For more details on puppy mills, check out these websites (click on link):
To report a suspected puppy mill, call the Ontario SPCA at 310-SPCA (7722)
1-888-668-7722 ext. 327
or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)
or your local Ontario SPCA Branch, Affiliated SPCA or Humane Society or police.
WHAT IS A PUPPY MILL?
A puppy mill is a place where dogs are bred en-masse for their puppies, which are sold, often too young, for money. Puppy mills have often hundreds of dogs on-site enduring extreme neglect, abuse and suffering.
The breeding adults live their entire lives in horrific conditions with no kindness or human touch, no veterinary care, substandard nutrition, in buildings that often have no electricity, lights, running water, fresh air, heat or airconditioning. When they can no longer breed or become very sick, they are often killed in a horrific manner, including shot, electrocuted, drowned, beaten or often simply discarded into a 55 gallon drum or garbage pile while still alive.
Because they are viewed by the owner as a commodity or "crop", they live in overcrowded confinement, usually in wire cages which are never cleaned, which results in serious foot infuries from the wire floor they live their entire lives on, which go untreated. Often the cages are stacked upon each other resulting in the feces and urine of the animals in the cages above dropping onto the ones below. The amonia from the excrement burns skin and causes blindness in many of the breeding adults and the stench is overwhelming - that's why you see rescuers wearing respirator masks when puppy mill seizures take place.
Injuries and illness go untended, so many of the dogs live in excrutiating pain and discomfort. Nails are never clipped so often grow so long they grow around and into the pads of the dog's feet, crippling them. Often, the bodies of dogs that died remain in their cages, decomposing, or are eaten by the starving dogs still alive that share that cage.
The adults are force bred repeatedly their entire lives, becoming pregnant every heat cycle without a break to recouperate from the last pregnancy. Puppies are often removed from the mother too young which often results in behavioural issues for those puppies when they grow older since they missed out on specific nurturing and lessons that take place during key weeks of their early life.
Puppy mills do not breed for good genetics nor good temperments like reputable breeding kennels do. Mills simply want to crank out as many cute puppies as possible for the money and to make way asap for the next litters. As a result, puppy mill dogs tend to be sickly and have medical conditions during their livespan.
Over 99% of the puppies for sale in pet stores are from puppy mills, some are sold on-line, advertized on sites such as Kijiji (see our "On-line Pets" information section for more on that) and some are sold on-site - watch for a farm with a sign out front advertising "puppies for sale". Some of those are puppy mills or they could be a backyard breeder (more on the latter later). When you buy a puppy at the farm location, they have caught on to the fact that some people will ask to see the mother. So they now often use a "staging dog", a healthy happy female of the same breed they'll tell you is the mom - many people don't motice she is not lactating and does not appear to have recently been pregnant, or they'll use a staging dog that did recently have pups (just not those ones).
Unlike their parents, the pups are taken away from the mill and sold at a very young age so do not appear to the public as unhealthy dogs. However, puppy mills do not vaccinate or deworm, nor do they breed for good genetics - many are inbred. Its not uncommon for puppy mill puppies to get sick while still at the pet store or shortly after being purchased.
HOW CAN YOU HELP STOP PUPPY MILLS?
Adopt, don't shop! Avoid buying pets on-line, don't shop at pet stores that sell puppies - just going in and seeing them will play on your heartstrings and you may wind up buying a puppy because you feel sorry for it and want to save it. As much as that is a kind thought for that puppy, you are supporting the puppy mill industry and further ensuring the suffering parents of that pup remain enslaved and abused.
Note that some Pet Smart stores now work in conjunction with their local shelter to instead offer puppies for adoption at their stores - double check before you adopt one, but you can easily double check by contacting the shelter the store says they're from before you commit.
An educated public can effect great change: Puppy mills will start closing down if the market they are sold through no longer has buyers anymore. Share your knowledge!
Spread the word, help educate others about what really goes on - get more people to avoid shopping for a puppy and to instead adopt a puppy from a shelter or rescue organization. There are even rescue organizations that are breed-specific so if you want a particular breed, there is a rescue that is looking for homes for the very breed you are seeking!
If you want to help even more, consider joining an animal rescue organization that is trying to abolish puppy mills and help them with their endeavors.
WHAT IS A BACKYARD BREEDER?
A backyard breeder is similar to a puppy mill except the number of dogs being bred is small scale. Many backyard breeders are regular people who decide to breed their dog to make money on the puppies. Like puppy mill dogs, these breeders do not breed for good genetics or temperament, just for the money. The breeding pair may live in the home, but are often kept chained outside on the property. Many such breeding dogs live dismal lives outside either chained or in a dog run, without walks or enrichment and inpregnated time and time again.
If you are determined to purchase a "purebred" dog, research the breeder to ensure its an actual reputable breeder who breeds not just for physical conformity but also for good temperament. They usually will let you tour their facility and often will have breeding plans and charts for ensuring good genetics of their dogs.