Recently, National Mill Dog Rescue, a puppy mill rescue group located near my hometown, posted a question on their Facebook page asking their readers if the rescue group should organize protests at local area pet stores that sell puppies. The goal of such protests is to end pet store puppy sales because it is estimated that 95%-99% of pet store puppies come from puppy mills rather than from local breeders as customers are generally told.
If you stay even somewhat current with national news, you are aware that this protest tactic is being used all over the country with some far-reaching consequences. In some cities, individual stores have closed. In some areas of the country entire store chains have agreed to stop selling puppies; and some chains have switched the puppy-selling portion of their business to dog adoption. While these are certainly positive results, there are some negative consequences of these protests that need to be considered before the decision to protest is made.
Puppy mills are terrible places! Puppy mill owners generally have anywhere from under one hundred to over a thousand breeding dogs. These dogs live in atrocious conditions. They often live in tiny individual cages (without solid flooring), or with many dogs in a single cage, or with many cages stacked on top of each other, or in concrete enclosures, or even cardboard boxes and always with poor sanitation. These dogs often have to sit and sleep in their own urine and feces. Rescued breeder dogs are sometimes found to be blind due to burns from urine fumes.
These dogs are fed cheap, poor quality food and are often without water for long periods of time. There is little or no veterinary care. Injuries are frequent but seldom treated. Sanitation, if it exists, generally involves power washing with the dogs still inside the cages. The noise silver teacup poodle puppies for sale level in huge operations often causes deafness. Until you have watched videos about puppy mills or have participated in a rescue, you will have trouble imagining the real living conditions these breeding dogs must endure. It is important to always remember that each adorable puppy in the window of a pet store has parents suffering in horrible conditions.
In additions to those horrible conditions, these breeder dogs must have litters of puppies every cycle–usually two times each year-and this continues until the dogs are literally worn out physically or the females prove to be bad mothers. At this point, the dogs are useless to the owner. When a breeder dog becomes useless, it is “eliminated.”
In the past, puppy mill owners eliminated their useless dogs by methods that were seldom humane. Over the years, there have been news stories exposing cases of gassing, shooting, beating, poisoning, etc., with dead dogs left in piles. These stories lead to the proliferation of puppy mill rescue groups that originally operated by stealth–stealing dogs under the cover of darkness.
Today it is more common to find that these breeding operations and rescue groups have created “working relationships.” When breeders have dogs to eliminate, a phone call is made, and a rescue group drives to the property and takes the dogs from the breeder. This, of course, leaves the breeder free to continue the cycle. These “working relationships” save the lives of dogs that would otherwise have been killed; but they do NOT cause puppy mills to go out of business!
As the public is becoming more informed, people are beginning to actively work toward “eliminating” this industry. Knowing that pet stores, with few exceptions, stock their stores from puppy mills causes many people to believe that if pet stores stop selling puppies, then the puppy mills will go out of business. This is, however, faulty logic. Preventing the sale of puppies at pet stores does nothing to stop the demand for puppies. In fact, the current demand for “designer” dogs, like pugles, cockapoos, labradoodles, etc., is increasing rapidly. Because reputable AKC breeders do not breed designer dogs, only puppy mills can meet the demand.
I can hear your thoughts! If pet stores stop selling puppies, buyers will not have anywhere to buy them, and puppy mills will have no place to sell them. As you just read that last sentence, I hope the phrase “no place to sell” caught your attention. There is a place where anyone can sell anything with absolutely no regulation–the Internet. These breeder/owners simply switch their business to the Internet. The Internet provides these owners a vast selling location with no licensing requirements, no regulations to follow, and no inspections pass. In just the past few years, the number of puppies sold online has increased to the point that it now equals the number sold in pet stores.
There is nothing about protesting in front of pet stores with a goal of closure that will bring about the demise of this industry. In fact, in many ways, the closure of pet stores helps the very industry we wish to eliminate.
There is, however, one positive aspect to protesting in front of pet stores–PUBLIC EDUCATION. There are effective techniques for eliminating puppy mills and they all begin with public education. If people understand that buying a puppy online only increases the problem, and if they understand that buying designer dogs increases the problem, and if they learn what has to happen to regulate the online sale of animals, and if they learn what needs to happen to enable more inspections with power of closure, and if they learn how to make every shelter a No Kill shelter, and if they learn that adoption is preferable, they will begin the process to finally shut down the entire puppy mill industry.
Remember: The goal of a protest must be education, not closure! We should be protesting about puppy mills, not pet stores!