By Dr. Nancy Kay
March 29, 2011
In case you are unfamiliar with dog auctions, let me fill you in. Envision rooms filled floor to ceiling with crates and cages each housing dogs whose sole purpose in life is to make puppies.
Every dog in the room is identified by the number on the auction tag hanging round his or her neck. There are purebreds of multiple varieties, although some might not be recognizable as such given their lack of health care and horrifically overgrown hair coats.
And, of course, there are plenty of â€œdesigner hybrids,â€ the mutts that are purposefully planned because they are â€œall the rageâ€ and their litters will earn big bucks for some lucky puppy miller.
Some of the rooms filled with dogs are eerily quiet; these are animals with broken spirits, too scared to vocally protest and too disassociated from their miserable existences to invite attention from the humans peering into their cages.
If you happen to live near Farmerstown, I encourage you to attend. You will be surrounded by puppy millers and their ilk who have come to socialize, discuss their trade, and buy and sell â€œlivestock.” You will also find folks from breed rescue organizations hoping to place some winning bids that will alter the dismal fate of as many dogs as is affordable.
Donâ€™t take a camera with you; it will be confiscated. You see, these are rather covert affairs; journalists and photographers are not allowed. The photographic images accompanying this post were obtained undercover.
On average, 300 to 500 dogs trade hands on any given auction day. The dogs who fetch the highest prices are those with proven fertility records; bitches already pregnant are highly valued. Details about each dogâ€™s breeding behavior and previous litter sizes are provided, but information about basic temperament or breed-specific inherited diseases within the family tree is unavailable because it is deemed unimportant. After all, naive puppy buyers don’t request such information.
If you attend the auction in Farmerstown, be sure to look for Mary Oâ€™Connor-Shaver. You will find her at the peaceful protest that is a visible presence on each and every auction day. In my mind Mary is a hero, working tirelessly to convince Ohio legislators to ban dog auctions from her state. I hope you will visit her website. Mary has been a huge source of information and inspiration for me.
What can you do to help eradicate dog auctions and put an end to puppy mills? Here are some suggestions:
1.Educate your friends and family to boycott puppy mills and stores that sell puppies. Let them know that this means never ever purchasing a puppy from a pet store or from an on line source (site and sight unseen). Encourage them to visit their local shelter and contact local breed-specific rescue organizations, or to purchase a puppy from a responsible breeder.
2. If you live in a state that sanctions dog auctions (Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri), write your legislators and appeal to them to stop this madness. And if there are efforts within your state to create legislation banning dog auctions, please pitch in. This might involve organizing rallies, writing letters, and gathering signatures of support.
3. If you donâ€™t reside in a state that sanctions dog auctions, write letters to the governors and legislators of the eight states that do. Let them know you will no longer support their state in terms of travel and commerce until their dog auctions cease to exist.
4. Let your veterinarian know how you feel about dog auctions and puppy mills, and encourage him or her to take a public stance against them. Goodness knows, we see first hand the horrific health issues and accompanying heartbreak produced by puppy mills.
5. If you are a teacher, educate your students about puppy mills and dog auctions. Teach them about responsible ways to acquire a dog. I believe in my heart of hearts that educating children about these issues is the key to success.
6. Please share this post with anyone and everyone you know who loves a dog, and encourage them to take action.
My youngest child attends college in Athens, Ohio. During a recent visit we checked out Petland, the largest pet store in Athens. We found no fewer than three dozen utterly adorable purebred and designer hybrid puppies, undoubtedly puppy mill progeny.
There were plenty of customers in the store that day interacting with the pups and contemplating buying one. I chatted with the store manager about the Boxer pup on display, and asked to see the paperwork documenting if Boxer cardiomyopathy existed in the pupâ€™s lineage. Boxer cardiomyopathy is an inherited heart condition that can prematurely snuff out the life of an afflicted dog.
She responded by saying, â€œNo, we donâ€™t have that paperwork, but no problem because Petland guarantees full refunds on any dogs that develop symptoms caused by an inherited disease.â€ No problem for Petland, that is. It’s a different story for the dog, or the people who love him.
What are you willing to do to help stop this madness?
Photos taken by an undercover photographer who has asked to be unnamed to preserve his or her ability to continue to do this work. Used with permission.