Animal Cruelty and Puppy Mills
The ASPCA estimates that up to 10,000 puppy mills are in operation across the United States. These mills facilitate unhealthy living conditions, but their cruelty often goes unnoticed because of minimal animal cruelty laws across the country. In California, individuals accused of animal cruelty may face severe penalties and fines.
Animal cruelty comes in many forms. In California, animal cruelty laws apply to all kinds of pets, including domestic animals (like cats and dogs), and less common pets, like bighorn sheep and circus animals. Animal cruelty is not always the responsibility of one, careless or negligent person. In many cases, animal cruelty cases are the result of specific industries - cock fight, dog fighting, and puppy mills are only a few examples of animal cruelty in the United States.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) considers a “responsible breeder” to be someone who cares for their animals properly when breeding puppies. The puppy industry is lucrative, but some breeders are irresponsible - neglecting to take care of their animals properly in order to produce more puppies and make more money. Responsible breeders are highly concerned with breeding healthy animals: puppy mills are unconcerned with the health of their animals or the genetic qualities of the animals they produce. Many times, these irresponsible breeders produce animals with hereditary defects.
Puppy mill dogs may be sold under a variety of circumstances. A puppy mill dog may easily be sold through a “middleman.” Often, middlemen are brokers or pet stores. Other times, puppy mill dogs are sold directly to customers through the internet, newspaper ads, swap meets, or flea markets. Puppy mill puppies may have fraudulent lineage records, and are usually sold at an extremely young age. Many puppy mill dogs are separated from their mothers and sold on the market as young as eight weeks old.
Puppy mill dogs are susceptible to a multitude of health problems. Commonly, puppy mills provide their animals with extremely poor living conditions. Also, puppy mills may not remove sick animals from their breeding pools, resulting in more sick animals. Puppy mill dogs are commonly afflicted with epilepsy, heart conditions, kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorders, endocrine disorders, blood disorders, deafness, eye disorders, and respiratory problems.
Puppy mill puppies may be purchased with any number of diseases and medical conditions including parvovirus, distemper, respiratory infections, pneumonia, mange, fleas, ticks, giardia, heartworm, chronic diarrhea, intestinal parasites, and kennel cough. These problems may not be detectable until after the animal has been purchased. On top of this, puppy mill puppies may display any variety of behavioral disorders as well.
Because puppy mills are not exposed to normal socialization with humans or other animals when they are first born, they may exhibit fearful behaviors. When a puppy is born, the first six weeks of its life are extremely important. During this time, the puppy learns to interact with humans and other animals. If the puppy is kept in a small, crowed cage and not give any attention by humans, it may become socially inept. Puppy mill dogs may be extremely shy, aggressive, or anxious.
Additionally, puppy mills provide inadequate living conditions for their animals. To save space, puppies are often kept in cages that do not allow them enough freedom. They are not provided with treats, toys, or exercise. Many puppy mill cages have wire floors so that their owners do not have to clean up after them. These floors may damage the puppies’ feet. In some cases, the cages are stacked in columns – allowing waste from the upper cages to infest the lower cages with filth and potential diseases. Breeding dogs may be forced to live in these cages their entire lives, without access to healthy living conditions or proper care. Also, breeding dogs are bred with little or no recovery time in between pregnancies. These conditions are unsafe, unhealthy, and physically exhausting for the breeding dogs.
In the United States, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 puppy mills in operation. This number only refers to USDA-licensed puppy mills. There are many mills that do not have a license. Thus, there is no way of knowing how many puppy mills actually exist today. The ASPCA believes that there are as many as 10,000 puppy mills are currently in operation across the United States. Missouri is considered the leading puppy mill state in the U.S.
Unfortunately, many puppy mills are hard to convict for animal cruelty. Some of them are illegal, but many states have extremely low standards for dog breeding. Puppy mills often attempt to operate just within the legal boundaries of animal cruelty. The federal Animal Welfare Act requires breeders to undergo inspections, but these inspections cannot prevent the large-scale cruelty experience by dogs in puppy mills today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.