A Philly.com headline from Monday read NY kennel owner admits gassing 93 dogs with farm engine. As an animal lover, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “It was obviously a mistake, right?” Sadly, the answer is no. The dog breeder simply wanted to get rid of some of his “stock,” so that he didn’t have to pay the vet bills to cure his animals of an easily-treatable infectious disease.
I was asked to write a guest post for the Trupanion blog, and this article got me thinking about pet insurance. I mean, when you own a business, you get business insurance to protect your assets. For the amount of money these breeding dogs produce for large commercial breeders, wouldn’t they want to protect their assets? This subset of dog breeders, often called puppy millers, should NOT be confused with reputable breeders, who carefully evaluate every family that approaches them for pets, DON’T sell their animals to pet shops, and treat their animals with care. Millers generally sell puppies who have been weaned too early through pet stores and don’t provide their animals with veterinary care, let alone help them or their puppies when they are ill. It’s an expense they don’t want to bear, as it would dip into their profits. But these days, with health insurance options like Trupanion, doesn’t it actually make better financial sense to care for the breeding dogs’ and puppies’ health?
My name is Kyla, and stories like this led me to found Happy Tails Books and Up For Pups, both unique humane education organizations. My dog, Bill, who I adopted from MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue, spent the first two years of his life sitting in a 2×2 chicken-wire cage, producing puppies at one of these puppy mills. When he came to me, he didn’t move for three months. There was no light in his eyes, and we wondered what he could have experienced to make him that way. After months of patiently waiting for Bill to come out of his shell, we finally started seeing some sparks of life, and now, two years later, I would almost venture to call him normal! I mean, my friends still refer to him at “Duck and Cover,” and my parents laugh at the way he instinctively looks the opposite way when they offer him a piece of cheese, but compared to the old Bill, “New Bill” is relatively sane.
This whole journey with Bill inspired me to want to let others know about puppy mill suffering and encourage them to take a stand against it. Even those who don’t care much for animals should be able to understand that this is a consumer protection issue. There are laws stating that when we purchase a new TV from a store, we should be getting a fully-functioning television that works for a reasonable period of time without causing us any undue repair bills or grief. Why should it be any different with puppies? Stores are allowed to sell puppies with questionable backgrounds (at best), who have been documented to have been weaned earlier than any vet would consider proper and subjected to unsanitary, traumatic living and transportation conditions during their first few weeks of life. And who suffers? The HUMAN buying the dog, of course. Between trying to correct medical and behavioral deficiencies, humans that purchase dogs (and cats, actually) at pet stores generally have their hands full.
Of course, for us animal lovers, we can see many more things wrong with this sales cycle, but I believe the message of consumer protection is poised to reach the greatest number of people. What can you do about this? First, tell people what you know-that the best place to acquire a new pet is through a shelter, rescue, or reputable breeder whom they have visited PERSONALLY. Second, don’t shop at stores that sell puppies and kittens. Third, support legislation banning the sale of companion animals at pet shops and tightening breeding standards of care. Lastly, give your own pet a hug, and ensure they get the necessary veterinary care to keep them healthy. They deserve it, and so do you!