Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing

- Protecting Animals and Conserving the Environment

Puppy mills

Man's best friend

Originally dogs were thought to of been man’s best friend for the last 10 to 15,000 years however the latest research led by Professor Robert Wayne at the University of California shows that man and dog’s relationship dates back over 100,000 years.

Further Dr. Colin Groves, an anthropologist at The Australian National University, suggests that not only have people been domesticating dogs but also our canine companions have been conversely domesticating us. The reason is that as early-humans relied heavily on dogs for protection, tracking as well as for companionship, humans consequently required certain traits less, so the human sense of smell and hearing diminished. And so it can be seen from brain size and structure that the symbiotic relationship of man and dog has actually affected out biological evolution.

Research conducted by Juliane Kaminski at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany showed that dogs had an amazingly advanced ability to understand human emotions and facial expressions. Julia Fischer at the same institute showed that dogs used logic called “fast mapping” to acquire language, a similar method to that of human children. Anyone who has have ever had an animal companion can vouch for their beloved friends intelligence as well as emotional sensitivity. Joy and laughter of various domesticated animals have been well documented and studied.

Factory farmed dogs - "The mills"

However the world of cruelty and despair that these animals have to suffer in order to reach our homes as pets has been largely over looked. Around the world there are hundreds of millions of pet dogs and cats. How can such a staggering number of sentient beings have come in to our lives?

Most people will visit there local pet store or the internet in order to purchase a canine companion but a vast majority of these animals are supplied by unethical “puppy mills or farms”. Visions of puppies running around in a countryside farm with wagging tails is a far cry from the inhumane reality experienced by these pups and the mothers that give birth to them.

For the puppy mills, profitability is their main goal and so to reduce costs is the most efficient way to achieve this, this means that the conditions and methods employed often resemble those seen on livestock and poultry factory farms or worse.

The mothers

In the US alone more than 2 million puppies are produced annually in such mills. The whole process of dog farming starts when a female dog for the first time comes in to heat, she will then be impregnated by a male dog. This female breeding dog is known in the industry as the “brood bitch”.

The mothering dog is kept in a small wire cage which measures only 2 foot long by 2 foot wide, that’s if she’s lucky. The mother will live for the rest of her life eating and defecating in the same area. The area is so small that when she eventually does give birth she is forced to step on her own puppies as there is no space to move around.

Her babies will be taken away from her before she is able to properly wean them. This often means that the puppies do not know how to eat and may die of starvation as a result. The breeding female dogs are then impregnated again almost immediately on the next heat.

She is treated as a puppy making machine and so is continually kept pregnant, every 6 months for the rest of her confined and unsanitary life. Her nipples often develop painful mammary tumors from constantly being pregnant and breast feeding.

The toll of giving birth, receiving no veterinary care as well as having a low quality diet means that these mothers often get sick and worn out very quickly.

The total absence of exercise as well as mental stimulation or emotional connection means that these mothers often go insane and exhibit repetitive behavior.



By the age of 5 to 8 years old, when these animals are of no use to the mills they will be killed. This will be the first time that they leave their prison cages, unable to walk they stumble out, having never been given a name or hugged these dogs are then shot.

Alternatively the animal may be hit in the head with a rock or similarly hard tool yet some of these animals may be sold to laboratories for scientific research and thus must endure further torture, pain, distress and loneliness.




The Puppies

The fate of their babies is also extremely harsh. Again these puppies are imprisoned in wire cages. With no human contact they develop poor socialization skills and when they eventually get to a home, they have problems adapting and thus may end up abandoned on to the street.

In order to keep costs down these puppies will not see a vet and sickly or injured pups will simply be killed or sold to research facilities. The food fed to the puppies is the cheapest and the lowest quality and is often rotting with maggots. These young and growing pups are fed only enough to keep them alive and no more, all in the name of cost effectiveness. The food is so low in nutritional value that the puppies usually have rotting teeth and periodontal disease.

Often as these puppies are the result of inbreeding, they develop genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia and other diseases which mean they often suffer from medical and psychological problems.  

The puppies are stuffed in to cages which are then stacked on top of each other much like battery hens, and the feces and urine from the higher cages falls through the mesh on to the lower pups. These extremely unhygienic conditions are a breeding ground for bacterial and viral diseases and infections.

Common afflictions of dogs from puppy mills include: deafness, epilepsy, cataracts, lesions, retardation, dislocated knee caps, personality disorders and a host of infections. The sheds in which the pups are kept often have no heating, air conditioning or ventilation. So in the summer they get over heated and dehydrated and they also get burns on their paws as the wire cages heat up like a scalding hot iron. In the colder times the puppies will freeze, sometimes to death as there is no bedding provided.

Many of these sweet animals also lose their paws or an entire leg as their feet fall through the wire mesh and get stuck, the injury occurs as the infant dogs struggles over days to get free. Further injuries are caused by fighting between dogs as they are frustrated and crowded in to small spaces. Fighting injuries seldom heal in such dirty conditions and instead the infection spread and may cause a feverish septicemia and eventually a slow death.

Additionally a wide variety of operations are routinely carried out on the young pups. These include tail docking or cutting off the tail, ear cropping and de-clawing in other word pulling their nails out using pliers.

None of these cruel and painful procedures are carried out by medical experts nor are they done under anesthetic or with the use of painkillers. Usually these operations are carried out to stop the animals injuring one another or for aesthetic reasons.

Another unthinkably cruel practice carried out by many puppy mills is “de-barking”, this barbaric procedure involves the use of a steel rod that is rammed down the throat of the innocent pup or mothering dog in order to rip the vocal cords, this will stop them from barking and making any noise but leaves them in agonizing distress. A lot of the time the dogs end up with broken jaws from this procedure, these animals do not get any medical attention and so face a life of pain even just to eat or drink.

Transport and sale

At 4 to 8 weeks old the puppies are then packed in to crates and loaded on to trucks even though by US law only dogs over the age of 8 weeks maybe transported. The young infants are then transported over many miles or flown by plane often with out adequate food, water or shelter.

Traveling for many days through various weather extremes from freezing cold to boiling hot, a lot of these babies die in route to their destination which is usually a puppy broker. The puppies will then be transported further to get them to the pet shop or the end buyer. Any dogs not sold to the pet stores maybe sold using newspaper classified ads stating that the puppies are from a “farm”.

Some puppies are also sold on the internet or at flea markets. Some may be returned to the mill to be used as breeding dog or sold for research and for those who remain unwanted they will be killed or tossed out.

Even after sale to a family these dogs are in such poor shape physically and mentally that some of them will die shortly after sale or develop medical conditions that will result in costly vet fees. Some animals as they have not been socialized develop anti-social behavior that will take time, patience and love to overcome.


So how can you stop this cruel industry. The answer is simple: don’t buy your future animal companion from these sources. In fact first consider whether you have the time and the necessary conditions required to raise and care for another being.

Consider that dogs have a rich emotional life and require lots of attention and love as well as physical care in terms of going for walks and providing a healthy and balanced diet. If you feel that you are in the position to take care of a canine companion consider going to your local shelter and adopting an animal.

In the US alone 17 to 20 million animals in shelters are killed every year as they can not find homes for them, in the UK 150 dogs are put down every week. So by adopting you can truly save a life and also put a stop to the inhumane world of puppy mills and farms.

Also think about getting an older dog instead of a puppy, if you don’t have much time for house training, adult or teenage dogs are ideal as they are usually already trained.

To find out what else you can do please visit the How You Can Help section or read more the animal issues.


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