The pups in pet store displays are adorable—wriggling balls of
energy just waiting to jump into customers' arms. Store owners count on
love at first sight because it prompts people to shell out hundreds,
sometimes thousands, of dollars to take cute puppies home. It should be
a happy ending: The dog gets out of a cage and into a home. But there
is an unseen, darker side to the story.
As long as pet shops churn out puppies, homeless dogs in animal
shelters will have to be euthanized for lack of a good home. Almost all
pups sold in stores come from hellholes called "puppy mills," where sad
mother dogs and "studs" spend lonely lives in miserable cages,
producing litter after litter, until they are no longer profitable.
A PETA investigator worked for months at Nielsen Farms, a puppy mill
in Kansas. The investigator's job was to feed, water, and clean up
after hundreds of dogs condemned to cramped wire enclosures. The
animals had no comforts—no bedding on the hard wire, little to no
protection from the searing hot summers or the frigid winters, and no
regular veterinary care, even when they were ill. Crusty, oozing eyes,
raging ear infections, mange that turned their skin into a mass of red
scabs, abscessed feet from the unforgiving wire floors—all were ignored
or inadequately treated.
Here are some excerpts from the investigator's notes:
An Australian cattle dog with a palm-sized sore on her back was
never seen by a veterinarian, and the wound did not heal properly. Some
dogs who became caught in the wire of their cages injured their feet
and hobbled around painfully, struggling to stay upright.
Our investigator also discovered that the collar on a Labrador
retriever had not been adjusted as the dog grew and had become embedded
in the dog's flesh. Even though the gangrenous skin fell away as the
collar was removed, the wound was treated with nothing but
Timid dogs were terrorized by their more dominant cagemates, who
often prevented them from eating and drinking. Conditions were also
unsafe. Several Labrador pups escaped from their poorly built kennel,
and one was killed by other dogs in an adjoining run. The fence was
Perhaps most heartbreaking of all were the old mother dogs who had
gone mad from confinement and loneliness. Our investigator watched
these dogs circle frantically in their small cages and pace ceaselessly
back and forth, which was their only way of coping with their despair.
The tragic conditions at Nielsen Farms are typical of the hundreds
of puppy mills that litter the Midwestern states. Laws offer little
protection and are poorly enforced by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), whose visits are infrequent and usually announced
ahead of time. Our investigator witnessed one USDA inspection. The
inspector glanced at the cages but did not examine the dogs. Later, the
inspector asked for an employee's home phone number, then called and
asked her for a date.
Just weeks after PETA's investigation of Nielsen Farms revealed
tiny, filth-encrusted cages and sick dogs with raging ear infections,
disfiguring mange, and open, untreated wounds, the Kansas puppy mill
closed its doors, leaving one fewer dilapidated breeding farm to supply
the pet store puppy trade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also
charged the farm's owners with violations of the federal Animal Welfare
When film star Charlize Theron heard about PETA's investigation, she
quickly agreed to help tell the pet shop puppies' story and narrate the
investigation footage video. Charlize then sent a copy of the video to
mall managers across the country, along with a letter urging them to
dump pet shops.
Puppy mills such as Nielsen will continue to operate and profit as
long as people buy puppies from pet stores. The public has the power to
end the suffering of dogs in puppy mill prisons. You can help us reach
consumers and make a huge difference for dogs who, like your own
companions, deserve loving homes and happy lives.
Write or meet with rental agents who provide space to your local pet
shops—including mall managers—and ask them to prohibit the sale of live
animals in their rental properties. Instead of contributing to the
overpopulation problem, pet shops can provide local shelters with a
forum for adopting homeless animals, as is done at the Houston Galleria
in Houston, Texas. (Click here for a sample letter to pet store managers.)
Monitor local pet stores that sell puppies. Many animals from puppy
mills are sick or have serious congenital health problems. Immediately
report sick animals to local humane and health authorities.
Write to the USDA
and ask for a crackdown on all puppy mills. Had PETA not investigated
Nielsen Farms, the USDA never would have brought charges. (Click here to see PETA's letter to the USDA.)
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.