The Midwest has more puppy mills than any other part of the country, commonly referred to as “The Puppy Mill Belt.”
Missouri and Iowa are the biggest offenders when it comes to the number of mills. The puppy mill operations are easily hidden among our vast amount of agricultural buildings.
You will also find many of the breeders on the list are repeat offenders and have had horrible violations year after year, without being shut down by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
What is a puppy mill?
Although there is no actual definition for the term “puppy mill,” a legal definition was established in the 1984 Avenson v. Zegart court case. A puppy mill is defined as “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and to maximize profits.”
Puppy mills breed dogs under very poor conditions and are considered abusive in most states. This is completely different from how responsible breeders treat their animals.
Puppy mill dogs are bred every heat cycle no matter their condition, so even if they are sick they do not receive veterinary care, sanitation, housing, nutrition or even socialization. Their cages are small and cramped and are not regularly cleaned. In some cases, the female dogs’ canine teeth are removed so they cannot fight off breeding.
Dogs in puppy mills often develop illnesses that are not addressed and/or treated. A few common illnesses are: hip dysplasia along with other joint problems, renal disease, heart disease, anemia and diabetes.
The puppies may also get diseases from unsanitary living conditions such as kennel cough, which could lead to aspiration pneumonia, parvovirus and other diseases that often result in death. Not only are the mothers forced to keep producing puppies, they feel pain from a disease that could have been prevented or managed.
A license should not be a safety blanket when it comes to puppy mills. The fact that someone has a USDA license does not provide any assurance of humane breeding practices and certainly doesn’t promise the health or quality of puppies purchased.
Sadly, the USDA has 115 inspectors that are in charge of over 12,000 facilities across the country. That means each inspector is in charge of around 104 facilities that range from dog breeding operations, factory farms, animal testing facilities, zoos and even transport vehicles.
Minimum standards set forth by the USDA:
- Inspections are “risk-based,” meaning facilities that meet a certain criteria are inspected “as seldom as once every 2 to 3 years.”
- Cage size: must be 6 inches larger than the size of the dog, on all sides
- Up to 12 dogs can be housed in one cage
- Dogs never have to be let out of their cages. There is no limit to the number of dogs a breeder can have — many have over 1,000
- There is no age limit for breeding dogs. If a dog is able to produce puppies for 10 years, that’s how long they could be in the facility.
“How do I know if I am getting a puppy from a puppy mill?” is a very common question and concern.
One of the biggest red flags is if the person selling the puppy does not allow you to see where the animals are living or allow you to meet or at least see a photo of the parents.
They will often meet you at a “convenient parking lot” or other public place for the puppy and payment exchange; reputable breeders want to know what living situations they are selling their puppies into, whereas mill breeders just want your money.
Many puppies at pet stores are from mills and may even be advertised as “rare new breeds,” which is a ploy to pull you in to purchase the puppy.
You may be thinking a consumer has the right to decide if they should purchase a puppy through a reputable breeder or not. However, to put it simply, the practices used in legal puppy mills should always be considered animal abuse. The idea that a dog only needs a couple of inches above their head and in front of their face for their entire life is outrageous.
These animals cannot speak for themselves. It is up to us to ensure they are being treated with the best care possible.
Buying puppies from puppy mills does not rescue the dogs but only adds to the problem. Help support local and national organizations fighting to increase the rights of companion animals.
You can start right now by demanding Iowa State stops allowing Finch’s Pomeranians, a licensed puppy mill that has missed several inspections, to post on the ISU Student Job Board.
Allowing them to post job listings is essentially supporting the legal puppy mill industry. This may not change the number of puppy mills in Story County, but it could make it harder for them to find potential employees and their operation could suffer from it.
No dog deserves to live in these conditions. We need to protect them.