One of our volunteers recently wanted to know more about retired breeders- why would a mill dog be retired and who decides that?
The answer is- there are a lot of reasons.
The miller decides when to retire a dog, however in states like Ohio, new legislation has impacted when dogs are retired. Ohio has enacted stricter laws that have limited the number of times a female can be bred, have made more stringent housing requirements, and now requires that animals be seen by a vet at least one time per year. These changes are still not enough to make life in a puppy mill humane, we are still talking about dozens or even hundreds of dogs living in cramped conditions without normal socialization, but we hope these seeds of change will grow and be the momentum to end the suffering called puppy mills.
So, back to retirement. In the human world we often think of retirement as a time to slow down, travel, or pursue our hobbies. For a mill dog, it means freedom. A dog may be retired because it has reached the maximum number of litters, the female produces small litters, they may have puppies that are considered “ugly” or have “defects” that would make them unsellable. Some defects may be purely cosmetic such as under-bites, undesirable coloring, or characteristics that do not conform to the breed. Others may be medical- heart murmurs, deaf/ blindness, or orthopedic issues.
If a female needs to have had a c-section, she may also be retired. Previously, and it still happens sometimes- if a miller brought a dog to a vet for a c-section they would request to put the mom down and keep the puppies. Dogs are commodities that generate revenue- nothing more. Fortunately more and more vets are learning about us, advocating that millers surrender dogs at risk of unnecessary euthanasia and these lives are being saved.
Dogs are also surrendered when they start having health issues of their own. Recently we have seen a lot of prolapsed uterus’s. Pyometra, skin issues, entropian, luxating patellas, dental disease, chronic ear infections, and tumors are all common, but sadly many of the dogs we see have lived for years with some of these conditions.
Retired female breeders typically come into rescue at the ages of 5-7 yrs. If they are younger it’s probably one of the breeding issues I mentioned. Sadly these dogs are often pretty shut down. They have only known life in a cage. A soft bed is a foreign object. A gentle hand is still a scary hand because most have only been scruffed roughly at the neck. Common sounds in a home- television, phones can be very scary. Yes retirement is freedom, for a mill dog it is the start of a life worth living, but it can be a slow, difficult transition.
To fully stop puppy mill cruelty, consumers – everywhere – must refuse to buy puppies from pet stores and online from breeders they haven’t met or screened. Instead, consider adoption first when adding a new companion animal to your family. No dog should have to wait for retirement to actually start living.