PhotoThe holiday season is often a time when families think about adding a dog to their homes. The look of joy on a child’s face when he sees that adorable little bundle of fluff is guaranteed to make any parent’s heart swell.

For all too many people, though, getting a dog involves a trip to their local pet store to buy a cute, cuddly little puppy. What those people don’t know is that almost every adorable fluff ball sold in a pet store came from a puppy mill, which are the canine equivalent of concentration camps.

According to Animal Rescue Corps, there are an estimated 15,000 puppy mills in the U.S. The female dogs in those mills are bred twice a year, every year, until they are no longer able to reproduce. Then they are killed by the mill owner in the cheapest way possible: starving, beating, shooting, and drowning these expendable dogs that are no longer able to make money.

Death, however, may be a blessed relief to a puppy mill dog. Crowded into wire cages or windowless wooden crates, hundreds or sometimes thousands of dogs live out their lives in unsanitary, unhealthy conditions, without veterinary care, grooming, or sufficient food and water.

A puppy mill dog may never feel the earth beneath his feet, never hear a kind word or feel a soft touch. They are commodities, not living, breathing beings, to the puppy mill owner.

Disease and illness

The puppies produced at these hellholes often have genetic diseases or illnesses such as parvo and kennel cough as a result of inbreeding and the lack of veterinary care. In the worst case scenario, the puppy doesn’t survive long after being purchased.

Many pet store owners advertise their dogs as coming from local small breeders, which is a euphemism for backyard breeders. These are “puppy mill wannabes,” whose dog breeding facilities are not quite as large, but no less inhumane.

No reputable breeder ever sells to a pet store. Almost every puppy in every pet store, as well as dogs sold online and via newspaper ads, are the products of puppy mills or backyard breeders.

Recently, however, a Pennsylvania pet store chain, Pets Plus Natural, has affiliated with with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) to find homes for rescue animals instead of selling dogs and cats.

Some states such as California and New Jersey are cracking down on sales of dogs in pet stores. Pet store owners, of course, are fighting back, because they don’t want to see their profit margin shrink, and they don’t care where the dogs they sell are coming from.

Better alternatives

If you want to add a cuddly puppy or older dog to your family, there are much better alternatives than buying from a pet store. Your local animal shelter undoubtedly has dozens of dogs needing homes, and often they have puppies as well. And rescue groups abound, both breed-specific and non-breed specific.

With few exceptions, almost any breed you can name has a rescue group devoted to finding homes for dogs of that breed. And if you don’t have a specific breed in mind, mixed-breed dogs are often healthier and have fewer genetic diseases than purebreds, and they make wonderful additions to your family. Please adopt, don’t buy. The cost of that doggie in the window is too high.

For more information on puppy mills, see the Animal Rescue Corps’ website.

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