Community events mark month of public awareness | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Community events mark month of public awareness

Dawn Armstrong

Related to the proposed city ordinance banning retail sales of cats and dogs, much has been blogged and written to the editor about the value of community values. While local consumers experience the consequences of puppy mill industry practices, sarcasm and disbelief have been expressed as to the significance of taking a stand to prevent animal cruelty.

It is easy to become educated and investigate the truth. By state law, every retail pet store selling puppies must post full disclosure about puppy origins on site. Even a casual shopper can request trace-back information about an individual puppy for sale, including broker name, breeder name, and USDA license number, if licensed.

Individual breeder names can be put into a computer search engine, and case reports of consumer complaints may pop up. By request, the USDA provides written reports of breeder licenses and violations. Free puppy trace-back reports are available within hours at petshoppuppies.org online.

The USDA license signals large-scale breeding. It is not a certification. USDA-licensed puppy millers sell wholesale to pet stores or to brokers who sell to pet stores or to research facilities. Wayne Pacelle, president of puppy mill watchdog Humane Society of the United States and Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue, each stated publicly that 99 percent of pet store puppies come from puppy mills.

HSUS estimates that 10,000 U.S. puppy mills, most of them unlicensed and unmonitored, produce up to 4 million puppies a year. A press release for the Animal Planet series, “Puppy Mills: Exposed,” states that “No matter how inhumane, over 10,000 puppy mills continue to do business across the country ” many of them legally ” as neglect runs rampant and countless lives are ruined. While respectable breeders carefully select parentage and lines of champions, and cherish their animals by providing safe, clean environments and space for exercise and socialization, puppy mills are run for profit alone, without considering the quality of life of the animals that are born within their confines.”

Twenty percent of shelter dogs are purebreds. Virtually every type of purebred dog is available direct from breed rescue groups as well as from reputable breeders who care where their puppies go.

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“The Truth About the Puppy Trade” report, available on the Best Friends Animal Society Web site, states that as of November 2008, the USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) lists 9,883 active licensed facilities it monitors, Of that total, 5,913 facilities are dog breeders and brokers. The other 4,000 include research facilities, zoos, circuses and related entities. By USDA admission, it is understaffed and underfunded. It is difficult for one of the 70 USDA-APHIS kennel inspectors to check breeders on a regular basis.

Several investigative sources state that the largest puppy mill broker is Hunte Corporation in Goodman, Missouri. Omer Gellham reported in The Tulsa World that Hunte bought and sold 88,235 animals, according to 2005 USDA records. Investigator Kim Townsend, founder of Pet Shop Puppies.org, publicized that Hunte uses the alias “Panabar” to channel puppies with obvious genetic defects to pet stores who want discount-priced “Grade B” stock, to dealers, and to resellers using classified ads and the internet. Another major puppy broker is Lambriar.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) president, puppy sales bring in $1 billion of the $43 billion a year in pet industry sales and services. APPA predicts sales will increase 4.9 percent in 2009.

Without pet store outlets, puppy mills would not survive. Abandoned puppy mill pets would not be housed and killed in municipal shelters at taxpayer expense. People would not do without to care for puppy mill pets with lifelong genetic and behavior disorders.

It is rare that an individual or a community can take a stand that helps alleviate suffering on a mass scale. That South Lake Tahoe has developed an enforceable ordinance to address the horrific puppy mill trade has made national news.

Protecting sentient beings who depend wholly on their human caretakers is about values and choices. Yes, people do pay attention when the choice taken is values over greed.

” Dawn Armstrong is executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A.