noun: puppy mill; plural noun: puppy mills; noun: puppy farm; plural noun: puppy farms
an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane.
Currently, in our state (Montana), we have ZERO laws against puppy mills. Meaning, unless the animals are neglected or abused (grossly), the law has no recourse to shutting down the operations. In a puppy mill situation you can house a number of breeding dogs and if you call yourself a “breeder” and pretend to know things that other people might not know, you can snowball a lot of folks. Which means, you can make some pretty good money in a pretty short period of time. If average gestation is around 65 days and you move the puppies along at 6 weeks instead of at a more appropriate 10 – 12 weeks, that means a pretty consistent cash flow every 4 months or so. If you have breeding dogs having litters every few weeks, you can certainly make that every few month income happen every few weeks as puppies become weened. At least that is the theory. And it sounds pretty appealing to some people. Who doesn’t love puppy noises and puppy breath and clumsy puppy feet?!
When proper veterinary care starts cutting in to the amount of money a person can make from selling puppies, we start to see folks think they can handle their own veterinary care at home. Worms treated with home remedies, cleft pallets untreated, puppies un-vaccinated or vaccinated incorrectly or too young. Poor Nutrition and inadequate prenatal care. Truly, by the time puppies are born, there is a whole series of appropriate veterinary care that hasn’t been addressed. Was mom receiving appropriate nutrition? Were X-rays or ultra sounds done so that there was a way to anticipate how many puppies should be arriving? (That way, if one doesn’t, it isn’t too late before you start wondering why mom isn’t eating well.) Were tests done to ensure certain breed-specific genetic abnormalities wouldn’t be passed along to the puppies? These are things that reputable breeders do before breeding. Reputable breeders maintain certain standards of medical care, prenatal care and puppy care. Living conditions are commendable and the animals receive stimulation, affection and attention. (Like this little momma below.)
Now, I am going to step out of the current tone of this post and insert a little of my personal thoughts about breeding:
STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!
There are so many people out there who don’t give two shakes what their dog does or how many litters the dog has. There are so many people out there who don’t spay, neuter or contain their animals and then discard them when they are pregnant. There are so many people out there who don’t consider the true impact of bringing a pet into their home and the cost and time it takes to care for a pet. Companion animals die in the MILLIONS every year because people aren’t considering the animals beyond whether or not they can bring in some cash. These are animals that we have domesticated and we have changed their basic animal brains to crave human attention and many breeds are wired to want to work for their people. What kind of a cruel hoax is it that we allow them to be mistreated by people? That we create creatures of affection and companionship and then allow them to be denied the very things we have created them for? The average person has ZERO business breeding animals. Children can witness the miracle of birth another way. Watch a you tube video or contact your local vet. If they have things like a c-section they may even allow you to be present to watch.
Some of you may be reading this and find yourselves very offended. “Who does she think she is?! I can do whatever I want, my animal is my property.” You’re right. The current lack of law says you’re right. But being legally right doesn’t always equal being morally right.
Here is “who I think I am”… I started working in veterinary clinics when I was in high school. I started out as kennel staff. I worked for a little over 2 years at my first clinic. I then worked at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I worked at a clinic in Northern Idaho. Then I went back to school to get my degree as a Veterinary Technician. I worked through school in a Veterinary Clinic. We worked very closely with our local shelter and area rescues. I got one of my own dogs from a “dumped” momma who the family didn’t want to “deal with.” So the local shelter and a wonderful foster got to deal with her and 11 puppies. That is a lot of money and resources handed out because someone allowed a litter they never wanted in the first place. I got involved in rescue and transports. I began networking with people who scoop up and care for the animals that the rest of the world throws away. I worked for veterinarians who have developed amazing relationships with rescues and shelters and who donate time, medications, materials and expertise to keep these animals happy and healthy, because their previous people didn’t care enough to do that themselves. I have been in veterinary clinics and most recently rescue and advocacy for the better part of 20 years, now. I am not nearly as knowledgeable as some, and yet, have more experience than most. I beg of you… STOP BREEDING! Every time you watch a dog in a rescue end up euthanized because their previous people have failed them and they have been starved, fought, attacked by other dogs or wildlife. Because they were dumped on the side of a road, tossed out of a moving vehicle, kept on a chain and have become so reactive they are no longer able to function as a rational being. Because they were never spayed and have become septic, because 8 litters later they have a closed pyometra and their people aren’t willing to pay for the surgery. Because they have mastitis and they become septic because their people aren’t willing to bring them in for treatment. When the puppies become ill from nursing and the whole family fails to thrive or even dies. Every time you watch a situation like this play out in front of you, day after day after day, you become acutely aware of the fact that very few people are truly equipped to breed appropriately. You become aware that people don’t like the uncomfortable reality of pet overpopulation, so they just don’t think about it while creating more little lives that will most likely see the inside of shelter and/or rescue group at some point in their lives if they survive that far. So… I have more than a little experience on the “dark side” of breeding. And it is certainly not the minority. These are the every day truths from the inside of a veterinary clinic and the inside of rescue. Choosing to believe that they don’t happen doesn’t change the every day reality that they do. Backyard breeders, less than reputable breeders, and those who breed with the intent to make money through their animals feed this chain of tragedy.
Not every “puppy mill” looks like a scene from a horror movie. Sometimes, they are cleaner than we might imagine, but are still breeding on a production scale. Even these operations, in my opinion, need to brought to a halt. I know what you’re thinking, “If no one has puppies on purpose, there won’t be any puppies and dogs will become extinct.” No. Seriously… No. I ADORE dogs, I would never want to see dogs cease to exist. What I do want to see is fewer dying and suffering greatly because we as humans can’t be responsible stewards of these amazing creatures. I don’t even advocate for abolishing “pure bred dogs” (I put quotes around that for a reason… Pom Chis and Doberhuahuas are not pure bred dogs.)
These photos aren’t *too* horrible, right? There aren’t piles of feces, the animals look reasonably well cared for. Do you think these animals are truly getting the socialization and structure they need to be well rounded furry kids? What about exercise? Are they getting enough exercise to have healthy bone structure and muscles? What about their cardiovascular health? Are they stressed because they are frustrated? What about their GI health? Are they getting regular veterinary care? Do they get individual attention, basic leash training, a walk or learn to be a part of a family? Chances are good that the answer to these things is “no”.
What about these kids? We know the answer is no to the same questions, just based on the fact that they may never ever leave their tiny cages.
Join us along with the Humane Society of The United States- Montana and the Humane Society of Western Montana Legislative and Advocacy Committee on Saturday, October 22 to discuss a proposed bill regarding ending puppy mills in Montana. We will be meeting at 1 pm at Great Falls College MSU in room B101 to learn how we can help influence change in our state laws. Get the details of the proposed legislation and have your questions answered. How can you help? Watch our Facebook
event for more details.