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Puppy Mills/Increase in Dog Purchases

Val Cairney December 11, 2020 235

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Hello and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  In this episode, I’m going to discuss puppy mills. And tie this in to the exponential rise of puppy and dog purchases that has been going on over the past several months. I also want to discuss the other types of puppy sellers that may not be puppy mills in the traditional sense but let’s see what you think. 

In Designer Dogs part 1 and 2 I talked about puppy mills with regards to the rise of crossbreeding and how creating designer dogs has in so many ways contributed to the explosion of puppy mills and bad backyard breeders.  Because there seems to be an indiscriminate purchasing of puppies and dogs lately, there is no way around the topic of puppy mills.  In definition from Oxford Languages, puppy mills are “an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane”.  According to, “Puppy mills are places where purebred or “designer” dogs are bred solely for the money they can bring in, with no regard for the dog’s welfare.  The puppies are housed in overcrowded, unsanitary cages.  Puppies are taken away from their mothers too early and are not socialized with either dogs or humans.” 

So, does this mean that a puppy mill has to be a large scale commercial dog breeding facility? Or can a puppy mill be a person breeding two or four dogs continuously and selling pups from their home?  Good question eh?  Well I have speculated upon this in designer dogs, and I feel that as long as there is continuous breeding, where the females are not given a break and the pairing of the couple is indiscriminate or even inter-familial, meaning a son bred to its mother, I think we do by definition have a person milling pups.  If this person is doing this just to make money, then again, by definition we have a puppy mill. 

So, let’s take a look at the organized and disgusting puppy mills that we usually think of when we hear that name.  What is amazing, is that so many people have fallen victim to acquiring a puppy mill dog without even knowing it.  On Nov 20th 2020, the CBC, Canadian Broadcasting Company, aired an episode from its consumer watchdog series Marketplace on this exact topic.  Marketplace is well known for its investigation into many topics using undercover journalists and cameras to sus out the truth.  Well in this episode, they took on a bit of the topic on puppy mills and I say a bit, because you would need so much more than a 20 minute spot to really blow the lid off puppy milling.  But, I feel this episode opened the topic very well.

It began with a person who had acquired a French Bulldog off of Kijiji.  The red flags during the purchase started to weigh on this person and so he opened up about his experience.  From there the Marketplace team was able to connect the dots and reveal what was suspected.  This dog came from a puppy mill in Ukraine.   The lid started to come off from this dirty little secret this past summer.  On June 22, 2020 a hot day in Toronto, Ontario Canada, 500 dogs arrived at Pearson International Airport from Ukraine.  And of course they were mostly French Bulldogs.  They were crammed in boxes many dehydrated, vomiting and 38 were dead.  It was described as a horror scene with dead dogs being thrown into garbage bags while others dying from the heat, vomited and tried desperately to cling to life. 

So here is the disgusting and shameful truth about dogs coming in from Eastern European countries.  According to Dr. Scott Weese a professor at the Guelph University Veterinary College, it is “quote easier to bring in a dog than a case of beer”.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency or CFIA and the Canadian Government is fully aware that these dogs do not go through any special inspection upon arrival.  Any papers have a cursory look over and basically as Dr. Scott says, as long as the dogs are alive they can be picked up.  The government nor the CFIA has no idea where the dogs have come from nor where they are going. Also, the amount of dogs coming in from Eastern European countries is not tracked so it is speculated that planes arrive weekly with 100’s of dogs.  One of Dr. Scott’s concerns amongst many, is the fact that these dogs bring parasites, viruses and other life threatening conditions into the country and no one stops them.  So on the episode the team received a tip that a flight was arriving from Ukraine and it had dogs.  The team went to the cargo area at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and set up to watch.  There were crates and crates of dogs sitting on the loading dock and this was again a very hot day.  The team was discovered and told to take off but true to Marketplace tenacity, they came back only more undercover and waited.  You could see the dogs moving around in the crates and cargo employees ignoring them, but you could also see people arriving in various types of vehicles, beginning to gather around the cargo bay.  As the sun set, the 7 people loaded an estimated 70 dogs into their vehicles and took off.  Marketplace tried to follow two vehicles but it became obvious they were seen as the vehicles were speeding up, and so Marketplace backed off. 

A dog expert was on this mission, who, had also been brought in during the horror show in the summer, was asked about where these dogs were going?  She said probably by that evening they would be up on Kijiji.  A quick look on Kijiji by the Marketplace host found instantly dogs of all kinds being sold for $2400.00 $3500.00 and it goes on. 

So who were these people picking up these dogs?  Well as I spoke about before in how to avoid the pitfalls when buying a dog, these are brokers.  These people receive the dogs from the puppy mill in Ukraine for example, and sell them. They have paid the puppy mill for the dogs and then they make their money off of unsuspecting dog lovers.  They lie and they make up stories.  The fellow who got his French Bulldog was told that the dog had been given all vaccinations before coming to Canada.  A quick blood test confirmed that the dog either never had any vaccinations or were given to him when he was too young for them to be effective.  An undercover buyer with a hidden camera went to one of the sellers and the seller said her mother breeds the dogs and when asked to see the papers it was noticed that it was tagged as having come from Ukraine.  The undercover buyer asked about this and the seller admitted that yes, the dog had come from the Ukraine.  My mother breeds them!!! Give me a break!  You liar!  

Another undercover buyer was seen on her hidden camera where she asked where the dogs had come from and this seller admitted up front from Ukraine and even said she didn’t know where in the Ukraine, she just sells them!  Can you believe this??  When asked if the dog had its shots and a health check, she said it passed customs where it saw a vet.  No it didn’t!  And another seller told the undercover buyer that if they put down a deposit they would let them see the papers. Oh my god!  Okay, so since the horror show in the summer at Pearson, the CFIA has put a pause on pups coming in from Ukraine that are under 8 months of age.  But so what?  Brokers are just buying from other Eastern European puppy mills.  They pay so little for these dogs that sourcing elsewhere is not a problem and if they arrive dead so what, because their markup more than covers that loss.  Yup, these are the people that you are dealing with.  So, bottom line is again as I’ve said more times than I can count, do not buy a dog off of Kijiji!

Now another form of milling has risen since the world went topsy turvy and the demand for puppies and dogs has risen exponentially.  For some crazy reason, buying a dog has become part of the check list with regards to handling things in this very different time that we find ourselves.  Many people found themselves in a lonely situation with time on their hands and thought this might be a good time to get a puppy.  From the outset, this seemed like a good idea and before we knew it, shelters were reporting empty kennels and rescue groups had wait lists.  This is a dream come true isn’t it?  For shelters to have empty kennels?  Well yes it is, but the momentum continued, stronger and more widespread.  Enter the charlatans, the rip off artists, the che ching backyard puppy millers.  Here we go!!  I can’t tell you how many people have called about where they can get a puppy or dog, right now, because I need to get my son a puppy, now.  Or how many people have “complained” yes, “complained” that the shelters don’t’ have any dogs!  Can you believe this?  But, instead of realizing that this just means that it is not the time for you to get a pup or dog, these people are finding them wherever they can.  So, I have had people telling me stories about the 6 week old pup they just got from a farm living in a horse trailer, that the mum wouldn’t feed them anymore so, that’s why he had to go at 6 weeks of age.  Come on!  Pull the other one.  This guy has another litter ready to come and he needs rid of the exiting litter quick.  I have had experienced intelligent pet owners, fall for this and get a mixed breed from a farm again, 6 weeks of age, with fleas and when I said, please tell me you didn’t pay more than $400.00 for this dog, they looked at me sheepishly and said, oh we did pay a fair bit more and oh we fell in love. They even said, well there were no dogs in the shelter!  So!  That doesn’t mean you go the route of some jerk with pups in a horse trailer.  Wait until there is a rescue available for heaven’s sake!  Didn’t I say in my podcast on avoiding the pitfalls, to guard your heart?  In a community close to me, someone showed me a website with someone selling Labradoodles, for, get this, $5500.00!!  What an, opportunistic low life rip off artist.  But, if people are paying these prices, then who really is the problem?  So, as I said, in Designer Dogs part 2, stop the flow of exploited and milled dogs, don’t fall victim to someone taking advantage of a scary and precarious time.  It’s not part of the check list!  They don’t deserve your money. 

So large facility puppy mills have been around for decades, and they are just getting bigger. I saw a post on Facebook, showing a huge arena type building in Ireland completely full of cages.  Now they were not on top of each other and they were about 4 feet by 4 feet.  So just imagine a sea of these crates across the floor of this building.  Each crate had a red box type thing attached to outside of the crate.  The story revealed that the red boxes hold about 4 days’ worth of  kibble and what the miller does here is fill up the bins and then turns all the lights out and leaves the dogs for about 4 days and comes back and fills up the bins and leaves again.  As the dogs are sold they are removed but the rest sit in their own filth for 4 days or more because I can’t see this type of person actually cleaning that many crates, in the dark waiting for rescue.  But, don’t let this tug your heart strings too much here, the point is that the whole operation should not exist in the first place so rescue would not be needed.

Pet Peeves

So that leads me to my pet peeves section!

First and foremost, shame on Canada, yes, my country, shame on you and the blind eye being turned to this disgusting treatment of dogs and their flow into international airports from puppy mills without a care in the world.  These animals are treated as commodities by the puppy millers, the brokers, the government, the airlines and the people that unload them.  And if this is happening in Canada, you can bet your boots its happening in many other countries as well.  The CFIA actually said that it was up to the buyers to ask questions about the dog’s origin, health and vaccinations.  Really?  So, it’s not up to the government officials to be concerned that animals that have been cruelly exploited are coming into the country with possible viruses and other life threatening conditions?  Again, shame on you!  Now as I said at the beginning, many people end up fueling puppy mills out of ignorance and misinformation.  The fellow that got his puppy from Kijiji that was on Marketplace, although he loves his puppy so much, did state that he regrets getting it from Kijiji and that if he had known that it was more than likely a puppy mill dog he would never have gone that route as he realizes that the only way to stop puppy mills is to stop the demand.  And the same goes for these backyard sellers as well.  These people selling dogs at 6 weeks of age with fabricated stories are just as bad as the large puppy mill facilitators.  They have seen an opportunity to prey on people during a difficult time and they are making a killing.  But, again, they only way to stop this exploitation is to stop the demand.  So, for those people who just didn’t know, we have to educate and let the word out that no, the mother did not just stop feeding the pups, he’s lying to you and no, paying $800.00 for a mixed breed living in a barn is not normal, and yes, there are fantastic pups and dogs waiting to be adopted from proper rescue organizations. You may have to wait a week or a month but if this really is the time for a puppy, then you will wait. As for the people who just don’t care how the dogs came to be and are only concerned that they get the dog they want right now at any cost, well there isn’t much to say there except shame on you!

So, as I have said many times, check every accredited rescue group you can.  For example I put out a plea for the Iqaluit Humane Society in Nunavut Canada.  They need your help!  I had a woman in just last week with the cutest puppy you have ever seen that she had just adopted through the IFAW, the International Federation for Animal Welfare. Other northern dog rescues are really looking to home puppies and dogs right now as they want to get these great dogs into forever homes before winter really takes hold.  Finding Them Homes is a James Bay Ontario rescue, Moosonee Puppy Rescue, Paws of the North Rescue, Northern Dog Rescue, Ontario SPCA Northern Dog community transfer, Team Dog Rescue, Northern Lights Dog Rescue Thunder Bay.  So as you can see, there are dogs and puppies that are available through the proper channels.  You do not need to make some opportunistic dirt bag rich or become a part of animal exploitation just because.  We can do this everyone. We can arrest the cruelty being wrought on millions of dogs, we just have to get the word out and educate.   So do your research and don’t get ripped off, because as I say, knowing is caring!

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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