Before we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I’d like to send my thoughts, love and blessings to the forgotten mothers out there: the approximately 1 million dog mothers suffering in puppy mills across the United States.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has worked hard to draw attention to this problem; a few years ago, the organization designated the first week of May as its annual Puppy Mill Action Week. Though we are making progress—dozens of cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Phoenix, have banned the sale of dogs and cats from commercial breeders in retail outlets—we still have a long, long way to go. Just take a look at the HSUS’s annual list of the Horrible Hundred breeders. These businesses continue to operate, despite documented inhumane conditions. And people still buy purebred puppies and kittens in pet stores.
Clearly, more progress must be made. But don’t give up! I truly believe that together, we can help to stop puppy mills once and for all, forever. Here are seven actions you can take right now that will negatively impact puppy mills:
1. Only adopt puppies at least eight weeks old. Ideally, puppies need to spend the first two months of life with their mother and litter mates to learn healthy interactions and minimize future behavioral problems, like barking and possessiveness. Puppy mill puppies are taken from their mother sometimes as young as four weeks of age, and exposed to harsh shipping conditions across long distances. If you see a puppy for sale that’s far too young, it’s a red flag that he came from a puppy mill.
2. Sign the pledge. Here’s an easy way to take action today: Sign this HSUS pledge that you will never purchase animals from puppy mills. (They are usually sold at pet stores, flea markets and over the internet.)
3. Spread the word on social media. Puppy Mill Action Week is a perfect opportunity to spread the word about the plight of puppy mill dogs! You can educate and inspire by tweeting articles (like this one) on Twitter and using Facebook to post an informative status update.
4. Report a puppy mill in your area. Some of the biggest puppy mill states are Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, though puppy mills do exist all over. If you suspect one in your area, you can report your concerns to the HSUS here.
5. Educate family and friends. It’s astonishing to me how many people still don’t understand the realities of the puppy mill industry. This week is a perfect time to educate family and friends. Encourage them to always adopt from a shelter, and tell them about the wonderful website Petfinder. Suggest they watch documentaries about puppy mills, like this one: Dog by Dog.
To take this one step further: Follow the legislation in your area and call or email your state representatives and senators to let them know your concerns.
6. Hold a peaceful rally. Does your local pet store sell puppy mill puppies? Talk to the manager about the issue and encourage him to stop the practice. If he refuses, you can always hold a peaceful rally to let others in the community know.
7. Donate to charities working to end this practice. The HSUS is a great one. So are United Against Puppy Mills, National Mill Dog Rescue, North Shore Animal League America and Wolfspirit’s Toy Breed Puppymill Rescue. Every dollar helps.
One final word: Let’s not forget about kitten mills, which are just as serious a problem. Over 90 percent of cats in pet stores come from kitten mills, according to One Green Planet. Luckily, many of the tips above apply to kitten mill cats as well.
How do you plan to help puppy mill dogs this week? Share your plans here!