Super adorable and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, 'teacup' puppies have been an ongoing trend among pet lovers for the past decade
What's are 'teacup' puppies, you ask?
They are exceptionally small dogs, tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand and even a purse or - as the name suggests - a teacup. A teacup puppy typically weighs less than the American Kennel Club-approved standard weight for their breed, often by a pound (453g) or more.
Cute as they may be - and this may be shocking to hear - many 'teacup' pups often begin life in abusive environments, no thanks to unscrupulous breeders wanting to cash in on their "smaller is cuter" appeal
While it is normal for some puppies to start life smaller than their littermates, some breeders have devised brutal ways to forcefully shrink small breeds like Chihuahuas or Yorkshire terriers just to earn some extra bucks, as teacup puppies are sold for at least a few thousand dollars more than their regular-sized peers.
These breeders are exceptionally notorious in South Korea, home to many largely unregulated "puppy mills" where dogs are bred in dirty and inhumane kennels. The pups are then shipped domestically and to pet suppliers all over the world, eventually into the hands of "wealthy kennel enthusiasts".
To meet unwavering demand for 'teacup' pups, puppy mothers spend most of their lives crammed into cages and repeatedly pumping out undersized litters (via artificial insemination) until their bodies wear out
That's not all. According to an investigation by The Korean Observer, the puppies are sometimes delivered via C-sections so that they can be really, really small, since they are delivered prematurely. These operations are usually performed without anaesthesia and by untrained workers.
A report from GlobalPost further revealed that puppy mothers who have outlived their purpose will then be auctioned off to meat dealers, who electrocute or beat them to death for restaurants and dog meat markets.
As for the 'teacup' puppies themselves, a combination of their tiny size and the conditions they were born into could mean a shorter life span and a lifetime of health problems
Teacup dogs may be plagued by a host of health problems because of their tiny size. The risks include hypoglycemia (a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar), loss of sight, heart trouble, seizures and respiratory issues that can worsen with age.
A teacup dog may not have enough room in her mouth for adult teeth to come in. Plus, her bones may be more fragile than normal. This means that her underdeveloped cranium may have a permanent soft spot, or her legs may be easily broken by a jump off the couch or zealous love from a child.
While some cities in the US have banned the sale commercially-bred pets, South Korea - home to many unregulated "puppy mills" - is actively encouraging the production and sale of 'teacup' puppies
A new plan in South Korea would make it much easier to run a puppy mill - the government is actually encouraging it with financial incentives - because President Park Geun-hye thinks it will help boost the economy.thedodo.com
For animal rights activists in South Korea who have been working to ban puppy mills in the country for years, it's a heartbreaking step towards the wrong direction
"This is ridiculous considering there is virtually no rescue culture here and the shelters, already underfunded and managed, and stuffed full," Shannon Milojkovic, who lives in South Korea and volunteers at animal shelters, told The Dodo.
"We really thought that puppy mills would be banned. If not banned, there would be a lot more regulation. That's what we were led to believe," AJ Garcia, president of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), told The Korea Observer.
Garcia was hoping to use the animal-loving momentum to then tackle Korea's dog meat industry - and that dream has been shattered. "Everyone's just as upset," he said.
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