Buyer Beware: The Problem with Puppy Mills and Backyard BreedersChoosing to bring a new canine companion into your life is an exciting but involved decision-making process, especially when deciding where to get one. You might have concerns about "puppy mills" or "backyard breeders," and want to know how to steer clear of them. Perhaps you don't even know what these are and need more information.
As you begin your research, here are some things to consider:
Puppy millsPuppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs (and cats in cat mills) for sale through pet stores, or directly to consumers through classified ads or the Internet. Roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. Many retailers who buy animals from such facilities take the wholesaler's word that the animals are happy and healthy without seeing for themselves.
In most states, these commercial breeding kennels can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives, for the sole purpose of continuously churning out puppies. The animals produced range from purebreds to any number of the latest "designer" mixed breeds. Cat breeding occurs under similar conditions to supply pet stores with kittens.
Animals in puppy mills are treated like cash crops
Some backyard breeders may only breed their family dog once in awhile, but they often are not knowledgeable on how to breed responsibly, such as screening for genetic defects. Responsible, proper breeding entails much more than simply putting two dogs together.
Look for these red flags:
Taking homes awayWhen puppy mills and backyard breeders flood the market with animals, they reduce homes available for animals from reputable establishments, shelters and rescue groups. Every year, more than 150,000 cats and dogs enter shelters in Washington State-6 to 8 million animals enter shelters nationwide. Sadly, only about 15 percent of people with pets in the U.S. adopted them from a shelter or rescue group, leaving so many deserving pets left behind.
Help stop the suffering by taking these steps:
From National Shiba Club of America:
Things to ask a breeder:
How many litters do you have every year? A large number might be considered excessive. Because breeders have a limited amount of litters, some have waiting lists. If you wish a dog from that breeder, ask to be placed on that list.
Do you have a provision in your contract that requires an owner to notify you if the dog can’t be kept? Will you take the dog back?
Do you have many breeds of dogs? This could be a sign of a less than reputable breeder.
What health checks do you do on your breeding dogs? The following should be done:
1. Hips – a rating of fair, good or excellent from the OFA.
2. Eyes – a certificate from a veterinary ophthalmologist showing the dogs are clear of heritable eye defects in the past two years. This certification may be registered with CERF or the OFA.
3. Patellas – certified by a licensed veterinarian and registered with the OFA.
Reputable breeders perform these tests prior to breeding so as to ensure that the puppies produced are healthy.
Do you belong to National Shiba Club of America and, if not, why? Members agree to a Code of Ethics.
How are your puppies raised and socialized? Important that they are raised in an environment where people are present and have human contact at an early age.
Do you encourage prospective buyers to come visit and meet your dogs? If dogs are being shipped, at what age do you ship? Do you guarantee that the dogs will arrive in good condition? Do you provide references?
Does the breeder encourage you to have their puppies attend socialization classes and obedience training?
Does the breeder ask questions as to why you want a Shiba? They want to ensure that the future puppy/dog will meet your expectations will fit into your lifestyle.
Does the breeder assure himself that you understand that this breed can have some limitations such has needing a secure fenced area when off lead and always on lead when outside that area?
Does the breeder discuss with you possibility that Shiba's may not be friendly with other dogs?
Is the breeder up-front about the financial aspects? Does the purchase include shipping and crate costs if applicable?
Does the breeder provide:
a written health guarantee without restrictions, such as having to buy items from the breeder like vitamins and food? The guarantee should not be voided if a specific food or supplement is not fed.
a written contract should spell out specifics such as ownership and registration, as well as the responsibilities and expectations of the breeder and owner? Be sure to read the contract!
education regarding the breed such as history, individual characteristics of the puppy you are getting?
photos of puppies while they are growing and information regarding pet insurance, microchipping etc.? Is information on activities Shibas can participate in such as obedience, rally and agility discussed?
a vaccination record, worming record and health certificate from a licensed veterinarian?
a food and a feeding schedule to transition the puppy into its new home?
willing and ongoing communication before and after the sale?
Follow your instincts when choosing a breeder. Buying a dog is a 15 year commitment not to be taken in haste. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Inside Holmes County, Ohio and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: "The Amish Puppy Mill Capitals of the United States"
Many people visit Holmes and Lancaster Counties because they are lured by the appeal of the country of the past. Perhaps they are looking for a slower more peaceful pace. Lancaster County and Holmes County Tourism use the Amish and Mennonite community as a tourist attraction.
They advertise scenes like these:
But drive down any country road in Lancaster or Holmes County and you will see signs like these often. Dogs are viewed as a cash crop. Ads in the news papers often state cash only. Amish and Mennonite farmers have publically stated that dogs are livestock and there is no difference between a dog and a cow.
The Amish and Mennonite community are known as "The Gentle People". Amish Country is known for its wonderful restaurants, craft shops and well-kept Amish farms. Beautiful fields where bearded men in wide-brimmed hats lead teams of shaggy plow horses tilling the soil. Hay fields dot the rolling hills of Amish country, and the fields that sustain the simple lifestyle are mostly bare. But one crop the most important crop to some remains: Puppies.
An overwhelming number of puppy mill operators are Amish. Inside the picturesque barns and wooden fences of Amish country in New York State and in all Amish communities throughout the US, "purebred" puppies are bred by the tens of thousands, many living in a hellish world of filthy, crowded cages. They are puppy mill puppies, and they bring in $4 million a year for the over 100 Amish and Mennonite farmers who supply pet stores, boutique dog-shop markets, and at least two New York dog dealers, according to the ASPCA. "It's not just some cottage industry by people who sell bread-and-butter pickles by the roadside," says Roger Caras, ASPCA's former executive director.
These "dog farmers" sell 20,000 puppies a year to wholesalers for an average $223 a pup, government records show. And it's making some of these quaint farmers quite rich. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documents show that one Amish dog farmer sold 1,293 puppies last year for an estimated $290,000 though federal inspectors have cited his farm for numerous violations since 1992 including overcrowded cages and inadequate sanitation, pest control, feeding and watering of animals. Then these sickly, genetic nightmares are delivered to the upscale pet shops. They given them a bath and blow dry them and fluff them up and pray they don't die before they're sold, often for $1,000 or more each.
The Amish don't say much about their involvement. They never do. No one at the local seed store would talk about puppy breeding last week. Or at the buggy maker's. Or at the lumber yard or the pet store. Not even at the corner restaurant. It's their dirty little secret.
Be warned though- the Amish life that is depicted for tourist is nothing like the reality. A simple Google search for Amish puppy mills will return thousands of hits. For farmers, a big crop of dogs can gross up to $500,000 annually, with successful operations netting six figures. For critics, the men in the suspenders and bushy beards are masking a cruel form of factory farming behind the quaint and pure image of the Amish culture.
According to Baker, even shipping a pup a week later, at eight weeks of age, is not a good idea. "Immune systems aren't developed by then and all kinds of health issues could arise."
In areas of the U.S. where Amish dwell, there is a high number of puppy mills. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement lists 243 kennels in Lancaster County. Pennsylvania, 98% of them owned by Amish. Holmes County, Ohio, has 470 kennels -- more than any other county in the nation. While the Amish landcape is among the most beautiful in the world, the puppies bred at the mills NEVER see the outside of wire cages that are usually stacked on top of each other in dark barns.
One cannot throw all the Amish into the same category. Actions of some might sound rash. The puppy-mill breeders might be just a small fraction or a very small percent of the Amish population, but the majority of the population have chosen to ignore what is going on in their own backyards.
The Amish have been allowed to continue their inhumane treatment of animals without pressure from the rest of the population because of the money that tourism brings to Amish businesses. Most people who visit Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio go there to experience the Amish Culture. Yes, the Amish in general are a hard working, modest people. But they use the modern world to advertise and post the mill puppies on the Internet. These Godly people who shun the outside world have no qualms about using an outide third party to sell their stock.
The Amish continually breed poor quality puppies and keep their breeding dogs in a state that defies decency. They should be barred from dog breeding as they breed poor quality dogs. They get away with it because people think that religious people wold never do anything inhumane.
The following pictures were taken with permission of the Amish owner. All these dogs have been in wire cages all their lives, live totally confined to these spaces, receive no vet care and have deformed paws.
From Elam Zook, June 23rd, 2009 "I grew up Amish and most Amish I know do not treat their animals well. It doesn’t matter whether the puppy mill is Amish or non-Amish but it does matter how the animals are treated and how the people who get them when they are mistreated struggle and suffer trying to heal an abused animal. I am sick of people’s fantasies about the happy peaceful Amish world. That is mostly a lie and you can live in denial if you want to and allow the abuse of women and children and animals in the Amish world to continue. Yes, it isn’t in every Amish family or church, I know that but it is way more common than you can imagine..."
The cruelty is not limited to Pennsylvania or Ohio. There are also Indiana's Amish Puppy Mills. When people think of the Amish, they tend to think of a people who live according to God's word and religion. But watch the following video and you will see a side of the Amish that you never knew. You will see cruelty, heartlessness and greed.
View a rare undercover video of an Indiana puppy mill run by an Amish "Dog Farmer" Listen closely as the miller apathetically describes his business, how the inspectors look the other way and the amount of money he takes in. Warning: Video is explicit.
Justice for Amish Animal Abuse: Trial of an Amish man for operating a "factory for dogs:"Aaron Lapp in Washington County, PA, was sentenced to 145 days in prison and over $4,500 in restitution and fines for operating what country Judge NancyL. Butts called "a factory for dogs."
"Nine dogs in need of 'immediate care' were taken into SPCA custody as a result of the search, humane society officer Lawrence Woltz said. Some were matted with dried feces and urine while others had rashes and skin diseases, he said. Woltz showed a video recording of the farm taken on the day of the search. It showed dogs living in cramped wire cages, kennels overflowing with feces, urine and matted hair and drinking water that was bright green in color."
"Most of the cages did not have boards for the dogs to rest their feet from the wire and some dogs were chained outside with no shade, he said. 'It’s pretty clear what you’re operating is a factory — for dogs,' Butts told Lapp as she pronounced sentence. 'If you need to grow something to sell it, don’t grow animals, grow vegetables'. ... Woltz said that the 'stench was overwhelming' and the cages were 'overflowing' with feces and urine."
The final witness for the prosecution was Bernadette Miller, a woman who adopted one of the Yorkshire terriers taken from Lapp’s farm by the SPCA. 'It was traumatized. It was shaking, very scared. It was an empty shell. It had no personality,' she said of the dog’s disposition when she first brought it home. 'It’s a work in progress.' Miller said the dog had to learn how to run, jump and play because it was never exposed to those activities before. She said that she had to take the animal to the veterinarian many times for treatment of its constant vomiting and diarrhea."