Written by Mindi Callison,
Executive Director, Bailing Out Benji
If you are not aware of what puppy mills are,
please click here before starting this article.
Is the “Amazon Culture” keeping puppy mills alive?
Let me start by saying that Amazon does not run puppy mills, they don’t sell puppies or other animals, and they actually have a WONDERFUL program where you can shop as you normally would and they will make a donation to your favorite nonprofit ( shameless plug, click here to make Bailing Out Benji you charity of choice on Amazon!). So when I ask the question ‘Is the “Amazon Culture” keeping puppy mills alive?’ I don’t mean literally, but we will get into that more in a second.
First, let’s take a quick step back in time.
In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s it was extremely common to see puppies for sale in every department store you walked into, such as Macy’s, Sears, Younkers, etc. Patti Page’s famous song “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” takes us back to that simple time whenever it plays in a commercial or on the oldie’s station. This was literally how people got puppies back in the day. You walked into the mall and to your local department store and saw those playful puppies in the window. As the years and decades slipped by, the dog breeding industry became extremely prolific, especially in the midwest. The USDA stepped in to start licensing breeders that were breeding dogs in a commercial fashion (without providing education on how to do so) , and suddenly mom and pop pet stores started popping up everywhere. These stores promoted the impulse buying of puppies; families who might not have been ready for a puppy or the energy of a specific breed left the store with a new furry family member. If you are reading this then you know, this still happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in almost every single state. However, we have something now that they didn’t have in the 40’s.
Now you can order literally anything on the internet. You want a sweater? Done. You need a stack of textbooks before your college classes start? Easy peasy! You want to order your groceries and have them delivered so you don’t have to interact with people? Got it! And best of all, with Amazon Prime, YOU CAN GET ALL OF THESE ITEMS IN TWO DAYS OR LESS. That is service! Shopping for items has never been easier and we can find anything we want online. The times have changed in ways that we never could have expected 80 years ago.
Unfortunately, because when we want something we can get it in two days or less, our society has become EXTREMELY impatient and this directly correlates to the rise of puppy mill industry. As the public becomes more aware of the puppy mill connection to pet stores, they are becoming weary of buying puppies in stores (although it still happens) and that awareness is truly a wonderful thing. With thousands of rescues and shelters across the country who have truly amazing dogs and cats that need homes, it really makes sense for members of the general public to adopt a pet. But how does this culture of online shopping correlate to puppy mills?
In the last two decades we have seen a huge trend in online sales of puppies and you might be shocked to learn that it wasn’t until 2014 that the USDA finally closed a loophole in their Animal Welfare Act that required breeders who sold puppies online to hold a USDA license and be inspected, as any other commercial breeder selling to the public would be. Can you believe it? Before 2014, the internet was like the wild, wild west of puppy mill sales!
Now these websites have started evolving, while a puppy mill might still operate their own kennel website, they have also started advertising their puppies on websites like: NextDayPets , PuppySpot , Lancaster Puppies, Greenfield Puppies, and PuppyFind (to name a few). These websites act as brokers, where the consumer can search for any breed of dog they want and have it shipped to them as soon as they want it. They often aren’t even told the name of their breeder until AFTER the transaction is complete, they are also rarely given information about the parent dogs, and they are never given consultation to find the right dog for their lifestyle.
Unfortunately, what these websites are doing is feeding into the impulsiveness of our society and supporting some of the worst puppy mills in the nation. Consumers are seeing cute dogs on Facebook (ahem, “pomsky”), googling them and buying one without really giving any thought to how the dog will fit into their lifestyle. These same people who need a dog and they need it NOW are often unwilling to look for that breed at local rescues and shelters, and they are even less likely to be put on a waiting list for a responsible breeder to have a planned litter.
RED FLAG- if a breeder has a “shopping cart” on their website and you can literally pick a puppy, pay and have it delivered to you all in the same day, it is not a safe place to buy from.
As a society, we need to take a minute to breathe and contemplate our purchases before we hit ‘buy now’- especially when it comes to other sentient beings, like puppies. These little puppies grow up to be dogs, and those dogs have the capacity to live 15-20 years. Before anyone buys OR adopts, we need to make sure that we are committed to those creatures through thick and thin.
Note: All animals can (and are) milled. Cats, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, rats, birds, ferrets (and more) are inhumanely bred in large scale commercials facilities to supply pet stores. This article pertains to ‘pocket pets’ as well.
The BEST way to avoid puppy mills is to, first, always consider adoption. Petfinder.com and AdoptAPet.com are two websites that rescues and shelters use to promote their adoptable animals. Unlike the puppy mill brokering sites, you can’t order a puppy through the site. You can search for any breed of dog near you, see pictures and then find out which rescue they are through and find more information out about their adoption process. If you absolutely can’t find a single dog available in a rescue or shelter, here are a few ways to look for and find a reputable breeder.
Please note: While we wish every single person in the country would adopt an animal in need, we know that would never happen. At Bailing Out Benji we believe that there are responsible breeders who are NOT puppy mills. Whether or not you agree with breeding, we can hopefully agree that not all breeders are puppy mills. We ALWAYS advocate for adoption first, and that will never change.
How to find a reputable breeder:
- Start knowing that this will take TIME. You wouldn’t buy a home without researching the neighborhood, checking out local schools and making sure it has been inspected. The same goes for buying a dog.
- AVOID BUYING PUPPIES IN PET STORES. Responsible breeders never sell to pet stores.
- Look at your lifestyle and figure out what breed of dog fits your family. Do you need a couch potato? A running buddy? These are all things to discuss before ever bringing an animal into your home.
- Get a referral. Your local veterinarian is a good place to start, as are your local breed specific rescues and breed clubs.
- Always, always, always, visit the parents of your puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome you to be a part of the family, and will want you to be matched with the right puppy for your family and lifestyle.
- Reputable breeders will always take their dogs back if it doesn’t work out.
For a full checklist of things to look for, check out the HSUS’ Responsible Breeder Checklist here.
Please remember, that no mater how you obtain a new pet, please make sure that you are choosing the RIGHT pet for your family. Dog, cat, rabbit, chinchilla, whatever… Do your research, maybe foster first to see if you are ready, and then make sure that you are committing to that pet for its entire life.
To learn more about the puppy mill industry:
Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization based out of Iowa, with teams all over the country. We are working tirelessly to eradicate the puppy mill industry and put an end to the pet store/puppy mill pipeline. Will you join us in our mission to end puppy mills once and for all?
To make a one time donation or to sign up to be a sustaining supporter to allow us to continue our various programs that expose the puppy mill industry, click the donate button below.
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