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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pet Stores, Puppy Mills & Rescues

I am about to spew something that may infuriate some people , particularly dog breeders.  I have written  similar articles, mostly blasting puppy mills, puppy brokers and pet stores, but while working the other day I received a question that gave me pause for thought. I suspect it was in the back of my mind all along but I just did not address it openly. I realize that pounds and no kill shelters exist and I have adopted a few dogs from them over the years. I understand why some families  who have come upon hard times need to relinquish a pet,  but I also see dogs, pure bred dogs, in these shelters that are there strictly due to human greed.  

The question I speak of was from a customer who was teetering on the fence about buying an 8 week old puppy that she was told had been diagnosed as having a recessed vulva and wanted to know the likelihood that the pup would outgrow it.  This puppy that she was on the fence about would be coming from a pet store.  

Ugh! I thought as I rolled my eyes at the still remaining  many who are not aware of where pet store puppies come from. But answering dog questions is how I make money to to support my own dogs, so of course I took the question. I suppose I had also hoped in the back of my mind that I could educate her on pet store puppies and puppy mills.

I gave the customer the information about the life long problems a recessed vulva might bring with it, the cleaning of the dog’s privates every time it peed to avoid  a life of urinary tract infections and the possible surgery the pup might need to correct the problem and that surgery, if not done correctly may not work.   I also went on to tell her the possibilities of other life long problems that might exist because puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills and I sent a link about puppy mills as well.

The customer came back at me furious, not because what I was telling her was wrong, but because I was not a Veterinarian telling her this information and that I was giving her health information that she herself already knew having already looked it up online.  So she opted out of me helping her further which is her prerogative under the company rules. This meant I could no longer continue to respond to her question; however given her response about “I know all of this information already” I did have a mouthful to say to her so it is best she did opt out of using me in the long run.

A friend, a Veterinarian who had worked on the site for several years stepped in and took the question basically agreeing with everything I had told the customer but offering a little extra technical explanation of possible problems.

When I read the Vet’s answer I was pleased, because not only was I correct in explaining the situation but the Vet acknowledged and validated my answer. With that I sent the Vet a private message thanking her for such a considerate answer. And this private message is what brings me to this post! ( I bet you're glad we're finally getting to it!)

The Vet’s reply to me was that she  basically just restated what I had already told the customer, and that she always feels bad for those pups that get left behind.

Pups that get left behind. I thought sadly.  Pups that are bought and sold every day in pet stores that come from puppy mills. Puppies that are purchased and then turn into grown dogs. These grown dogs that usually have many health and behavior flaws which usually cause them to be given up to pounds or shelters across the USA. These puppies that grow up and cost dog pounds and shelters money to save them through housing, vet care, and food, as well as the tireless efforts of volunteers who attempt to find them new homes. These costs are then passed on to the general public that are doing the adopting of these grown dogs. For these pet store puppies it is to be a revolving door in their life and seemingly a lose, lose situation. Many to never know what a forever home is.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying.  I think shelters are wonderful and do all that they can for dogs and cats, yet in the end it is still that poor sickly puppy that someone had shelled out hundreds of dollars to buy from a  pet store that end up in a shelter or pound. Not only does the public pay the price,  so does the poor animal.  I can’t be upset with the animal because they did not ask to be born into this situation but I can be angry with the human race and companies such as Hunte (to see more on the Hunte Company click  this link )  that constantly put these animals out there for nothing more than profit. Sometimes I just want to say, “God we suck at being the higher species!”  I cannot imagine a dog doing this to humans!
We try to get the puppy mills banished and in some states there is progress being made, but puppy mills are scrupulous and find other ways to sell their puppies. This can happen through puppy brokers, online web sites, or their newest plot which is to set themselves up as a non profit dog rescue so that they can still sell their pups at a higher price under the guise of  running a non profit rescue. And the public buys it hook, line, and sinker.

So how can you tell if a mill is under the guise of a non profit shelter? Ask for a specific breed of puppy. If they say, we don’t have one like that now but we are expecting to have one in a week or two.  you are likely looking at a mill hiding behind the cover of a non profit. Or when you go visit the rescue you see mostly pups and not many older dogs.  A true rescue takes in every dog no mater the age.

What I am trying to say here is that regardless of whether we purchase the pups from a pet store or donate money to a rescue to adopt them as adults, the people that run the puppy mills still win. The losers are the homeless dogs in this revolving door because they  end up without ever knowing what a forever home is like.


In my perfect puppy world I would like:

1) I would like to see every state ban puppy mills, period! No exceptions! If you are breeding more than two distinct breeds you should be classified as a mill or a back yard breeder who is only out for the money. Breeders, though most are responsible, should only be allowed to breed once a year in any given household.  This would cut down on the people who are breeding only to make a living, not for the betterment of the breed itself.  If you can’t make a living off of it, it may not seem a worth while option to pick for an income. Breeders should be required to register with their county as a breeder and should be submitting  paper work on the specific dog they are breeding.   Just as most counties require your dogs to have an identifying  county license a dog breeder should be made to do the same. This could be ‘part’ of a simple solution to over population and puppy mills.

Hey breeders, I get it,  you have a dog that has been judged a champion stud and you are proud of him  and you want to breed him, but  just because a law would only allow you to do one breeding a year with him,  it wouldn't  make that dog any less of a champion!  In fact, that gives you even more time to add to its distinctions through different showings.  Just because you own a stud and not a bitch does not mean that you don’t contribute to an already existing problem.

I also want to see all breeders be made to keep their adult dogs and  puppies that cannot be sold due to some defect or those that are too old for breeding therefore making the breeders no money. I do not think they should be able  to pass the buck because they don’t want to pay to have them taken care of properly. They took these dogs on but seemingly only want them for  the good times not the bad. It is not  fair to hand a defective puppy or an old non producing dog to a rescue and expect the volunteers to spend tireless hours and  efforts to find your dog a home!  

2) Puppies should never be allowed to be sold in pet stores and for those sneaky pet stores that do try  sell them, (even from their own home) should be considered breaking the law and should be very heavily fined.

3) If a rescue team is called to a site to remove a certain amount of dogs from a property which would be deemed a puppy mill, then the owner of those dogs should be fined and should be made to pay the rescue back for the costs of removing, relocating, sheltering, vet care, and feeding of those confiscated animals until such time as they are found a permanent home. This threat alone, if it were a law, would make many think twice about running a mill or over breeding their dogs.

4) The heaviest load really lay on me, you, and on the rest of the general public.  The USDA, the states, the towns, and municipalities do not have enough paid manpower to keep up with tracking or investigating the existence of puppy mills. To aide these counties, the public should be reporting anyone they know or suspect of running a mill. To entice the public to make that phone call offer anonymity from the mills owner, and put some type of reward in place if the caller has identified a legitimate puppy mill. A reward does not always mean monetary, I know a few people who would give up a name for a couple of Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger tickets!  

Will you have neighbors calling up on each other because they are reminiscent of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s?  Sure, so don’t rely on just one call, wait until you have a few complaints about a property or a few complaints about sick puppies that were purchased from a specific breeder or property before doing a proper check .

I am reminded of a lawsuit brought about near my hometown against Pet City & Supplies Inc.. There were so many complaints about sick dogs being sold, and the failure of the store to produce proper records that eventually one of their stores in my area closed down, though I am not  aware if  any of their other stores closed as well. But it was a victory, a small one yet still a victory! A victory that should have taught us all it can be done!

You can see more on the Pet City suit and other legal actions against pet stores by clicking here 

5) Do not lump Agriculture laws and companion animal laws into one. They are separate issues yet they are all put under the guise of animal cruelty.  By doing this it makes it harder to crack down on mills because the Agricultural folk are going to come out swinging, because their livestock are their livelihood.  A dog on the other hand is not really a livelihood and should not be considered a way of income. By separating the two you may be able to get things done a bit quicker and  with less opposition.


                                       What's in a complaint?

As a public we are outraged when we see a puppy in a pet store or we rescue a dog that has so many ailments from bad breeding that we complain, and we complain a lot, but are we complaining to the right people?  Have we offered the help that is needed to put these disgraceful people out of business?   Are we going to continue to have unwanted dogs kenneled and euthanized specifically due to this problem and no other?

You might want to  put a bit of pressure on your local government such as Mayors and Governors about the issues of  puppy mills in your town/city. It’s a good start.  To find the Mayor of your city and when they are up for re-election click here. 

From there start writing to your state Governor’s office. For a list of Governor's click here    ( When the page opens click on your state and a new window opens up so you can  send an email to your Governor. )

Try to keep your anger and disgust at a minimum and deal with the facts that you see on a daily basis regarding your own pet that may have been from a puppy mill or if you are an organization that rescues these dogs. Don’t rant and rave, ranting and raving makes you feel good at the time, but it does nothing to get your message across. Also don't just rant and rave but try to come up with suggestions to aid the problem.


Just to reiterate where those pet store puppies and the majority of adult dog rescues come from and what conditions they are born into before they ever hit that pet store click here.  

Notice the lack of human contact, lack of space provided, and  the over crowding along with deplorable conditions.

The conditions in which the parent dogs and puppies have to eat, sleep, and live in causes most of the behavior problems that I hear on a daily basis. Questions such as: my dog acts fearful what can I do? or  my dog lunges and barks at other dogs how do I stop this?  and my two favorites , even though I take my puppy out often to potty he/she still pees and poops all over the house, what can be done to stop this? and  I have adopted a breeder dog that waits to come into the house to pee even though she has a doggy door to use.    

Remember that puppies, like humans, only act out what they have learned during their first formative weeks, months, years, of life.  This can contribute to a lifetime of problems that may or may not ever be able to be fixed.
Update on another shut down to try to curtail over population of unwanted puppies. I don't understand why it is so hard to get any bills passed to reduce unwanted puppies.  Click here for article  

The worst states for puppy mills: click here

That’s my sound off, comment as you see fit. 

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