Puppy Mills: What you need to know
The sad truth is that we live in a world where numerous facilities exist that directly or indirectly contribute to perpetuating animal abuse. Puppy mills are a perfect example. It is here that dogs are literally mass produced so that the breeders can rake in as much profit from the offspring as possible. Right now there are anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders operating in the United States. Some of these operations can be so large that they contain 1,000 breeding dogs at the same time. What's not included in that figure is the number of unlicensed puppy mills that exist; the ones the USDA has not approved and does not know about.
While responsible breeders understand the importance of the parents' health and careful genetic pairing to produce strong litters that will improve the breed, the operators of these puppy mills eschew quality in favor of quantity. Without the proper husbandry practices being followed at these mills, serious genetic flaws spread throughout the breeding pool unchecked. More important is the abuse that runs rampant at these facilities.
Overcrowding, disease, and inadequate access to even the most basic veterinary care are prevalent in these types of operations, leading to widespread cases of horrific negligence and malnutrition. Untreated medical conditions such as tumors, birthing complications, respiratory infections, flea infestations, heartworms, and digestive problems are all common side effects to the lack of care and the unsanitary environment.
Stuck within the confines of these germ-filled warehouses, the dogs are simultaneously deprived of exercise and grooming. Many of them are forced to live either on wire or slatted flooring that cuts into their paws and legs, leaving wounds to fester into cysts and infections. Often the cages are stacked in columns to save space. When this happens, all of the waste from the higher cages falls on the dogs below, further leading to the spread of disease. Ventilation is often poor, the overall habitat is a cesspool of filth with minimal to no lighting, no access to outdoors, and barely even room to breathe.
Many dogs spend their entire lives, from birth to death, crammed in these conditions, never once feeling sunshine on their face, feeling the grass beneath their feet, or breathing a single breath of fresh air. The females are used as little more than housing units for puppies. They are rarely given adequate recovery time between births. Once they are physically depleted to the point where they are unable to reproduce anymore they are often killed and disposed of to make room for new females. The male dogs used for stud fair no better.
Where do the puppies that come out of these mills end up? As quickly as five weeks after birth many are shipped off to pet shops while others are sold directly from the owner to buyers through the internet, newspaper ads, at swap meets, and at roadside auctions and open air flea markets.
Currently Missouri is the top puppy mill state in the country with other states following close behind. While the highest concentration of puppy mills is in the Midwest they have been spreading nationwide even as far as upstate New York and into the Great Lakes Region. The largest puppy broker in the country is believed to be Missouri's Hunte Corporation which ships approximately 80,000 puppies per year to pet stores nationwide.
Dog Auctions & Flea Markets: The last resource for disreputable breeders
With the USDA now regulating the sale of puppies over the internet by commercial breeders, flea markets are one of the last unregulated marketplaces for puppy sellers to offload their “product” without interference from government agencies. Disreputable sellers have identified this niche and have been stepping up their presence at flea markets across the country to evade unwanted detection from authorities.
The puppy sellers at flea markets usually don't travel with the parents of the puppies. The buyer has very little information about the puppy and must trust what the seller tells them. The propensity to lie is unavoidable and unpunishable. This is why flea markets are the perfect sales venues for dealers who have something to hide and also why several states, including Louisiana, Nevada and Oklahoma, have instituted new laws that restrict selling pets at flea markets, at swap meets, along roadsides, or at similar public venues.
Read our 2016 report on the Canton Dog Alley here, a flea market that sells dogs and other animals in Texas.
Watch our video on the Canton Dog Alley here.
Learn more about the deplorable conditions of puppy mills and auctions here.
Watch our video on the Farmerstown Dog Auction in Ohio here.