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April 15, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: Closing in on Puppy Mills

Ohlone Humane Society: Closing in on Puppy Mills

By Nancy Lyon

They are all so appealing, all those little fluffy white dogs ...the Bichon Frises, Miniature Poodles, and then there are the Miniature Pinschers, Dachshunds, the handsome Siberian Huskies and Rottweilers... you name it they are all there. Is it the Cow Palace Dog Show or perhaps the Madison Square Garden show?

No, it's your local animal control shelter and it is a fact that 25-30% of the companion animals in shelters are purebreds. This isn't to say that they are even as worthy or more loving companions than the other animals there who are also longing for that great forever home. What it does point out is that purebreds and others such as the so called "designer dogs" like the pug-a-poos, and pocket poms have become popular and this has increased their number showing up in shelters. They have become just another cash crop in America... a commodity to be cranked out and too often casually discarded like last year's fashions.

What is source of these animals? On the smaller scale they come from backyard breeders out to make a buck or two but often they come from puppy mills or breeding facilities that mass-produce puppies for sale in pet stores, over the Internet, and directly to the public.

Statistics show that in U.S. animal shelters 3 million to 4 million cats and dogs are killed every year, and yet pet industry statistics show that about one third of the nation's 11,000 pet stores continue to sell puppies. Most of the dogs come from puppy mills.

These commercial breeding operations - factory farms for companion animals - are usually large, filthy, and are overcrowded and cruel. Breeding "stock" often never sets foot on the ground and are housed in wire bottom cages that are literally stacked on top of each other. Good genetics are not even considered and adults and puppies are often ill. When the animals' bodies are no longer able to reproduce they are killed or abandoned. Profit is put above the health and welfare of the puppies and their parents.

Oversight of the welfare of the animals in these facilities is the responsibility of an over-stretched U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency that rarely does inspections unless pressured into them by complaints.

The Humane Society of the United States contends that the majority of dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. Their study showed that many stores are tight-lipped about where they obtain their animals. Of the handful that answered, most said their puppies came from breeders but wouldn't show corroborating paperwork. When papers were provided, they showed most of the puppies had been shipped from breeding operations in notorious puppy mill states. They also looked at ads online and found that many puppies purchased over the Internet come from puppy mills, in spite of promises of "family raised" puppies from "small breeders."

Because of increased public awareness of the cruelty that is involved in mass producing companion animals, California has taken steps to help correct this abuse and misuse of innocent lives.

The South Lake Tahoe Society Humane Society &SPCA recently spearheaded the passage of a landmark ordinance that banned the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet shops in that city. They can sell supplies but not dogs or cats. This law takes effect on May 5, 2011 giving existing shops two years to come into compliance.

With the passage of the Lake Tahoe ordinance, Executive Director Dawn Armstrong of the SPCA stated, "With the high profile investigations and consumer fraud law suits in puppy mill states, the work being done in Southern California and in other states, it just may be the beginning of the end of the puppy mill industry. Continued public education is key."

To further reduce the number of cats and dogs killed in shelters, California Assembly member Pedro Nava (D-35) has introduced AB. 241 - the Responsible Breeder Act of 2009. It would amend the existing state penal code law that specifies that certain conduct against animals is criminal. This bill would make it a misdemeanor for an individual or business that buys or sells dogs or cats to have more than a combined total of 50 dogs and cats capable of reproducing. The bill would authorize certain officers to investigate a violation of that provision, and to legally take possession of an animal kept in violation of the law.

AB 241 is currently pending in the Assembly and will go before the Public Safety Committee on April 14. It has passed two committees and hopefully will make it through the entire legislative process.

The South Lake Tahoe ordinance is a monumental step forward and is being considered in cities from Los Angeles to Redding...and the question now is why not in your town?

As of 93 days since January 1, 2009, killed in California animal shelters - 135,575; cost to taxpayers to house and kill - $67,706,369.00

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