The truth about puppy mills

Doggie Do's

Posted: Friday, August 27, 2004

W e've touched now on three avenues for adopting a dog. These include the Gastineau Humane Society, responsible breeders and breed rescue. Another option exists - pet store puppies. Though an appealing notion on the surface, it may mask the inhumane reality of puppy mills.

A puppy mill is a business in which puppies are raised solely for profit. The operating principle is to minimize expenses and maximize income. Thus, animals are not given comfortable environs, socialization, adequate nutrition or appropriate veterinary care. Breeding pairs are not screened for breed-specific health issues before they are bred. Puppies are continually available because parents are bred until they can no longer produce.

Media stories portray outright puppy mills with small, crowded, wire-bottomed cages encrusted with feces. Dogs often have raw, oozing sores, crusty eyes and runny noses. Sires and dams are bone-thin, malnourished and dehydrated. Females are bred on their first heat and bred on every heat cycle (usually twice a year) until their bodies and fertility give out at 5-6 years old, when they are usually killed or abandoned.

Puppies, sometimes separated from their dams' and siblings' socializing influence as early as 4 weeks old, are usually sold to brokers, who arrange for the puppies to be sold to pet stores. Upon arrival at the broker, the pups may be fattened up, groomed and given some veterinary care to look more attractive. The pups are then usually transported cross-country by truck.

There are agencies and laws that govern these practices, such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Animal Welfare Act. The sad reality is that inadequate agency staffing exists to monitor puppy mills and enforce laws.

Dr. Michael New, Juneau Veterinary Hospital, has treated mill puppies. He said, "Puppy mills are about high volume, low cost. Puppies are isolated, given no attention and no exposure to kids or a variety of people. Many of them have problems with fearfulness or aggression in new situations.

"They can also be difficult to house train because they've often been crated in small pens without adequate sanitation, so they lose their instinctive aversion to soiling their sleeping area.

"These puppies have often not been wormed and can have a variety of intestinal parasites. On the other hand, many have been given an inappropriately large number of wormings or vaccinations for their age.

"Pet store puppies are usually impulse buys. They may seem cheaper than buying from an ethical source, but they aren't when you consider the health and behavior problems with which they frequently come."

Sue McGregor, who owned a local pet store from 1992 to 2003, said, "When I bought Wee Fishie in 1992, puppies were sold there. We dealt with one breeder/broker, and the health and condition of the pups we brought in was generally pretty good. We tried to screen the buyers, and we sold the puppies under spay-neuter contracts. However, as I got more involved with dogs, I began to better understand the ethical problems of dealing with brokers and puppy mills, and I became concerned about the conditions that exist in mass breeding/brokering facilities. The more I learned, the less I wanted anything to do with them. We stopped selling puppies around 1996, I think, and I have never regretted that decision."

As you consider buying that puppy in the pet store, reflect on the possibly inhumane practices that produced it. When the public no longer buys pet store puppies, puppy mills may begin to go out of business.


There will be several opportunities for dog people to mix and socialize in the next two weeks. More information about these events can be found at:

• The AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day, Saturday, 1-4 p.m. at Nugget Mall.

• A Trail Manners class Tuesday, Aug. 31. Learn how to be a responsible dog owner with a well-mannered dog in Juneau's public areas.

• September 9, Thursday, the CBJ Dog Task Force will receive public comment on its recommendations beginning at 7 p.m. at Centennial Hall, Hickel Room.

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