Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Puppy Mills: Denial is not just a river in Egypt

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --- Mahatma Ghandi

Jill attended a party this weekend, and naturally, the subject of dogs came up. One of the guests was talking about her new 7 pound Poodle puppy recently purchased from a pet store specializing in itsy-bitsy dogs -- just like the ones that Hollywood celebs have made fashionable (mind you, without a word about responsible pet ownership).

As Jill inquired about the new pooch's history, the woman's vague answers brought puppy mills to mind. Jill mentioned this, but the new owner cavalierly dismissed the idea remarking, "I talked to the breeder and I know the family of the store owner." Not one to ever let a dog peril issue rest, Jill hit her hard with a barrage of deftly constructed probing questions:

"Do you know how to determine if a breeder is reputable and humane?"
"Where was your dog's breeder located?"
"Did you personally visit the breeder?"
"Do you know how often your dog's mother was bred?"
"Was the mother free to roam around or kept in a wire cage all the time?"
"How many times did the dog change hands before he arrived at the posh pet store?"
"How was the dog's tailed docked, under clean and sanitary conditions or with a kitchen knife?"
"Do you know the mother's medical history or that of your dog?"

Showing no mercy, Jill fired the final bone-crushing blow: "Do you, Mrs. Party Guest, know that pet stores all too often sell puppy mill dogs?"

Naturally, Mrs. Party Guest answered "no" and followed up with "What's a puppy mill?" Clearly, she needed to be educated and Jill was up for the challenge. After recounting, in excruciating, horrific detail, just what happens at puppy mills, the woman actually stated she wasn't convinced this was a real problem since "everyone has a right to make a living." Without a hint of embarrassment, she pronounced, "we are a capitalist society." At this point, Jill abruptly excused herself from the conversation and located the nearest garbage can. Even today, if you look closely, you can still see the steam coming out of Jill's ears.

Yes, this story is hard to believe, but it's true and all too common. Indeed, when Jill recounted the conversation to Billy, he sighed (dramatically) and declared that he has similar experiences "all the time, and not just about puppy mills -- about all aspects of canine care."

Well, Mrs. Party Guest, ignoring the well documented facts and pretending it's "just a business," may be human nature (no one wants to believe that these things really happen), but it won't make puppy mills go away or prevent people from making a buck from animal cruelty. People like Mrs. Party Guest don't want to be bothered by the truth, especially when they inadvertently participate in a bad thing. If you make a mistake once, we'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but refusing to acknowledge the suffering is inexcusable. Shame on you Mrs. Party Guest!

Don't be like Mrs. Party Guest, if you don't know about puppy mills, need to educate someone else or you just want to learn how to help, check out these websites:

Oprah's ground-breaking show about puppy mills

Main Line Animal Rescue


Humane Society of the US

In addition, talk to your local, state and federal lawmakers and ask about laws affecting animal cruelty and puppy mills. In Illinois, State Representative John Fritchey recently introduced a bill to crack down on puppy mills. Hopefully, this will catch on and help the truth sink in with Mrs. Party Guest-types.

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