Puppy mills are also known as puppy farms. They are a breeding facilities that operate with emphasis on profits over animal welfare. Conditions are often substandard, and many times cruel. Dogs are typically housed in cramped, crowded and filthy conditions. They receive no positive human interaction and no opportunity to learn to socialize with other dogs. Females are repeatedly bred which is unhealthy, and puppies are often weaned much too early.
Animals spend most of their lives caged, with no meaningful exercise. Cages usually have wire flooring to let waste drop below. The wire floors lead to injuries to their paws and legs. Once breeders are about 4 years old and litter sizes decline, they are often killed or disposed of because they are no longer profitable. Puppy mill dogs often have deficiencies in health and social development that will plague them throughout their lives. The lucky ones that are rescued require commitment and compassion to help them build trust. Health issues can be present from years of neglect, inadequate medical care and indiscriminate breeding practices. Dental care is inadequate resulting in tooth loss or jaw abnormalities.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills in the United States, in total selling more than 2,000,000 puppies annually (source: Wikipedia). Puppy mills typically sell their stock to pet stores and sell directly on line. The only way to really know that a breeder is not a puppy mill that keeps dogs in inhumane and unhealthy conditions is to visit the facility and see for yourself. If you chose not to adopt from a rescue and want to purchase a purebred dog, you must do your homework.
I adopted all my dogs from rescue situations. 2 were healthy, but needed to be rehomed for various reasons. Our most recent adoption, Minnie, was a stray we adopted from a shelter. She is an older "purebred" Pomeranian. We have no idea of her past, but her behavior and health/physical condition points to her being a puppy mill survivor or at the very least an abusive living situation. She was very fearful and afraid to be touched. She was a dog that didn't know what petting was, and flinched when you reached out to pet her. Her teeth were in terrible condition with extensive decay and some already missing. She was matted and full of fleas. She is a tiny thing at 5.5 pounds, but she has a ravenous appetite, like she never had enough to eat. She behaves like she was in a multidog situation where she had to run off and hide to enjoy any food she had, and had to act tough to keep other dogs away from her. She has orthopedic problems, most likely from living on a wire floor of a cage. She looks like a purebred Pomeranian at first glance, but she has numerous significant "conformational" defects that do not meet breed standard. (curved back, legs too long and straight, improper facial features). Breeding dogs with improper genes produces dogs that may "look" like a cute purebred, but they do not have the desired breed qualities. Sometimes these variations may matter and sometimes it doesn't. In Minnie's case, her skeletal deviations coupled with insufficient exercise and probable wire cage confinement now cause her physical limitations.
Minnie has lived with us for 9 months. She is a different dog. She is now affectionate and more comfortable with human touch. She craves petting and human company. She is still growing in her fur, after needing to be severely shaved to remove mats. She no longer has flea dermatitis. She is learning that bathing and grooming are not life or death experiences. (Bath and grooming = Cheerio treats). She had a dental performed, and unfortunately had to lose a few more diseased teeth. She now lets me apply dental gel to her remaining teeth, though I still cannot use a toothbrush. It is still too terrifying to her. She has learned the joy of playing fetch, and "killing" squeaky toys. She has even learned to self soothe when she is upset (ie. seeing people or dogs in the neighborhood) by getting her squeaky toy and chomping on it. It's been a slow journey, needing a soft touch and patience, but she has learned to trust us and enjoy her life. It is so heart breaking to think that such a sweet dog would have had such a miserable life for so long. We are happy to be able to give her a pampered life for her remaining years.
The following links will give you a revealing and shocking look at puppy mill conditions, including video. It's hard to read and watch, but is something everyone should know about. Please use care in choosing your next pet so you do not perpetuate the existence and success of puppy mills. I've also provided links to help you know how to find a reputable breeder.
Links for learning more about puppy mills:
Links to help you learn more about how to choose a reputable breeder:
Meet Minnie, our rescue pup.