Author: 
Ellen Miller, D.V.M.

A responsible breeder:

  • only breeds dogs without hereditary diseases.
  • breeds a female dog at maximum once every other heat cycle.
  • shows concern for the health and welfare of their dogs and the puppies they raise.
  • takes their breeding stock to a veterinarian for care and preventative medicine.
  • houses only the number of dogs they can care for adequately.
  • cares about the homes where the puppies are placed.

A puppy mill breeder does none of the above.

A responsible breeder does not need the Animal Welfare Act to tell them how to care for their dogs.

A puppy mill breeder does.

Puppy mill breeders are in the business to make money. By cutting corners on care, they can increase their profit. Puppy mills often have more than one hundred breeding adult dogs in a single facility. The dogs are often kept in wire cages so the excrement drops through. The dirty wire often leads to trauma, sore paws, and infections. There is no clean place to lay, no bedding. The fur gets matted with feces and underneath those mats are sores with secondary bacterial infections.

The ammonia odor from improperly drained or cleaned areas under the cages cause eye and lung irritation. Dogs in cages with no exercise can lead to under developed muscles and orthopedic issues. Some dogs have gotten their legs caught in the wire and suffered infections and loss of limbs.

Routine preventative care is often not provided and the conditions of overcrowding and poor sanitation lead to easy transmission of contagious diseases. These dogs often have intestinal parasites, fleas, infectious upper respiratory diseases and maybe even parvovirus. In one Kansas puppy mill in 2010, twelve hundred dogs had to be euthanized due to an outbreak of distemper. This is a preventable disease with proper vaccination.

Besides infectious diseases and trauma, the breeding dogs are not socialized leading to potential behavioral problems. Anxiety and fear-related issues are the most common. Lack of house training and obsessive-compulsive disorders are also seen. Sometimes rehabilitation can help these dogs adjust to a family home, sometimes not. Behavior issues are one of the top reasons that dogs are euthanized in the U.S.

The puppies from mills may have a chance at a better life when someone buys them at a pet store or off the Internet but their chances of costing the buyer thousands of dollars are high. Approximately one in five puppies from pet stores have one or more congenital defects. Orthopedic issues such as luxating patellas (knee caps that are not properly aligned) and hip dysplasia are common but congenital heart defects and tracheal deformities and many other congenital disorders are also seen. Since the puppy mill breeders do not monitor for heritable diseases, adult dogs can pass on their bad traits over and over again. The unsuspecting family that purchases these puppies has a rude awakening down the road. The heartbreak of seeing their pet suffer as well as the financial commitment to correct the problems that can be corrected is often overwhelming and can lead to euthanasia.

Mill puppies also have an increased incidence of infectious diseases. Poor preventative care in many puppy mills results in adults that carry various diseases. In addition, mothers who have not been vaccinated properly cannot pass on immunity to their puppies. From minor diseases such as intestinal parasites to life threatening infections with parvovirus, these puppies get a bad start in life. The stress of weaning, overcrowding and shipping or transport puts puppies at risk. At this age, their immune system is not fully developed and cannot protect them as well as an adult. The immunity they received via their mother is waning at the time they leave their mothers and they have not yet had their vaccines.

They can also be exposed to puppies from other facilities when sold to a broker; this is the perfect storm resulting in rapid spread of infectious diseases. Once again families cannot afford to treat these diseases and end up having the dog euthanized.

Next time you pass by that doggie in the window, say a prayer and wish him well but keep walking.