Puppy mills that neglect or mistreat their animals can sometimes be difficult to spot. No business owner would want to appear to be cruel because it affects their profits. Even if the place appears to be clean and presentable, do not assume that it is not a puppy mill. Look out carefully for the signs listed below.
Sores, heavily matted coats, unsightly tear stains are just some of the more visible problems that the dogs at puppy mills suffer from. These problems are not merely cosmetic, so don’t be taken in by breeders promising to groom the dog for free if you buy it! Sores and heavily matted coats are painful for the puppy. If not cleaned, the tear stains can also lead to bacterial growth and infections.
There are also many psychological issues involved. Some signs of these include repetitive movements such as tail-chasing and pacing, as well as unpredictable and fearful behaviour. Even when the dogs look healthy, there are other tell-tale signs of a puppy mill.
Profits over welfare
A sure sign of a puppy mill is when the owners place their profits over the welfare of their dogs. Responsible breeders will interview you to see their puppies are going to a good home. The screening process may feel invasive but this means that the breeders care about their puppies.
But if the breeder does not address the animals’ welfare and is only concerned about being friendly to you, telling you how cute their puppies are, and pushing you to ‘reserve’ a puppy; you can assume they are more concerned about their profits.
Pushy sales person
Many puppy mill salespersons often encourage you to reserve the puppy, and even pressure you to do so by hinting that the puppy is very popular. Apart from being pushy, unethical salespersons often provide potential buyers with wrong information and misrepresent the responsibilities of owning a dog.
In a real exchange based in Singapore where we were posing as potential buyers, salespersons told us that we could just leave the Chihuahua in the cage and occasionally take it out to play with. The truth is that all dogs require physical and mental exercise. To leave them in the cage with only occasional play would simply be inadequate, regardless of their size. Such misinformation will only lead to more neglect of dogs, as well as abandonment when the owner realises the huge amount of effort and commitment needed to own a dog.
Poor living conditions
Often treated as moneymaking machines rather than living things, the basic welfare of many dogs is neglected. The worst conditions are imposed on the breeding dogs because they are out of sight to the general public. However, you can look out for telltale signs even in areas accessible to the public, such as a lack of shelter from the heat, and sometimes even unfilled water bottles.
To save space and money, dogs in puppy mills are kept in small cages for their entire time at the puppy mill. This can lead to psychological and socialisation issues later in life. Even those in the larger cages often have to share the space with 2–5 other dogs.
Imagine having to stand barefoot on uncomfortable wired flooring. How about doing so for every hour and every day of the week? Almost all dogs in puppy mills undergo this torture and injure their paw pads just because wired flooring makes it easier for the puppy mill owners to clean their excrement.
Take a trip to a few puppy mills and you are likely to see many dogs resting beside their own faeces or even standing in them. Such filthy conditions are ideal for the spread of infectious viruses and bacteria and intestinal worms.
The visible conditions of puppy mills as noted above are only the tip of the iceberg. The worst happens in the back areas where the breeding dogs are kept, an area that is usually off limits to the public. Keep your eyes open when the breeders enter these areas and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the rows and rows of stacked cages behind the scenes, hinting at greater horrors.
See a large cloth covering the entrance to the back areas? What exactly are they trying to hide?