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Guest Editorial: Just Say No

I recently read a story (“Dog Story,” The New Yorker, Aug. 8, by Adam Gopnik, their award-winning staff writer) that saddened me. Mr. Gopnik wrote that he knowingly purchased a puppy-mill dog from a Manhattan pet store simply because his 10-year-old daughter asked him to. Since buying puppies from pet stores supports a cruel industry in which breeding dogs suffer every day of their shortened lives and the puppies who make it out are often sick, I am always disheartened when I hear that anyone has—knowingly or unwittingly—purchased a puppy-mill dog from a pet store or online.

Mr. Gopnik wrote that because his daughter knew her parents would never leave Manhattan to purchase a dog from an “approved breeder, she quietly decided that she could live with a Manhattan pet-store puppy-mill dog if she could check its eyes for signs of illness and its temperament for symptoms of sweetness.”

His decision to purchase a dog that likely came from a puppy mill puts him in the small minority of Americans who would knowingly purchase a dog from a pet store if they knew that dog came from a puppy mill. According to a survey conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the ASPCA, nearly 80 percent of Americans would not make the same decision.

Puppy mills are large-scale commercial breeding operations in which the breeding dogs live in squalid, overcrowded, wire-bottom cages stacked on top of each other. The breeding dogs almost never leave their cages and never know the feel of anything other than the cages’ muck-covered wiring. They don’t know what grass feels like, what toys are or what it’s like to be loved.

Usually crammed in dark, poorly ventilated sheds where they are exposed to sweltering temperatures in the summer and below-freezing temperatures in the winter, puppy-mill dogs live in horrific conditions day after day. In order to maximize profits, the females are bred repeatedly until their bodies give out, at which point they are often killed, left to die or even thrown out with the garbage.

By checking her new puppy’s eyes for signs of illness, Mr. Gopnik’s daughter was in no way ensuring that she was getting a healthy dog. Many puppies from puppy mills have internal parasites and other problems that are invisible without a veterinary examination, including genetic and hereditary problems that will not show up until much later.

Puppy-mill puppies are sold through pet stores, online and at venues outside the puppy mill, such as flea markets. Even though three-quarters of Americans have a negative view of puppy mills, puppy mills would not stay in business if people who claim to oppose them did not support them financially — often unintentionally —  largely through purchases of dogs in pet stores or online.

The ASPCA, which, along with other animal welfare organizations, spends vast resources caring for and rescuing breeding dogs from abusive puppy mills, has launched a “No Pet Store Puppies” campaign. Please pledge to refrain from buying anything—supplies, collars, kitty litter—from pet stores that sell puppies. For this campaign to be successful, large numbers of Americans shopping for pet supplies have to bypass pet stores selling puppies and instead, choose responsible stores and online outlets that do not support the puppy-mill industry by selling dogs.

When it comes to actually bringing home a new pet, the ASPCA recommends adoption as the first option or, for those who want to go directly to a breeder, responsible breeders who would never sell their dogs to pet stores or ship them to unknown purchasers.

I hope that Bark readers will visit nopetstorepuppies.com to sign the pledge not to buy anything at pet stores that sell puppies, and will share the pledge with everyone they know. While the ASPCA will continue to rescue puppy-mill dogs, we would prefer to stop the large-scale breeding operations that allow dogs to live in deplorable conditions before dogs are harmed.

— Ed Sayres
President and CEO, ASPCA®
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 67: Nov/Dec 2011

Photograph by Ashleigh Tancrell

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | October 28 2011 |

I did not read entire article. I don't think it is right but at least the dog will be saved & have a home instead of being sent back to mill. We don't do enough to save the ones that are already here needing adoptions before they are put on death row.......

Submitted by Junebug | November 17 2011 |

This is exactly the kind of complacency that perpetuates the pet overpopulation crisis. Millions of dogs are euthanized each year because they deteriorate in shelters when they cannot find a home quickly enough. Many are euthanized when behavioral issues aren't recognized and managed appropriately by their humans. None of this is the fault of the animal, but the result of people acting on impulses to 'save' these dogs from pet stores and auctions. The bottom line is we HAVE to support the right organizations (shelters and such) and stop supporting those that perpetuate the problem (pet stores, etc). This is the only way to swing the pendulum in the direction of ending puppy mills.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 28 2011 |

I to think I purchase a puppy from a puppy mill from on line, from mo fl. pet breeders. if i only knew

Submitted by Crofter | October 28 2011 |

I spent a dozen years teaching obedience classes in an upscale suburb of Boston and I was dismayed not only by the number of people who came with pet store pups, but by the number who had dogs from "breeders" who had spent no time or care other than acquiring two dogs of the same breed and opposite sexes.

I support the adoption of unwanted dogs at shelters - I have had wonderful crossbred and random bred dogs. But sometimes a purebred dog is required and great care should be used to produce the best dogs possible. We need to educate people about the horrors of puppy mills and we also need let them know that there is a wide range of knowledge and care that people bring to breeding dogs. I hate to see all breeders lumped together as folks who don't care what happens to dogs in shelters. If we didn't have careful, thoughtful breeders, we wouldn't have dogs with the skills needed for herding or retrieving. It wasn't random breeding that produced a dog that can learn several hundred words. (In the interests of full disclosure, I train border collies for herding and breed a litter every two or three years. I also have done some border collie rescue.)

Submitted by Anonymous | October 28 2011 |

I buy NOTHING from a pet store. I save stay kitties and take them to the vet. I buy what they need from them, except cat food. Cat food is purchased in bulk ( I have 4) from a grocery store.

Submitted by Ruth | October 29 2011 |

I never fail to weep when I read the stories of the puppy mill horrors, and it doesn't get easier with new stories.
As a volunteer for No More Tears Rescue in Staten Island, NY, I, along with others, work tirelessly to remove these poor creatures from their hellish lives in the mills, as well as dogs scheduled for euthanasia in kill shelters, because they have not been adopted and their "time" is up. We "vet" them (care they need and spaying/neutering), foster them to teach them that humans can be kind, and find "forever" homes for them with loving people. You don't know what unconditional love is until you have opened your home and heart to one of these creatures. We personally have the most wonderful and devoted German Shepherd that my daughter rescued from such a shelter in FL. She was scheduled to be put down the next day before her rescue because she was considered "difficult to adopt out" at only a few years of age.
Please, save a life - don't buy from a pet shop, online or from a flea market. Instead, go to your local shelter or contact a rescue organization (they exist for all breeds if you must have a pedigree). Remember, by buying from a pet shop you condemn the mother of those puppies to a continued life of misery confined to a cage and other horrors.

Submitted by Mary LaHay - IA... | November 17 2011 |

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Bark magazine and Mr. Sayres for this well-written and succinct commentary. One of the best I've ever read on the subject! Iowa Voters for Companion Animals (www.iowavca.org) has been researching Iowa puppy mills for 3 years. Our state has the dishonor of having the 2nd largest number of USDA-licensed commercial dog-breeders, aka puppy mills. Analysis of USDA inspection reports shows that more than 59% of breeders have been cited for violations to the Animal Welfare Act(AWA), yet they suffer very few consequences. The AWA is woefully inadequate and the USDA has done a dismal job of enforcing its lax provisions. Along with encouraging the public to not support this industry, we also need to tell Congress to strengthen the AWA. Contact your federal lawmakers and tell them you care about animals! Please also send a message to the USDA asking them to work harder to protect dogs in mills. Send emails to: agsec@usda.gov

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