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Though its “products” are certainly unique, the pet industry isn’t so different from other lucrative industries. Its participants include well-meaning, lawful businesses and individuals, as well as more unscrupulous players. Purebred dogs, in particular, often reach their new homes by way of an illegal and inhumane network, the “puppy mill pipeline.”
While the term “puppy mill” is not used in any official legislation, it’s become the go-to term for facilities where dogs are forcibly bred. In these facilities, dogs experience inhumane and unsanitary conditions and go without the necessary veterinary care, grooming, and socialization. From the puppy mill, they’re transported by “dog brokers” who bring them to the final point of sale. This process presents its own host of risks and potentially traumatizing conditions.
Many stores, breeders, and online pet retailers that appear to be ethical are, in fact, taking part in this supply chain — some don’t even know it. It’s possible that your local breeders and retailers are doing so.
While even grasping the scope of this issue is complicated, taking part in the fight against puppy mills is simple. Here are just a few ways you can become a more informed pet parent and help protect dogs across the country.
Do Your Research
The people behind puppy mills may evade justice, but they can’t escape the laws of supply and demand. Stopping these inhumane practices begins with steering clear of businesses and individuals that support them. The United States Humane Society suggests that any store selling puppies (or kittens, for that matter) should raise suspicion. They encourage concerned pet lovers to advocate for “puppy-friendly policies” and avoid patronizing businesses that will not adopt them.
Anyone interested in purchasing from a breeder should take a number of special precautions. Even if they’re not actively working with puppy mills, many “backyard breeders” are guilty of the same inhumane practices. The Progressive Animal Welfare Society writes that prospective pet parents should keep an eye out for the following red flags:
- Breeders who are reluctant to meet in person or show off their premises.
- Anyone offering purebred or “designer hybrid” dogs younger than six weeks of age.
- Breeders who don’t ask questions of you or other prospective buyers.
- Those who employ high-pressure sales tactics or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable.
One person won’t put a stop to inhumane practices by taking their business to a new pet store. If that person encourages friends, family members, and neighbors to do the same, however, they’re potentially capable of making a change. Dogs don’t have voices of their own to speak out against exploitation. They require a team of informed, passionate advocates to make their case for them. You have the means to build that team.
Don’t just dwell on the horrors of the pet industry. Make sure to educate your friends and social media followers on how they can support pet-friendly organizations and become ethical, responsible dog owners.
Write a Letter
Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you’d probably agree that change can be slow. Left to their own devices, it sometimes seems like lawmakers don’t do much lawmaking at all. PetMD encourages dog lovers to speed things along by writing their local and state legislators. Many members of the government are passionate pet lovers who’ll proudly take a stand for dogs. You might also consider penning a letter to the editor or editorial piece for your local newspaper.
While snail mail is still a tried and true method, don’t forget that more and more pet sales are taking place online. That’s not to mention that fewer and fewer people are expecting letters in their mailboxes. Use the digital tools at your disposal to ensure your message sticks. Blogs, social media posts, and emails are all potentially valuable in the fight against inhumane breeding.
Taking Action Against Puppy Mills
Several U.S. states and counties have cracked down on pet stores in an attempt to break the puppy mill supply chain. In 2017, California became the first state to introduce a state-wide ban on most in-store pet sales. Maryland followed suit in 2018 and New York took steps towards similar legislation earlier this year. New York’s proposed law — like some existing ones — would permit stores to partner with local shelters and licensed organizations for adoption events.
Check out the Humane Society’s Advocacy Guide to learn more about how you can help fight puppy mills in your area and nationwide. It’ll take a lot of time and effort, they write, but “incremental changes can help ensure better care standards for breeding dogs, stronger oversight of the pet breeding industry, and stronger penalties for those who mistreat man’s best friend.”