Thousands of puppies are bought and sold every year during the holiday season, which means thousands of consumers end up unknowingly supporting puppy mills.
Puppy mills are inhumane, commercial breeding facilities that place an emphasis on profits over the health of the dogs they sell. The breeding dogs at puppy mills live their entire lives in cages, typically in deplorable conditions. As a result, their puppies are often unhealthy and can carry infectious diseases.
Two recent investigations by The Humane Society of the United States demonstrate the wide-spread consumer fraud and abuse that characterize the industry. According to HSUS researchers, the online retailer Purebred Breeders LLC is actively supporting puppy mills, even while telling unsuspecting customers that its dogs come from only the most reputable breeders.
The company owns about 800 puppy-selling websites designed to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with local breeders. It reportedly sells about 20,000 puppies a year to consumers through the use of hard-sell, deceptive tactics that company executives encourage.
Last month, HSUS also released the results of a hidden-camera investigation that showed that more than 100 New York pet stores obtain their puppies from puppy mills, including some of the worst facilities in the country.
These investigations demonstrate why people should adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group or buy from a responsible breeder this holiday season. When you buy a dog online or from a pet store, you are likely only supporting some puppy mill's cruelty.
The writer is Maryland senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States.