, as well as it’s connection to pet stores, we have come across several myths that are lingering around and causing confusion among the general public. These myths are ones that we have heard time and time again, no matter what part of the country we are educating in. So our latest effort to create change for these dogs are to bust the most common myths that our volunteers hear.
1. MYTH: Puppy Mills are illegal
Truth: Large Scale Commercial Dog breeding (commonly referred to as the puppy mill industry) is legal and thriving in the United States, as well as other parts of the world. Puppy Mills are licensed and inspected by the USDA and state agencies, while the breeders are allowed to meet the bare minimum of standards. These are survival standards only, nothing more, and the breeders are given “educational opportunities” to change, even after the worst violations and conditions. Each year, the Humane Society of the United States puts out the “Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill List” and you will see that most of the breeders on the list are USDA licensed. You will also find that many of the breeders on the list are repeat offenders and have had horrible violations year after year, without being shut down by the USDA. To view inspection photos from USDA licensed breeders, click here.
2. MYTH: The phrase “puppy mill” doesn’t have a definition.
TRUTH: Although no standardized legal definition for the term “puppy mill” exists, a definition was established in the 1984 “Avenson v. Zegart” court case. The definition was found to be “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and to maximize profits.” And according to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “puppy mill” was first used in 1973 and is “ a commercial farming operation in which purebred dogs are raised in large numbers.”
3. MYTH: If the breeder is USDA licensed they must not be a puppy mill
TRUTH: No license should ever be seen as a safety blanket when it comes to buying a puppy. The fact that someone has a USDA license does not provide any assurance of humane breeding practices and certainly doesn’t promise the health or quality of puppies purchased. Sadly, the USDA has 115 inspectors are in charge of over 12,000 facilities across the country. That means that each inspector is in charge of around 104 facilities that range from dog breeding operations, factory farms, animal testing facilities, zoos and even transport vehicles. Referring back to myth #1, most of the dog breeders that have some of the worst violations are USDA licensed, inspected and approved to breed. To view inspection photos from USDA licensed breeders, click here.
4. MYTH: The puppies come with AKC or APR papers, they must be coming from a good place.
TRUTH: Sadly, having registration papers does not ensure that you are buying from a reputable breeder. Most pet stores and websites would like you to believe that if a puppy is registered by the American Kennel Club, this guarantees the puppy will be healthy and a good example of the breed. This is not so. The only thing that AKC papers certify is that the puppy is a purebred. The APRI, American Pet Registry, Inc, is a group that began around the 1990’s and is owned by and operates entirely for the large scale dog breeding industry. The dogs that are APR registered may not even be purebred when advertised as so. The parents of your puppy may be unhealthy or carriers of crippling or deadly health defects which they may have passed to their offspring- your puppy
5. MYTH: The puppies we buy from come from a local breeder that we know.
TRUTH: This is a line that most pet store owners and employees use on their customers. While they may know the name of the breeder they use, chances are they have never been to their facility. If a pet store employee says this to you, ask to see documentation that shows exactly where their suppliers are located. Sadly, more often than not, the store will not show any paperwork unless you are buying the puppy. And if they do show you papers, you will find out that the breeders they “know” aren’t even in your state. To view some examples of this, check out our CVI research that we have compiled on pet stores in several states. You will be able to see proof that pet stores are buying from puppy mills that are states away.
6. MYTH: Buying a puppy in a pet store is the same as rescuing it from the puppy mill.
TRUTH: No, no, no. Buying a puppy in a pet store is simply making room for the store to sell another puppy mill puppy. As much as we know the puppies are little heartbeats, the store sees them as a product. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Only when customers stop buying the puppies will the suffering in puppy mills end. By walking away and not buying that puppy, you are showing the pet store that there are no customers for their product and they will order less next month. As they keep ordering fewer dogs, the puppy mills will begin to produce fewer puppies and downsize their number of breeding adults.
7. MYTH: Sick puppies don’t sell, so puppy mills couldn’t possibly sell sick puppies.
TRUTH: While the puppy you are purchasing might not appear sick, many of them are riddled with genetic diseases that won’t appear until later- that is if you are lucky. Many pet store puppies are sold with kennel cough, giardia and, in a lot of cases, even parvo. Even though the pet store offers a health certificate from a vet, it isn’t anything special that the store does. It is required for any puppy sold commercially across state lines. It only means that the puppy has had a very brief “wellness” check by a veterinarian. This examination does not include testing the puppy or his or her parents for genetic disorders, parasites, or testing for diseases. And if the pet store is offering a one year health guarantee, read it over very carefully! They are designed to protect the store’s interests more than the consumers and can be full of exclusions and loopholes. Sadly, if your puppy is sick, most stores require you to return the puppy in order for you to get a refund or a new dog.
8. MYTH: The breeders we buy from have state-of-the art kennels and are inspected every year.
TRUTH: By law, any breeder selling to a pet store MUST be USDA licensed. Here are some quick facts about the minimum standards set forth by the USDA:
-Inspections are “Risk-based,” meaning that facilities that meet a certain criteria are inspected “as seldom as once every 2 to 3 years.”
-Cage size: must be 6 inches larger than the size of the dog, on all sides
-Up to 12 dogs can be housed in one cage
-Dogs never have to be let out of their cages. Breeders only need to have an exercise plan
-There is no limit to the number dogs a breeder can have—many have over 1,000
-There is no age limit for breeding dogs. If a dog is able to produce puppies for ten years, that’s how long they could be in the facility.
To read more about the Animal Welfare act the the lax laws USDA breeders must adhere to, click here. To view inspection photos from USDA licensed breeders, click here. You will see that most USDA licensed breeders keep their breeding dogs in uncomfortable kennels with wire bottom flooring, there is often feces and hair buildup in the kennels, and a lot of them have rusted and jagged kennels.
9. MYTH: If there were no large scale dog breeders, there would be no dogs in shelters or rescue.
TRUTH: Many people on the opposition try to claim that there is no pet overpopulation problem and that we would run out of dogs within a few years if large scale dog breeders would go out of business. Sadly, It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008 alone. Each year it is reported that millions of healthy dogs are euthanized due to lack of space and lack of adoptions. If you go to Petfinder.Com , you will see that you can find almost every breed of dog in shelters and rescues. There is no shortage.
10. MYTH: Organizations fighting the puppy mill industry don’t want anyone to own pets.
TRUTH: This is another thing that the opposition tries to do. By saying “all” animal welfare groups don’t want you to own a purebred dog, or any pets, they are trying to make us seem radical so you don’t listen to our facts. At Bailing Out Benji, we are comprised of animal-loving volunteers who are the proud parents of rescued dogs (responsibly bred dogs), rescued cats, rabbits, chinchillas, even rescued geckos! We couldn’t imagine our lives without our beloved pets and wouldn’t want anyone else to have to live without theirs either. Our goal is to make the public aware of where not to get a pet, and advocate for the homeless animals in our country.
Bailing Out Benji works tirelessly to connect pet stores directly to the puppy mills they are using. You can see our pet store reports here, and our puppy mill maps here.