Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Challenge to Pet Store Owners

You love animals.  That's why you sell them.  Your store only deals with USDA licensed kennels, not "puppy mills".  If people are willing to pay big bucks for a puppy it will have a good home.  They will be responsible pet owners and be committed to the dog for the rest of its life.  We've heard the spiel.  Now it is time for you to wake up, take off the rose-colored glasses and accept the truth about where these puppies come from and how their parents live.

What do you imagine when you hear the words "USDA licensed kennel"? Do you envision green meadows for the puppies to romp in, tender, loving care for the well-socialized parents, and veterinarians to care for their every physical need?  In most cases, that just isn't true.

Before appealing to your love for animals, let's focus on the business of breeding puppies.  The chain of how the puppy gets from the kennel to your pet store window goes something like this:  Commercial breeders mass produce puppies. They are sold for a couple hundred dollars each to a broker.  The broker picks them up and delivers them to pet stores throughout the country.  You pay the broker more than they paid the breeder then set an even higher price for the puppy.  Everyone makes a profit, but the breeder, the person who is responsible for that puppy being on the planet, makes the least.  Common sense should tell you that if the puppy was raised properly, if the parents received all the love and medical care that a dog should get, if the pup came from quality lines, the breeder would not sell it for such a low price and never give another thought to where that puppy was going!

Jolee after being rescued
I have an example of one of those dogs that cranked out litter after litter of puppies and was sent on her way when her little body was used up.  She was five years old.  Her name is Jolee.  She is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Her puppies probably sold for quite a bit and I bet they were adorable, because she is darling. While the new owners were cooing over their furry bundles of joy, Jolee was sitting in a cage that was her prison for five years.  She has permanently dislocated kneecaps, had an umbilical hernia that was never corrected, an inguinal hernia that was likely the result of a rough delivery, chronic ear infections, horrible teeth, and every parasite imaginable. She was infested with hookworms that could have killed her.  Why was Jolee denied veterinary care?  Did her previous owner ever look at her and not just see dollar signs? I will leave the conclusion up to you...

National Mill Dog Rescue
Jolee is one example.  National Mill Dog Rescue, headquartered in Peyton, Colorado, has seen more than seven thousand cases of dogs with similar or worse stories.  Are they all in horrible physical shape?  No.  Some breeders are diligent about the basic needs of their dogs and are responsible enough to turn them over when they can no longer be used to make money for them.  Regardless, dogs are companion animals and years of living in a cage take an emotional toll.

During the production of the documentary, I Breathe, which explores the multi billion dollar commercial dog breeding industry, I saw USDA licensed kennels first hand.  I witnessed the rescue of dozens of discarded dogs. I dealt with breeders who were secretive and defensive about what they did for a living. When I approached one breeder about profiling his kennel, he threatened to shoot me if I came on his property.  Others hung up on me or flat out refused when asked by the lobbyist for the commercial dog breeding industry. Only one came forward and allowed our cameras to film her kennel and it was a lot smaller than what is typical of a commercial breeding facility.  If the industry is not doing anything wrong, why do they behave in this fashion?  You can read more about what went on behind the scenes here.

I challenge you to investigate where the puppies you are buying come from and how the parents are treated.  You don't have to travel hundreds of miles to the kennels.  The breeders might not let you see their facilities even if you make the journey.  You can visit a rescue.  There are many throughout the country that focus on the dogs that are no longer useful in the commercial breeding industry.  You can stay in the comfort of your own home and watch I Breathe: Lily's Legacy on YouTube.  If you need further proof, adopt or foster one of these little survivors and experience for yourself what has so many across the nation in an uproar.

Los Angeles banned the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from commercial breeders in October.  Pet stores can sell only dogs that come from rescues. That action is raising the bar for the rest of the country.

Education is the key.  Stop kidding yourself and take the steps necessary to lift the cloud of naiveté that has enveloped your industry for too long.  Enough is enough.

Jene Nelson is a veteran journalist and the producer/director of I Breathe, an eye-opening documentary about the secretive commercial dog breeding industry.


  1. BRAVO!
    I hope you have sent a copy to every single Pet store in the country, that you possibly could! I became an advocate for closing all Puppy Mills 4 yrs ago, when I made the mistake of buying a Boston Terrier online. I had not heard about the mills at the time or I NEVER would have purchased my dog that way.
    The first week we had "Obie", he sat in the corner up of our living room. He would only move, to go outside in the back yard to do his duty, then he would come right back in and go back to his spot. He was terrified of us! He didnt seem to understand being held and petted. He would shake all over. He wouldnt eat. scheduled an appointment to have my Vet do a guick check-up on him. After examining him and observing his frightened behavior, she actually recommended that we "put him down". She said that he would never be able to be socialized. Then she told me that he had most definately been raised in a cage. I was surprised and heart broken.I respect my Vets opinion and have alway's followed her advice in the past,but,in this case, I just did not have the heart to euthenize him.
    Well,I had a breakthrough one afternoon while I was working on the computer.Obie came in and sat next to me at my feet. I could not believe it! He slowly learned to like being held and loved on. But, he only wanted to be with me. He was still terrified of my husband and grown son. He learned somewhere in his past, not to trust men. Gee,I wonder where? I started taking Obie back to my bedroom and putting him on my bed if anything came up that scared him. Well, 4 years later, he still go's there when he's afraid, or just wants a nap. His place is right between my husband's and my pillow's. We call it his "safe place".
    It made us terribly sad that the first week we had him, he had not wagged his tail once. The Vet told me it was because his little "nub" tail had been fused at birth. He also has one ear that doesn't stand straight up like the other ear does'. The Vet said it and the tail were most likely birth deffects as a result of his Mother being bred over and over again to the same male.
    Well I began investigating puppymills online and educated myself about them. Obie even came from Missouri. The state with the most puppymills of any other state. AND also one of the one's,sadly,that officials just dont seem to care enough about,to shut many of them down. Even though there has been documented evidence of some really horrific ones there!
    Well,4 years later we still have Obie. He has come so far. In the beginning, it was baby steps, getting him used to new things. Now he is such a happy little guy most of the time.Our Vetis very pleased at how Obie has thrived. Our family know's that Obie will never be a "normal" dog. He will alway's have issue's(like having terrible separation anxiety...he has gotten out of the yard God only know's how,and tried to find me, 3 different times, when I've been gone for a few day's or more. He was found each time by a good samaritin.He do snt like to share my attention with our Pug and show's it by nipping Peetie on his cheeks.
    But we all love him and accept his handicap He is such a sweet little guy and can be quite a clown on occasion. He has adapted to not being able to wag his tail when he's happy, by wagging his whole rear end ! I tell just about anyone who meets Obie about where he came from. I want people to understand the damage that was done to this precious little dog and thousands of others like him who dont have happy endings.

  2. Happy you have patience, love & understanding of his situation, & kept him despite your vet's recommendations. Hopefully, you've found a new vet. A behaviorist could help Obie with his behaviorial issues, which are all correctable with consistent, positive-reinforcement training. Dogs are wonderful examples of forgiving souls - no regrets for the past, no hopes for the future, they live in the moment & many a "lost cause" have bounced back to live happily ever after with their new loving parents, no matter how horriffic their previous life was. Thanks for educating all you meet with Obie's story - you can't repeat it enough. No matter how many years we try to educate the public, I'm still shocked at how many people are unaware of the puppy mill issue in this country. Wishing you the best. - Collie, 40 year rescuer & rehabber/trainer/educator/advocate/pet parent

  3. Fantastic article!!! I hope many many people read this and learn the truth about puppy mills. Thank you for caring so much and doing what you do.

  4. Thanks for the comments. We're currently rehabilitating our second puppy mill survivor. Poor little girl is so scared! It will take time...

  5. You are generalizing and being judgemental. There is good and bad in EVERY industry. Do not assume all are alike.