Puppy Mills - Single Most Important Animal Welfare Issue Today

​According to Harley's Dream, a Colorado-based animal welfare organization, "Puppy mills are the single most important animal welfare issue of today, but this complex industry is highly misunderstood by the public and lawmakers alike."  

When people hear "puppy mills are bad" they assume the core inhumane issue relates to the welfare of the puppies, when in fact, the core humanity issue exists behind closed doors with the breeding dogs, the mothers and fathers of those puppies.

The dog breeding industry is quite convoluted. There are small home breeders who breed and sell puppies as a hobby.  These dogs are typically well cared for, are considered part of the family, and live a normal life. Reputable and hobby breeders hold themselves to high welfare standards voluntarily and find puppy mills abhorrent.  

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, exists a horror hidden from the public eye in the facilities that house dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs. These facilities are licensed by the USDA. The conditions inside the bounds of the property or inside the facility, where the breeding dogs live, must meet mere "survival" standards.  

According to the USDA, this means breeding dogs must be provided with food that is “wholesome, palatable, and free from contamination and of sufficient quantity and nutritive value to maintain all animals in good health” and given water “as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animal."

Cages have wire bottoms, allowing urine and feces to fall through so cages do not have to be regularly cleaned.  Wire floors are incredibly inhumane and lead to multiple medical issues over time. Cages are often either stacked one on top of the other, inside and outside, or sometimes suspended like bird cages. Cage size requirements only state a dog must have 6-inches of space around them, making it nearly impossible for larger dogs to even turn around. And yet another regulation states that if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, the dogs must be provided with "bedding", although a solid board on a wire floor constitutes bedding according to law. For dogs housed individually, they are to be given “the opportunity for exercise regularly”, an ambiguous term defined by the facility owner themselves. Dogs housed in groups have no exercise requirements. Female dogs are bred at every heat cycle, and males are used as studs until they no longer turn a profit.

And unlike the puppies, who are taken from these facilities to be sold, the breeding dogs - the mothers and fathers - live in these inhumane conditions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, year after year. They live in these conditions until they are no longer breedable and producing a profit for the facility owner, at which time they are discarded, sometimes via very inhumane means. And when these adult breeding dogs are rescued, rather than disposed of, they almost always have severe medical issues and social anxiety.

For most people, the realities of what is happening inside puppy mills are inconceivable. Who would allow an 8-year-old, five-pound pregnant Chihuahua to sit in a tiny wire cage with no bedding in 55-degree temps, all day, every day, day after day, year after year? If your neighbor did that to their Chihuahuas, they would be investigated for animal abuse and likely face criminal charges.  

So, what makes puppy mills different?  Large scale breeding facilities can hide behind being licensed without the public knowing companion animals are actually being regulated like livestock.

While the breeding dogs remain in these facilities for life, remember, puppies are being born and then sold on a wholesale market at an alarming rate. A facility of even 50 breeding dogs can produce nearly 1,000 puppies each year, and a facility of 200 produces as much as 4,000 puppies annually.  

These puppy mill facilities have a direct pipeline to pet stores and online sellers, and the sale of puppies is not restricted across state lines, meaning pet stores in Colorado can buy puppies from across the country, or pet stores in other states can purchase puppies from Colorado breeding facilities. The pet stores obtain the puppies directly at a wholesale cost, then inflate that amount to turn a profit in their stores. Puppies are regularly sold for several thousand dollars each. Due to the inhumane and unsanitary conditions inside puppy mills, it is not uncommon for puppies to be sick or have genetic issues.

Unfortunately, it is the unsuspecting consumers who purchase these puppies from pet stores or online dealers who are perpetuating the inhumane treatment that is taking place in these puppy mills. The consumer demand for the puppies keeps the mills in production.  

Private advocacy and awareness organizations have been tackling this issue for years with little result, and lawmakers are often reluctant to address the issue both because they don't fully understand it, and because they don't want to infringe on private business, but at some point, the abuse must move front and center. In cities and states where laws have been enacted, many pet stores have successfully shifted to an adoption/rescue model: selling pet supplies and hosting adoption events with local rescues. Other stores have begun to voluntarily do this, but it's not enough.

The adoption/rescue model is a win-win. It helps to interrupt the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline, while finding homes for dogs in shelters, consequently reducing euthanasia rates of rescue animals. In Colorado alone, over 10,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dogs continue to live in inhumane conditions inside puppy mills, and their puppies continue to be bought and sold, perpetuating the cycle.

Lawmakers and citizens can continue to turn a blind eye to this disturbing industry, or they can take the lead. The time to take action is now.

About Harley’s Dream
Harley’s Dream was established in 2016 in honor of Harley, a senior one-eyed puppy mill survivor who became the face and voice of the puppy mill dogs worldwide. With a mission to create awareness and educate the public about the cruel commercial dog breeding industry, also known as puppy mills, Harley's Dream has been making huge strides. Through a grassroots approach by large groups of concerned citizens, the organization has been involved with bringing change in communities across the country. Harley’s Dream is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Berthoud, CO. Learn more at: www.harleysdream.org

Source: Harley's Dream

About Harley's Dream

It is estimated that 80% of all Americans own at least one dog and we believe that if all these people knew the truth about puppy mills, puppy mills would no longer exist. How do we accomplish this? Awareness, education and advocacy.

Harley's Dream
PO Box 64
Berthoud, CO


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