You Can’t Be a Feminist and Buy a Dog

Have you ever been called a “bitch”? “Bitch,” of course, meaning a female dog. Apparently, it’s supposed to be an insult. Perhaps that’s because, in breeders’ circles, female dogs’ main purposes are to win beauty pageants and then to be bred repeatedly until their bodies wear out. And if you buy a dog, you are funding sexual exploitation.

In puppy mills and breeding operations, female dogs are trapped in a nightmare sickeningly similar to the illicit sex trade. Their bodies are controlled, manipulated, bought, and sold—all for the financial benefit of their peddlers.

The female dogs used in puppy mills are bred over and over until their bodies wear out from the strain and they can no longer reproduce. Kept in cramped wooden hutches with wire flooring or chained to trees with little to no shelter from the elements, they suffer from illnesses and injuries that typically go untreated. PETA investigations into puppy mills have revealed dogs suffering from raging ear infections, oozing eyes, disfiguring mange, and abscessed paws. Dogs who had gone “kennel crazy” from the stress of constant confinement paced back and forth or spun in endless circles.

Filthy, broken-down enclosures at puppy mill

When these females are no longer useful as breeding stock, they are often auctioned off, dumped somewhere, or simply killed.

In 2005, about 100 small dogs were rescued from a decrepit, filthy outdoor puppy mill in North Carolina, and the facility was shut down. PETA took in a dozen of the survivors. At first, they were completely unsocialized, terrified of everything, and unable even to refrain from urinating on themselves if a human approached.

Three small dogs in tiny wire enclosure

Treated with kindness and patience, they slowly began to heal and to trust, until they started to enjoy being held and petted. But the puppy mill’s damaging physical legacy left its mark on them in the form of rotten teeth, collapsing tracheas, and pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, which ultimately caused them to pass away far short of their normal life expectancy.

puppy mills, breeders, purebred dogs

Unfortunately, just like selling women, selling puppies can be profitable. Almost all the cute, wriggling ones in pet store windows or sold online for hundreds or even thousands of dollars came from an abusive hellhole like the one in North Carolina, even though customers are often given a shamelessly dishonest sales pitch about “carefully chosen facilities.” The puppies are typically taken away from their mothers early, packed into crates, and trucked or flown hundreds of miles to brokers and then to pet stores, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Some don’t survive the journey.

Small white dog huddled in back of enclosure with what appears to be an empty bowl

Breeders may churn out fewer litters than puppy mills, but they still treat female dogs as moneymaking commodities. And unlike many animal shelters, most breeders don’t screen their buyers, instead handing over a living, thinking, feeling animal to anyone with a credit card. They don’t wish to know how many of “their” dogs end up neglected, abused, or abandoned at shelters when the cute puppy novelty wears off. So-called “purebreds” make up at least 25 percent of the dogs in animal shelters.

Even “hobby breeders” force female dogs to bear litter after litter of puppies, who will be taken away and sold off for a quick buck. Casual breeders typically force a mother dog to go through impregnation, pregnancy, whelping, and the loss of her young at least once a year.

Collie in small cage at puppy mill

And no breeding and selling of companion animals can be considered “responsible” as long as more than 6 million dogs and cats wind up at animal shelters every year in the U.S. Half will eventually be euthanized because there simply are not enough qualified adopters for them all—and there never will be, as long as money-motivated breeders keep churning them out into a world already bursting at the seams with unwanted puppies.

These dogs are victims of sexual exploitation.

Anyone who cares about equality and social justice can help end the sexual exploitation of female animals by refusing to support abusive puppy mills and breeders.

Sign PETA’s pledge to adopt and never buy companion animals.

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