Last month, my team, along with Pointe Coupee Animal Shelter and other incredible shelter partners, addressed a suspected puppy mill in Louisiana, with more than 150 dogs and 100 cats, all in varying stages of neglect. Typical of a puppy mill, the living conditions were devastating. Cats wandered freely with no food or water set out; dogs spent years in cages in the Louisiana heat, breeding for profit.
Many states have laws in place to protect dogs in puppy mills through standards for housing, food, and medical care. Even with protection laws, BISSELL Pet Foundation receives monthly calls asking for assistance with a puppy mill, either shut down by local authorities or voluntarily, like last week. Unfortunately, the laws are not enough. Puppy millers hide, manipulate, and continue to do business.
The pandemic was a boom for puppy mills. There was an urgency to have a pet, and puppy millers were happy to fill the need. But, as an industry, do we bear some responsibility for puppy mill purchases if we don’t teach people how to buy a pet responsibly?
I wish everyone would adopt their next pet. Sadly, I also know that the reality is that some people will choose to buy. Therefore, I am asking that we band together to stop the suffering in puppy mills by providing information and support to those who want a specific type of dog or cat that we don’t have available, or they might not be willing to wait for.
Together, we can arm people with information on breed-specific rescues or finding a responsible breeder. Yes, there are responsible breeders, and we need to remove the stigma around them. Please have brochures and information ready at your shelter/rescue to hand out when someone does not find the pet they are looking for at your facility. We need to help people understand that puppy mills come in all shapes and disguises, give them tips to avoid falling for their tricks, and tell them where to find a responsible breeder. By doing this, we can help end the suffering of millions of dogs in puppy mills.
Maybe go even one step further by making connections with reputable breeders in your area. If we can tell prospective pet buyers where to go, we can squeeze puppy mills right out of business. Of course, not everyone who comes to the animal shelter will end up adopting, so let’s give them information. If we teach consumers to refuse to purchase pets without seeing the property where they come from, puppy and kitten mills will be unable to do business. We, the animal welfare people, can make that happen.
Collectively, we have made it our mission to protect pets; let’s do that by stopping the horrific and systemic suffering in puppy mills.
Here are some helpful links with materials on finding a responsible breeder: