“Typically the dogs that aren’t sold get killed,” said Deborah Howard, founder of CAPS. “Many puppy mills don’t even use euthanasia to do it. Instead they just shoot the dogs, even though it’s against the Animal Welfare Act.” If this episode sounds like an isolated case, it’s not. On the Web site for CAPS, you can find detailed invetigations into cases similar to this one.
In fact, according to the U.S. Humane Society, there may be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the country that house nearly half a million breeding dogs, who in turn produce anywhere from 2-4 million puppies each year. Most of these animals are leading low-quality lives.
The puppies that aren’t born with obvious defects are marketed to pet shops through a middle man (also known as a broker) when they are as little as eight weeks old. These brokers shop around for deals from various puppy mills, and then sell the puppies to pet stores at a bargain price. The brokers can be as bad to the dogs as the puppy mills. In their care, dogs may be forced to travel up to hundreds of miles without enough food or water before they arrive at the pet shop.
For all these reasons, the ASPCA has repeatedly urged customers to stop buying dogs from pet stores all together and start shopping exclusively at reputable breeders. Putting aside the moral argument, even from a purely consumer perspective, buying from a pet store increases the likelihood that you might end up with a dog that has serious health defects. One Florida couple recently sued a pet store after they shelled out nearly $2,000 in veterinarian bills to help treat their puppy’s breathing problem, only to have the dog die on them shortly after. They had just purchased the pup a few days earlier from the store for $600. Even if the dog turns out to be relatively healthy, there is a good chance that they may have ticks and fleas on them that could then get into your home.
There have been some signs of hope in the past year. The governor of Wisconsin recently signed a law that will begin the process of eliminating mills from the state. Meanwhile laws have passed in several states including Louisiana, Virginia and California that limit the number of dogs which can be kept at a mill at any given time.