The Blood Diamonds of Animal Welfare

Go back a couple of decades.  Imagine yourself walking down the street.  You pass a jewelry store with a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet in the window.  You go in, negotiate a price and off you go with a diamond studded bracelet for yourself or loved one.  You have no idea that you’ve just funded a war in Africa and the unimaginable horrors associated with those wars.

Fast forward to present day.  You’re walking down the street.  You pass a pet store with beautiful, happy, clean puppies in the window.  Some are sleeping; some are playing…the picture of innocence.  You go in, negotiate a price, and off you go with a brand new pup for yourself or a loved one.  You have no idea that you’re probably funding the unspeakable horrors of a puppy mill.

I’m always astonished to discover how many of my friends and family members, at one point or another in their lifetime, have purchased a dog from a pet store or a backyard breeder.  The conversation nearly always concludes with an ‘I had no idea.’  It’s a simple fact that most folks don’t realize that the cute little fuzzy puppy in the pet store most likely came from a puppy mill.

It was Global Witness, Amnesty International and other groups that brought the unbelievable dark-side of the diamond industry to the forefront of the mainstream public.  Through a brilliant awareness campaign and a business embargo on targeted wholesalers by retailers like storied jeweler, Tiffany & Co., they made ‘blood diamond’ a common catch phase throughout the American lexicon.  They had people thinking twice before buying just any diamond.  Now, educated consumers everywhere were asking their local diamond retailer thoughtful, intelligent questions about the origins of their precious stones.

What most people didn’t know was that behind this shiny consumer bauble was a trail of blood, death and suffering.  That was the case for the conflict diamonds that funded wars, child soldiers and human dismemberment.

In a similar way, those beautiful puppies in pet stores across America are a type of blood diamond.  It’s estimated that 95% of all puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills (breeding factories) and the majority of consumers have no idea.  What’s riding on the backs of these cute little pups is a house of horrors.  Mom dogs are bred and bred, sometimes with the use of breeding or rape racks, until their little bodies can’t take anymore, and at which point they are either killed or turned over to an auction to be sold for pennies, dumped in shelters or simply abandoned to the hands of fate.

High volume commercial breeders that sell to these bling-filled pet stores are supposed to be registered with the USDA, but even those regulations allow for appalling conditions and standards of care.  A dog the size of a beagle can legally be kept for its entire life in a wire bottom cage the size of a dishwasher without ever touching the ground, let alone grass.

The business calculation of a puppy mill is mass production and low cost per unit shipped.  Profits are made or lost at the margins and the margins are trimmed at the expense of the animals.  Costs are saved on quality of food, vet care, heating, and staff to provide basic care - like keeping the cages cleaned. It’s a cruel and inhumane factory-type setting that’s inappropriate to apply to a living, breathing creature.

In No More Homeless Pets terms, puppy mills crank out over 2 million puppies per year.  It’s estimated that every year 4-5 million animals die in our shelters.  It doesn’t take a genius or an activist to understand that over 2 million puppy mill dogs are displacing wonderful, adoptable, healthy animals that are being killed in shelters across this country.  Approximately 25-30% of shelter dogs are purebred and likely come from mills or irresponsible breeders.

This November a very important proposition is on the ballot in Missouri, home to 40% of the puppy mills in this country.  Best Friends is supporting this ballot initiative, along with 61 other animal welfare and protection agencies including the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA.

We don’t believe dogs belong in any type of factory, but this proposition is an important start in turning the tide on this horrific industry.  Whether they’re well run or poorly run, a puppy mill is still a puppy mill.  Dogs don’t belong there; they belong in loving homes as family pets.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society