By Jody Spear
Don’t Shop-Adopt, is Sybil Soukup’s, Executive Director of the North Iowa Humane Society in Mason City, Iowa, slogan.
The Humane Society of North Iowa is a non-profit organization that serves a nine county area in North Iowa and operates a no-kill rescue animal shelter in Mason City. In the past 25 years, HSNI has found loving homes for over 6600 abandoned, displaced, and neglected animals.
There are 469 licensed puppy mills in the state of Iowa that house over 23,000 breeding dogs. Iowa has the second largest number of puppy mills in the United States (second to only Missouri).
Do YOU support Puppy Mills? If you have ever bought a puppy from a pet store or dog kennel/breeder, you have supported them. Did you mean to? Probably not.
While most people have heard of puppy mill’s, most do not understand what is happening. It has been said, “Oh, I rescued my cute, sweet, little puppy from a puppy mill.” In people’s minds, they may think this, but this is not correct.
What is a Puppy Mill? A puppy mill is a commercial facility where dogs are kept and bred in large numbers in order to sell puppies to the pet trade. The puppies generated may be sold to pet wholesalers or brokers, retail pet stores, or directly to the public.
The adult breeding dogs are not considered pets, nor are they treated as pets. They are often crowed together in small wire cages and typically receive little social contact with people and little or no professional veterinary care, even when open sores or other wounds are evident.
The facilities can vary widely in cleanliness and quality. The dogs are usually kept in wire cages to allow for ventilation and for excrement to fall. They aren’t taken out of those cages except for purpose of breeding. The females are bred over and over again with every heat cycle until their bodies wear out. They aren’t exercised, they aren’t provided human contact or socialization. The wire bottomed cages are painful for their feet. (In some cases, chicken wire is used) The cages are often stacked so that the excrement of the dogs above falls upon those that are below. They are not provided adequate nutrition and are often exposed to climate extremes without shelter from the frigid winters to sweltering summers.
The Adult Dogs are bred until they stop producing puppies or develop other health issues, at which point they may be shot, abandoned, or in rare cases, relinquished to animal rescue organizations. “Some of the ways that they may get rid of the parent dog is hit them in the head with a rock, take their back legs and smash their heads against something or just throw them away,” revealed an anonymous informer.
Oh, so that’s not enough to pull at your heart, bring tears to your eyes? Let’s think about this little bundle of joy, this puppy you bought to support puppy mills. The puppy mill breeders sell the puppies to anyone who is willing to pay. In fact, in most cases the breeder never meets the buyer because the puppy is sold through an intermediary. Since the breeder has a finite number of breeding dogs, inbreeding is often an issue. That, combined with the stressful conditions, the inadequate exercise and nutrition, and lack of preventative vet care often results in puppies that are less than ideal, health-wise. The odds are against you ending up with a healthy puppy, plus they are against you ending up with well-adjusted puppy too. Mill puppies are often separated from their mothers and siblings too early and don’t learn important social behavior such as bite inhibition and their crowded conditions can make them overly competitive for food and space, resulting in aggressive behavior. Housebreaking a puppy mill puppy can be especially problematic. Mill dogs, including the puppies, are confined to small cages or pens that serve as their “dens”. Normally a dog will not soil its den, but these animals have no choice. Soon they adapt and consider it “normal” behavior. If a dog has learned to ignore the natural instinct of a clean den, it will be difficult to house-train. Puppy mill operators typically don’t track the health and temperament histories of their dogs and often allow inbreeding, the puppies they produce can have problems and you won’t discover until you bring them home.
If your heart is set on a purebred dog there are shelters and breed rescue groups that have purebred dogs available for adoption everyday. Contact The Humane Society of the United States Companion Animals staff at 202-452-1100 or 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, or visit humanesociety.org/puppy for help finding a purebred rescue group or shelter in your area.
Now that you’ve been educated a bit, you can always learn more by visiting the Iowa Voters for Companion Animals website: www.iowavca.org