Puppy Mills

In a prior post was a case of a dog that had been rescued from a puppy mill after 8 years of “service.” I thought it might be informative to say a little more about what a puppy mill is. I am sure there is variation but the ones I have seen are basically dogs in small cages where they live 24 hours a day, much like rabbits are chickens are caged. 

One year in veterinary school I worked weekends at a chicken ranch, earning money for tuition. It was an experience not forgotten. The hundreds of chickens in small cages off the ground, inside buildings – where they would never see the sun or touch the ground – I came to realize had become mostly insane. Their screaming and aggressive behavior I could not interpret any other way. 
When I later saw puppy mills, or pictures of them, it reminded me of the time working in the chicken ranch. The dogs are in small cages off the ground, either inside a building or outside in the elements. They live their lives there, never wandering, never sniffing about, never exploring, never having anything like a dog’s life. Their entire existence is based on the production of puppies – one pregnancy after another.
Does this sound horrible to you? It does to me, so much so that my mind cannot tolerate the images very long. Yet the fact is that this is an extensive business. It is estimated that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the US. Why is this done? Very simple, it is a way to have income. It is really not different than raising rabbits or chickens for market (which is also a very unpleasant experience for the rabbits and chickens). People make good money selling these puppies to pet stores. 
There are many people trying stop this practice and I will even mention, at the end, a place you can report a puppy mill so that conditions will be investigated. But this practice will never end unless we change. What do I mean by that? Simply this – there are ideas we have, in our heads, that support these practices and unless these ideas change, so that our cultural expectations are changed, it will go on just as it has. What ideas are these?
  • Animals are property, can be bought and sold.
  • Animals do not have souls, are not aware of their conditions and thus can be treated in any way we please.
  • Animals are possessions. They can be obtained, then kept and used in almost any way we choose. 
Of course there are limits. We cannot treat them cruelly, or more accurately, we cannot treat them cruelly where that can be observed. There are laws. But there are also laws that uphold the position that animals have in our society – that they are property in the same way is our car, our house, our furniture. I really don’t see any way this situation can change until we come to the point that we no longer think of animals in this way. Do you?
Puppy Mill Tip Line, answered by Tia Pope of the Humane Society of the United States: 1-877-MILL-TIFF.

Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD

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