|Why Not That Doggie In The Window?
by Kathleen Prince
owner - Pookie Bros. Pet Sitting
They sure make it easy, don’t they? All those irresistible puppies snoozing in baby play pens. They look
fine. They seem happy. They take Visa and Master Card and will even give instant approval for financing.
You know you should go to a shelter and save the life of a dog. But it’s so depressing there and you will
just want to take them all home. So walking into a brightly-lit mall and seeing the joy on the faces of those
pups is much easier. Right? And besides, that dog needs a home, too. Right?
The bottom line is pet stores that sell puppies support the puppy mill industry. Some of you may have heard
that term before. You’re not exactly sure what it means. You think it’s pretty bad but you think they are all
in the Midwest, not here. And the sign at the store says, “Home raised by local breeders.” Well, that could
be true. Puppy mills can be anywhere. All it takes is a person who wants to profit from the misery of
innocent animals. My definition of a puppy mill is a person who breeds solely for profit with no care or
concern for the health and welfare of the dogs. They can be one breed of dogs or several. They can be
fairly clean or trash dumps. Any reputable breeder (one who breeds to better the breed, screens for genetic
problems and screens potential buyers carefully) would never consider selling their pups to a pet store.
Therefore, the breeders who do supply the stores are unscrupulous and don’t care about the animals. They
are simply a product.
That adorable puppy you want to take home isn’t the worst victim of this industry. The parents of that
puppy are still at the mill. The life of a breeder dog at a mill is worse than anything we would wish upon our
enemies. The females are bred the first time they come into heat and every time thereafter. A reputable
breeder doesn’t even consider breeding a female until she is 2 years old. They certainly skip a heat cycle or
two before breeding again. Most reputable breeders retire the females when they reach 5 or so. A puppy
mill female breeds until she dies – usually while giving birth. Am I being too harsh? Well, imagine the living
conditions. The mill dogs are not given any affection or attention. They are kept in stacked, ramshackle
cages or pens with chicken wire floors so the poop can just fall through to the dogs below. The young ones
just go crazy for a while because they have the puppy exuberance in them and no outlet for it. The older
ones have learned to shut the world off – they feel nothing because it is better than feeling the hunger and
the pain and the filth.
A veterinarian never sees the dogs. Vaccinations are never given. Parasites and disease are rampant. The
females are given more food and actually feel love from their puppies when they are nursing them, but then
they are taken away far too soon. How sad. The puppies are taken away and put on a truck. They only
expect half the puppies to make the journey if they are coming from the Midwest. They come with their
AKC papers saying they are a full bred Pomeranian, but maybe a Yorkie got to the female instead, oh well,
it will look close enough. Those AKC papers are easy to forge. The puppy arrives at the pet store and he
gets cleaned up. He’s anemic and has an upper respiratory, but the pet storeowner knows the general
public is too stupid to notice anything like that. They are only looking at how cute that Pomeranian is. So
you plop your credit card down and buy yourself some love.
You also run a very high risk of buying yourself lots of problems, too. A pup born in a mill, shipped via a
truck (you think they stop every few hours and walk those 300 pups?) and living in a cage or playpen at a
pet store has no normal concept of housebreaking. Is your pet store pup still pooping and peeing in the
house? Is she always messing in her crate? That is completely against all dog instincts, but in the breeding
world of the mill dogs that is all they know – they have no choice but to potty where they sleep and eat. It
becomes no different to them at your house. Maybe that pup is on the aggressive side. She never got
educated by her mother dog and littermates on what it means to live in a pack or family. Or worse, your
pup gets really sick a few days after you bring her home. She never got the full antibodies from her mother
because she wasn’t allowed to nurse long enough. She is suffering from parvovirus and the treatment is a
great deal of money. You already spent $800 for the Pomeranian. You wait a bit too long to make your
decision and your new baby dies. The store you got her from won’t return your phone calls, and they’d
seemed so nice before.
One of my own dogs was a breeder in a puppy mill in Kansas. A rescue group bought her at an auction.
They were there to liberate as many as they could from the vicious cycle of breeding to supply pet store
demand. She’s one of the lucky ones. She got out. Most of the 400 dogs at the auction went to more
millers. They laughed as the little schkipperke giving birth was held up so everyone could see what a good
producer she was. They joked at the missing legs, missing eyes and other health problems – you see, that’s
not where they breed from so it doesn’t matter. They make lots of money off the misery of these creatures.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) makes even more money off of them and you for that Pomeranian that
is really half Yorkie. The breeder registers the litter then you register her when you buy her, proud to show
off those “papers”. Lots of the breeding facilities are USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)
licensed. They are supposed to adhere to rules and regulations but there are only a handful of inspectors for
the entire country. There are estimated to be 4000 mills operating in Missouri alone.
So, the AKC won’t stand up for the rights of these precious dogs. The USDA won’t do it, either. It’s up to
us. We are everywhere and we have the power. It’s pretty simple, really. If everyone who cares for dogs
would stop buying ANYTHING that is sold at a store that sells puppies they would feel the pressure. If
everyone would not EVER buy a puppy from a pet store they would feel the pressure. If everyone would
tell everyone else what they now know about pet stores and puppy mills, the demand for pet store puppies
would no longer exist. The shelters that care for homeless dogs will gladly take your offer of a good home.
The reputable breeders who put their heart and souls into the care and quality of their dogs will gladly help
you make the right decision in your purchase of the newest family member. So, why not that doggie in the
window? What it represents is heartbreak for everyone involved except the ones making the profit.