The Buy-And-Sell Puppy Trade
by Brenda Shoss
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Right now, in rural Missouri, dogs are tethered to stakes or packed in cramped wire cages. Forced to stand in their own fly-infested urine and feces, the emaciated animals stare listlessly through metal bars. Eye ulcers cloud their vision and the blood from long forgotten wounds hardens over matted fur.
Welcome to the Show-Me State's dirty secret. With over 5,000 puppy mills situated in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, Missouri remains the nation's puppy mill capital, according to Deborah Howard, president of the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS). That darling pooch in the pet store probably began life at a large commercial enterprise where puppies are "manufactured" for resale. CAPS estimates that 90 percent of pet-store puppies come from Class-A breeders who provide no veterinary care, nutritious diet, exercise, or relief from weather extremes.
Sometimes the dogs are sold to a Class-B dealer, or "broker." When CAPS vice president Bob Baker investigated Pick of the Litter, a broker who sells to pet outlets, he found dead puppies in cages with their mothers. One Dalmatian tried to give her lifeless newborn to Baker. Mill operators and brokers relentlessly impregnate female dogs. By age five, most "spent" female dogs are shot to death.
How might this effect you? You're at the mall. Your seven-year-old begs you to buy the purebred pup in the window. With images of long walks and cuddles you bring Rover home-only to later encounter hip dysplasia, dislocating kneecaps, seizures, eye lesions, liver and heart disease, autoimmune disorders or behavioral problems. You care about the dog, so you shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars in veterinary bills. Eventually you learn about the shoddy breeding methods that predispose mill dogs to hereditary and deadly afflictions.
You have unwittingly entered the puppy mill to pet store chain, and there's not much you can do about it. Sure, most pet stores offer a refund or exchange, but like many sympathetic guardians you are committed to the animal's welfare.
The USDA has ignored Animal Welfare Act guidelines with regard to puppy mills. Former USDA investigator Marshall Smith concluded that "the USDA's regulatory programs are designed to protect industries that exploit animals." After Marshall, who is now director of investigations for In Defense of Animals, videotaped over 150 dogs warehoused in snow-covered pens at a Minnesota breeding operation, he learned that the owner had upgraded her license from Class-B broker to Class-A breeder. According to USDA inspection records, the facility met all criterion to be licensed as an A dealer.
Some attribute the USDA's hands-off stance to pressure from the American Kennel Club, who derives income from the registration of puppy mill litters. With no federal laws forthcoming, the concerned individual's main recourse is to boycott pet stores who buy and sell companion animals. Without pet store sales, commercial breeders would be forced out of business.
The demise of puppy mill rings would also hamper a shady byproduct of the business: Brokers who purchase (or steal) cats and dogs for resale to research laboratories. Surplus mill dogs are frequently sold into a life of vivisection misery. To view purchase vouchers from animal dealers who sell to schools, you need to acquire an Open Records Request. Open Records are unattainable in many states.
Finally, every time someone purchases a pet store pup or kitty, one less animal leaves a shelter. Up to 10 million healthy animals are killed every year, simply because no one adopted them in time.
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