The Inside Story of Puppy Mills and the Dogs Who are Caged There
This year, May 8-13 is Puppy Mill Action Week. A puppy mill is a collection of dogs kept in one location, normally for the single purpose of breeding. These dogs live there lives in cages, get very little socialization, often are thin from hunger, could have matted hair/open wounds and untreated medical conditions. Once their usefulness is over as breed stock, they are either turned over to rescues/shelters or destroyed. In human terms, a puppy mill is a life sentence in a filthy and overcrowded prison, which also is a sex trafficking ring. Crowded cages, often stacked on each other, unclean/filthy conditions, inconsistent or poor quality food, and little to no health maintenance. Puppy mill dogs are basically a commodity, only there to produce the product of new puppies, and drive profit. It’s a tragic way to live and… in most states… it is not illegal and has little to no Government oversight.
The Humane Society estimates there are over 10,000 working puppy mills, but this is a rough estimate as most mills are unregistered. In addition there are 2,500 licensed USDA facilities that breed dogs for pet trade. Mills are normally in a rural area, on farm land or secluded property, away from the public eye. In those mills there are an estimated 215,000 dogs kept solely for breeding purposes. That number does not include the puppies shipped each month to stores and resale locations, or sold out of the front end of the mill operations to unsuspecting new pet parents. The less you ask, the less you dig for answers, the less you know, and the better the Puppy Mill owners like it.
Here are some stark stats you need to know about Puppy Mills
How can YOU tell an actual good breeder from Puppy Mill?
The reality is people want new, and not used. The shelters are overflowing and destroying thousands of animals a day. Rescues are taxed to the max, struggling to keep up with health issues, behavioral issues, and food/supply/volunteer shortages. Pet store pricing for new puppies is through the roof, as pure breed dogs run in the thousands of dollars to purchase. If people searching for their special pets would take the time to “adopt, not shop”, they could find a large variety of puppies, adults and seniors at these shelters and rescues. These dogs are looking for their forever home, as well. They may not have that new car smell, but they do have the special bond of gratitude to their new families. The devotion and dedication from a rescue or shelter dog is miles deep.
Mill Dogs Transition to a Forever Home
When mills are closed, for whatever reason, or when a mill dog is given up to rescue or shelter, there is a huge difference in treatment and living conditions. This is even more dynamic when these dogs attempt to transition to a loving family home. It’s not that they don’t want to be loved, or that they purposely act out… they have no baseline of what a normal life is like. To them, a normal day at the mill is looking out of their cages at other dogs, being tired and dirty, hoping that there is enough food to fill them up, then being called upon to their jobs of breeding and/or birthing for profit. The smells are horrible, the sound is loud and sad, the conditions are filthy, and love or human contact for affection is non-existent. Suddenly having a solo gig, or having their own bed, being free from cages, or even the simple task of learning to be loved is new to them. The stress of being free and away from the rigid routines and closed quarters can be overwhelming to a dog from a mill.
Behaviors You Might Encounter from a Rescued Mill Dog
These are special dogs, deserved of a great life and a new chance. If you decide to take one home, make that decision for the long term. Imagine the crushing blow to the dog if they are taken back to a rescue or shelter after tasting a life of luxury in a forever home that didn’t turn out to be forever. Understand what you are signing up for, then do the work. What lies on the other side of the struggle is a dedication and bond that is unlike any other. If you don’t think dogs know the difference between the life in a mill and the life of comfort in your home… you don’t give enough credit to the animals. The ability to release their old life varies from dog to dog, but know that you are a hero for giving this fur kid a better life. Stay the course, put in the work, and don’t give up on the dog… they wouldn’t give up on you.
If you lived the life they have been subjected to over their entire lives, how psychologically scarred would you be? Their emotional trauma and despair, the learned behaviors and built in expectations, all of the struggles they have lived through lies deeply mapped in their brains. I can take weeks, months, and in extreme cases years to release those memories and trust. A dog can have a form of PTSD when transitioning out of the mill and into a loving home. Know that fact, and commit for the long haul before you bring them home.
Bestfriends.org states that there are eight words to live by when dealing with a puppy mill dog that you are re-homing; Patience, love, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, calmness, empathy, and perseverance. Always consider where they’ve come from, the life they lead, their learned behaviors over the years of captivity at the mill… then watch them grow into the dog they were meant to be with your love and guidance
You may never know your new best friend was a mill dog. But if you see signs of these behaviors and struggles, if you try hard to correct and teach but it seems to be going at a snails pace, then maybe you have a reclamation job on your hands. You made the choice of THIS dog for reason, make that the beacon you focus on as you work through the issues and help this animal transition to their new life.
There are hundreds of online resources, or printed books, on this subject, so help is out there. Be honest with yourself and the dog, create a plan, have a road map drawn from the start to the desired destination, then don’t quit until you’ve reached the end of your journey. You can be each other heroes, and best friends for life.
This brings to a close another edition of our Dog Blog. The key points to consider, “adopt, don’t shop”, have a plan and follow it till the end, don’t give up if it takes longer than expected, and love conquers all… eventually. We hope this information was enlightening and educational. The road to Oz isn’t always traveled on a Yellow Brick road. Sometime you have to take the long and winding path to get to the same location. Either way, if you’re traveling with purpose, a friend by your side, the journey is well worth the effort.
We hope you have a fantastic week ahead. It’s Mothers Day on Sunday, so be sure to recognize all the Mothers out there… fur and flesh. We hope to see you back next week as we tackle another subject, as you find out what #FreddieSez.
To see what one actual puppy mill looks like, follow the link below to the Humane Society video
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