Blog the Change Often I think I live in a bubble, one where animal welfare is part of the conversation. In the “real” world, issues that are crucial to me are simply off the radar.

The other night I had dinner with a couple who seemed very enlightened — into organic food, meditation, and general save-the-world concerns. In trying to explain what I write and blog about, I mentioned “pet care, training, causes like shutting down puppy mills.”

Both members of the couple had had dogs in the past but had never heard of puppy mills, much less the link between puppy mills and pet stores.

I’ve also written about how, when a story about inebriated people buying puppies hit the news in New York, the focus of all the stories was on how the responsible pet store owners wouldn’t allow drunks to buy puppies –as opposed to why it’s wrong for puppies to be sold in pet stores.

So let me start with the basics.

What are puppy mills?

Mass breeding operations, which have been around since the early 1960s. The puppies are crowded together in small cages, usually outdoors, with inadequate food, health care, cleanliness. Rarely is there any interaction with humans, certainly no play or kind touches. By law, these operations are required to be inspected by the USDA — just as other breeding operations are — but monitoring is infrequent and inadequate. According to the Madonna of the Mills site, which also has video of these operations:

  1. Puppy millers can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.
  2. Female dogs are usually bred 2x a year. At that rate, they usually burn out by age 5, at which time they are put to death.
  3. About 1 million breeder dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country
  4. Puppy millers can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.

What’s the link between puppy mills and pet stores?

Also from the Madonna of the Mills site:

  1. 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
  2. Nearly 100% of all puppies in pet stores have parasites when they are purchased.
  3. 48% of puppies being sold in pet stores were ill or incubating an illness at the time of purchase, according to a recent California study.
  4. There are 35,000 pet stores in America

What can be done about it?

Education, education, education. Oprah has done shows on the issue but clearly this is something that needs to be discussed over and over again until there is an ineradicable link in people’s minds between puppies bought in pet stores, cruelty and illness, one that’s so strong that people will be social pariahs for buying pet store puppies. They’ll be as scorned as they would be if they were buying kiddie porn. Lifting the veil from the cuteness of the “puppy in the window” takes time. We just need to keep on talking. And protesting. And signing petitions.

Does it work?

Hell yes. Petland, a large pet store chain in North America, stopped selling puppies in Canada as a result of the public outcry — and because this outcry created a drop in pet sales (the Petland Canada company spokesperson claimed it was because more people were buying online, which is another outlet for puppy millers).

What can I do today?

Sign the petition in the right column — a joint effort of Mary Haight, of Dancing Dog Blog, Stephanie Feldstein of, and  the crew at BTC4Animals  — to ban puppy and kitten sales at the Petland stores in the US. And tell everyone you know to sign it too. And just spread the word.


23 thoughts on “Blog the Change: Puppy Mills, Petland USA & Public Awareness”

  1. It’s hard for me to even imagine that the majority of our population hasn’t heard of puppy mills, and that petstores sell pups from millers. But it’s true, so I’m thrilled that you are helping to educate folks about this. Even if it’s one or two people at a time, they tell their friends, and so on. It takes a village–and I love that you and BtC and everyone else participating is part of that village!

  2. Thank you for the reminder, Edie. I will let my friends and relatives know. In some cultures, it is actually taboo to purchase pets, maybe there’s a strategy there that could be used in changing behaviors.

  3. Ooh…I love that taboo idea! Yes, Edie, you’re so right – the ideas need to be hammered on over and over and over. It’s astounding but very real that many people just aren’t aware of these issues. Thank you for providing so much education right here, today.

    Thanks for blogging the change for animals!

    Kim Thomas

    1. You’re welcome, Kim. And thank you for your efforts in making this a Blog the Change blog hop a success.

  4. Lately I have become more and more surrounded by the bubble that is pets and animal welfare. My personal life, my job, my friends, my blog, everything is related to these subjects somehow. My whole world essentially is made up of animal issues, whatever they may be. It’s very easy for me to forget that not everyone lives, breathes, and dreams about pets. Not everyone lives with a pet or understands what that means. Not everyone “gets it.” I am always shocked when someone shows themselves ignorant on a particular issue, like the situation you mentioned above with your friends not having heard of puppy mills before. I probably would have sat there, gobsmacked.

    Which isn’t fair, on any counts. I need to somehow get out of my little bubble and actually enage with people not in my world. Instead of walking away, I need to respect and consider and try to explain. It’s not easy. It still make me angry when someone says something I find inhumane, but dismissing them isn’t going to change anything.

    1. Yes, it’s very easy to get insulated in our interests to the point where we are intolerant — I speak for myself here — of people who might be well intended, just ill informed. Luckily these people were acquaintances, not friends (I might have taken their lack of knowledge personally them), and I’d had a margarita by the time the topic came up!

      And you’re absolutely right, we do no good by refusing to engage with people who don’t share our perspectives. They may be very open to a different point of view, if only it were presented to them in a nonhostile way.

    2. Kristine – I feel very much like you. My whole life is in the bubble, with the exception of work. It’s so easy to forget that not everyone knows about puppy mills. (Hell, most people think that the Caesar Milan way is the best way to train a dog.)

      Perhaps me getting outside the bubble is a good thing. Maybe then I can gain some perspective and educate people in a way that allows me not to be shocked when people say they have never heard of a puppy mill.

      Nice post Edie. I ran into a woman at a dog park recently who asked me about Daisy and why she was so shy. When I explained that she was a former puppy mill dog she asked me “What is a puppy mill?” I hope I hid the surprise on my face (certainly the friend who was with me did not). Instead of being shocked she didn’t know, I was happy to explain what it was to her.
      Now how to reach everyone else? Ah yes! Keep educating.

      1. You’re good at teachable moments, Mel! It’s great that you’re able to use occasions like encountering the woman who didn’t know about puppy mills at the dog park to spread that education.

  5. Great post, Edie. I see so many people in my veterinary practice who haven’t a clue about the connection between puppy mills and pet shops. So, I agree with you. Education is the key. Sometimes it seems like a never-ending battle though, doesn’t it?

    1. Thanks, Lorie. I’ll bet you see a lot of animals that come from puppy — and kitty — mills because of the poor conditions under which they’re raised. It must be doubly frustrating for you to see the results of people’s inability to make the connections.

  6. It’s easy to get irritated or even frustrated when people don’t have a clue about an issue that is so central to our dog-focused existence. But reaching them – one person at a time – is how we’ll get to the tipping point that puts puppy mills out of business. So, good for you! We’re two people closer to our goal.

    1. Agreed, Amy. You never know how these conversations reverberate; maybe the people I spoke with will caution their friends against buying a pet from a pet store someday. Yup, one person, one puppy at a time….

  7. True puppy mills are an evil to society but sometimes people get the wrong idea and call normal breeders a puppy mill. Most breeders make nowhere near $300,000

    1. Well, those are the people who need to be educated about the difference between puppy millers and hobby breeders. Anyone who has ever seen the premises of a responsible breeder vs a puppy mill can figure it out.

  8. Great post, Edie. I sometimes forget that not everyone is tuned into these issues as well. I had a conversation like that just 2 weeks ago with a family member. We walked past a pet store and she said “I wonder if they have puppies in there to look at.” I took a deep breath, and launched into what I hope was a nice way of explaining why I wouldn’t go in there if they did.

  9. I got my Stanley from a pet store. I hate admitting that to people. It feels taboo and I feel pretty ashamed to have fed into the puppy mill system. I was 20, in college, and had just lost my mother when I bought him. He saved my life in so many ways over the years with his companionship, so I can’t regret finding him and taking him home. I think he would have ended up being put down or surrendered because of his chronich disc disease, surgeries and resulting disability. I always tell people about puppy mills, though, when I mention where I got him. Luckily that pet store chain has since shut down!

    Hopefully I can make up for my contribution to this hateful system. I’ll be signing the petition as soon as my comment posts!

    Hello to Frankie!

    1. Hi Erin,
      Please don’t feel bad — that’s what education is all about. And obviously you’re spreading the word. I’m so glad Stanley found a good home with you, in spite of all his health problems. Thanks for sharing your story.

      Hugs to Stanley, too!

  10. My entire planet basically is made up of beast issues, whatever they might be. It’s truly hard for me to overlook that not every person exists, breathes, and dreams about pets. Not every person “gets it.” I am consistently stunned when someone indicates themselves unmindful on a specific issue, for instance the puppy mill scenario.

  11. Actually I haven’t heard of the puppy mills. And I am very shocked about it. I am so sad knowing about the condition of the dogs. Hope this will end sooner.

  12. These people doesn’t really care about the dogs. All they think about is their business.

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