Archive for the ‘puppy mills’ Category

Puppy Mill Awareness Day – September 17, 2011

September 10, 2011

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Heads up everyone! This Saturday, September 17th is Puppy Mill Awareness Day.  I’ve spent plenty of time on my soapbox in an uproar about puppy mills  and I will continue to do so until I no longer have to witness the physical maladies, behavioral nightmares, and broken hearts created by those who profit from the mass production of puppies.

Puppy Mill Awareness Day is all about educating as many people as possible about the inhumanity and insanity of puppy mills.  Might you know someone who is thinking about adopting a puppy?  If so please counsel them on the importance of avoiding an impulsive pet store purchase (guaranteed the “livestock” there were born at puppy mills).  Also, teach them that purchasing a pup online, sight (and site) unseen just about guarantees they will be providing income to a puppy mill. Rather, encourage them to adopt from a rescue organization, shelter, or reputable breeder.

About the only thing that keeps me sane when it comes to puppy millers are those wonderful souls who reside at the opposite end of the human spectrum- namely those who work in shelters and rescue organizations because they are passionate about giving animals a second chance.  As a way of honoring these folks and “celebrating” Puppy Mill Awareness Day, I hope you’ll help me out with the following plan.  Please tell me about your favorite rescue or humane organization and why you believe it is special.  Provide me with the group’s email address and contact information. From the list of responses I receive I will choose 10 organizations to receive a free copy of Speaking for Spot  and when I mail the book to them, I will let them know it was a gift from you (so be sure to include your full name).  Thanks ever so much.

Now get out there and spread some puppy mill awareness!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

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Madonna of the Mills: Puppy Mill Exposé on HBO

August 21, 2011

Mark your calendar for Wednesday August 24th so you can watch the HBO documentary, Madonna of the Mills. I was able to preview the film and liked what I saw. The movie documents the passion of Laura Amato (the Madonna) on her forays into Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her sole purpose for traveling into the heart of Amish country is the rescue of puppy mill dogs, specifically those who are “used up” (no longer capable of breeding) and slated to be destroyed.

Laura is an intriguing main character. Her composure remains completely passive as she interacts with puppy mill breeders. She is therefore allowed access into the kennels and, on occasion the camera is allowed to follow. When this happens, what we see is predictably gruesome. One wonders how Laura can remain so emotionally detached while in the midst of such inhumanity. Clearly, she understands that such passivity is required if she is to accomplish the task at hand, namely the rescue of innocent victims, one at a time. The movie credits state that Laura has rescued more than two thousand dogs.

For those who are familiar with puppy mills, there’s really nothing new revealed here. The kennel conditions are beyond horrific, the dogs are physically and psychologically traumatized beings, it is clear that legislation is needed to make things better, and there are some happy endings thanks to generous, kind-hearted, patient people.

One could argue that, through her actions, the Madonna is enabling puppy mills to thrive. It wasn’t clear to me if Laura actually purchases the dogs she rescues. What was clear was that that none of her actions would deter the puppy mill trade. Laura is clearly a prisoner of her passion. One senses she would give up anything and everything in her life before surrendering her rescue missions. In a brief moment of emotional vulnerability she talks about the enormity of the puppy mill situation while seemingly trying to convince herself that by rescuing one dog at a time, she is making a difference.

Whether or not you agree with what Laura is doing, the beauty of this documentary is that it will educate the public about puppy mills. Someone contemplating purchasing a pup from a pet store just might be dissuaded from doing so after watching this movie. By the way, I wish the movie had more strongly emphasized that pups purchased on line (site and sight unseen) are also likely to be puppy mill progeny. Nonetheless, kudos to those responsible for making this documentary. Have a look and tell me what you think. Have you already heard more than enough about puppy mills or do you think there’s room for more?  By the way, you may want to have a box of Kleenex close at hand, and perhaps something to soothe your nerves while viewing the graphic scenes.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

My Puppy Mill Education

December 19, 2010

After the November election, I learned that Missouri voters passed legislation known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B).  As I began surfing the Internet to learn more, I anticipated reading about strict new regulations that would dramatically limit the number of dogs per “breeding factory” along with regulations that would enhance the physical and emotional well being of dogs unfortunate enough to wind up in puppy mills.  Here is what I read.  Proposition B stipulates that breeders may have up to 50 breeding dogs at any given time (no, the number 50 is not a typo). Additionally, this new legislation requires that dogs be provided with:

-Sufficient food that is provided at least once daily
-Access to water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants
-Necessary veterinary care (an examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian)
-Sufficient housing including protection from the elements
-Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely and fully extend limbs
-Adequate rest between breeding cycles (no more than two litters during an 18 month time period)

Fifty dogs at a time? Daily food and clean water required? Enough space to allow dogs to stand up and stretch their legs?  Was this really the best that puppy mill reform legislation could provide- nothing more than the bare basics to sustain a modicum of physical comfort for puppy mill “livestock”? How could this be? I addressed my surprise and disappointment by contacting and asking questions of Jennifer Fearing, the California senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States who was in Missouri prior to the election canvassing for votes for Proposition B. Her responses were informative and heartfelt, and she was so genuinely patient in responding to my lack of awareness.  Jennifer has graciously allowed me to share her comments with you:

“Under the old Missouri law, dogs can be kept in wire-floored cages just six inches longer than their bodies.  The cages can be stacked on top of each other.  A veterinarian must make an annual walk-through of a facility but there is no requirement that the dogs get actual exams or even treatment for any existing conditions or injuries.  Dogs are bred on every single heat cycle, leading to dogs so bred-out that we routinely see young dogs (three to four years old) whose teeth have all fallen out because their systems are so overtaxed and malnourished, and whose teats are dragging on the ground.  The old law does have a provision regarding extreme temperatures, but it says that dogs couldn’t face extreme temperatures for more than three consecutive hours, making enforcement impossible because no inspector is going to stand around with his thermometer in the air for three hours.  There is a vague requirement for an exercise plan, but that too is unenforceable and as a result we see dogs who have clearly lived their entire lives on wire floors and never set foot on solid ground.
 
The new law, which goes into effect one year from passage:  Every dog must have a solid-floored enclosure that allows constant, unfettered access to a larger outdoor area.  Larger enclosure sizes are required with specific sizing requirements based on the size of the dog.  Each dog must receive an annual exam and any dog who is sick or suffering must receive veterinary treatment.  No dog may have more than 2 litters in any 18 month period, which essentially means every 3rd cycle is rested, giving them a chance to recuperate from the exhausting cycle of carrying and nursing pups.  The time limit mentioned above is removed so that dogs cannot be kept in temperatures below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees, period.
 
Just as importantly, these new requirements are simple and easy to enforce.  Currently in Missouri, if law enforcement gets a complaint call they must call in the experts from the Department of Agriculture to help interpret 30+ pages of vague, confusing and outdated regulations.  Because of backlogs and understaffing, it can take six months or longer for an Ag inspector to even show up.  But any Sheriff’s deputy can interpret these new requirements – anyone can see if a floor is solid or wire; if cages are stacked; if the dogs have access to an outdoor area; if there are more than 50 dogs; etc.  So instead of leaving the dogs to suffer for another six months, law enforcement can file criminal charges on the spot.
 
And the penalties may seem modest but any violation of the new Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is a criminal offense, which leads to license forfeiture. And if conditions rise to the level of animal cruelty, the offender can be charged instead under the existing state animal cruelty law.
 
Missouri is only the fifth state to cap the number of dogs a commercial breeder can keep.  Since 2008, Oregon, Washington and Virginia have set the number at 50, and Virginia includes a provision allowing the state to allow more than 50 if certain conditions are met.  Louisiana has a cap of 75.  It’s important to remember that these bills are not intended to ban commercial breeding, they are simply designed to eliminate the worst abuses at puppy mills and create more humane living conditions for the dogs who live there.  And the data (from state and federal inspection reports) are clear that the largest facilities accumulate the most frequent and most severe violations.
 
I should mention too that the new law is in addition to, and not in lieu of, the existing regulations.  Those regulations still exist, this law is simply an overlay to correct the weak and vague areas of the regulations that allowed dogs to suffer.
 
Finally, the significance of this law passing in the epicenter of the puppy mill industry cannot be overemphasized.  It will lead to similar restrictions in other states and to vast improvement in the living conditions of dogs kept for the commercial pet trade.”

Jennifer’s explanations certainly changed my perspective about the benefits provided by Proposition B.  While this legislation will not create an existence for a puppy mill victim that in any way resembles my notion of what every dog deserves, no doubt its enforcement will make a positive difference in the current dismal quality of many lives.  I must admit that after reading Jennifer’s response my overriding feeling was, “Shame on me!” As a veterinarian I’m embarrassed by my naïveté about puppy mills.  To some degree, I think I’ve been floating along that river in Egypt (De Nial)- far more pleasant to be “out of touch” rather than “in touch” with the true horrors of what goes on in puppy mills. Sure, via my blog and in Speaking for Spot I’ve advocated against supporting puppy mills by avoiding purchasing puppies from pet stores or on line (sight and site unseen). I simply don’t think my efforts have been adequate.  While I’m certain that I need to do more to create puppy mill reform, I’m not yet sure what that “more” looks like yet. Stay tuned- I will keep you posted as I figure it out. Have you taken a stance against puppy mills?  If so what has been your strategy?

By the way, I debated whether or not to release a blog on such a serious topic while my readers are in the midst of the holiday hustle.  My hope is that the thoughts expressed will provide some inspiration- always a good thing during the holiday season.

Best wishes for a lovely holiday season.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Puppy Mill Campaign-One Girl’s Campaign to Educate Many

October 9, 2010

I absolutely love connecting with kids who realize a passion and then act on it! I am so pleased to feature a post from my guest blogger, Miah Rae.  Miah is a 12 year old student who loves animals and is passionate about making a positive difference for as many as possible.  A love for animals may be an inherited trait- Miah’s grandmother is pet blogger, Yvonne DiVita!

Dr. Nancy Kay

Puppy Mill Campaign-One Girl’s Campaign to Education Many by Miah Rae

For everyone who doesn’t follow my personal blog, Start the Change, you should know that I am working on getting as many students as possible to sign a pledge to never support a puppy mill. I want to educate them on what puppy mills are and how to avoid supporting them.

I just started today and I already have 36 signatures, which makes me so excited!!! 36 signatures on my puppy mill awareness pledge, which says, “I pledge to always seek any pet I want to adopt from a shelter, and to never give my money to a pet store in the mall, or anywhere else. I do not support puppy mills, and people and stores who do will never get my business. Don’t shop. ADOPT!”

That means 36 people from my school promised to adopt from a shelter and to never shop from a pet store. That is a huge difference, and I am hoping I will double it tomorrow!

I give out a big thanks to my drama teacher who let me share my pledge with the class and explain what a puppy mill is. I got most of my signatures from that class so I greatly appreciate it.

I am still so surprised by how many people don’t know what they are! I asked my drama class how many people actually knew what a puppy mill was and only about 5 or 6 actually knew a little bit about it. I was shocked, but excited to teach so many people about it.

She started her own blog in May 2010, and even spoke at the latest BlogPaws conference in Denver, hoping to gain support for her movement. In her spare time she is a dancer and is raising a brand new puppy pitbull mix, Onyx.

It was great and I am so excited to be making a difference this way, and I will keep everyone updated on my pledge totals over on my blog at Start-the-Change.com .

Miah Rae and Onyx