Saturday, July 08, 2006

How much is that doggie in the window?

Whilst rummaging around the internets looking for something else, I found this article about puppymills over at Consumeraffairs.com (which is just a great website in general). I love to see articles written on this topic, because there are several things people who want to buy a puppy generally do not know. For example, pet stores take great pains to convince people that their dogs are not from puppymills when they really are. They say they don't buy from puppymills, which is usually--true: they buy from brokers who get the dogs from puppymills (If you're wondering whether your pet store dog came from a puppymill, you can try using the research features at Petshoppuppies.com.) Also, a USDA license most definitely does NOT mean that the puppies or parent dogs are bred, transported and kept under humane conditions. The USDA regulations are loose and a bit vague in spots and enforcement is a sham (Read more about the USDA Animal Welfare Act here. The USDA also does not license pet stores, which usually fall under state and local regulation or licensing--which can also be a bit of a farce (as I found out when I tried to get a local pet store cited a few years ago--I was told by the nice but overworked official that the state did not have any resources to pursue the court battles that always result from any attempts to enforce the standards, so they only acted in the most egregious cases. Fortunately, the pet store ended up going out of business.)

One quibble I have with the article is that it implies that "genetic defects" (and behavioral problems) are a unique problem of puppymill dogs. This is not true at all--genetic problems are astoundingly common in almost every "pure" breed as a result of decades of "closed registry" breeding that has narrowed gene pools. Even purebreds from "reputable" breeders stand a good chance of harboring a genetic problem or two. Alas, this falls in the category of "Don't get me started"--I could go on for hours on the topic. Perhaps it will be fodder for another post, another day ... (although I'm sure, if this blog were very widely read at all, that what I've just written would be enough to spur a barrage of indignant comments from purebred "fanciers" along the lines of "you're not a breeder so can't possibly have any idea what you are talking about!")

At any rate, I'd like to encourage anyone looking for a dog to consider adopting a mixed breed. Or, if you have your heart (and mind!) set on a particular breed, consider consider going to a breed rescue group. You may have to wait, and they don't usually have puppies available, but good rescue groups will usually help you find the best "fit" with your household and they often provide lots of post-adoption advice and support should you have any problems. Also, don't assume that they only way to go is to get a puppy--often a better choice is adopting a young adult or adult dog, because you can get a much better idea of their personality and energy level than you can with a puppy (Oh, there are lots more reasons, too!). I also like to joke a lot about how silly it is to pay money for a dog when you can find a perfectly good on by the side of the road, but I'm not really joking. I wish I'd counted the number of times I've asked people where they got such an awesome dog and the answer has been "I found him wandering out on Highway 98" or "He just showed up at the house one day." (Be sure to check for a microchip, try to find the owner and follow all local laws if you find a dog!)

NOTE: If you are researching breeders, pet stores, animal welfare or rescue groups and you stumble across anything by the NAIA (National Animal Interest Alliance), please be aware that this is an organization of animal breeders, companies that perform animal experimentation, hunters and others with a business or "recreational interest in keeping animal welfare laws as loose as possible. One of their missions is to discredit animal shelters and rescue groups and paint anyone advocating humane treatment of animals as a wacked-out extremist. They are a business mouthpiece disguising themselves as an animal advocacy organization and they seem to have very deep pockets. Take whatever they have to say with the appripriate grain of salt.

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