The Humane Society International of Canada is asking us to make November 16 to 22 Puppy Mill Action Week.
Puppy mills are places of horrible cruelty and deprivation. Adult dogs are forced to breed until they die of exhaustion or complications, often bleeding to death. The puppies are raised under horrendous conditions, in tiny, overcrowded, wire cages, in which they can't stand properly, with no medical attention, no human contact and barely adequate nutrition. The puppies are then cleaned up - superficially, so they appear presentable - and sold to pet stores, usually the kind found in malls.
Puppies from puppy mills have a laundry-list of medical and behavioural problems. They often die shortly after being brought home, or the people who buy them are overwhelmed and either surrender or abandon them, or have them put down. It's a short, miserable life of suffering for a dog who never should have been brought into the world.
Although puppy mills violate all kinds of animal-cruelty laws, these laws are seldom enforced. Animal welfare groups like HSI Canada and the Humane Society of the United States believe that the best way to shut down puppy mills is by shutting down demand.
We need to educate prospective dog owners about not buying puppies from pet stores. The smaller the market, the fewer dogs will be ordered by pet stores. As demand shrinks, supply will shrink. When the system is no longer profitable, it will shut down. But as long as there's a market, puppy mills will continue to exist.
Even if you're not in the market for a puppy or kitten, you can help fight this cruelty by never purchasing anything from a retail pet store that sells puppies.
And you can go one step further by telling the company - dropping an email or postcard to their customer service department - why you will never shop there. That's an important piece. They should hear from potential consumers, and know how much business they're losing.
The big pet-supply chains such as PetCo, PetCetera and PetSmart have been a great turning point in this battle. Not wishing to be the target of animal welfare activists, and wanting pet-friendly publicity, these stores don't sell puppies or kittens at all, and instead work with local rescue groups to promote adoption. This has been a huge milestone.
HSI Canada lists the actions you can take for Puppy Mill Action Week.
That include, for Canadians, writing to your MP. If you live in Quebec, unfortunately you live in the puppy mill capital of Canada, perhaps of North America. So it's even more important that you write your MNA and Premier Jean Charest. HSI Canada has a petition you can sign, and download and circulate our petition [French; English].
Everyone can sign the pledge to not shop at stores where puppies are sold.
And if you really want to make a difference, you can visit your local retail pet store where puppies are sold, and talk to management about how they can help. HSI Canada has tips for speaking to pet store owners.
Pet store owners who sign a pledge which declares that they will discontinue selling puppies by the end of 2008, or who "make official" a current policy of not selling puppies, will be listed on the HSI Canada website. HSI will give them promotional material to announce their decision and to educate future customers.
See the HSI Canada website to learn what else you can do to help stop puppy mills. Please sign the pledge, and ask others to do the same. You can email your own contacts, post about it on your blog, circulate it in your workplace.