I received an abundance of feedback in response to my recent blog about puppy mills. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your feelings concerning this emotional topic. Virtually all of the comments expressed agreement that puppy mills are despicable and we wish they would cease to exist. They also included important ideas that prompted me to think, “Wow, I wish I’d included that in my blog!” Needless to say, I can’t resist sharing these wonderful comments and stories.
Many of you reminded me that puppy mills spawn significant behavioral issues in their “merchandise” that can be just as devastating, if not more so, than the health issues that arise:
Debbie wrote, “The physical abnormalities in puppy mill dogs are often accompanied by behavioral problems as well, fear being a major issue for many of these dogs who receive inappropriate or inadequate socialization. Like many medical issues the damage done due to inappropriate socialization may also be irreparable.”
Diane commented, “I wanted to point out that for me, behavioral issues are also a major concern in addition to the health problems. Don’t get me wrong, I get my business from people who buy these puppies, but honestly, I would rather just have a class full of wonderful healthy puppies and find some other way to make money.”
Viviane wrote, “The health problems associated with puppy mills are truly heartbreaking and your post about this brought me to tears. As a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant, I also see the behavioral results of this sort of breeding operation all too often, and that too is heartbreaking for unsuspecting souls who fall for a sweet face only to discover profound shyness and/or reactivity. The dog that should have given a lifetime of joy and companionship and of course received the same, now is a beloved but seriously flawed family member who requires management and training to varying degrees for a life time.”
Vanna stated, “I think it is really important to also point out that these puppy mill dogs aren’t properly socialized early on and therefore there are often serious issues by the time they bring the dog home. Of course there is also an issue since they aren’t breeding for temperament.”
Some thought I was tough enough on the puppy mills, but far too soft on the people who patronize puppy mills.
Kerri commented, “It angers me because people who are educated about these horrible operations still buy from them. You say in your post, “Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.” When I read that, I thought it was letting the buyers off way too easy. By the late 1990s when I rescued my first Doxie and wrote an investigative piece, Disposable Pets (http://www.writeforyou.biz/Disposable-Pets.htm) it was becoming known, but I think the general public could still be excused for ignorance. Today, the puppy mill buying public would have to literally live in a bubble not to know the problem of puppy mills and the terrible conditions from which these dogs come.”
I couldn’t resist sharing Diane’s inspirational comment with you: “Here! Here! I go one-step further…… I do not buy ANYTHING from pet stores that sell puppies!”
A few people reminded me that, as states are cracking down on puppy mills, the innocent victims wind up in shelters and breed rescue organizations. The people who care for them will require extra help for these emotionally fragile dogs. There is an instructional DVD addressing this unique situation (check out www.missiondog.com).
Lastly, before I share Jeff’s poignant puppy mill story, please be reminded: The purebred dog of your dreams may be awaiting you at your local shelter (yes, many purebred dogs do land there) or breed rescue association. Please don’t forget to consider these options when you are thinking about “expanding the family.”
Now, here is Jeff’s story:
“Nancy: As you may perhaps recall, you sent a couple of very kind emails last year when our little Yorkie, Shelly, died suddenly after having three vaccinations in one day. Soon after we were lucky enough to adopt two Yorkies who were saved from a raided puppy mill near New Hope, Pennsylvania. Forty-six Yorkies were found in an abandoned house in the winter with no heat or water. They were living in birdcages. The Bucks County SPCA is the hero of this story. Their director, Ann Irwin and her people responded to the police in the middle of the night. She mobilized her whole staff and descended on the house at two in the morning and snatched up the poor little dogs. I visited the SPCA a day later when they were giving the little tykes baths. Most were so matted and filthy that they just shaved masses of fur rather than try to wash them. We adopted a very small female, Molly, who they estimate is 5-6 years old. She has numerous cesarean scars on her tummy from her various births. When we got to the house, I took her outside to pee, but she was shocked at standing on grass; a first time experience. After a day or so I was concerned that she wasn’t drinking water. Then it struck me that she probably was not used to drinking from a bowl. I bought her a tube type water dispenser like you would give to a hamster in a cage. She practically emptied it. I don’t think Molly will ever be completely house broken. The extraordinary thing is how affectionate she is. Having gone through what she did one would think she would fear humans. She is the most loving little dog I have ever owned. The second dog is a puppy from one of the pregnant mothers who they let go to term. We originally called her Lucy, but I renamed her Lucifer because she is so bad! These dogs are a great joy, but I have no illusions about Molly. I don’t think she will become an old dog due to her difficult years living in birdcages in unheated basements with poor nutrition.”
Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed
Molly in her new home
Molly and Lucifer
Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and stories. Let’s hope for ongoing progress in the fight against puppy mills. Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.
Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.
Order a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html
Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html
Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook
Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross
Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends: