Dogs, Cats And Other People: Pet Stores And Puppy Mills
by Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis
“A concentration camp for dogs.” “A slave-trade for dogs.” “A tragic waste of life that goes beyond my comprehension.” “I’m shocked at people’s ability to be so cruel.”
Comments from first-hand accounts of the Buckeye Dog Auction at the Amish Flea Market in Millersburg, Ohio. Turns out, the Amish have some dirty laundry that needs airing.
Millersburg is in Holmes County, deep in the heart of Amish land. If you visit www.amishofholmescountyohio.com, you’ll find photographs of pastoral settings and quaint schoolhouses, as well as links to quilt shops, buggy and carriage builders, and a calendar of events for the year — none of which mention the Buckeye Dog Auction. In a way I don’t blame them. Those photographs are far from pastoral.
The auction sells dogs to “breeders.” Holmes County has a human population of 39,000, and it sells an average of 470 kennel licenses each year. Incredible! If I were running a d og auction, it’s where I’d want to be. To top it off, many of these are “high-volume” breeders. In other words, they’re not responsible breeders. They’re puppy mills.
Puppy mills are not nice places. What they are is big business.
The pet industry in the United States is a $37 billion industry. Puppy mills are places that breed puppies solely for profit, often in filthy, overcrowded, anti-social and inhumane conditions. They also register their litters when possible, because people pay big bucks for a “pedigreed” purebred. And no, registration isn’t free.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is “the nation’s largest and only significant not-for-profit dog registry and sanctioning body,” as defined by current AKC Chairman Ronald Menaker. Theirs is a powerful lobby that has fought both for and against proposed legislation attempting to ban or at least tighten the reins on this cruel and unnecessary practice. You can read the AKC’s
position on current and past propo s ed legislation by clicking on the
“legislative alerts” tab on their home page: www.akc.org.
In the meantime, though, where, oh, where do these little pups go?
Statistics reveal that as many as 98 percent of pet-store pups come from puppy mills or “brokers” acting as middlemen. Pet stores, in turn, slap an exorbitant price tag on these dogs. After all, they’re pedigreed.
This pedigree looks impressive and offers a semblance of security to the buyer. But what many people don’t know is that registration, even AKC registration, doesn’t mean much. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Registration papers do nothing to ensure that an individual
puppy (or his or her parents) is healthy or free of genetic defects, or that they were raised in a humane and sanitary environment.” Many times, the pet-store pup is far from healthy. Often, the buyer ends up saddled with unforeseen medical expenses and deep-rooted behavioral problems. Rarely does the pet s tore compensate for these.
Think puppy mills just breed puppies? Think again.
Puppy mills breed disease and genetic defects. They breed social dysfunction and physical malformation. They breed unimaginable pain, misery and emotional trauma to the dogs forced to endure these unspeakable circumstances, many of which never know a better life.
We buy that cute puppy in the pet store window, but our pup’s mom likely lives in squalor and has never felt cool, wet grass against the pads of her paws, or the soft warmth of a blanket wrapped around her at night, or the joy of chasing a squirrel up a tree. In fact, your pup’s mom has probably never seen the outside of her wire cage.
She was most likely bred at far too young an age, well before any genetic defects she might pass on would surface. It’s possible she’s never had a bath, or seen a vet, or been lovingly stroked by a human hand. No treats, no toys, no exercise, no love, she is physically and emotionally malnourished. But as long as she keeps breeding and her puppies keep selling, she’ll continue on in this way. This will be the only life she knows, until her body just can’t take any more. Only then will she find peace.
So before you buy, ask yourself: Am I sentencing my puppy’s mom to a life no living, feeling creature should ever know? And how much of mom is going home with me?
With legislation tied up in big business and politics, the only way to
effectively shut down puppy mills is to dry up demand. This means boycotting pet stores that sell puppies. This means buying your next dog from your local shelter or rescue group. This means asking your family and friends to do the same. This means educating ourselves as to the distinction between
responsible and irresponsible dog breeders. This means understanding the effects of our choices as both consumers and animal lovers.
So before you buy, ask yourself: What does my dollar really mean?
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com, and visit him at http://www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300,
Diamond Springs, CA 95619.