A puppy mill is a large scale commercial dog breeding operation where dogs live in cages and are bred repeatedly, producing puppies to be sold in pet stores across the country – and online throughout the world. There may be as few as 100 breeding dogs or as many as 800 breeding dogs housed at a single facility. It is estimated there are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the USA, the majority being located in the Midwest. About one-third of these mills are approved and licensed by the USDA, as dogs are legally classified as ‘agriculture’.
Most of the dogs live in wire cages in buildings, barns and sheds which often have no heating or cooling. The dogs are not socialized, they receive little or no veterinary care, they do not have beds or toys, and they never get to run and play in the grass – some dogs never even see the sunlight – and though they yearn for it, they never receive love.
Puppy mill dogs drink from “rabbit-type” water bottles and cannot lap water normally to flush their mouths. This allows bacteria to remain, leading to severe dental issues; the most extreme (but not uncommon) is loss of jaw bone. Long-haired breeds are never groomed and become painfully matted, causing horrible infections. The floors of the cages in which they live are wire and the dogs’ nails are seldom cut, resulting in deformities and painful sores. Life in a cage produces a list of other physical conditions far too long to elaborate on: missing eyes, broken tails, spinal injuries, unrepaired broken bones, heartworm disease, ticks and parasites … to name just a few.
The female dogs are bred at every heat cycle and their puppies are usually taken from them too young. When a dog is no longer productive, typically at 5-7 years old, standard procedure is to destroy it.