There was a time in our country when an estimated 15-20 million companion animals were euthanized annually due to overpopulation. According to the ASPCA, this number has decreased to an estimated 1.5 million companion animals facing euthanasia each year. Spay and neuter efforts and increased adoption of shelter animals, among other lifesaving efforts, have contributed to this decrease. Our work is far from finished, but we are making progress.
Unfortunately, the progress we’ve made is being undermined by commercial breeding operations, also known as puppy mills, and the pet stores who sell these commercially bred animals. This month, the Petland pet store located in Summerville, South Carolina started selling puppies imported from commercial breeding facilities. This poses a significant threat to animal welfare efforts in our state.
Importing commercially bred puppies adds to dog overpopulation, homelessness, and euthanasia. There is already a dog overpopulation problem in our state – last year alone an estimated 9,575 dogs were euthanized in South Carolina.
“Thousands of unaltered puppies sold to the general public will result in more homeless and unwanted dogs,” says SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare CEO Barbara Nelson, “In the last few years, we have been making progress in reducing admissions to shelters. Despite that progress thousands of dogs are still being transferred to other states and euthanized here, because our shelters are beyond capacity. The situation is now going to be aggravated because of the decision by Petland executives to run counter to the generally accepted practice established by responsible companies such as Petco and PetSmart to help reduce shelter admissions by only allowing adoptions of rescue dogs who are spayed, neutered, and microchipped.”
In most states, including South Carolina, commercial breeding operations are not held to
humane standards. Puppy mills prioritize profit over the health and welfare of the animals they use for breeding and the puppies they sell. This means they will continue subjecting dogs to inhumane conditions while reaping financial gain from the sale of their puppies.
The breeding dogs and puppies suffer physically. Each year, the Humane Society of the United States publishes the Horrible Hundred report which lists the worst hundred commercial dog breeding operations currently in business. Inspectors have made horrific findings at these operations including “live maggots crawling in their food,” “raw, open wounds,” “puppies with ribs, hip, or tail bones protruding,” “filthy and unsafe conditions,” “a poodle ‘curled up in the corner’ with a disintegrating jaw and open holes in his mouth,” and even more disturbing offenses.
These animals also suffer psychological damage. According to a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science on the mental health of puppy mill breeding dogs, “The results showed a broad range of abnormal behavioral and psychological characteristics in the former breeding dogs from large-scale commercial breeding establishments, including significantly elevated levels of fears and phobias; pronounced compulsive and repetitive behaviors, such as spinning in tight circles and pacing; house soiling; and a heightened sensitivity to being touched and picked up…Much of the harm is irreparable and will remain a continued source of suffering for years after the dogs leave the breeding facility, in some cases for the entire lifetime of the dog.”
Puppies purchased from pet stores frequently have behavioral problems. According to the same study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, “Compared with dogs obtained as puppies from noncommercial breeders, dogs from pet stores had significantly greater aggression toward human family members, unfamiliar people and other dogs; greater fear of other dogs and typical life events; and greater separation-related problems and house soiling.” These behavioral issues can be heartbreaking for the pet owner and will often lead to these dogs being surrendered to shelters.
Every time a puppy mill dog is purchased from Petland, we as consumers are funding large scale animal abuse. While what Petland is doing is not currently illegal, it is undoubtedly unethical.
The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare condemns Petland’s decision to import commercially bred puppies into South Carolina for sale, and we hope Petland will make the responsible decision to stop this practice. "Citizens can help by contacting their legislators to pass legislation that requires pet stores to have the same requirements as shelters; meaning that all dogs must be spayed or neutered and microchipped. In addition, legislation that regulates high volume breeding is needed,” says Nelson.
You can also help by choosing to adopt pets from animal shelters, rescues and responsible breeders who you have thoroughly vetted. Come visit the SPCA Albrecht Center to meet the many animals awaiting adoption.
Jessica Gladkowski is the Director of Community Relations at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from The University of Vermont, and over the next several years she traveled to Japan and South Korea where she taught English and immersed herself in different cultures. Jessica is inspired to combine her passion for helping animals, teaching, and serving a diverse community through a career in animal welfare. Jessica lives in Aiken with her husband David and their rescue dogs Django and Ollie.