How much IS that doggy in the window?
If you're shopping for a puppy, chances are, the cost far exceeds his or her price tag. There's a valid reason that so many animal advocacy organizations and animal rescues say "adopt, don't shop."
According to PAWS, more than 150,000 cats and dogs enter shelters in Washington State every year. And nationwide, 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters. Approximately 3 to 4 million of these pets are euthanized.
Only 15 percent of people with pets in the U.S. adopted them from a shelter or rescue group.
Puppy mill puppies are placed for sale through pet stores, through classified ads, or through the Internet. Unknowing consumers purchase these pets without realizing the conditions that the parent dogs face - nor the health issues that their puppies may have.
According to PAWS, commercial breeding kennels in most states can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages for the duration of their lives. These dogs are kept for the sole purpose of continuously producing puppies.
The animals range from popular purebreds to "designer" mixed breeds. Sadly, mills aren't for dogs alone; cat mills operate under similar conditions to supply pet stores with kittens.
Animals in puppy mills and cat mills are confined in small cages, forced to live in their own excrement with minimal shelter. They are treated like cash crops instead of unique individuals.
Many of the animals rescued from these mills exhibit severe behavioral issues due to lack of socialization and from being taken from their mothers too early. They also suffer from medical issues because they have suffered from malnutrition, starvation, and/or inadequate or unsanitary food and water.
Sick animals in mills often receive little or no veterinary care. And when puppy mill parent dogs are unable to produce any longer, they are euthanized or discarded at area shelters.
In October of 2012, dozens of dogs were taken from a home in Doty, WA. Investigators said that it appeared to be a backyard breeding or puppy mill operation. All of the puppies taken from the property were extremely sick with parvo and could not be saved.
In 2009, 400 dogs were seized from a puppy mill in Kennewick, Washington. State officials said that it was one of the worst cases of abuse that they had ever seen.
Backyard breeders also contribute to pet overpopulation. According to PAWS, backyard breeders put their pets' welfare at risk by continuously making their produce litters for profit.
PAWS advises looking for the following warning signs:
- The seller has many types of purebreds or "designer" hybrid breeds that are being sold at less than six weeks old.
- The breeder is reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which the animals are being bred and kept.
- The breeder doesn't ask a lot of questions of potential buyers.
- The breeder offers no guarantees. Responsible breeders make a commitment to take back the pet at any time during the animal's life, regardless of the reason.
According to PAWS, when puppy mills and backyard breeders flood the market with more litters of animals, they reduce the number of homes available for animals from reputable shelters and rescue groups.
How can you help stop the cycle of suffering? Ensure that you are informed when you choose your next pet.
If you go to a breeder, make sure that it is a reputable breeder who will show you where the dogs live, the puppy's full veterinary history, and contact information for the veterinarian.
You can also adopt from a shelter such as PAWS or Seattle Humane or a breed-specific rescue group such as Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to placing unwanted and abandoned purebred dogs into new homes.
Have you or someone you know dealt with a puppy mill or a backyard breeder? If so, what was your experience like?
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