Guest Post: Puppy mills = Animal Abuse

Pet store puppiesThe FBI defines animal abuse as “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal.” The FBI recently labeled Animal Abuse as a top tier felony, hoping to curb the ongoing problem.

On January 10, 2013, Governor Kasich of Ohio signed Senate Bill 130, a bill that strongly regulates large-scale breeding operations in Ohio. This bill stipulates annual inspections of these facilities, to make sure standards of care are being upheld. Lawmakers hope to put puppy mills out of business. We will see if this bill is as strongly written as it needs to be. Time will tell.

Personally, I cannot comprehend how people can abuse animals. It just doesn’t make sense to me, but for whatever reason some people abuse animals. It is a problem that must be dealt with. The worse type of animal abuse, is the large scale industry of puppy mills where conditions are just horrible.

Ohio now has the dubious honor of becoming a leading state in the number of puppy mills. The Columbus Dispatch reports that of the 153 commercial dog breeders licensed in Ohio, 86 are in Holmes County. In fact, 73% of the state’s breeders are in Holmes County and the surrounding area, a rural region known for being a quaint farm community, many of whose residents are Amish. Looks can be deceiving though. Many Amish view animals not as pets, but as “beasts of burden,” a cog to generate a living operating a puppy mill. Horses are a commodity to the Amish, and are treated as we treat our cars, because that is the purpose they serve. In most cases, there is little or no emotional attachment to the dogs and horses these families own.

Ohio is one of only 4 states that allow dog auctions (video example), with the biggest ones in Holmes County. These puppy mill breeders buy dogs strictly in order to breed them every time they come in heat, just to reap the puppies for sale. The dogs are inhumanely kept in cramped cages, often full of urine and feces.

So why aren’t these places closed down? Well… money. Millions of dollars are made from puppy mills. The pet stores are the ones that keep puppy mills in business. I can tell you, no vet will be happy that you got a pet from a breeder via a pet store. We see so many sick dogs from these pet stores. The puppies are sold at exorbitant prices, and they are always on sale, marked down from an even more ridiculous price. Often these animals are of such poor genetic makeup that they look nothing like the breed they are purported to be. It is just so sad. In the case of one pet store chain, Petland, reported, “More than 95% of animals for sale at Petland USA stores are from commercial puppy mills. According to transport and shipping records from the Department of Agriculture involving more than 5 States, 17,000 puppies delivered to Petland were sourced from puppy mills.” Fortunately, more national pet store chains are moving away from selling puppies and kittens from such breeders, instead opting to support local rescues by facilitating adoptions and meet and greets.

So I hope I have educated you; I am sure I made you sad and hopefully a little mad. Things are changing, but we need to keep plugging away at this huge problem. Don’t buy your pet at a pet store, instead go inspect the breeder’s facility first hand, or adopt from your local shelter or rescue. And instead of increasing the demand for puppies, look into rescuing an adult dog. While puppies are cute, puppyhood can be a very trying time! Together, we can help shut down these puppy mills.

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

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