Every day, there are dozens of eager customers walking into the pet store to bring home a furry little friend to love for life. Little do they know that life for these animals before they entered the pet store was a hellish nightmare, and buying from these stores only contributes to the sickening ill-treatment of other animals from the store’s supplier: The breeding mill.
Breeding mills are commercial establishments that mass-produce animals such as puppies, kittens, and rabbits with little to no regard for the welfare of these animals, putting profit above everything else. These breeding mills focus on mass production as it has minimal costs, thus maximizing profits for the breeder and retailer.
The breeding industry is a multi-million dollar business in some countries and remains to be the main supplier for pet stores, backyard breeders, and online sellers around the world.
The conditions these animals live in are appalling, filthy and unimaginable. They are confined to tiny kennels and cages in large numbers at a time. These wire cages are usually stacked on top of each other with no shelter or protection against the climate. The animals are severely underfed and malnourished as there is barely enough food or water to go around.
These animals don’t get exercise or human contact. The lack of socialization results in behavioral and temperament problems as well as health and permanent disability issues from the cramp and unsanitary conditions.
Dental problems, severely matted fur, eye and ear infections, and genetic deformities such as cleft palate or an overly large underbite are frequently discovered in dogs who have been rescued from such places. (Source)
Back in 2012, there were multiple cases of store-bought pets that died from parvovirus only days after purchase. The virus was traced back to breeding mills where the dogs were kept in a horrifically unhygienic state.
In breeding mills, females are forced into an endless cycle of breeding with no breaks in between to recover until their bodies finally give up. This means they have to endure an approximate 4 to 6 years of non-stop breeding.
In fact, according to SPCA head animal inspector Cunera Kimlon, these animals are either killed, abandoned on the streets or dumped in shelters when they cannot breed any longer.
Breeding mills are profit vultures, so things such as veterinary care is something they deem unimportant and avoidable. Most times, injuries and illnesses are left untreated to save costs. Other times, untrained owners and workers in these mills take matters in their own hands and provide vet care without anesthesia, leaving the animals to suffer through the entire process.
This ‘cost-saving’ method goes as far as to euthanizing the animals in inhumane and unethical ways such as shooting, being bashed in the head with a rock, and drowning.
These animals are shipped to all over the country in conditions as terrible as mills, going up to 12 hours with no food or water. They are stuffed into transport containers and trucks where diseases are easily transmitted, and many of them don’t survive.
Why is all of this happening? Simply because when there is a demand, there will be a supply.
Once in a while, a family will walk into a pet shop to take a look at all the ‘super cute’ animals. They will then make their purchase and happily bring the new pet home, blissfully unaware of the fact that they had just generated income for some lucrative breeding mill pumping out more ‘super cute’ pets for like-minded customers.
Keep in mind that the kind of breeds these mills produce are usually in ‘high demand’. In other words, expensive and popular purebreds such as Pomeranian and Shih Tzu puppies, or Siamese and Persian cats. Again, a demand equals to a supplied product. In the industry of illegal breeding, this is just business.
Other times, people buy these pets in hopes of ‘saving’ them from the conditions they have been subjected to in the pet store. But the truth is, a sale is a sale. There is no such thing as saving animals from the pet store because every purchase only allows these mills to continue operating.
What’s so terrible about pet stores? If you take a closer look, it is no better than a breeding mill. The sales assistants are hardly ever qualified to handle the animals, especially if they are dealing with a sick or injured animal. The cages are just as unsanitary as the ones you find in mills, and they are often left alone with no exercise or human interaction.
Pet stores are not the only outlets for breeding mills. These animals are also being advertised and sold in places such as flea markets, the internet and local newspapers. Sellers are especially rampant online (search animals for sale on Locanto), disguising a sale as “an adoption”. Many of the animals being sold online are also sourced from backyard breeders.
Backyard breeders are irresponsible breeders who have little to no knowledge on proper, selective breeding. Their breeding methods have been said to be “substandard”, with minimal effort to ensure ethical breeding. They are very much like a breeding mill, but on a smaller scale.
There have been many cases involving backyard breeders in Malaysia and Singapore. In a case that happened in Kampung Baru Subang, not only were domestic animals involved, monkeys and birds that required proper documentation were also found.
Around 8 of these animals were kept hidden from the public in a bungalow that journalists at the scene said “reeked of feces”. Many were malnourished, sick, and had open wounds on their bodies. Some were even blind.
In Singapore, illegally bred cats are a huge issue. Cramped in a tiny flat in Sengkang, a whopping number of 94 cats were found in the 3 bedroom apartment, 60 of which were Siamese cats. They were starved, distressed, and nursing unattended pus-filled injuries. Some had their bodies stained with caked-up feces and urine while others were missing eyeballs, and every one of them had cat flu.
One kitten had even passed away because it was too malnourished.
Breeders like this use the guilt and lack of knowledge of potential buyers to their advantage. People are willing to buy from these breeders because prices are cheaper. The reason backyard-bred animals are cheaper is because they are not vaccinated, resulting in sad cases where the pet dies of viruses shortly after being purchased.
A common question people ask is: What happens to pet store animals if they are not sold?
According to Dee Santucci, Co-Chair of the Education Committee at The Puppy Mill Project, what happens is the price of the animal will be lowered until someone decides it’s cheap enough to buy. If that doesn’t work, the animal is sent to different pet shops where it might have a better chance at selling.
Sometimes, when the animal gets too old or the shop feels like it needs to cut down on costs, the animal is given away to employees, family or rescue shelters. Contrary to popular belief, they are not euthanized.
The idea that pet shops euthanize animals that aren’t selling well is a reason why some people choose to buy from stores. If saving is the biggest concern, then think about saving the unwanted animals in the shelters first. Not only are you providing them a new home, but also a second chance at a life they deserve.
Another factor that contributes to the operation of breeding mills is the regulations regarding the welfare of animals. In countries such as Canada, Animal Welfare Laws that can protect these animals exist but are very poorly enforced since the institutions with the power to enforce these laws are unfortunately too under-funded to take action.
This is why Quebec has the most number of puppy mills in Canada as there are no provincial SPCA overseeing the enforcement of such laws.
We can help shut down breeding mills by lobbying for the introduction of stricter laws and enforcement exercises that can help prevent and take action against illegal breeders and animal abusers. Lodging a report to the Veterinary Services Department (DVS) or any animal welfare body is also a step in the right direction.
The pet store should never be an option. Shelters such as the SPCA and PAWS are always full of animals that are in need of a forever home. There are also legitimate breeders who are licensed to operate with full knowledge and understanding of ethical and proper breeding.
Pet shops, flea markets and the internet are the last places you should go to, and trying to ‘save’ one animal will only put the lives of other animals in misery. Always opt to adopt.