Guest View: Public must end support of puppy-mill business | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest View: Public must end support of puppy-mill business

Dawn Armstrong

Recently, we have received charitable requests from residents who purchase pet-store puppies and then are overwhelmed by veterinary costs when these puppy-mill animals become ill. After they learn the truth, owners are torn between returning the pets and feeling they have “rescued” them.

In the puppy-mill outlet industry, health concerns often are downplayed, and records, including age, are falsified.

On April 4, a much-anticipated “Oprah Winfrey Show” featured correspondent Lisa Ling’s undercover investigation of puppy mills. A dog owner herself, Winfrey swore she never again would purchase a pet without going to a shelter first. Unfortunately, the cable system on the South Shore went out a few minutes into the program.

The Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA have obtained a copy of the program and will show it without charge to any person or organization that wants to learn more about puppy mills and how they can stop puppy-mill cruelty.

Last December, CBS and other major media featured a story on the results of a three-month investigation of a Bel Air pet store frequented by well-known celebrities, including Paris Hilton.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) report, the Bel Air pet store acquired their stock from 28 different puppy-mill breeders. It is estimated that 2 million to 4 million puppies from 10,000 puppy mills are sold annually in the United States. Puppy mill double-speak misleads pet-store consumers into believing they are buying well-bred purebreeds, commonly with “registration papers.”

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On her show, Winfrey asked Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, and Bill Smith, founder of Mainline Animal Rescue, how many pet stores deal in puppy-mill dogs. The two men agreed that “99 percent of pet stores obtain their dogs from puppy mills.” Further, Pacelle stated: “No responsible breeder sells through pet stores. They want to see who is buying their dogs and want to take the dogs back at any time – even after six or seven years – if the buyer cannot keep the dog.”

At one time in California, there was a puppy store in every shopping mall. The effort to educate the public and to remove pet-store chains that sold live animals was long and hard.

Later, newer and larger chains such as PetSmart and Petco came into being and negotiated with animal-welfare groups, agreeing not to sell puppies and kittens if the groups would use free store space for showcasing rescued animals. It was a win-win. The stores got their cute puppy-kitten marketing appeal, and shelters got a high-traffic space for adoptions.

Unfortunately, it seems there is a comeback of smaller franchise and independent pet stores selling puppies and kittens. The source of the intelligent creatures who become retail commodities is the puppy-mill industry and its brokers. There are puppy mills in every state.

The concentration is in states such as Missouri and Virginia, where puppies are raised in gruesome conditions for financial gain.

Breeder dogs are bought and, when they are worn out, sold at auction. Although the American Kennel Club may be willing to collect a fee and register the dogs as pure bred, there is no criteria for genetics or health.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with licensing and inspecting puppy mills, there is not enough staff to do so. Moreover, when violations are reported, the USDA is hard-pressed to follow up.

In most states, breeder regulation, licensing and inspection are nonexistent or minimal. Technology has created a direct outlet for underworld puppy mill sales on the Internet. Classified ads run with false information. Cautioning and educating consumers is an enormous challenge.

So where do you get a healthy, socialized, purebred puppy or kitten?

According to their code of ethics, responsible breeders never sell through pet stores. And one out of every four shelter dogs is purebred. Responsible, breed-specific rescue groups also have emerged. We can help you explore these options.

The animal-welfare community has been investigating and pursuing puppy mills for decades. In some states, including California and Nevada, there are “puppy lemon laws” that are in effect after the fact. California also recently strengthened state puppy-store regulation that takes effect in January 2009.

The public must stop the horrific factory production of innocent animals. They are raised in filth, taken too young from their constantly breeding mothers, shipped often under deplorable conditions and then sold at premium prices in retail outlets to impulse buyers.

As cute as they are, as long as the public supports pet-store puppies rather than shelter adoptions or reputable breeders, the puppy-mill business will continue.

Purchasing one puppy-mill pup simply makes space for another. Purchasing one pup steals a home which may cause the death of a shelter animal.

Please contact us for information about choosing a puppy from a shelter or breed-rescue group. We’ll also tell you about referrals to reputable, responsible breeders. Help end the cruelty and put puppy mills out of business once and for all.

Call (530) 542-2857 for more information. Together, we can “Keep Tahoe Kind!”

– Dawn Armstrong is executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.