Companion animals bring such joy and wonder into our lives. What can be more exciting than sharing your life with a young puppy as it grows; watching it develop its own personality, and experiencing the unconditional love that is given by our furry, four-legged friends? As any devoted pet owner can tell you, proper care and nutrition can help establish a foundation of good health and help ensure a long, happy life for your pet.

Unfortunately, many pet buyers are unaware that the adorable, innocent puppy that peered hopefully at them from the store window comes with a hidden catch – these puppies, and their unfortunate health problems, may be coming from a puppy mill. Even though the definition of puppy mills will change depending on who you ask, the basic principle of a puppy mill is a place where mass dog-breeding takes place with the only concern being profit, not healthcare or comfort.

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All the animals which are bred in a puppy mill are kept in unbelievable conditions; over-crowding, minimal to no medical treatment, irresponsible breeding practices, and very little socialization with people are just some of the inhumane acts to which these dogs face in a puppy mill (Puppymills). Who is in charge of preventing these actions? The United States Department of Agriculture (USAD) is responsible for the licensing of kennels and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in the United States.

However, with only 96 USAD agents assigned to monitoring the hundreds of thousands of puppies bred in kennels throughout the US, the majority of the efforts devoted to caring for these animals lies on local shelters and animal rescue groups who act on tips of abuse. Most of the laws dealing with animal welfare are set by each state. Many states have little to no supervision so running a mass breeding operation can easily be concealed. The current “puppy mill states” are Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and holding the highest number of mills is Pennsylvania.

By paying an amount between five and fifteen dollars, any person can open their own breeding practice, knowing that there are no laws in place that require a government agency to police the conditions of their operation. Its loopholes such as that which allow the irresponsible breeders to take advantage of the existing legal system and stay in business (Puppymills). Unfortunately, it’s not the people that suffer; it’s the animals themselves that suffer the most.

Canines who have been bred in puppy mills experience significantly more health problems, such as epilepsy, heart and kidney disease, diabetes, blood disorders, deafness, eye problems, pneumonia, fleas, ticks, and many more, than those dogs who have been bred in environments which focus more on the overall well-being of the animals rather than on the profits for which these animals have been produced (What is a Puppy Mill? ). These doges are frequently kept in confinement inside overcrowded wire cages; “having constraints on movement that significantly interfere with one’s ability to live well” (DeGrazia pg. 7). Not only are they kept in cramped wire cages, which cut their paws, they are not given the chance to exercise in the fresh air. Because the owners of the mills only care about profit, the animals are fed poor quality, inexpensive dog food that does not provide adequate nutrition for the breeding stock nor the puppies which have been bred.

Veterinary care is very rare occurrence in puppy mills, since the cost of medicines and check-ups in a large scale breeding operation can often cost thousands of dollars, which would decrease the profitability of the business (Reputable Breeder or Puppy Mill? . Because the laws regulation animal welfare are so loosely enforced and are rarely publicized, consumers who have not been educated in purchasing an animal from a reputable breeder, what to expect when purchasing a pet, or how to be a responsible pet owner, are often unaware of the dangers which can exist when purchasing a pet from a pet store or from the puppy mill breeders who supply them. The puppy mill owners can continue to rake in profits while selling their dogs to consumers looking for a bargain.

It seems like a win-win situation for everyone at face value, but that is only because we are not taking into account the dogs themselves, nor their health problems which can cost the smart shopper thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, and, very possibly, the death of their new pet. Educating consumers to prevent purchases from pet stores and the puppy mills which provide them with animals to sell is an important way to help eliminate the profitability of mass breeding operations.

Offering alternative methods of gaining a pet by encouraging animal adoption from shelters and animal rescue groups to consumers not only decreases sales for the puppy mill profiteers but also helps to reduce the already staggering population of homeless animals. Teaching consumers those poor breeding standards not only affect animals but the people who purchase them will lead to greater demand for animals bred in a quality manner.

Encouraging consumers to adopt from shelters and rescue groups and to spay or neuter their pets, will help control the pet population and allow these groups to better provide care for the animals in their care who are not adopted to new families. Consumers should be taught that pets should not be purchased as an impulse item, but rather as the result of careful consideration which should be given to adding a new member to the family.

Most dogs rose in puppy mills behavior is off; the dogs become scared of humans. While they crave the attention and love a human can give to them, they are scared to ask for it. Not only are they scared, but in some cases, they literally cannot ask for it. In some extreme cases, the owners of the mills have the dogs vocal cords removed so they can no longer bark or make noises (Reputable Breeder or Puppy Mill? ). Allowing the current conditions in puppy mills to continue is cruel and inhumane.

By allowing these breeding mills to continue, the already overwhelming population of unwanted pets will grow to a proportion to which the existing facilities providing for their care cannot cope. I believe that educating consumers is key to preventing the continuation of the puppy mill trade, because by showing the public the horrible truth about what happens in puppy mills and the affects that poor breeding practices have on the animals which come from them, we can hope to eliminate the demand for instant gratification pets.

Teaching consumers that purchasing a pet is a lifetime commitment rather than an act of impulse, there will be a greater demand for pets which have been bred with their overall health and well being as the prime consideration in order to prevent the purchase of pets with special needs which have resulted from poor breeding practices.

Encouraging those in search of a pet to first consider adopting a pet rather than buying from a breeder helps reduce the population of unwanted pets and helps to prevent the euthanization of numerous animals who would have otherwise been a wonderful companion if given a chance. Ideally, I believe that the implementation of both of these alternatives would be the key to stamping out the puppy mill trade; however, I believe that the most effective and cost efficient method of the two is to educate the public.

When public demand for animals bred in puppy mills decreases, so too will the profits of the puppy mills; effectively shutting down the practice which will not only endangers the well-being of individual animals, but also the integrity of the bloodline of these canines (Regan). Despite current attempts to protect these animals under the existing animal welfare laws, I do not believe that the public is doing nearly enough to ensure the proper care which is necessary when breeding animals.

The old saying about dogs being a man’s best friend is true. A dog will provide its owner with its devotion, obedience, and unconditional love, just as a human child would do with its parents, and in many cases, more so. If these heinous acts were committed against a human child, the community would be outraged and demand justice be brought to the perpetrators of such acts. Our canine companions, as members of our families, deserve just as much compassion and respect as any other member in the family.