The cute puppy in the pet store window, the rolling green hills and idyllic farms where dogs and puppies frolic happily ever after on the Internet. Cute and innocent. Puppies are loved, they are our buddies. We bring them into our homes with little awareness of where they came from. Most of us don't think to ask where their mothers and fathers are. We trust the pictures and the nice person at the pet store. Who in the world would lie about puppies? These are baby animals, not politicians.
The answer is that almost everyone involved in the retail sale of puppies and kittens, in stores, online, and in our newspaper ads, plays a part in deception. The truth, the cruelty behind the retail puppy is so unbelievable people dismiss it. The truth is puppy mills. Our cuddly cuties come mostly from Midwestern, USDA-licensed commercial breeding facilities, also known as puppy mills.
Puppy mills exist to churn out puppies at maximum profit. These 'facilities' are often nothing more than stacked wire cages of breeding dogs, some with no shelter from the elements, others with no natural light. Sawdust mixed with food results in poor nutrition. Veterinary care is often withheld. Dogs that can no longer churn out litters are killed or sold at auctions. All to maximize profits without considering animal welfare or quality product, the puppies.
These mills are the legal equivalent of dogfighting. Yes, you read correctly. Puppy mill owners and dog fighters both neglect, abuse and kill dogs for profit and without remorse. These facts and so many more are documented in USDA inspection reports, proven with video and confirmed by mill owners themselves. Your neighbor buys a puppy without either meeting its parents or Googling the breeder name to find violations. Supply and demand keeps business booming. We are deceived and animals suffer.
The good news is that awareness growing. Social media and major campaigns by animal welfare groups have done wonders. Cities and towns from Hallendale Beach, Florida to Los Angeles have banned the retail sale of puppies and kittens. Local education such as this blog help.
While I would love it if everyone were so outraged they called their senator today, I know that is not feasible. My plan is to provide readable doses of information over the next few months about laws, what is changing and what we can do at each step. My hope is that some of you will spread the word, write a letter, or even become an activist.
What can you do today?
If you are looking for a pet, consider shelters, breed rescue groups and reputable breeders. The puppy parents will be on the premises, not in a USDA-licensed kennel. The breeder will insist on reference checks and meeting everyone living with the dog. There will not be a coupon in the paper for the puppy. Shelters ensure all shots are updated, the pet is neutered or spayed, and often microchipped.
No reputable breeder, much less decent human being, would pack and truck 7-8 week-old puppies like canned goods to be purchased by anyone with cash or credit. It is that simple.
If you purchased an animal from a pet store, Web site or newspaper ad and it was sick or developed health problems, PLEASE report it to NYS online at: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/petdealercomplain.html.
Learn more and go inside a mill at http://www.aspca.org/PUPPYMILLS