The problem of unwanted pets is so huge that it necessitates another look at the source of the problem. With so many wonderful animals that need a good home, it seems like an obvious choice to bring one home from a shelter, rather than buying it from a store. Yet the pet trade in North America is booming. Pet stores in the United States sell upward of 500,000 puppies a year. With 5 million healthy adoptable pets being euthanized every year in the United States, why are we still breeding pets?
Puppy and kitty mills are mass-breeding facilities that churn out hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens every year. Although they donít sell directly to consumers, few people know they exist, yet they are the primary supplier of pets in North America. Theyíre fueling the pet population crisis across the continent, doing so through the friendly face of pet stores, classified ads and the Internet.
Thanks to repeated investigations by groups such as the Humane Society and PETA, however the grim reality of life inside these mills is becoming public knowledge. The breeding stock animals live in cages and are kept continuously pregnant for years without any human companionship until they are literally worn out and are killed.
Just as unfortunate as the breeding-stock animal are the puppies and kittens that are mass produced by the mills. Transported in huge numbers to be sold all over the continent and overseas, these babies see none of the nurturing that is so essential in their infancy. Even if a family offers the little creature a happy, lifelong home, it may never recover from its initial trauma from crowding and transportation. Many new pet owners canít figure out why their dog barks non-stop or their cat lives in terror of everything that moves. Invariably, it is because they began their life in a breeding mill. The irony is that people tend to avoid bringing home shelter animals because they fear they’ll be wounded or traumatized. Quite the opposite is true. Shelter animals were often born in someoneís caring home and are generally far more adaptable to human companionship than a store-bought, mass-bred pet.
While the term “puppy mill” has come to mean any commercial pet breeding operation, there are far more than puppies and kittens being produced. Birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, reptiles and many other animals are mass-produced through pet-breeding operations and then sold through retail pet stores. More than 90 percent of all animals sold in pet stores are the product of mass- breeding operations.
If you are considering bringing a companion animal into your life, bypass the pet store and adopt from an animal shelter.
Some helpful links:
- Humane Society: How to Buy a Puppy.
- IDA – Puppy Mill Facts
- No Puppy Mills Canada
- Pet Mills
- Puppy Mill Rescue
- Stop Puppy Mills
Adapted from Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering by Ethan Smith with Guy Dauncey (New Society Publishers, 2007).