USA The World

Will breeders ever stop cashing in on the lives of animals?

Somewhere in the world, a mother dog has just given birth to a litter of puppies. Out of instinct, she’ll eye them lovingly and make sure that they are well fed. If she is in a puppy mill, she’ll lay there hoping that these would be the babies that she would get to keep this time. That they won’t be taken away like the several others she had given birth to in the span of a few months. But, not even weeks pass before the same cycle repeats itself. Her darling babies are gone. Cashed in by her captors who have put her life on the line. As they do with all other animals.

This is the story of every female dog that is kept in puppy mills. These are establishments that produce puppies for sale through inhumane processes. Inside, dogs are housed in crowded wire cages, forced to live a life of slavery. Female dogs are continuously used as puppy making machines until their ability to bring life into this world ends. They suffer indefinitely, all so that their owners can earn a few hundred bucks.

Dogs like these, who are subject to such horrible conditions eventually go mad. They experience severe depression and separation anxiety after having their puppies taken away time and time again, just as humans would. 

According to undercover research conducted by PETA, most female dogs at puppy mills are not provided with proper veterinary care and are severely malnourished, too. Their lives eventually come to an end in those same small cages where they have helplessly paced around in distress all their life.

Almost parallel to puppy mills, tiger mills are just as putrid. In these facilities, tigers are produced solely for commercial purposes. In fact, more than 50 tiger mills exist in the US alone. According to the US Fish and Wildlife, the number of tigers in the wild is rapidly decreasing with merely 4000 tigers left in their natural habitats. The Humane Society of the United States believes that approximately 5000 to 7000 captive tigers have been counted in the US – excluding many privately owned unregistered ones.

A mother tiger typically has 12 cubs in her lifetime, but a captive tiger is forced to have that same amount of cubs in just one year. These cubs are then routinely taken from their mothers in a matter of days, bottle fed till they are about a month old, and then are sold off to others who use them as playthings and will charge people as much as five hundred dollars per interaction.

According to Bill Nimmo, Founder of Tigers in America, 5 month old tiger cubs can weigh around 40 pounds and have enough strength to harm a child. For this reason, when the cubs reach a certain age they become useless to their captors since they can no longer be used as toys. At this point, the cubs are then sold to roadside zoos where they are forced to live in miniature cages and sit in silence while people walk around freely, sometimes throwing rocks at them. Just as that same cubs mother was held in captivity for her whole life as a reproductive machine, they are suspect to that same fate, persisting the same cycle. These magnificent creatures, who should be roaming wild jungles, are treated like objects just so that a few people can earn money off of their mere existence. They are stripped of their livelihoods. 

White tigers share a similar but even worse fate. Getting their color from a genetic mutation, white tigers are continually inbred by breeders all in the name of “preserving” the species – or so they say. But what people don’t know is that as a result of inbreeding, almost all white tigers are born with drastic health defects. Some of them have scoliosis, cleft palates, neurological disorders, and all of them are born cross eyed.

1 out of thirty inbred tigers do turn out to be the “pretty white cub” that breeders can sell. The remaining white cubs either have aggravated health issues meaning that they won’t survive, and the rest are born orange and black so they don’t exactly meet the token requirements. The white cubs with health defects are usually euthanized while the orange and black ones, if not euthanized, are sold into the pet trade. They either become canned hunts or are sold for parts in the Asian market.

If this doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will.

Being brought into this world through inbreeding means that nearly all of the white tiger population in the world currently lives in captivity. The last white tiger that was spotted in the wild was shot in 1958.

Even after numerous documented cases of animal abuse, most famously exhibited in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, the USDA still allows private businesses – such as the one owned by Joe Exotic – to continue the ownership of tigers and other big cats. The USDA only requires these private businesses to be licensed as well as be subject to periodical inspections. Any other rules or regulations are left for the states to decide.

In 2019, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bipartisan bill, Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380/S. 2561), that intended to ban the illegal trade of tiger parts and products. By putting an end to illegal trade, the bill also aimed to abolish private ownership of all big cats living in captivity in the US. Unfortunately no progress has yet been made with this bill leaving the rights of captive tigers, and the like, unprotected.

You’d think that domestic cats would be safe from the hands of money hungry breeders inflicting abuse on innocent animals, but of course they’re not. For years, cats have been used as “fashion statements” for people with money who only want a long haired feline so they could show it off to the world rather than nurture and care for it. To satisfy their needs, people keep breeding cats and selling off the most beautiful ones. Those that are left behind are either abandoned or not properly taken care of. It is a money hungry industry because the more that customers feed breeders with money for attractive cats, they are in turn encouraged to produce more of the felines at a rapid rate and therefore inflict more neglect on the “leftover” animals. 

In fact, a lot of people get cats because they look pretty but when they realize the responsibility they have taken upon themselves, they are very quick to dispose of the innocent creatures. But since this is a money making business, breeders continue to use it to support their livelihoods at the cost of an animals life.

Late last year, a woman in Central Massachusetts handed over 45 purebred Ragdoll cats to the MPSCA that she had been breeding in her small house. These cats were living in filthy conditions while 3 of them had to be treated due to severe health issues. Unfortunately, there were no charges pressed against the breeder. The cat population is on the rise as a result of this process of excessive breeding, although most of them, generations even, continually suffer in silence.

Even cows on dairy farms are bred each year so that the mothers can regularly produce milk after giving birth. Those cows don’t even get a chance to feed their own off-springs after birth since the babies are routinely taken away from their mothers. Because of this, the mother cows usually fall into depression and some even develop a severely weak immune system which makes them susceptible to infections like mastitis, and therefore useless to its captors for milk or other things.

As I see it, we humans are responsible for the care of all animals. We need to realize that animals feel pain just as much as we do.

Perhaps empathy will be the only way for us to realize our mistakes and right our wrongs.

By Tayyaba Rehman

Born and raised in Pakistan, Tayyaba completed her MPhil degree in English Literature from Kinnaird College, Lahore in 2019. She strongly believes in the humane treatment towards all animals and equality amongst humankind. She also loves listening to the same song on repeat for days, watching reruns of New Girl and spending time with her cats.