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September 24, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: What's the real cost of that puppy in the window?

Ohlone Humane Society: What's the real cost of that puppy in the window?

By Nancy Lyon

More than you than you can possibly imagine. Many people are still unaware of the terrible price in animal suffering and future financial hits to their bank account that come with that cute little bundle of fur in the pet shop window.

The majority of puppies sold in pet shops, online or in newspapers come from puppy mills that are factory breeding facilities that mass produce purebred puppies in large numbers. The dogs are a "commodity" to be sold to the unwary usually for many hundreds of dollars...a money pit for unscrupulous breeders, brokers and their outlets.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has documented numerous examples of the cruel and inhumane conditions in these canine factory farms. Breeder dogs are often forced to spend their entire lives in filthy cages where their feet never have a chance to touch the earth. Their reality is not a happy indoor home with loving caregivers but one with minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages, over breeding, inbreeding and killing of unwanted animals. When they are not longer useful, these poor dogs are jettisoned like so much garbage.

Unsuspecting buyers of these puppies are also purchasing either immediate veterinary problems or genetic diseases that predictably show up in a few years - not to mention the heartbreak of a beloved companion animal with continuing health problems or having to humanely destroy them when disease becomes life-threatening.

Most pet stores owners try cover up the real source of the puppies they sell. The common response to potential customer concerns is "All our puppies come from USDA-inspected facilities, so we know they are not from puppy mills." Good try but being USDA-inspected does not mean that the business is not a puppy mill.

According to HSUS, it is extremely rare for the USDA to revoke a commercial breeder's license or even fine a puppy mill that has repeated violations. There are hundreds of USDA-licensed puppy mills in operation that have long lists of violations and problems associated with them. This is due, in part, to the very small number of qualified inspectors, infrequent inspections, and the fact that even facilities that are found to be substandard during the inspection process are rarely penalized.

Most pet shops purchase their "stock" from large brokers in the Midwest who then sell and ship their cargo to retail outlets. Basically, this is a clever way to get around the question, "Do you buy from puppy mills"? The honest answer to that would be - "Yes!" But don't hold your breath waiting for that response.

Responsible breeders never sell their carefully bred puppies to pet stores nor do they need to advertise their pups in newspapers or online. Store managers may tell you that they only purchase puppies from breeders they know but documentation that by law must be displayed on each cage will show that these breeders they "know" come from distant states such Pennsylvania, Missouri and Oklahoma to name but a few where puppy mills abound and have the worst possible conditions for animals.

The health certificate also required by law only means that the puppy has had a very brief "wellness" examination by a veterinarian. This examination does not include testing the puppy or his or her parents for genetic disorders or diseases such as Giardia and Brucellosis, both of which are contagious to humans and are frequently seen in puppy mill puppies. Puppies may also be incubating an illness that is not yet showing symptoms.

If this happens, pet stores may require you to return a sick puppy to the store in order to get a refund. Furthermore, the store management will often use the puppy's "health certificate" as "proof" that the animal was healthy when he or she left the store, leaving the buyer helpless if the puppy becomes sick just a few days after purchase. They also rely on the compassion of people to not bring back a sick pup but spend hundreds of dollars trying to bring them back to health.

The best advice is "Let the buyer beware!" Don't be tempted to buy a pup out of sympathy. Your heart may be with that little creature that is in front you, but in doing so you are supporting an industry of shame and cruelty. By putting hundreds of dollars back into their pockets they will continue to profit and traffic in suffering and death.

If you have a commercial pet store in your area that is selling puppies, the best way to stop them from trafficking in puppies is to make people aware of the tragedy. While keeping breeding dogs in such a way is still perfectly legal, the only way to stop the cruel cycle of puppy mills is by refusing to buy the puppies that keep these corrupt breeders and brokers in business.

If you want a purebred dog or pup or just a wonderful dog of "interesting heritage" try your local animal shelter, breed rescue or other rescue group. These dogs will have been given health checks, been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and evaluated for temperament. You will have a much better chance of finding the right dog for you.

September 20th was National Puppy Mill Awareness Day and if you missed being part of this event, we urge you to continue to work on informing the public about this national disgrace - Let's put them out of business!

If you would like referrals to responsible breed rescues or general rescues groups contact OHS at 510-792-0927. For HSUS Puppy Mill information:

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