I’ve never seen the outside world. I have lived in this tiny cage my whole life. There is barely room to turn around. I have no soft bed to lie on; just hard wire that cuts into my skin. My feet have never touched solid ground. I have never felt grass beneath my toes. I’ve never gone for a walk or chased a ball.
I’m always hungry and have no clean water. My teeth are sore and decayed. My fur is matted and feces-laden; urine build up burns my skin. The overwhelming smell here makes it hard to breathe and stings my eyes. My nails are so long they’ve grown back into my skin. I’ve never seen a veterinarian. I long for human contact. I’ve never cuddled on someone’s lap or felt loved.
I am so tired. I’ve had countless litters. My babies are taken from me far too soon, even the ones that are sick. I hear their cries as they’re carried off to be sold and know they are scared. They must think I don’t love them. I hope they are luckier than me. It’s hard to imagine that any animal would be forced to live like this. Sadly, this is the harsh reality of dogs in puppy mills.
What is a puppy mill?
A mill is a breeding operation where profit takes priority over the animals’ health and welfare. Dogs bred in these factory-like settings are seen as nothing more than a cash crop. The aim is to churn out as many puppies as possible with minimal cost and maximum financial gain for the operator. ‘Backyard’ breeders are simply puppy mills on a smaller scale. Both are in direct contrast with responsible breeders.
What is life like for a puppy mill dog?
Dogs in mills exist for the sole purpose of breeding, over and over, to produce puppies for sale. They are bred with little or no recovery time between litters until their exhausted bodies finally give out and they can no longer produce puppies. At this point, they are deemed unprofitable and may be killed or dumped. The lucky ones find their way to the Nova Scotia SPCA or registered rescue group.
Puppies are often taken from their mother and sold when they are only five to eight-weeks-old. This early weaning causes psychological distress to both mother and pups, who often suffer from fear and other behavioural problems. Some ruthless individuals continue to breed dogs knowing they have been producing unhealthy puppies. Unsuspecting customers may end up buying a dog with health problems that can surface immediately or years later, and face years of heartbreak and financial strain.
Why do puppy mills continue to exist?
The answer is simple and sad — because there is a demand. Unwary consumers continue to buy dogs from unscrupulous individuals instead of adopting from the SPCA or a registered rescue, or buying from reputable breeders. They take their new pet home and have no idea that the pup was born into a place like this.
What are warning signs that you are buying your pet from a puppy mill or ‘backyard’ breeder?
-Advertises through Kijiji, sells at flea markets or from the back of a vehicle.
-Prevents you from seeing where the animals live; often suggests meeting in a parking lot or other public place.
-Does not let you meet the dog’s parents.
-Sells multiple breeds of dogs.
-Has multiple litters available for adoption at one time.
-Does not ask you any questions other than about money and pickup arrangements.
-Insists on cash as method of payment.
-Often sells puppies before they reach the critical age of eight weeks.
-Does not provide: a veterinary certificate of health, spay/neuter agreement, breed history papers, registration information nor a request that you return the dog to them if it doesn’t work out.
Responsible breeders do the exact opposite.
What happens to dogs rescued from puppy mills?
NS SPCA Cruelty Investigators have been heroes to hundreds of scared, sick and emotionally distraught puppy mill dogs. But rescue is just the first step to recovery. Rehabilitation of these dogs takes time, money and patience. The unwavering dedication of shelter staff and volunteers helps ensure that each dog has a chance to find a loving home.
What can you do to stop puppy mills and ‘backyard’ breeders?
-Adopt a deserving dog from the NS SPCA or registered rescue, or buy one from a trusted reputable breeder.
-Never buy a dog through online sites like Kijiji, at flea markets or in a parking lot.
-Always visit a breeder’s facility in person to see the conditions in which your puppy was born and raised. Insist on meeting the puppy’s parents. Ensure you receive critical information noted above.
-Support the NS SPCA or favourite rescue by making a donation and/or volunteering your time.
-If you see or suspect an abusive breeder or puppy mill operator in your area — even if you’re unsure — call the NS SPCA Cruelty Line (toll-free: 1-888-703-7722; local 902-835-4798). All calls are confidential. You can also file a confidential online complaint at www.spcans.ca.
-Write or call your MLA and voice your concerns about puppy mills and ‘backyard’ breeders. Urge government to follow British Columbia’s lead in enacting regulations that set standards of care that must be met by all dog/cat breeding facilities in Nova Scotia.
Remember — the sadness we feel looking into a puppy mill cage must be nothing compared to looking out. Let’s work together to end the suffering.
Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their two adopted pets. A lifelong animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.