A puppy mill is a breeding operation, a commercial breeding operation that's breeding dogs for profit, plain and simple. The problem with that industry is it's an unregulated, unchecked industry.

The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

This is the Stop Animal Cruelty series on Supreme Master Television. The subject of this week’s program is the absolutely heartless, callous treatment of canines in puppy mills.

We’ll hear from a number of individuals committed to stopping these horrific operations in the US, including Paul Berry, president and chief executive officer of Humane Associates, a consulting collective dedicated to optimizing the effectiveness of organizations serving the needs of animals, Meera Nandlal, public relations manager for the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dr. Elliot Katz, a veterinarian and founder of In Defense of Animals, which seeks to end animal exploitation, cruelty and abuse and devoted animal-rights advocate Ady Gil, a successful businessman who founded the Ady Gil World Conservation Foundation.

When we visit a pet store and see the adorable puppies for sale, it’s hard to resist the temptation to take one home. However, it is best to avoid purchasing a canine from such places. Besides the fact that there are vast numbers of dogs already in animal shelters desperately needing homes, many innocent pet-store babies come from puppy mills, where their helpless mothers are confined in tiny cages and forced to produce litter after litter, strictly for the financial gain of the owners of these wretched places.

The US is home to many such, often illegal, businesses, with an estimated 1,500 in the state of Missouri alone. In puppy mills, food, shelter, and veterinary care are typically grossly inadequate. But Paul Berry, who has been involved in animal-welfare work for almost two decades, shares another major concern about puppy mills.

About 17 years ago, my wife and I were working in the corporate world and wanted to take a year off and get married and volunteer for a year for our long honeymoon. So that first year, that was our journey, learning and researching, and volunteering for animal concerns. And, we started out in New Orleans (USA), which is my hometown. And I started helping some animal groups there, and got into animal rights cruelty investigations.

And we ended up getting into a project where we purchased a mobile veterinary clinic for a non-profit group to provide free and low-cost spay-neuter services to low-income people in New Orleans. And the idea was that if we could get more spay-neuter services out to folks who didn't have access or couldn't afford it, that we could help reduce pet overpopulation. That's a huge issue, pet overpopulation.

Let's talk about why puppy mills are bad. Puppy mills put a huge number of dogs into a market where dogs are being killed every year because there aren't enough homes for them all. Right now, there are about 5- to 7-million animals being killed every year in shelters, dogs and cats. And the puppy-mill industry is impacting that pretty significantly.

The puppy-mill industry puts out 2- to 3-million new dogs on the market every year. And that's almost as many that are being killed every year. So it’s a really vicious cycle that's happening in the marketplace.

The puppy mills, people buy them. They are in business because their dogs are simply commodities. They breed them and try to convince people to buy them. And then you end up with millions of animals killed in this nation’s shelters.

By nature, dogs are highly intelligent, friendly and cheerful, and actively seek social interaction with one another and their caregivers. They enjoy eating different types of foods, going out for walks and being in stimulating environments. Devoted and loving, dogs will even lay down their lives to save their caregivers if necessary. Imagine what it must be like for these sensitive, noble animals to live 24 hours a day, seven days a week in small, terribly cramped cages under dreadful conditions.

A puppy mill is where you’re going to find a lot of these animals in confined areas. They're not going to get the proper food, water, or shelter, and maybe there are several in an area. You'll also find the mothers confined in an area where they never leave. And they just have puppy after puppy after puppy. And a lot of times, the puppy mills that I've actually gone to are very horrendous. They're never clean.

There's feces and urine that have been there for a while. You'll see the food. They actually never have cleaned out the food bowl, just keep adding more food. The water is usually very dirty. So those are my experiences of what I've seen in these puppy-mill situations. They've been in areas that are not ventilated. It’s very hot in the area, or in the winter, it's been very cold. It's a very sad thing.

They’re very closed-off spaces. There's never sunlight coming in. The animals don't come out to walk. Just having puppy after puppy after puppy. And never going outside, never walking on the grass, or seeing the sunlight or knowing what it means to play, or to have their tummies rubbed, or to have a treat, or to know that sort of affection.

Basically, the animals live in a confined area. And they never leave that confined area. They are breeding animals all the time, and the puppies are for sale. Lot of times in these facilities, the animals eventually get old. And when they get old and they can’t have puppies anymore, they’re just discarded in many ways. And it’s very traumatic.

In March 2010, the Ady Gil World Conservation Foundation partnered with Animal Rescue Corps to free canines imprisoned in a Tennessee, USA puppy mill.

We got a tip on a puppy mill in Tennessee (USA). We collected evidence; we had an undercover investigation – as you can see in this video here. We finally got our search warrant and we had a crew. We went to Tennessee. We had about 14 people with the sheriffs.

The District Attorney was there with us. We did not know how many dogs actually were in the puppy mill. We thought between 100 to 200. As we walked in, we found horrific conditions, exactly how the informer told us. There were dogs living there on feces. It was unbelievable. They had disease, skin disease, they were never been bathed, they were never been fed correctly, they were dehydrated. It was terrible. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Treating other species as nothing more than property or objects or commodities or things is extremely demeaning. If one thinks to oneself, “This is my piece of property. This is something I just bought and sold,” you are not going to have that same feeling of respect, treat that animal with dignity, do the responsible care when you think, “Well I bought it. I can sell it. It’s not worth keeping.”

That’s the motive that opens up, allows that callousness and insensitivity because the dogs or animal companions are just seen as things, commodities.

We must treat the animals the way we would like to be treated because they deserve respect and understanding and love and affection. They’re not for profit. They have emotions. They feel happy and sad. And they grieve. They feel just like you. So treat them how you would like to be treated.

If a person wishes to adopt a dog companion, where’s the best place to go?

Anybody that's thinking about helping with the cause or wanting to get a dog for their family or as a friend or a pal, please go to a shelter. Go to your local shelter. Ask them about what dogs are available for adoption, if you have a name of a specific breed, ask the local shelter about any breed rescues that work with specific breeds. But please, don't go to a pet store that's peddling dogs and cats from puppy mills and cat mills.

In an interview with journalist Louise King published in the December 16, 2009 issue of the Irish Dog Journal, Supreme Master Ching Hai discussed the reasons it’s best to adopt a canine companion from a no-kill shelter.

It is advised not to try to buy a pet from a breeder and especially the pet shop, because the way they get the puppies is just too often terribly inhumane, like the mother and father dogs being treated like machines to bear puppies until they are driven exhausted and insane, get crippled, or die. They and the puppies are miserably kept in tiny, filthy cages indoors or outdoors, exposed to the elements. We mustn’t support this practice.

As many experts have recommended, adoption from an animal shelter is the most humane and loving option for bringing an animal into our life.

Also, we should make sure the animal shelter is a non-kill shelter, to support the non-violent way. Adopting from a sanctuary is also possible and good, but the non-kill shelters are the most desperately in need of homes.

Many thanks to all those featured on today’s program for working to end the deep suffering of exploited mother dogs and their babies trapped in puppy mills. Your efforts to protect the lives of these precious canine co-inhabitants demonstrates true humanity, and we join you in praying for a world where all beings are soon treated with the highest dignity and respect.

For more information on organizations working to close puppy mills, please visit the following websites:
Ady Gil World Conservation www.AGWC501.org
Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals www.HoustonHumane.org
In Defense of Animals www.IDAUSA.org

Thank you for joining us today on Stop Animal Cruelty. May the light and grace of Heaven forever embrace our world.