Puppy mills produce four million puppies in total misery each year. They sell these “products” to consumers through cheerful-looking pet stores that mask the dogs’ true origins.
Los Angeles is considering an ordinance that would put the brakes on the puppy mill industry by barring pet stores from selling any dogs, cats, or rabbits who are not rescues, according to The Huffington Post. Currently, over “95 percent of the dogs in pet stores are from puppy mills.” Closing off pet stores as a selling point would leave the mass breeders with no intermediary to sanitize their operations and market their puppies as healthy, happy and well cared for.
The approximately 15,000 U.S. puppy mills are large operations that confine female dogs to small cages and force them to bear litter after litter until they have lost so much calcium that their teeth fall out and their bones become brittle and sometimes break. The mothers and puppies live in their own waste, may lack potable water and edible food (see the food full of cockroaches above), and receive little or no veterinary care. Illness and injury are rampant.
Possibly the worst indictment of puppy mills comes from the federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which examined the government agency charged with enforcing the law that regulates dog breeders: the Animal Welfare Act. The OIG’s May 2010 report severely criticizes the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Animal Care (AC) unit, which inspects these operations for compliance with the law, for letting violations slide and failing to protect the animals who have no other voice. (WARNING: some of the pictures in the OIG’s report are very disturbing.)
Among the OIG’s findings:
- “AC Inspectors Did Not Cite or Document Violations Properly To Support Enforcement Actions”
- “AC’s Enforcement Process Was Ineffective Against Problematic Dealers”
- “APHIS’ New Penalty Worksheet Calculated Minimal Penalties”
- “APHIS Misused Guidelines to Lower Penalties for AWA Violators”
APHIS itself concurred with these findings. Everyone involved in protecting dogs exploited by large-scale breeders agreed that they were not doing their jobs.
L.A.’s proposed ordinance would not only deal a blow that might close or downsize some puppy mills; it would also save the lives of homeless animals who would otherwise be euthanized. “American puppy mills produce an estimated 4 million puppies every year. This number is almost equal to the number of dogs that are euthanized in shelters every year when they are not adopted,” according to the Animal Rescue Corps. If measures like the one Los Angeles is considering were passed nationwide, it could mean both the end of puppy mills and the end of euthanization of homeless dogs.
The measure would apply to kitten mills too. Abuses at large-scale cat breeders are as bad as they are at puppy mills. According to Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue, “Most of the breeder cats’ coats have been destroyed and their bodies are infected with ringworm and other fungal diseases. Also common are painful dental issues, infected or ruptured eyes, and claws grown into the paw pads.”
An editorial the Los Angeles Times calls the proposed measure “drastic” and notes that while the paper is “usually reluctant to support government-imposed constraints on what businesses can buy or sell,” “in this case we think the ordinance is justified.”
The paper’s reluctant recommendation to ban sales from puppy and kitten mills results from the egregiousness of the conditions and violations at these businesses. Some of the OIG’s most upsetting findings about puppy mills:
- A dog who was bitten by another dog did not receive veterinary care for at least seven days, “which resulted in the flesh around the wound rotting away to the bone.”
- A dog whose entire body was covered in ticks. “The dog appeared extremely tired and stressed and did not move, even when we approached it.” 11 months later the case was still “under investigation.”
- Starving dogs “had resorted to cannibalism”; AC “did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, as a result, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was revoked.”
The City Council will vote on the ordinance, which will then go to the Mayor.
In the meantime, Lambriar, a major broker that bought puppies from large-scale breeders and sold them to pet stores, has shut down. Perhaps the tide is turning against puppy and kitten mills.