There are arguably few things cuter than a young, fluffy puppy. Many people purchase puppies from pet shops on an impulse or as a gift, but too few stop to question where that sweet puppy in the window came from and in what conditions he or she was bred. Oftentimes, these adorable creatures’ innocent faces conceal dark beginnings. Indeed, the vast majority of puppies sold in pet shops come from commercial dog breeding farms known as puppy mills.

In these facilities, breeding dogs are kept in dark basements or outdoors where they are left exposed to the elements. Numerous investigations have revealed the horrific conditions these animals are kept in. They are crammed into filthy wire cages stacked on top of each other so feces and urine drop onto the dogs below. Cages are typically never cleaned and become caked with excrements. In some facilities, dogs’ cages were rusted shut, showing that they were rarely opened. Food was instead pushed through the wire and left there to mold or become infested with maggots.

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Puppy mill dogs are rarely, if ever, let out of their cages to play, exercise or socialize with one another. They never get to curl up in a comfy bed or feel the warm touch of a loving owner. Because of the unsanitary conditions they are forced to live in, most develop painful illnesses, such as burns on their skins and paws caused by the uric acid due to urine build-up, respiratory issues from the ammonia, matted fur and long ingrown nails, infected wounds, and hearing or sight loss due to infections. Many are emaciated due to improper nutrition and most are never given any veterinary attention.

This means that death is a common occurrence in puppy mills, due to dogs being left to succumb to illnesses without care. Moreover, both breeding dogs and their puppies develop severe emotional issues alongside health problems. The horrific conditions they are kept in lead to deep emotional trauma which can manifest through fear, anxiety, and aggression. These animals suffer through hell, simply because immoral breeders want to turn an easy profit, and because potential dog owners remain ignorant of the horrors of puppy mills.

Thankfully, various non-profits work tirelessly to investigate, track down and close these cruel operations and rescue the abused animals. Pictured below is one such dog, rescued along with 60 others from puppy mills in the Midwest by the National Mill Dog Rescue.

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This dog’s ecstatic grin illustrates the sheer joy of being rescued from deplorable conditions and given a chance at a happier future. He is one of the lucky ones, saved thanks to the efforts of the National Mill Dog Rescue. Unfortunately, countless others still languish and suffer in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions across the country, and worldwide, simply because people continue to buy animals from pet shops.

What You Can Do

There are several ways you can stop the abuse that goes on in puppy mills. First and foremost, never buy a dog from a pet shop or breeder, adopt animals from local rescues and shelters instead. While some breeders keep their animals in humane conditions, breeding and selling animals for profit equates to commodifying sentient beings and treating them as mere objects to earn money from. Each time a dog is bought from a pet shop or breeder, a homeless animal in a shelter loses its place in a loving family and risks euthanasia. While most rescues and shelters do offer puppies and young dogs for rehoming, there are also sound advantages to adopting an adult pet.

Moreover, an increasing number of U.S. cities (and some countries across the world) have banned or are considering banning pet shops. If you want to help shut down puppy mills, consider petitioning officials in your city/country to pass laws requiring pet shops to sell rescue animals only. Finally, share this article to spread awareness of the horrors of puppy mills.

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If you want more ideas on how to help puppy mill dogs, check out these 5 Things You Can Do To Help Stop Puppy Mills, and be sure to reward yourself for all these actions by watching these 5 Amazing Puppy Mill Rescues. And if the plight of mother dogs who are forced to breed tirelessly and watch each litter be torn away from them saddens you, check out how you can help other animal mothers.

Image source: National Mill Dog Rescue