August 27, 2015
Pet Store Doublespeak: How They Dodge The Puppy Mill Question
Since I've been protesting weekly in front of a local pet store that sells puppies with a group of wonderful, dedicated women, I've done some of my own research on the store and puppy mills in general so that I am an educated advocate. I'm learning about all the tricks that the proprietors of these kind of stores use to dodge questions about where their puppies come from.
Breeders that care about their dogs do not sell them to a third party and a fate unknown. Period. Breeders that care about their dogs interview potential families and ensure a perfect match is made, very often with a contract to return the dogs to them if it doesn't work out and a lifetime promise of commitment to the dog they brought into the world. They don't pack them in crates and ship them across state lines to be unloaded in the parking lot of a strip mall and sold to people they will never meet. When a pet store employee says "reputable breeder" they are just telling customers what they want to hear in order feel better about buying a pet store dog. Don't buy the lie.
USDA Licensed Breeders
The USDA governs the agricultural industry, and in their eyes, the dogs housed by large-scale commercial dog breeding operations are nothing more than livestock. Their regulations are absolutely minimal, the numbers they allow are mind-boggling. What does a USDA licensed breeder look like? I looked up the inspection reports for a breeder known to supply dogs to the pet store we have been protesting. Their most recent report was not completed due to "no responsible adult on premises." In years past, they had violations for dangerously sharp chewed water receptacles, improper shelter and too many dogs in one enclosure. Their recorded number of adult dogs and puppies was over 300. How can 300 dogs possibly be given the individual care and attention they need? It's simple - they can't.
AKC Registered Animals
For a dog to be registered with The American Kennel Club, it needs to be the product of two AKC registered parents. That's it. The AKC does nothing to ensure that the dogs are healthy, that the facilities are satisfactory, or that the puppies and their parents are treated humanely. While they claim to inspect high-volume breeders, some who have passed AKC inspections have later been convicted of animal cruelty. In fact, as explained in the documentary Dog By Dog, the AKC regularly fights legislation to improve conditions and increase oversight of commercial breeders.
When I was in college, I traveled with my mom and aunt to the home of an Airedale breeder near Santa Fe, New Mexico. We'd just lost our German Shepherd mix to a rare form of canine leukemia at the tragic age of 2 1/2 and our family had always had Airedales so she was interested in getting another. It's shocking that the woman allowed us to come to her home - while not a puppy mill per se, the AKC registered dogs were kept in cramped, dirty kennels outside, the puppies had runny eyes and crusty noses and all the dogs were miserable in the desert heat. It was heartbreaking to leave them there, but we walked away. My mom was not about to buy a sick puppy after recently losing our last dog. She adopted our heeler mix, Scout, from the Santa Fe Humane Society instead. My mother later reported the breeder to the AKC and was told there was nothing they could do.
Pet stores often offer a limited health guarantee for puppies purchased from them. Why? Because they know there is a good chance the dogs they sell will have parasites, respiratory infections or other viruses due to the cramped, unsanitary conditions they are coming from. Many of the reviews for the local pet store we are protesting spoke of health issues. Much to my surprise, some of these reviews were positive overall. The customers were satisfied that the store had paid their vet bills, instead of questioning why their expensive eight-week old puppy was already sick. One reviewer even described the hypoglycemic seizures her new puppy suffered because they did not properly follow the store's instructions to feed Karo syrup to the dog. Are you angry yet?
If you want to do something about it, spread the word. As part of the dog obsessed community, it's easy to forget that the general public are easily swayed by the pet shop double-talk. Join or form a local protest group, speak out when and where you can. I was so happy to learn of the group in my area, and seeing the documentary Dog By Dog was the impetus I needed to get my feet on the ground. Some days people talk to us, other days they ignore us, but changing just one person's mind makes it all worthwhile. Keep an eye on local legislation for regulating dog breeding and pet store sales. Phoenix, Arizona, recently banned pet store sales of dogs and cats from commercial breeders. I hope that it's only a matter of time before this touching video is the reality in every pet store, and dogs are no longer stacked, stored and shipped like merchandise, but instead cherished and cared for like the treasures they are.