While most of us agree that the lives of dogs in puppy mills are horribly substandard, it should be noted that two major organizations – the USDA and the AKC – do not. Both groups conduct inspections but in even the worst puppy mills, the ultimate action AKC can take is to suspend AKC registration privileges of the breeder and report cruelty cases to the authorities. And the AKC really doesn’t want to suspend registration privileges for puppy millers because they need the income from those registrations, or so they say. The USDA has enforcement authority but is understaffed and charged with many other inspection duties as well. And it’s important to remember that while there are minimum requirements mills must meet under the Animal Welfare Act (for example, cage size), puppy mills are legal. The USDA is not there to eradicate puppy mills but rather to monitor them, which they seem to be doing a rather shoddy job of anyway. So is the whole situation hopeless?
Hardly. If no one, not one single person, bought the puppies produced in these mills, they’d shut down. These dogs are kept simply as a cash crop. If the market dries up, the millers will cease production. Sounds simple and it is but sadly so many people don’t realize that pet store and internet “click here to buy” puppies come from puppy mills. Even if the puppies appear clean and healthy and cute. Even if the pet store employees and “Visa and Mastercard accepted” websites say they don’t get their puppies from mills. Even if the puppies have “papers”. If the puppy is in a pet store or on a “buy now” type website, it came from a puppy mill, not a responsible breeder.
What can we do? First and foremost, do not buy anything – not even a biscuit – from any store which sells dogs and cats. (Keep in mind, some pet supply stores offer “adoption days” to shelters – that’s completely different as those are homeless pets and the store makes no profit from their adoptions.) Second, educate your friends and family. You’d be surprised to find out how many people don’t know about the puppy mill-pet store connection. You do know. Spread the word. And third, support your local no kill shelter or rescue group. That’s where adult puppy mill dogs sometimes end up – if they’re lucky.