Learn the Truth: The Puppy Mill Project in Chicago

This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to Cari Meyers, the founder of The Puppy Mill Project in Chicago.  Although our conversation was to be about something related to rescue and charitable giving via BumperPet.com, I quickly became enthralled both by her passion and knowledge base about where puppies in pet shops come from and the deplorable conditions under which these unfortunate dogs exist.

I have to admit, when I've walked by a pet store, I've always looked at those cute little puppies playing in their crates.  And I had never thought before about where those puppies came from.  I witness peoples' struggles in my professional life so I tend to avoid it in my personal life to the point that when Oprah did her special on what goes on in puppy mills several years ago, I turned it off after several minutes because it was so distressing.  Maybe the time in my life to learn about puppy mills is now.  So it was an awakening to learn more about the relationship between pet stores and puppy mills.  I was upset by what I have learned but am now in a better position to do something about it.  And then I talked to Cari Meyers.

Meyers has always had a passion for pets, both dogs and cats, and they have been a significant part of her life since childhood.  Her involvement in the rescue community was initially at a no-kill Chicago shelter, but as she learned more about what goes on 'behind the scenes' with puppy breeding, Meyers began to feel that there was a need to "cut the monster off at the head" rather than dealing with the tragic aftermath.  Cutting the monster off at the head meant focusing her efforts on pet stores, 99% of which get their 'stock' from puppy mills.  It makes a lot of sense to me:  If people who purchase a puppy from a pet store are aware that the puppy likely comes from a puppy mill, then they may be disinclined to purchase it and instead look for a reputable breeder.  More important, if time and cost is a factor then pet purchasers will spend far less on health issues and behavioral retraining from lack of socialization (which should be considered as a part of the cost of a pet)  … IF purchased from a reputable breeder rather than from a pet store.  How to cope with impulse buying is another issue altogether.

To be a little more specific, Meyers told me that at least 99% of those very cute little puppies you see in pet shops are commonly purchased at puppy auctions from disreputable breeders who over-breed dogs in disgusting conditions with no prenatal care, ongoing medical care, and socialization (which is critical to puppies and occurs from 5-12 weeks).  The breeding dogs live out their lives in filth within the confines of a cage so small that they cannot move around and are so unclean that they have difficulty eliminating due to matting and are covered in their own waste.  When these dogs are too old to breed anymore, they are murdered in inhumane ways because it is not cost effective to euthanize them humanely.  I won't go into details.  The puppies are removed from their mothers at too young an age.  When ready for sale to a pet store, they are typically transported under unsafe conditions for these youngsters.  Many die before reaching the pet shop.  Those who survive all the travails of the first 8-12 weeks of life and actually reach a pet shop are thus often ill at the time of purchase, inbred, unsocialized, and expensive to maintain.  They end up in rescue shelters.  This may mean euthanizing them.  Because of their incredible numbers, more adoptable dogs who have been turned into shelters  because of death of the owner or the economic downturn are not accepted due to inadequate capacity at shelter.  They, likewise, are euthanized.

To organize around this goal, Meyers founded The Puppy Mill Project several years ago.  Primary goals of The Puppy Mill Project are to educate the public about the direct relationship between pet shops and puppy mills, to identify pet stores who purchase from puppy mills, to have peaceful protests to address the relationship, and to increase public awareness.  Her goal is simple but elegant:  If there is no financial incentive (e.g., purchasers) for these huge numbers of puppies, then those who run and benefit financially from puppy mills will no longer be able to remain in business.  I urge anyone reading this post to go to her website and learn the truth for yourself.  You can find them on Facebook or by clicking on the title link of this post.


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  • Absolutely!!

  • Absolutely what? studies show that less than 3-5 percent of animals in shelters come from pet stores. Most shelter animals are the result of owner failure.. not pet stores and while animals can be killed.. they cannot be "murdered" ..murder is a crime against humans that is punishable by death or imprisonment .. and if people who kill dogs are murderers.. all shelter workers would be classified as "murderers" or at least accomplices to murder.. if you want to state facts please do so but spare us the emotional rhetoric of "maybe" "could be" and "likely"

  • Hi Alice, I am a scientist by training and would love to read the studies you refer to. Maybe the term 'murder' is hyperbole on my part as you suggest.

  • http://time4dogs.blogspot.com/2011/05/do-pet-store-aanimals-fill-shelters.html
    there are several studies here that show that "pet store dogs' are not usually found in shelters but directly from the ASPCA here is an interesting stat:
    More than 20 percent of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter. (Source: NCPPSP) so retention and "shelter returns" are a bigger problem than "pet store" dogs in shelters.
    Rescues and "humane societies " transport thousands of dogs per year around the country in large trucks and vans for "adoption" at places that are "short on dogs" ( isn't that the idea .. to be "short on dogs"?) many of these dogs become ill after transport on occasion bring disease that were previously unknown to the population of dogs in the area they are transported to and are rarely temperament tested or minimally... the background of the dogs are unknown,.. and amazingly enough many of these are touted as "puppy mill rescues' that are matted, urine soaked etc and classified as unsocial.. however after a few days they are "ready for adoption"
    that being said.. I support any sale of dogs.. as for "puppy mills" if they are operating illegally then they should be closed but to call every commercial breeder a "puppy mill" and "disreputable' is a falsehood that needs to be addressed, especially from a scientist by training

  • also from the ASPCA site:
    "The majority of pets are obtained from acquaintances and family members. About 15 to 20 percent of dogs are purchased from breeders, 10 to 20 percent of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and 2 to 10 percent are purchased from pet shops. (Source: Ralston Purina and NCPPSP)"

    so if only 2-10 percent come from pet shops it is difficult to believe that many dogs in shelters come from pet stores unless everyone else keeps their dogs ( disproved by the stat re: shelter returns above) and every person who buys a pet store dog turns it into a shelter.. as an anecdotal mention I have friend who owned a "pet shop " dog.. He lived to14 and was as healthy as a horse.. a Carin Terrier. he was healthy when she bought him and remained that way. We rarely hear about these animals as there is no emotional tug to them but they certainly exist.

  • you might also want to look at this :
    "The average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; average number of puppies is 4-6. "

    over 75 MILLION household have pets in their home.. the majority are dogs..if only in home breeders produce dogs and all of those are "pure bred' where will people get dogs?

  • sorry I meant to continue this. even shelters will run out of dogs if only "purebred hobby breeders" are breeding dogs. it is already happening when you see shelters importing dogs.. not only from other parts of the USA but from other countries to meet the demand for pets. As the noose is drawn by groups like HSUS pushing legislation to eliminate ALL dog breeders by using words like 'puppy mill" and "back yard breeder" and yes even "responsible breeders ( few can meet that criteria set down by them) dogs will become more rare and much more expensive. It seems to be what people want. but on the flip side. it will cause many people to do exactly what you call 'puppy mill" breeding here.. breed dogs illegally and sell them on the black market with little or no care for their health and welfare.. be very careful what you wish for

  • correction 63 million households have pets totally 75 million pets. ASPCA stat

  • buying from a "reputable breeder".. hmm what exactly does that mean? Can a "reputable breeder" breed "doodles"? "poos'? any cross breed at all? cavachons? puggles/ chiweenies? and still be "
    reputable"? HSUS says if a breeder has more than one breed /.. beware.. so if a person breed say great danes and chiweenies they are no longer reputable? they say you should be able to see the parents.. no not really most pure bred breeders use dogs other than their own however sometimes they do use their own dogs.. sometimes they even repeat a breeding.. is that "reputable"? HSUS say "reputable breeders" should allow you to inspect their homes.. really.. do you want strangers in your home? many do not so they meet in a public place ( now basically illegal in CA) some people have allowed persons into their home only to be burglarized later and dogs and other items stolen and so on.. point being there are many ways to buy a dog. the more educated the better as always but even shelters will not let people into the "back room' or into the holding pens. Beware of those shelters.. buying a dog takes common sense and commitment. we cannot legislate these factors.

  • Thanks for your comments, Alice ... let me read it and digest it fully. If you want to continue this conversation further, feel free to email me at suey@bumperpet.com. Regards.

  • Hi Alice, one more quick comment. Thanks for all the statistics and taking a different view of my blog and language. The time you took to address the issues and provide sources will give readers the opportunity to view both sides of the issue. I hope that they read your comments. Regards.

  • Reading the latest blog I noticed these comments on puppy mills from Alice. Sue, I'm with you 100% on this one. I wonder if Alice has a dog in this fight.

  • In reply to Adria:

    Thanks, Adria, I think likewise. Perhaps the owner of a breeding 'program' or a a retail pet store. Sue

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