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Buyer Beware

Advocate Group Spreads Puppy Mill Awareness

Alicyn Leigh 04/29/2005 12:23 pm
The ugly truth behind most pet stores is that they’re importing pets from either puppy or kitten mills, which exist solely to raise animals for cash, usually subjecting the animals to a litany of cruelty. But until consumers are educated enough to permanently cease purchasing their pets from these stores, the animals�not the dubious breeders�will be the ones who suffer.

Lancaster County, Pa., deep in the heart of Amish country, is one of this unscrupulous industry’s key locations�there are puppy mills all throughout the area, including some of the nation’s largest and most notoriously grim facilities. That’s why an advocate group also in the region, Puppy Mill Awareness Day, has made blowing the whistle on this shameful business their sole quest. Among other events, the group holds a yearly Awareness Day designed to better inform the public

“We decided that the plight of the mill dogs needed to be brought to the public’s attention,” says Kathy Hargis, who co-founded Puppy Mill Awareness Day three years ago along with husband Walter Hargis and Carol Araneo-Mayer. “As rescuers, we saw the result of the mills’ production of surplus and often genetically sick pets.”

Hargis explains that a puppy mill is a commercial breeding facility that can be licensed or unlicensed. Usually it will raise multiple breeds and puppies are sold for resale. The facilities often have the minimum standards for the care of the animals. The only reason for raising these pets is profit, so they are kept in disgusting, deplorable conditions: Animals are kept in damp basements with little or no human contact, confined in small wire cages piled up to the ceiling, fed the lowest quality of food and least amount, and since cleanliness is non-existent, disease runs rampant.

The unsuspecting consumer ends up purchasing an animal that will most likely have genetic defects from the ongoing inbreeding at the mills and usually contracts a disease and/or already has an illness. Pets bought in stores continue to pour into veterinary hospitals, either ill or dying from their irresponsible upbringing.

“The animals used for breeding have no socialization or veterinary care and are used until they can no longer be bred, and then they are killed,” Hargis says.

Most of the animals from mills are shipped to a puppy/kitten broker, and if they survive the trip, they are then housed with the broker. Some brokers work from their homes, so it’s buyer beware.

“Ask if you can see the sire and dam�if you can’t see them live, you are most likely dealing with a pet broker,” Hargis explains. “A broker has a ‘B’ license issued by the USDA. With that they can also be breeders, but it allows them to purchase animals and sell them for resale in pet stores as well.”

And the concept is not just restricted to dogs; cats and kittens are also involved, as well as many birds and small animals. “If you go to a pet store and see a kitten for sale, more than likely they were purchased from a ‘B’ dealer who either bred them himself or purchased them from another breeder,” adds Hargis.

So how can one avoid buying a puppy or kitten that came from a mill? First and foremost, never purchase an animal from a pet store, commercial breeder or via the Internet (breeders selling on the Net is the newest way that they dupe the public into purchasing their dogs). The shelters are absolutely filled with any kind of animal you’d want, from kittens and puppies to older pets. Purebreds are dying in shelters daily due to the lack of a home. Breed rescues are also easily reached via email and from shelter referrals.

“Each time a puppy or kitten is purchased from a pet store, the parents’ suffering goes on in order to produce more litters to be sold, while another shelter animal dies,” Hargis pleads. “Please, for the sake of animal welfare, don’t go into a pet store or purchase a pet over the Internet.”

Puppy Mill Awareness Day is holding its first-annual Dog Walk/Protest in Lancaster on June 5, beginning at Intercourse County Park in Intercourse, Pa. Registration forms are available online at [url=http://www.awarenessday.org]http://www.awarenessday.org[/url]

“We hope to bring awareness about the plight of the breeding stock, which are locked away in the Amish barns that no one can see,” Hargis states. “These dogs live and die in cages smaller than most people’s recycling bin. They are kept on wire and bred each time they come into season.... Even though our message is very serious, we invite the public to come out and have a day of fun with their dogs.”

The group’s key event�Awareness Day, co-sponsored by Adopt a Pet of Freehold, N.J. and California-based Last Chance for Animals�will be held on Sept. 17, again in Intercourse County Park. But if you can’t make it to Pennsylvania for Awareness Day, the group urges you to hold your own event. All they ask is that you run it on either Sept. 17 or 18, and that you use Puppy Mill Awareness Day in the name of the event, and of course, help teach the public that it should be adopting instead of supporting the puppy mill industry.

“Once you have scheduled your event, please contact us and we will list you on the website,” Hargis explains. “When the press releases are sent out you will be included as an official site of Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Additionally, if you have a Petfinder website, we will notify Petfinder of your event and they will send out a press release to your local papers.”

The group is also holding a pet toy drive at the June 5 Protest/Dog Walk. “The mill dogs have never had a toy and, unless they are rescued, will never have one,” Hargis says. “We feel that a toy drive for the mill dogs might make the public think about the plight of these dogs.... Perhaps the general public will take just a second to question, ‘Where would a mill dog keep his favorite toy?’”

Contact: Carol Araneo-Mayer, Kathy Hargis and Walter Hargis at or [url=http://www.awarenessday.org]http://www.awarenessday.org[/url]


Posted by rosevine69 on 05/23 at 06:16 AM in Pet People

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