Tag Archives: puppy mills

Puppy Mill

I supported a puppy mill.  Not directly, but I puppy mill poodle Leo May 23 2010contributed to the financial well-being of one. My Standard Poodle Leo had spent five years in a US puppy mill as a breeding dog. His adoption fee from All Breed Canine Rescue was $100 higher than the usual because the original rescue group in the States had paid the puppy mill owner $100 each for the dogs they had taken from him. I truly hope he just didn’t go out and buy new dogs. He may well have, since this wasn’t an official “seizure” of the dogs by animal welfare authorities. I am glad that Leo and his cohort got away but it breaks my heart to think about their replacements. I wonder how long they’ll have to live like these dogs did before they get out, to a better life I hope.

When I went to pick him up almost two years ago, I saw all the dogs. Volunteers from the American rescue transport group Open Arms Pound Rescue had brought them to Canada. The majority were adult Labradoodles,  so breeding dogs. They were cowering in the cars in which they’d been traveling. Some almost skeletal, matted dry hair – just laying there looking terrified. Some I was reluctant to go near – bared teeth warning. Two were outside their car. A big blonde adult male was standing defensively in front of a smaller adult female. She was pressed against the side of the car, trying to disappear. He wouldn’t let anyone near her. Some of the younger ones were happy to be petted and fussed over. A couple small pups, Poodles, were soaking up affection in people’s arms.

Meeting Leo

My chosen foster dog, Leo, meanwhile, was trotting around on the end of a leash meeting and greeting. I thought he Leo's first day home Sep 2008belonged to the man holding the leash, until that man said to me “I think this is your dog?” When I put him in my car, I realized that he reeked – dirty dog smell, urine and faeces. We drove home with the windows wide open.

It wasn’t until we were at home, away from the truly sad cases, that I realized just how weird he really was. Not just that he wasn’t housetrained and didn’t know how to get up or down steps – neither of those things are surprising in an outdoor kennel dog. He just didn’t connect with humans at all. He wasn’t overtly scared or show dislike of people – just seemed to not see them. With dogs and cats, he was fine – didn’t pay a lot of attention to them but wasn’t nasty. He wasn’t nasty with anyone, just wasn’t there somehow. I’d never seen anything like it.

Puppy mill autism?

He bonded with me right off the bat, but still didn’t really look at me. Just stayed very very close to me. I thought about naming him Velcro, but it seemed like a joke that was very sad. It was like I was his safety base, but he never really saw me even though he kept his eyes on me constantly. It seemed like a severe case of autism – man-made.

LeoWhite-haired man-made I realized the first time I heard him bark. We were at my mother’s and her neighbour came over. He’s tall and white-haired. Leo barked frantically and showed great fear.  For many months after, even after he’d settled into normalcy, Leo reacted that way with any white-haired man, especially if he was tall. So I know that much about the puppy mill operator. Leo’s only other fear/aggression reaction to people came when anyone, but especially a male, would touch his rear end. Even now, after almost two years, he still moves quickly away if a man pats his rump.

Inability to connect with humans, fear of men and of having his rear touched – those were his main psychological problems. His physical problems – I think at least one vet’s child can thank Leo for a year’s university costs. The amount of money that went just in the first few months to get Leo to a healthy state was stupendous. Parasites, bad teeth, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract infections – all part and parcel of poor nutrition and bad living conditions.

Maybe a show kennel start

It’s been a learning process for me as well as Leo. He ate his meals well right from when he came to us. He had no idea what treats were and was reluctant to take food from your hand. That proved problematic at obedience class. His teacher said “Poodles are often fussy eaters.” Not him. Once he got the idea of treats, that ceased to be a problem!

Interestingly, the hardest thing to teach him was what is usually the easiest – sit. It took three weeks of classes, with plenty of homework done, before he would sit when asked. His teacher and other people have suggested that he may have started life as a prospective show dog. Apparently the main thing show dogs are taught is not to sit.

Sitting is the one thing they are not allowed to do in a show ring. And Leo, Leo and Charlie Dog Park Grand Opening photo John Blakeeven when he was getting the hang of all the other basic commands, would not sit. It was a wonderful moment when he did the first time. Now he plunks himself in a ‘sit’ in front of perfect strangers if he thinks he might get a treat out of it.

Dog show people have also looked at him for the stance that show dogs have or learn. It’s called ‘stacking’, where they position their legs to show themselves to best advantage. Leo does it automatically. So he may have come from a show dog kennel to the puppy mill anywhere from 4 months to a year old. He’s short, so that alone would disqualify him from show ring aspirations.

Puppy Mill ‘stock’

Dogs that don’t make the cut have to go somewhere and some breeders will let them go anywhere. So dogs that aren’t “good enough” for kennel club standards are turned into breeding machines for “substandard” pups to supply the pet store, private sale and Kijiji markets. Leo’s days of making babies are over. But I wonder how many Labradoodles and Poodles that I see on line for stud service or for sale are his descendants.

Leo really brought home for me the horrors of puppy mill dog production. Lois, of ABCR, said that these dogs weren’t bad compared to others she has seen. Her guess is that they came from a small-scale ‘miller’ operation, those with more dogs than ‘backyard breeders’ and less than ‘puppy mills’. I’ve seen the pictures of dogs seized in raids on puppy mills, I watched the documentary on Oprah. I cried for those dogs and for the inhumanity of the people responsible. But I never felt the deep pain in my heart until I had Leo, and realized just how sad it was that a sentient creature should learn to live as a means of production and have none of the joys of being alive.

Leo learns to be a dog

Watching Leo the first time he realized it was ok to sit when he was asked, the first time he picked up a toy and clumsily played with it. The first time he willingly approached a man he didn’t know to make friends. All these were moving moments for me, watching my weird dog do regular doggy things. And the day Leo first ran full tilt in a field! I’d had him loose before, and he’d just walk around by my side.

Leo running Sept 2009 photo D Stewart

But finally he took off after Charlie, a few steps. Then he decided to keep going. Charlie got tired and stopped running, and Leo just flew across the field – ears flapping, front feet high-stepping. He didn’t stop for a long time. I cried from happiness as well as sadness when I realized from his look of joy that he had maybe never done this before, and he loved it! Everyone who saw him run those first few times said that “he runs like a gazelle.” It was as if he’d just discovered that he had legs. To this day, he really doesn’t run with other dogs, he runs for the sheer joy of running.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 25 2010.

Missouri Puppy Mills & Prop B

Happy puppies, from ASPCA websiteOn November 2, 2010, Americans voted in mid-term elections.  One of the things voted on in Missouri was Proposition B, proposed legislation that would regulate dog-breeding kennels. It was passed by a small margin of mainly urban votes [update below].  The ASPCA, Humane Society and state- and community-level animal rescue groups supported it.

The American Kennel Club, at the national and state level, opposed it, as did groups representing puppy mill operators in the state.  It was also opposed by a Tea Party-affiliated group called Alliance for Truth, who argued that it was an invasion of individual rights by “big government”.  They went further, saying it would take away Americans’ right to own pets and farm animals.

Puppy mill 01-USA-PETA-wikipedia
Wire cage floor – less cleaning needed, paw damage for dogs

Minimum standards for food, water, shelter and exercise, rest between breeding cycles and a limit of 50 breeding dogs in a kennel, enforceable by state Department of Agriculture, is all that is included in Prop B.  The legislation does not apply to breeders with less than 10 dogs.

It can not, unfortunately, completely close down large-scale breeding operations of dogs for sale.  However, it is aimed at puppy mills, commercial operations where breeding is done for profit alone.  But it would apply to all dog-breeders, including show dog kennels.

I read the AKC website to see why they were opposed to Prop B.  I understand their fear that legitimate breeders will be penalized by legislation aimed at puppy mills.  That might happen; kennels might be inspected more often and some might have their size of operation reduced.  It would be good for the dogs, and other breeders, though if “reputable” breeders who do not maintain basic levels of care were made to provide adequate conditions for their animals.  It would be unfortunate for the conscientious breeders who work out of love for their dogs and the breed and take good care of both.

There is validity in the AKC’s fear that increased government standards and inspection may cause greater expense and paperwork for breeders who are already working on a slim profit margin.  Every small business owner knows that a government inspector coming in the door is never good news for your operating costs.

However, every small business owner knows that someone setting up shop doing what you do and undercutting your prices is also not good for your business.  Maybe they figure they’ll take a loss in the short term in order to drive you out of business, maybe they’re using cheaper labour, taking short-cuts, making a shoddier product but selling it to people who care primarily about the cheaper price.  Either way, it’s bad news for you.  It seems to me that breeding dogs for sale isn’t that much different.

2004 Westminster dog show, junior category winners
2004 Westminster Junior Showmanship winners

Reputable breeders show their dogs in competition in order to raise the prestige of their dogs and their kennel.  That takes time and money.  They breed discriminately, checking for genetic problems and researching blood lines in order to raise the quality of their dogs and the breed as a whole.  Time and money.

Good breeders do not breed females in their first heat or every heat thereafter.  That means “downtime” where the dogs cost the same in food and care, but aren’t generating money in pups.  Antenatal and postnatal care – special foods, vet costs, shots.  Lots of money.  Finding the right home for the pups, checking prospective buyers.  Time.  Taking back the pup or grown dog if things don’t work out.  Time and money.  (And reputable breeders make it a condition of purchase that the dog will be returned if the new owner cannot keep it.)  Making sure registration with the CKC or AKC is done properly and that “pet stock” pups are not used for breeding.  Time, money.

Now, say the breeder is you.  You sell your pups for $1000 and that’s not making a huge profit.  Down the road, a new kennel opens, advertising the same kind of pups as yours and charging $800 each.  People say, “Why should I pay you $200 more?”  Meanwhile, you’ve seen the cages stacked on top of each other with dogs unable to turn around in them.  You’ve seen there is no exercise yard.  You see an endless supply of puppies going out the door.  Immediate sales, no contracts signed, no assessment of buyers, no return of dogs.  You’ve got yourself a puppy mill beside you.  How are you going to compete?

This is why, in the end, I couldn’t understand the opposition of reputable breeders to Prop B.  At the very least, it might remove ‘fly-by-night’ competitors, whether they be puppy mills or accredited breeders who cut too many corners.

Missouri puppy mill rescue ASPCA
“The dogs were voluntarily relinquished by an owner who could no longer afford to feed them.” ASPCA

Puppy mills are a major industry in Missouri.  40% of all pet store dogs sold in the US come from Missouri.  Prop B opponents talked about the economy relying on puppy mills and therefore anything that hurt them would hurt the state.  That may be the case.  In the pre-Civil War American South, it was argued that slavery was needed in order to keep the cotton-based economy alive.  It was true then, and may be true in Missouri.  But that’s not a reason to keep an inhumane and evil socio-economic system alive.  The South survived, Missouri will too.

2016: How’s the “Missouri Solution” doing?

I wrote this post on Nov. 16, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. In 2011 the governor repealed Prop B and instead brought in a “Missouri Solution,” which removed most of the teeth of the original legislation. The time limit for puppy mill operators to comply with the changes was extended from one year to five, so to 2016. I could find very little about whether there has been any improvement in conditions in Missouri puppy mills now. For more, see Wikipedia’s Puppy Mill (Legislative Response: US) and for details on specific puppy mills, state by state, see Humane Society US “Horrible Hundred” of 2016. There are eleven pages of entries for Missouri.

It’s another election year; the five years for implementation of the Missouri solution have passed. So how’s it worked out for the dogs?

Westminster Dogs

2012-02-14 hunter walker observer“Crategate” exploded in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the US Republican leadership, just as his Irish Setter Seamus’ bowels did when he was strapped in a crate on the roof of the family car for a 12-hour ride.  This story finally hit the media this week [Feb. 2012*].  Protestors used the publicity around the Westminster Dog Show held this week in New York City to garner attention for what Romney did to his dog.

And the winner of Westminster has caused great excitement in the once-yearly media attention paid to dog shows.  But another Westminster story got buried by the other two.

Pedigree shelter dog adWestminster dropped Pedigree as a sponsor.  Why?  Because they didn’t like the ads that Pedigree runs during the broadcast.  They were “too sad”, they said, showing shelter dogs in cages.  The wrong image of doggyness, evidently, to display while the Olympic athletes of dogdom showed their stuff.

How weird is this?  Usually in advertising, it’s the sponsors who pull out because they don’t like what the ‘sponsees’ are doing.  Westminster must be a very expensive event to put on.   Pedigree presumably has the big money needed in that it has been a major sponsor of Westminster for the past 24 years.

I’ve been impressed that Pedigree holds a shelter fundraising drive during Westminster and that their ads show the other side of the dog world – dogs that are lucky to get any food no matter what quality, that don’t have someone worrying about tartar buildup on their teeth.  I’ve thought their Westminster shelter dogs ads are a good antidote, the yin and yang of “man’s best friend”.

Komondor in ring at WestminsterIt’s fun watching beautiful show dogs.  I ooh and aah, then look at my own.  I have a purebred who probably was born in a show kennel.  A Standard Poodle, he became a puppy mill breeding dog.  That’s behind him now and I hope he’s forgotten it.  I look at the Poodles in the ring, with their leonine hair.  “You could look like that” I tell him, in his short serviceable clip.  He could, but I’m not willing to put the time and effort into it.  I worry about ensuring he’s well fed, his coat mat-free and his body exercised.

When watching Westminster, I’ve got a purebred reality check beside me.  If I didn’t have him?  Maybe I’d think, wow, I’d like a dog just like the one on tv.  Go out, spend a fortune on a puppy, not have the interest or time to put into showing (which is a full-time job, not a dabbling hobby), and the dog becomes too much work and – that’s how dogs end up in shelters and pounds.  Not all of course, but enough.

What I’d like to see in Pedigree’s ads at Westminster are the purebred Poodles, Mastiffs and Cocker Spaniels that are in pounds and breed-specific rescues.  The mongrels in the ads make no explicit connection to dog shows or breeders.  If that connection was made, Roscoe hound cross in Pedigree adWestminster might have a valid reason to object.  But would it be grounds to fire a sponsor?

Dog breeders, of all people, ought to know about the neglect and abuse of dogs and ought to be outraged about it.  Dogs are their vocation and avocation.  What’s wrong with Pedigree reminding us that there are dogs desperately in need?  The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC ought to be doing that themselves.

*From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 17th, 2012, when it seemed that the US Republican leadership campaign was as strange as it could ever possibly get. Bwahahaha!

My Dog’s Arthritis

my dog runs at Clearville beach, Lake ErieMy Standard Poodle Leo has arthritis in his spine and left hip. Joint degeneration. His running, jumping and dancing on hind legs must be curtailed. I am sad and furious.

He’s maybe 9, no longer a young dog. So you might say: he’s had good years, aging happens. I’d agree – but. He only had 3 “good years.”

Leo spent 5 years of his life in a cage, not running, probably not even walking much. When he came to us, he had trouble climbing a step. At first, he just didn’t know what to do, he’d clearly never seen steps before. But even when he figured out how, he didn’t have the strength in his legs to do it. He gained strength. He loves to run fast, climb hills and dance.

He’d been a breeding dog in a Georgia puppy mill. That’s why I don’t know his exact age. I know from the record that came with him that he’d been purchased December 12, 2003. He was at least 6 months at that time, I figure. I doubt they get them until they’re of breeding age. Why feed unproductive mouths?

Poodle running at Conservation Area, St. ThomasHe got out in September 2008 via a rescue group and came to Canada. He and his Labradoodle cellmates were not seized in a raid that closed the puppy mill. The rescue group bought them. They were old breeding stock, used up, and young dogs who hadn’t sold. No one put the miller  out of business, he just got cash to buy new stock. I know it was a man, white-haired. They’re the only people that Leo was truly scared of when he came to us.

So his joint degeneration makes me angry, angry at that white-haired man in Georgia and all puppy mill operators. They use up animals’ God-given vitality without care about what quality of life those generations of dogs will have. They abuse animals in order to make themselves “a living.”

Joint degeneration ends agility

The note on Leo’s rescue assessment says he’s “a really nice friendly Poodle doing agility jump at Moore Water Gardens Port Stanleyboy. He would do great for agility or obedience.” He loves agility.  I took him to a horse show once and he jumped the low bars set up for kids and ponies.

Now he eats ‘joint health’ kibble with glucosamine and omega fatty acids. He takes anti-inflammatory and pain pills. The medications are his for life, as worry is mine when he slips or limps. I hope only to avoid surgery. He can still run, his doctor says, just don’t overdo it, watch for signs of pain. Get in the habit of nice walks.

Puppy mill or not, he might develop arthritis at his age. My other dogs did. But they had more than three years of healthy freedom before bone and joint degeneration afflicted them.

Here’s a simple thing I did: put his dishes in flowerpots. The higher one is for Leo’s bowl raised in flower pot for dog with joint degenerationdog bowls raised with two sizes of flower pots photo D Stewartfood so he doesn’t have to lean down, thereby avoiding strain on his joints. The lower one is for water that he shares with smaller pets. Here are more good hints for arthritic dogs.

Country Club for Pets in London ON set up the agility course that Leo tried near Port Stanley at Moore Water Gardens. Since I posted this (St. Thomas Dog Blog Dec. 30/11), Leo’s arthritis has worsened but he still gets around. We tried laser therapy but his condition is too bad for it to help. For younger animals or less severe arthritis, it’s well worth a try.

 

Lost and Found

Amazon link to Lost and Found by Elizabeth Hess arts journalist
Click for Amazon link

Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter is a wonderful book. Elizabeth Hess, a New York City arts journalist and author of Nim Chimpsky, writes about volunteering at the Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter near Hudson, New York. She and her family were among the “weekenders” who travel between this rural area and the city. When her daughter wanted a dog, they found one at the shelter and Elizabeth found a world that she hadn’t known before. She volunteered and kept notes.

I’ve had this book for a while, but put off reading it. I thought I would cry too much. I did, and got angry, but not as often as I feared. That’s due to Ms Hess’ writing. She is empathetic but analytic. She acts as a camera, showing us a whole picture from her perspective. She records events and puts them in a larger framework. She says what she thinks about it but lets us draw our own conclusions.

One story stood out for me. A “week-ender” came into the shelter one hot summer day, saying he’d found kittens and couldn’t keep them. Elizabeth knew him from gallery events in New York City, so they chatted about new shows and gossip in the artsy crowd. Finally he remembered the kittens and said they were in a box in his car! But the heat inside a sturdy box with only “a few pencil-sized holes” had done its job. The kittens were already nearly dead. “While Fitzgerald was chatting with me… the cats were in his car baking.” She doesn’t need to say that clearly this urbane man didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain (or bring kittens out of the sun) or that she felt guilt for not asking the cats’ whereabouts. Both things are there, between the lines.

rescue dog Max before and after picturesThe Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter was a county operation, and therefore responsible for cruelty investigations as well as taking in owner-surrendered animals and strays. It adopted animals out and it euthanized.* It had animal quarters in the shelter and used foster homes and farms. Knowledgeable people committed to the wellbeing of animals staffed this shelter, fortunately.

Ms Hess talks about puppy mills and describes a raid on one. She talks about euthanasia of animals for no reason other than homes have not been found for them. She takes us into the euthanasia room and introduces us to the people who do the killing. A story from a euthanasia technician: just after euthanizing a young dog sick with pneumonia, she saw the young couple who had surrendered her. She overheard them excitedly talking about going to the pet store and what kind of puppy they would buy. They asked how their other dog was. “She’s such a good little dog.  You’ll have no trouble placing her.” The Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter, poster for Animal Art at 2012dog’s illness was curable, but this couple evidently didn’t want to be bothered, and the shelter was full. The “good little dog” had been killed.

You become engaged in the stories and you think long and hard about the issues. This book is neither fluffy animal tales nor a diatribe.  It’s a valuable ethnography of our society’s treatment and attitudes towards pets and those who clean up the mess.

*At the time of the book’s writing. Their website home page states: “We do not euthanize animals for space constraints.” (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 13/12)

 

Raining Puppies

Four years ago, I wrote about emails I received about a litter of puppies, and a swamped rescue group. I doubt the situation has changed much. I just checked Kijiji – still lots of pups for sale for high prices.

“Jesus, it is raining puppies! Here’s  pictures of the 10 puppies All Breed Canine Rescue oliver, one of the rescued puppiesgot.  Three of the litter went to another rescue group.  ABCR is just about going crazy.  They already had the pair of Shelties and 2 other dogs (one with severe runs) just pulled out of the pound and at the vet’s.

When the hell are these ‘breeders’ going to figure it out?  The economy in this area sucks! There is no money to buy all the puppies backyard breeders are producing. It just drives me insane to think about all the little guys we don’t know about that end up ‘out behind the barn.’ Every time we get one shut down another pops up.

Kijiji should be banned from advertising puppies for sale. It has become the new ‘pet store’ for selling puppy mill dogs.

I have to think – at least we saved these guys!  But we need to find forever homes for them, as quickly as we can.  The quicker we can get these puppies adopted the better, Puppy, rescued by ABCR Feb 7 2011then ABCR can use the adoption money to pay most of the vet bill that will be run up with the medical treatment that they need. This addition will make 16 to 18 new puppies in ABCR’s system.”

An email from a person who rescued these pups:  “There was 13 puppies in this litter. The farmer was going to ‘dispose’ of them if we did not take them.  When they were picked up they were all in a horse stall that was covered with feces.  They had no food or water.  They all need medical attention – neutering, deworming, flea treatment and all vaccinations.  So if you can possibly help out with any sort of donation it would be greatly appreciated!”

The pups were being ‘disposed of’ because they hadn’t sold.  They probably were Sophie, one of 13 rescued puppy mill pupsadvertised for a few hundred dollars, probably without any shots. Without takers, the farmer/backyard breeder isn’t going to keep them.  So they die, and when he figures the market has picked up again, there will be more puppies for sale.  If they don’t sell either – well, bullets are cheap.

Kijiji is a wonderful resource for puppy millers.  It needs to stop.  When pet stores, for the most part, stopped selling puppies (other than providing space for shelter animals), it dried up the major market for commercial puppy millers.  Kijiji has filled that gap.  It’s time to stop.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb 9th 2011