Watch Tip: Christmas Pets Part 1

Posted on November 27th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoIf someone you know is set on purchasing a new puppy or kitten for Christmas, give guidance. They should watch out for greedy backyard breeders of diseased or parasite-infested puppies and kittens. Backyard breeders and puppy mills maximize profit by reducing costs of care below humane standards. Insist on viewing the parents: are they healthy, socialized and of good weight? Insist on viewing the nursery area: is it clean, comfortable, and warm? If they make excuses why not—run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction.

Three rules:

  1. Healthy mother with groomed fur, no scratching, no hip bones showing (and father, if possible in this age of artificial insemination)
  2. Clean, fresh-smelling nursery (a few small “accidents” are allowable, but not diarrhea)
  3. Healthy litter of lively bright-eyed puppies or kittens, with shots and wormed

Her new puppy was dead within the week!

Imagine the heartache and the unplanned expenses of trying to save a dying baby pet. I just heard the story yesterday from a new adopter at the shelter where I volunteer. She had purchased a puppy from a disease-infested small country breeder and she couldn’t talk about losing her puppy without tears. She saw one puppy squirt watery diarrhea, a sign of disease, when she was buying hers. Did you know that healthy puppies shouldn’t have diarrhea—they should excrete firm little logs? She did not know that.

“Pudding” diarrhea is not normal either. Brown watery diarrhea with puddles of dark blood is a DIRE emergency; the puppy is likely to die within hours. I resolved to write about this in memory of her puppy and the memory of all puppies who died this week from preventable diseases because they didn’t get their shots. Read my post about puppy shots here.

But even worse is how breeding parents are treated in the mills

The puppies or kittens, if they don’t get sick, are the lucky ones—because they escape the miserable life of their parents. The breeding parents suffer horribly for years confined in small pens or cages. They develop skin diseases, eye and ear infections, dental disease, foot and teeth injuries from wire pens, and parasite infestations. They are usually starved. And they die never having known a kind hand or soothing voice. You’ve likely seen pitiful images of breeding parents with matted fur and vacant eyes. For sensitive animal lovers, these realities inflame and incite armies of activism designed to eliminate abusive breeding practices.

“Backyard” breeders are small-scale puppy or kitten mills (or horses or other commercially-viable animals).  Typically an inexperienced animal lover will decide to begin breeding to make some extra money. I worked with someone who bred Boston Terriers and Miniature Horses for a few years. They provided decent care to their breeding animals. The family incurred large veterinary bills for unplanned cesarean sections of the Boston puppies. (This breed usually requires cesarean births.) They had buyers suddenly returning unwanted dogs and horses. Because this family wasn’t experienced, they made beginners mistakes and suffered troubled relationships with customers. They eventually sold all of their animals, even their house pets, and moved into town. It’s hard to make money selling animals. Some backyard breeders don’t give up–they just cut back expenses every way possible, leading to abuse.

To be continued next week.

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