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Puppies Before Profits

Sept, 2000Puppies Before Profits.(most of the puppies sold in pet stores come from inhumane puppy mills)(Brief Article)

Author/s: Gus W. Thornton

Somewhere, at a mall near you, cruelty to dogs persists and is aided with every ka-chink of the cash register. That's because the vast majority of puppies for sale at pet stores--an estimated 90 percent--come from puppy mills, large commercial dog-breeding operations where abuse and neglect run rampant.

As Pamela H. Sacks reports in "Puppy Mills: Misery for Sale", life is pretty tough for both mothers and pups. The animals are confined in small cages, sleeping, eating, and sitting in their own feces. Puppies have no opportunity to play and socialize. Females are often bred at every opportunity with no regard to their health. Veterinary care, food, and clean water are frequently inadequate. Packed with as much regard as you'd give a load of shoes, the puppies are sent off to brokers or stores hundreds of miles away. Still highly susceptible to disease and illness, some of these young dogs die; for many others, health and behavior problems crop up later in life.

Animal-protection groups have employed a number of tactics to combat the problem. We've fought for stricter enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and pleaded for funding for more inspectors. Advocates in midwestern states, where most puppy mills are located, have lobbied for stronger state laws. In Massachusetts, the MSPCA/AHES has worked to increase the responsibility of the retail outlets. Stores in the state must post signs informing customers about the pup's origin, its health care history, and their right to return the pet within 14 days if the animal has a congenital disorder or is diseased. And, of course, we promote adoptions from our shelters.

But the most potent weapon is an educated public. Not until consumers turn away from stores that sell puppies will real progress be made. They must resist impulse buys and not be fooled by tales of wonderful kennels supplying the store; no responsible breeder sells to pet stores.

There are humane alternatives. I hope that adoption through shelters or breed rescue groups, which provide a second chance to dogs in need, will become the public's first choice. There may be a wait for a puppy, but older dogs make wonderful companions, too. Those who have their hearts set on a puppy of a particular breed may need to carefully choose a responsible breeder--one that welcomes questions and on-site visits and is more interested in what type of home the puppy is going to than in making a sale.

We have our work cut out for us. U.S. stores sell 300,000 to 400,000 puppies a year. That's a lot of misery. Is the humane care of puppies compatible with commercial pressure to turn a profit? We don't buy it.

Gus W. Thornton, D.V.M. President


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