There’s a hidden secret behind the pet shop window and the fancy website. That cute, cuddly puppy staring back to unsuspecting consumers is the product of an industry that inflicts unspeakable cruelty onto our best friends – puppy factories.

Puppy factories, also known as puppy farms or puppy mills, are just as the name suggests – they are factory farms for companion dogs. 

Dogs condemned to a life of breeding on puppy factories are completely neglected. Mother dogs are imprisoned their entire lives, in a constant cycle of pregnancy, and treated as machines to produce one product – puppies. 

A female dog used for breeding on a puppy farm. Image: Oscar’s Law.

But the good news is – we can break this cycle of suffering. The power to end puppy farming is in all of our hands. Each day, more and more people are finding out about this once-hidden industry, and choosing the kindest way to get a companion animal instead – adoption.

Even our most-loved companions are poorly protected by animal welfare laws. When it comes to puppy factories, you’d be forgiven for believing that they are illegal, and therefore when reported to authorities, would be shut down. 

However, unfortunately in most states of Australia, operating a puppy factory is completely legal provided you have a council permit to do so. A council permit makes a puppy factory a registered business (which of course comes with no animal welfare guarantees), yet many puppy farmers use this to deceive consumers into thinking they are a registered breeder. It’s just one of the many ways puppy farmers fool potential buyers.

Most puppy farmers keep their dogs in sheds, outdoor dirt yards or small crates. They are usually denied adequate food, water and shelter, and basic vet care is often disregarded. Breeding dogs are confined for the majority of their lives; in some cases, their entire life. They are forced to breed to supply a commercial market. 

Most breeding dogs suffer painful and untreated health conditions. Many dogs live their whole lives with eye infections, ear infections, mammary tumours, hip dysplasia and skin infections.

A beautiful boxer puppy not even one-year-old when she was forced to endure a pregnancy and birthing process that her young body simply couldn’t cope with. It took her four days to die due to birthing complications. Image: Oscar’s Law.

For so many of us, the highlight of our day is taking our companions for a long, relaxing walk, or sitting on the couch spending time together after a big day at work. But dogs on puppy factories are completely denied socialisation and love. They are deprived of companionship, environmental enrichment and they are not given a chance to bond with a human the same way a pet dog in a family home does. 

Female breeding dogs are not even given the chance to nurture and love their pups as their motherly instinct is to do. Puppies are usually taken from them at around 6-7 weeks and placed in a pet shop window, or sold online and shipped across the country. The trauma of having continuous litters taken away prematurely takes a big mental toll on mother dogs, with some rescued dogs developing habits of making ‘nests’ with soft toys as their babies.

While it is clear female breeding dogs endure extreme cruelty, male puppy farmed dogs, also known as ‘studs’, do too. Many stud dogs are forced to serve females every day, which can lead to painful penis injuries, with some dogs rescued from puppy factories requiring reconstructive penis surgery.

A female dog and her puppies in an Australian puppy farm. Source: RSPCA.

In most states, there is very little protection for puppy farmed dogs when they can no longer produce puppies. Investigations on Australian puppy factories have found dead dogs dumped at the back of properties, and even dog skulls with bullet holes in them. For the most part, killing dogs deemed to no longer be ‘useful’ is completely legal, and in many states can happen without a vet present or any professional consultation.

Dogs on puppy factories do not just endure physical suffering. In some instances, the psychological damage is even more severe. Dogs that live a life of deprivation can become extremely psychologically damaged, and some dogs never fully recover. Dogs rescued from puppy factories regularly remain fearful and shut down and require extensive rehabilitation to get them to the stage where they can be adopted. Some are required to stay in permanent foster homes.

Shelter for homeless dogs, waiting for a new owner

Puppy factories betray our best friends, but the fight against them is growing stronger by the day. The power is in our hands to end them. By telling our friends and family to choose to adopt not shop, and telling our politicians to change the laws that allow this cruelty to go on – a kinder world for dogs is within our reach. 

Georgie Purcell

Georgie has been involved in the animal protection movement since 2011. Professionally, Georgie works full time as Chief of Staff to the Animal Justice Party’s first Victorian Member of Parliament and is responsible for a small but dedicated team of animal protection campaigners. Voluntarily, she is President of Oscar’s Law, Australia’s most prominent anti-puppy farming campaign. She has been with the organisation in various roles since 2014. The high-profile campaigns and political lobbying of Oscar’s Law has seen historic legislation to end puppy factories and ban the sale of puppies in pet shops pass in Victoria, with similar legislation proposed in other states. Georgie is passionate about intersectionality and solidarity between social justice movements. Before taking on the Victorian Parliament, Georgie worked in the union movement. She holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Communications/Public Relations with a minor in politics. Georgie is admitted as an Australian lawyer, is a graduate of Melbourne University’s Pathways to Politics Program for Women and alumni of Centre for Australian Progress. Georgie lives on Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wurundjeri Country in the Macedon Ranges with a small sanctuary of rescued farm and companion animals.