Watch Tip: Christmas Pets Part 2

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/kitten 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.

Continued from last week:

Responsible breeders can be very different. I’d like to describe a few. I toured what might be termed a “commercial” German Shepherd Dog breeder’s operation in  mid-summer. They show, breed and train dogs, sell their puppies, and they run a boarding kennel and retail dog supply store as well. Trophies and ribbons lined the walls. Their puppies start at $1,000 and the litter of twelve 4-week-old puppies that I played with were all spoken for. This business has never placed a newspaper ad to sell their puppies. I toured the entire place; it was a last-minute unplanned tour for guests at a neighboring relative’s party. Without exception, it was clean, bright, and neutral-smelling throughout the facility. The three whelping rooms each featured one large window along the hall, so the nursing mom and puppies could be watched without disturbance. Each included a high-sided box that the mom could step into to get a bit of privacy if she wanted. One unused whelping room was a foster home for two cats needing homes. All of their owned cats were fixed and they wandered freely around the facility. The non-breeding dogs were kept in large chain link pens inside a large metal outbuilding with cement floors. The entire property was well-kept and orderly. The boarding kennels were full.

“Hobby” breeders are small high-quality operations. Typically they show or compete with their dogs or cats and raise one or two litters per year inside of the home; the baby pets are well-socialized as a result.  They hope to raise and train a champion (or several) and have specific breed-furthering goals in mind. They place their “show quality” pets in show homes and their “pet quality” littermates with qualified families (reservations and references usually required). Because they are love the breed, they check the health of parents and grandparents of their breeding dogs to avoid passing along known congenital disorders. Their enthusiasm for their breed could sweep a customer into participating in some new activities with the new pets.

What are the hallmarks of responsible breeders?

Share these reasonable expectations for good breeding operations with your family or friends who are determined to purchase a puppy from a breeder. If your family or friends don’t get good advice, they could easily end up perpetuating the abject misery of those poor dogs and cats who are trapped in mills, and worse, they might suffer the loss of a baby pet.

  • The litters are in demand, reserved in advance; waiting lists are typical.
  • They require a purchase contract and references before purchasing one of their offspring.
  • They require sterilization contracts for their pet quality offspring.
  • They run health checks on the parents and grandparents to prevent breeding of known defects (for instance, some gene pools contain defective genes for epilepsy or hip dysplasia which you want to avoid).
  • They allow viewing of breeding parents, kennels, nurseries, whelping pens (the sire might not be on site).
  • Many display ribbons and trophies won by their animals, as well as show or competition photos.
  • They provide all recommended new puppy and kitten shots and de-wormers.
  • They require the return of their offspring if they are no longer wanted and find new homes for them.
  • Many run small rescues or donate to rescues for their breeds. You might adopt a returned pet from a breeder like the Obama family did!

If the breed of dog typically has docked tails or ears, such as a Boxer, be sure to specify in advance if “natural” tails or ears are preferred, because some surgeries may be performed on very young puppies.

Use this questionnaire (pdf) to guide questions that can help identify a responsible breeder.

Local breed club members are excellent resources in a search for reputable breeders. Ask your vet for recommendations. Local shelters and rescues can be good sources of information for which breeders to avoid. If you read the classifieds, look for advertised bloodlines and champions to identify more serious breeders who might be more careful to breed only animals that have passed health checks.

RED FLAGS: When you call, explain that you want to view the breeding parents and the nursery. If the response is “no, you might be carrying diseases,” cross them off your list. This is the standard excuse used by a puppy or kitten mill. (Common sense tells you that if they were seriously worried about you spreading dangerous diseases, they would not let you handle a baby pet or even visit.) Definitely pass over those breeders that do not provide the first round of shots and wormer, which indicates a backyard breeder. Those pickup trucks selling puppies at Walmart? Well, if you’ve read this far, I know you’ll be suspicious about that! Drive on.

Remember that purebreed rescues are active in all breeds and some will have baby pure- or part-bred pets from time to time. Your friend or family member might be surprised at how rewarding the adoption process can be!

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.

Book Review — Saving Gracie

Posted on July 20th, 2010 by admin

Saving Gracie is more than a well-written, compelling book that should be in every animal lover’s  collection.  This is the book that makes the case against puppy mills and their supporters in a clear voice. Moreover, if I had the money I would make sure to give a copy of Saving Gracie to every legislator in the US.

Author Carol Bradley has written a rare book. It is an important book that is also a good read. The history and information in Saving Gracie makes the case against puppy mills while the writing carries you along like a good crime novel.

This book is a slap in the face to those who deny the absolute evil of puppy mills. I defy someone to read even the first few chapters of Saving Gracie and walk away with any ability to defend puppy mills for any reason. Bradley has woven a strong story line around some very painful facts and the figures to support them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Humane Society Launches National ‘Puppy Mill’ Tip Line

Posted on December 7th, 2009 by admin


Great news from the Humane Society Of The United States, they have started a tipline to help dogs being abused at puppy mills. While there have been tiplines for dog fighting for a while there was not one specifically dedicated to report puppy mill abuse.

Dogs Don’t Deserve Lifetime Confinement for the Sake of Profit

(Dec. 3, 2009) – To help end the misery associated with large-scale dog breeding operations known as “puppy mills,” The Humane Society of the United States has launched a national telephone tip line and encourages callers to report suspected cruelty or unlawful activities involving such breeding facilities.

The hotline, 1-877-MILL-TIP, is available to anyone with information of a possible crime involving puppy mills – but particularly welcomes information from those with “insider” knowledge, or from law enforcement officials who might be aware of such operations.

“Puppy mills are a national scourge,” said Justin Scally, manager of The HSUS’ Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force. “Hundreds of thousands of dogs across the country are trapped in constant confinement their entire lives, producing puppies to profit the puppy mill owner. This tip line will be a vital tool to help free these dogs from a life of abuse.”

The Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force investigates puppy mills and works with law enforcement, animal shelters and other agencies to stop abuse and to ensure enforcement of existing laws. The task force also provides expert guidance to local, state and federal agencies in the prosecution of animal abusers as it relates to the operation of puppy mills. Since its launch in June, the Task Force has assisted in the rescue of more than 1,200 dogs and puppies from abusive situations at puppy mills.

The announcement of the new national tip line comes during The HSUS’ 3rd annual Puppy Mill Action Week, which is dedicated to educating the public about how to find a new best friend without supporting the abusive puppy mill industry. Puppy Mill Action Week runs Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, at the start of the peak holiday puppy buying season.

The Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force is named in honor of Kenneth and Lillian Wilde, who donated a portion of their estate to The HSUS to help dogs. Thanks to the Wildes, The HSUS was able to expand the organization’s capacity to rescue more animals from the inhumane puppy mill industry and to raise national awareness of the pain and tragedy that can lurk behind the inviting visage of a young puppy for unwary buyers.

Puppy Mill Facts

· Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction, and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life. Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles.

· Dogs from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog’s health, genetic history or future welfare. Consumers should never buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site; instead visit an animal shelter, breed rescue group, or visit a breeder’s home and meet the puppy’s parents.
· The HSUS supports compassionate breeders who provide for their dog’s physical and mental well-being. Quality breeders don’t sell puppies through pet stores or over the Internet.

Oprah’s show on puppy mills aired back in April 2008 making the public, most for the first time, aware of what a puppy mill is.  Although I knew you shouldn’t buy pets from a pet store I really had no idea the reason behind it, I didn’t know what a puppy mill was.   I could never have imagined the horrific conditions and horrible abuse these dogs suffer without seeing it with my own eyes.

As hard as the Oprah show was for people to watch once the puppy mills ‘dirty little secret’ was out there was no going back. Thankfully since the show there have been raids of abusive puppy mills, changes in legislation, and new laws.  While we still have a long way to go, each step like the new tipline,  gets us a little closer to hopefully one day ending puppy mills altogether.