Irresponsible breeders count on uneducated consumers to sell sick puppies to. The puppy and kitten mill industry is big business with their own powerful lobbyists who prowl the halls of Congress to make sure nothing changes. We can’t look to politicians to solve the problem of puppy mills. This is problem that will be solved by educating potential pet owners about the dangers of buying from unscrupulous breeders and why it’s important to research breeders before you buy a pet. The healthy looking animals in pet stores or from an online breeder are more likely to develop health issues as they grow or already be sick when you buy them.
When Sue Cohen and her husband decided to get their first dog, she did what so many other people do and answered an ad in her local newspaper. The breeder of Golden Retriever pups turned out to be a suspected puppy bill owner. A puppy may look healthy when you buy him/her, but most puppy mill dogs will develop health issues early in life that are life threatening.
Boomer was born on 8/6/1998 and Sue began training him to run agility in 1999, even though she has dealt with her own disability and chronic pain caused by genetic degenerative disc disease she’s had since her early twenties. As an RN who spent 10 years working in an ICU, she understands the importance of keeping the immune system as healthy as possible to give a dog or person the best chance of beating the odds if health problems do develop.
Boomer developed skin problems at seven months of age and developed autoimmune thyroiditis before he was a year old and was put on a thyroid replacement medication, Soloxine. Sue explained changes she made to help combat Boomer’s health issues. “Boomer was started on a feeding plan using raw foods. He got minimal vaccinations, drank spring water, and I stopped using pesticides around the house. He received physical and mental exercises. Despite all efforts to keep a healthy immune system, Boomer was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a malignant tumor of blood vessel cells that is associated with serious internal bleeding and rapid internal spread, at the age of seven.”
After Boomer was diagnosed with cancer, the vet gave him just three months to live without chemotherapy, and six months with it. Sue opted for chemotherapy after Boomer underwent surgery to remove the tumor. He was also put on other cancer medications that had serious side effects. He had two more surgeries when the hemangiosarcoma returned. Each one took it’s toll and another round of chemotherapy did nothing to stop the growth of the cancer. It had become drug resistant. “The tumor cut off urine flow through the urethra and we had to massage Boomer’s bladder to express urine. The tumor may have bled because his blood count dropped to a dangerously low range. He required blood transfusions and his heart stopped during the transfusion, but started again on its on.”
Boomer lived an amazing 17 months before the disease finally ended his life on November 6, 2007. He had to endure countless tests to monitor his cancer and he lived the last year of his life on cancer medication that had serious side effects. Throughout his illness, Sue allowed him to do what he loved to do and simply be a dog. She continued taking him for hikes and showing him in agility. “When we received his diagnosis, some friends and vets considered Boomer already dead. I learned to not blindly accept what any health care person might tell you, but to seek out information on your own to help you better care for your pet and understand what’s going on.”
Sue has a dog named Zip who is an accomplished agility dog. She was injured when a hit and run driver ran over her, leaving her back legs paralyzed. Zip continues to run agility in her wheelchair and has inspired thousands of people who have seen her fun. I asked Sue what she’s learned from Boomer and Zip.
“To live my life through a dog’s eyes. To be an advocate for all animals. To be an advocate and guardian for my dogs. Boomer taught me how to work with a companion dog by showing him what to do as opposed to correcting him from what he did wrong. He taught me how to tap into the intelligence of a dog. Every dog I will encounter will benefit from the lessons Boomer taught me. Boomer taught me how to die with dignity. Zip has taught me how to live life to the fullest despite a disability. She has given me, and others, motivation to always do your best despite the odds being against you. And she taught me to play…play with abandonment.”
Responsible breeders selectively breed their healthiest dogs for the healthiest puppies possible. They follow breed standards for characteristics and temperament of the particular breed they raise. Legitimate breeders are more concerned with who is purchasing their dogs than they are with the amount of money a buyer is willing to spend. They expect you to ask questions and will patiently answer all of them. A breeder who cares will ask you a number of questions, as well. They want to make sure you and the pup are a good fit and if for some reason you want to return your puppy, the responsible breeder will take the pup back.
Puppy mill operators and irresponsible breeders are not transparent and are only interested in the purchase; nothing else. They prefer to meet you in a parking lot or at some other location other than their “kennel.” That’s one reason why they like to sell through pet stores or online. If you don’t see the deplorable and filthy conditions their dogs live in, you will be none the wiser and they can get away with selling you an unhealthy pup. They have no return policy. How do you stop irresponsible breeders? Stop buying puppies and kittens from pet stores and online. Research breeders before you buy. Shut off the money flow and you can shut down puppy mills.
Legal Animal Cruelty: Puppy Mill Lobbyists and Animal Rights Groups
Legal Animal Cruelty: Animal Welfare Act of 1966
Born in a Puppy Mill-Tony’s Story