Every month, I share a new short story or essay with my readers on Patreon. Most of my recent work is inspired by the issues I’ve learned about since moving to Missouri. Missouri is a bellwether for so many issues in the United States, including abortion laws, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, religious extremism, labor laws, political corruption, and animal welfare. I had always known about puppymills—large-scale dog breeding operations that use inhumane practices to yield maximum profit—but adopting my dog, Tulip gave me a deeper look at this problem.
Tulip is gentle, sweet, and intelligent. She can learn a new command in a single session, and doesn’t require any re-directions because she doesn’t misbehave. She doesn’t bark or bite, she doesn’t chew or destroy. She is perfectly housebroken--she once politely tapped on the radiator to inform me she needed to urgently use the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s impossible to imagine someone mistreating her, but for the first four years of her life, she lived and bred in a puppymill.
I don’t know how many litters or puppies Tulip had, or the full extent of the conditions she lived in. The shelter told me that she had come from a police station in Central Missouri. When I brought her home, she had heartworm, ear mites, tapeworm, and a broken leg. She was scared to go outside and avoided humans, including me. It has taken two years of training to help her learn how to trust people. Her condition was mild compared to some of the other puppymill rescue dogs at the shelter.
I had avoided writing about pets—animals in fiction can be too sentimental or too sad—but this subject angered me so much, I knew I wanted to write about it. My short story, “Return of The Wolf Girl,” was a chance for me to learn more about this issue, and what action folks can take.
Puppy Mills in Missouri
According to the Humane Society of the United States, puppy mills originated post World War II as an alternative source of income for farmers. There are about 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, 30 percent of them in Missouri. In 2010, Missouri voters approved the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, but the following year Governor Jay Nixon repealed the law under pressure from the Missouri Farm Bureau, who’s claim was that if the government started restricting standards for dogs, they could regulate other livestock. Almost ten years later, Missouri has more puppy mills than any state in the country.
What You Can Do
If you’re looking to adopt a dog directly from a breeder, here are signs they might be operating a puppy mill.
Learn your local animal breeding and selling laws.
Write to your state and federal law makers.
Speak out! Educate others on this issue. You can use the Humane Society of The United State’s fact sheet as a guide.
Read more stories inspired by issues in American culture, and connect with other readers, by joining my community on Patreon.