Stilwell is one of the world's most recognized and respected dog trainers. As
the host of the hit TV show "It's Me or the Dog" (currently airing on
Animal Planet in the US as well as 20 countries worldwide), Victoria has been
able to share her insight and passion for positive, reward-based dog training
with an ever-broadening audience. She has also authored two books on the
subject. We were delighted that Victoria took time out of her busy schedule to
write this article for Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project!
People have an ethical responsibility to raise and treat animals with care and
respect. The evidence is overwhelming - puppy farming is cruel and potentially
very dangerous for everyone whether they own a dog or not. It is time for the legislators to sit up and take note because
the practice of puppy milling has an impact on us all. These are the
mills breed for bulk and profit with no concern for health or temperament.
Many puppies that are sold from these places have severe health conditions. The
puppies that don't die within a few weeks of purchase (and yes, there are many
that do) can experience health problems for the rest of their lives. I have met
many families that have lost their puppies shortly after buying them from puppy
mills, which causes much distress, particularly for younger members of the
family. The cost to other families whose puppies don't die but continue to have
health problems into adulthood can be financially draining, and many of these
dogs end up either being euthanized or dumped into the shelter system. There
are also many documented cases of puppies being sold with serious diseases that
can be transmitted to humans. Children are at particular risk if they come in
contact with such dogs.
mill puppies are kept in appalling conditions with little contact or experience
of other dogs, people or environments in the vital weeks when mental and
physical development is so crucial.
are sold too young (4 to 7 weeks old) to maximize profits. It is vital that
puppies are with their mothers and their litter mates until at least 8 weeks
old. Puppies learn a lot about social interaction from their littermates and
valuable life lessons from their mothers. However many puppy mill mothers who
are used as breeding machines and kept in small cages or boxes all their lives,
are so sick and mentally depressed, they are unable to give the guidance that
their puppies need. Many puppies that come from puppy mills are emotionally
numb and don't know how to play with toys, other dogs or humans.
moment they are born, puppies need to have lots of social interaction and
handling by humans in order for them to build that important human/animal bond.
If this is not done from birth a pup will be uncomfortable with human
interaction. A dog like this will be nervous, anxious and have a greater risk
of responding aggressively towards a human.
dog owners will buy such puppies from the puppy farmers themselves, pet stores,
(where do you think the vast number of puppies sold in pet stores on main
street or in shopping malls come from?) yard sales, flea markets and ads in
local papers without realizing the negative consequences that such an
upbringing can create. Behavioral science has proven that the most valuable
time for a puppy to learn from its environment is from birth to 16 weeks. A
puppy is like a sponge at that time and if it hasn't had positive experiences
in all different kinds of environments before 16 weeks of age, it can develop
severe social difficulties such as aggression, destructive behavior, anxiety
and nervousness towards people and/or other dogs. This negative behavior can be
difficult to change even with training and behavior modification therapy.
Owners that buy dogs from sources where they are unable to see what the
breeding environment is like and where there is no opportunity to meet the
mother are buying a potential liability. A lot of information can be gained
just by watching a mother dog interacting with her puppies, and a breeder will
know of any potential genetic abnormalities that might affect their puppy's
mental and physical development. If it is a responsible breeder, there should
Humane Organizations estimate that an average of 4 to 5 million dogs are put
down every year and only 5% of those for medical reasons. Why? Because
there are too many dogs and too few homes to care for them. The last thing this
country needs is puppy mills that breed thousands upon thousands of dogs a year
to add to the pet overpopulation problem that exists in the United States. The
more they breed and the more the unsuspecting public buys, the more dogs will
end up in shelters or worse and be killed because there are no homes for them.
dog or any other pet allows a child the opportunity to learn how to care for
and respect that pet. It is a known fact that children who are taught to
respect animals from an early age are the most likely to translate that
compassion onto humans. What sort of message does the abusive practice of puppy
farming send to our children?
have a responsibility to provide laws for the common good. The only way this
horrendous situation will change is with education and effective legislation.
It is the government's responsibility to keep the people they serve safe, but
if more and more of these puppy mills are allowed to operate, the implications
will have a negative impact on us all. This is a reality. I see the devastating
consequences of puppy mill farming in my job as a trainer. It is very stressful
for owners when they realize that their dream dog is sick and/or aggressive
because of where they were purchased. The problem needs to be tackled at source
and the despicable practice of puppy farming must become a thing of the past.
Action needs to be taken now to keep dogs, dog owners and the non dog-owning
Website Animal Planet's "It's Me or the
With Pride: Responsible Breeders Speak