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When Dog Breeding Goes Bad

April 7, 2011 24 comments

Two things happened yesterday that left me sad and wondering the following… Why do breeders breed dogs that have known personality issues or temperament defects? And, why do they sell their offspring to people knowing that these defects could be passed on to their puppies?

The first thing that happened was a meeting with a friend at our local dog park.

It is an absolutely heartbreaking story.

While Daisy, Jasper and I were out on our walk yesterday, we ran into a friend and her dog. We often see them in the mornings, and since our dogs get along so well with each other, we often walk together. Her dog is a white Golden Retriever puppy (some breeders call them English or Creme colored retrievers) and her name is Sally (name changed).

Sally is 11 months old and she is funny and goofy (as puppies often are) and she loves to play. Her mother is a lovely woman. I have always enjoyed walking with her and sharing our stories and love of dogs. But yesterday when we ran into her and Sally, she was crying. My heart sank. I don’t know how I knew what was coming, but I did , and I started to cry too.

You see a couple of months prior, Sally’s mom had confided in me that she had become a little frightened of Sally after she had attacked her when she tried to retrieve a bone from her. The aggression that Sally had shown had left her frightened and unsure, and this was not the first time it had happened. I admit that I was concerned. It is not normal for a dog as young as Sally to be showing the type of aggression her mother described at such a young age, but I had hoped it was simply a case of resource guarding. I recommended she call a trainer friend of mine to see if she could help.

After speaking with her, my trainer friend recommend that Sally’s mom set up an appointment with a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota. Sally’s mom made the appointment as soon as she could get in – in late March.

Meeting with a veterinary animal behaviorist is not cheap nor is it just a simple appointment. It requires a lot of work up front. Owners must complete a large amount of paperwork identifying the concerning behavior(s) and describing in detail the incidents or behaviors they have witnessed in their pet. Usually, the whole family attends the appointment, including the other family pets. This was the case with my friend. She attended the appointment with her two small children and their other family dog. It was a four-hour appointment.

Sally’s mom expected to receive advice on how to work with Sally, a behavioral action plan of sorts, but instead what she received was something she had not expected – advice that Sally should be euthanized. Shocked? She was too. It’s not something veterinary animal behaviorists recommend very often, but in Sally’s case there were two of things that deeply concerned them: 1) Sally showing such serious aggression at such a young age (she was only 11 months old), and 2) that Sally’s aggression was unpredictable (it didn’t always have a known trigger) and could occur at any time with no precursors to indicate it was coming (I am sure that having two small children in the home also played a role).

The animal behaviorist explained to Sally’s mom that her aggression was not the result of something she and her husband had done or not done. In fact, both had been good pet parents. The diagnosis was that Sally’s aggression was genetic in origin and not something that could be addressed via behavior modification. In essence, she was dangerous and could, and likely would, hurt someone seriously at some time in the future. It was devastating news.

It was made even more devastating when the breeder refused to take Sally back and then blamed Sally’s mom and dad for her aggression (and this was after she spoke with the animal behaviorist herself!). Despite trying to find someone or some place that would take Sally, there just were no other options available. So, yesterday was Sally’s last visit to the dog park. It broke my heart to see her having such a good time knowing all along that it would be her last. I cannot imagine how awful it must have been for her mom and the rest of her family to say goodbye to her. She was way too young. She was just a puppy.

The second incident actually happened to a friend of mine. She works at an animal care facility that cares for people’s dogs while they are away. I happened to speak with her yesterday, just after she had returned from Urgent Care, where she had received several stitches for a dog bite that had occurred while she was working. I won’t go into the specific details of how it happened, but I will say that the dog bit her hard enough to cause blood to start gushing out of her hand. The kicker is that she learned that the dog who had bitten her had bitten a family member in the past AND that he also came from a lineage where the father and grandfather had been known to have issues with aggression as well. Geez! Seriously?

I cannot say for certain that the first breeder knew there was an issue with her dogs. Maybe Sally was an aberration. A one in a million. All I know is that her family is devastated. They are left to grieve for a puppy they had fallen in love with and adored.

In the other situation, the breeder clearly knew there was an issue. She told the owner for God’s sake! Why the owner chose to buy a dog with a history like that I cannot even venture to guess, but my friend is left to suffer through the pain, discomfort and the limited use of her hand, all because a breeder chose to breed dogs known to have temperament/aggression issues.

I admit that the breeding industry is completely foreign to me. I have never chosen my dogs based on a particular breed, but rather on their temperament and demeanor. To me, temperament matters so much more than looks. If a dog looks good but is flawed beyond belief, what is the point? If a dog looks good, but has aggression issues, what is the benefit?

So I ask you… Why do breeders breed dogs that have known personality issues or temperament defects? And, why do they sell their offspring to people knowing that these defects could be passed on to their puppies?

I’d like to know what you think.

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HSUS’ 101 Worst Puppy Mills – The Minnesotans who made the list

May 29, 2014 10 comments

IMG_8857The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released it’s annual 101 Worst Puppy Mills list. Once again, it contains puppy mills from several familiar states, like Missouri.

It’s sad that even though Missouri passed a puppy mill bill four years ago, they remain one of the top states for bad breeders (22 of the top 100 are from Missouri this year).

Over the past few years, the Missouri puppy mill bill has been weakened by local by politicians, individuals who caved under the pressure of big Ag and the puppy millers themselves. The truth is one cannot be assured that passing a puppy mill bill will lead to an end of puppy mills or to animal cruelty in puppy mills. The battle may be won once a puppy bill passes, but the war goes on. There will always be those who prefer to take dollars from deep pockets than to do the right thing, and those deep pockets have no interest in keeping laws pertaining to puppy mills in place. They will do what they must to get rid of the bill or make it weaker so it is no longer effective. We must stay ever-vigilant if we want to see puppy mills go away.

Most of those who made the list were cited for extremely bad care and treatment of animals. According to HSUS, some of these citations included:

  • A breeder in Missouri who admitted to leaving a gravely injured and nearly unresponsive Pomeranian named “Woofie” lingering for three days without taking him to a vet (Johanna Steele);
  • Four breeders who listed gunshot as a method of euthanasia on their official veterinary plans (Barker in AR; Mamma’s Minis in CO; Tietz and Williams in NE);
  • A breeder in Illinois who had five beagles euthanized rather than providing them with warmer shelter as directed by his inspector (Melton Christiansen);
  • A breeder in Missouri who was found with a dead, four-week-old shih tzu puppy frozen solid in the outdoor portion of an enclosure when overnight temperatures had recently been as low as -9 degrees (Johnny Dake);
  • Breeders who left their dogs exposed to heat indexes as high as 109 degrees or bitter cold temperatures as low as one degree Fahrenheit (Hines in SD; Pesek in NE);
  • USDA inspectors photographed a Yorkie with an eye disorder at a facility owned by Andy Troyer in Fredericksburg, Ohio, in 2011 after the operator repeatedly failed to get adequate treatment for the dog. Additional problems were found at the same facility in 2014. /USDA 2011.
  • A breeder in Missouri who admitted to slaughtering downed cattle (cows unable to walk and who could be ill) from a local slaughterhouse in order to feed the raw meat to her dogs; rotting meat infested with maggots was found in her kennels (Barbara Neubert); and
  • A breeder in Nebraska (listed in our appendix because she was in last year’s Horrible Hundred report), who was found with no fewer than 54 dogs in need of veterinary care during a single USDA inspection (Linda Hager).

Yes. Lovely people aren’t they? I can’t imagine how one becomes okay with treating an animal this way, but I suspect your soul has to die off a bit first.

There were five Minnesotans that made the HSUS list this year. One of them is from Pine River, but strangely enough, it is not he one who ran the place Maggie came from (that one was run by Deborah Rowell). It makes me wonder – just how many puppy mills are in business in Pine River?

Here are the five Minnesota puppy mills that made the list:

  • Gloria Brouwer, Jasper, MN – Three dogs died after not being treated properly. Brouwer received an official
    warning from the USDA in February 2013 for failing to get proper care for three dogs who were observed to be sluggish with poor appetites in July 2011. A USDA Director of Investigative and Enforcement Services noted that Brouwer took the dogs inside when they seemed ill and attempted to treat them herself with Baytril. All three of the dogs died. The incident occurred in 2011 but the USDA did not publish its official warning until February 2013. In January 2013, the USDA cited Brouwer for several new problems, including expired veterinary drugs and unsafe housing. In February 2014, the USDA went to check on the kennel but was not given access, which is a violation. USDA #41-A-0364.
  • Paul and Sheila Haag, Valley View Kennel aka A Maze N Farmyard LLC, Eden Valley, MN – Mega mill, repeatedly cited for dogs with injuries. Although it passed one USDA inspection in 2013, Valley View Kennel was cited for violations during four previous inspections in a row, including repeat violations for lack of adequate veterinary care for issues such as limping dogs with swollen feet (common in facilities where dogs are forced to stand on wire cage floors), a dog with “a red ulcer-like mass in the eye,” unsafe and unsanitary housing, and numerous other problems. The Haags appear to have an enormous amount of dogs; in July 2013, the USDA counted more than 800 dogs and puppies on the property, indicating it may be one of the largest puppy mills in the country, and the second largest in the state next to Animal control officers found deplorable conditions at Chien d’Or Kennel in Farmington Hills, MI. The kennel has registered AKC breeding stock and sells online. In recent years, the AKC has opposed more than 100 bills designed to crack down on puppy mills. /Oakland County Animal Control, 2013. Clearwater Kennel in Cushing. The facility has not been inspected yet in 2014 (as of April 10). Concerned local advocates are calling for action via social media: facebook.com/pages/Shut-down-A-mazen- Farmyard/175238609266415. USDA #41-A-0281.
  • Sharon Lanz, Pine River, MN – Dogs in the freezing cold. In November 2013, USDA inspectors found a number of issues at Lanz’s kennel, including dogs outside in the cold without adequate protection when the temperature was only 29 degrees, expired vaccination drugs and accumulations of wastes and clutter. Records show that USDA inspectors attempted to re-inspect the kennel three times in February 2014 and made calls to the owner each time, but were not given access during any of their attempts, a repeat violation. Violations were also found in 2011 and 2012. USDA #41-A-0027.
  • Deloris and Dick Richards, Marshall, MN – Ten dogs found with injuries; dogs repeatedly exposed to freezing cold and walking in their own feces. In January 2014, USDA inspectors found three different repeat violations at the Richards’ kennel, including dogs without adequate protection from the bitter cold, safety issues and excessive feces. In August 2013, USDA inspectors found no fewer than ten dogs in need of veterinary care at the Richards’ kennel for issues such as hair loss, bleeding wounds and blackened scabs on their ears from fly bites. In addition, the Richards have been repeatedly cited by USDA inspectors for inadequate cleaning of feces in their dog runs (Jan. 2014, Dec. 2013, Aug. 2013, April 2013, and March 2011) and for dogs with inadequate protection from the weather. In December 2013, a USDA inspector noted that dogs were not properly sheltered when “the outdoor winter temperatures and wind chills are frequently falling below zero degrees,” and that some dog runs were so soiled with feces that “there were no clean areas for [the dogs] to step without coming into contact with the waste.” USDA #41-A-0016.
  • Michelle Sonnenberg, Detroit Lakes, MN – “A foul odor” and standing water was mixed with feces and maggots. USDA inspectors found multiple violations during five inspections in a row at Sonnenberg’s kennel between December 2011 and September 2013. In September 2013, inspectors noted a “foul odor” due to standing water mixed with feces and maggots, a “prevalent ammonia [urine] smell” that was “strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn,” dogs without adequate space, and sanitation problems. During the September 2013 visit, more than 430 dogs and puppies on the property. In February 2013 an inspector noted an “ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat” and other problems. In December 2011, inspectors found underweight dogs, dogs with matted fur, numerous unsafe conditions and puppies with their legs falling through wire flooring, which, as the inspector noted, “risks malnourishment” because puppies whose legs are stuck through the wire gaps may not be able to reach their mother to feed. The HSUS has received two complaints from buyers who reportedly purchased sick puppies from the facility. USDA #41-A-0021.

Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States, 101 Puppy Mills: A Sampling of Problem Puppy Mills in the United States , May 2014.

Want to stop puppy mills? Don’t buy from a pet store. People who have started following and commenting on the FB group “Shut down A maze’n Farmyard” (the 2nd mill on the MN list), have mentioned buying sick puppies from a pet store that were sourced from this place. Buying a sick dog from a pet store may be saving THAT dog, but it is sentencing the parents to a continued life of misery, pain and cruelty. Just don’t do it.

Don’t shop, adopt.

Fucking Crazy Animal People

February 7, 2016 31 comments

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingI used to pooh-pooh the people who used to claim that the animal activism aimed at eliminating puppy mills and backyard breeders was the first step on a slippery slope of animal activism that would lead to crazy people trying  to control every aspect of an animal’s care and welfare.

I say “used to” because now I’m not so sure that they were that far off from the truth. The advance of social media has created some wonderful new and inventive ways to help animals in need. More dogs are being networked and finding homes, many lost dogs are finding their way back home, but social media has also given rise to little pockets of reactionary and aggressive vigilantes who are willing to take whatever action they deem necessary to save a pet, even when that information is based on hearsay and mistaken assumptions.

When someone posted a picture of an injured dog in a private Facebook group a month ago, my first thought was to get the dog (who was hit by a car) posted on Lost Dogs MN so the owner could find him more quickly and know he as injured. Others turned to finding out where the dog was taken (a local animal hospital) so they could donate money for his care. Awesome community action right? It was, until it turned into something else. And, it happened very quickly.

Shortly after the call for help in finding the owner went out, someone posted that the vet clinic would euthanize the dog (vs. treating it) if the owner wasn’t found. (There was no evidence that this was the case, but within minutes the feed was filled with people demanding to know where the dog was and that the clinic’s number be posted so they could call and demand they care for the dog). The animal hospital was inundated with calls from people demanding they take care of the dog, and if they couldn’t, to release him into rescue. Mind you, the dog hadn’t even been in the vet clinic’s care for two hours and already all sorts of assumptions had been made about the dog’s condition, vet care (or lack thereof), and where he should go next. It was mass hysteria turned into animal activism that bordered on ridiculous. I shook my head as I watched people, effectively, lose their fucking minds. I cannot imagine what the people at the animal hospital thought.

After an hour of craziness, a rational person was able to find out that not only was the dog fine, but he had been released to an animal control center for the night. (Even then people were demanding to know if the care center would be keeping the dog under observation through the night. What if he wasn’t okay? Who would make sure he was saved?). The calls to the animal hospital ceased, but calls to the care center did not. Thankfully, the calls ended the next day when we found out that the dog had been reunited with his owner.

I’d like to say that this is the first time I have seen this type of out-of-control activism, but sadly, it is just one of many I have seen lately. Mostly it starts with a single posting seeking help for an animal, but very quickly it devolves into crazed assumptions and people wanting to take decisive action without all the facts.

I couldn’t help but shake my head when I saw this one (Rescue Groups Impersonated SPCA to Confiscate Dog: Owner) recently pass through my news feed. It left me wondering how long it would be before everyone was suspect in the eyes of the crazy and uninformed animal activist. It concerns me.

I love when people can come together to help an animal that is really in need. When the authorities are slow to act, animal activists can push them to take action sooner. They can get them to intervene before something serious happens to the pet. But, when individuals become both judge and jury in a pet-related situation, they better have more than just hearsay and speculation to fall back on. Or in the above case, more than ONE poorly taken picture taken from a bad angle.

Presenting yourself as a legal authority in order to steal someone’s dog is not only wrong, but illegal. It also makes the rest of us in animal rescue look bad. Calling a vet clinic over and over again to demand they care for a lost and injured dog (because you assumed they would not) is crazy and ridiculous.

I am all for saving animals in need. I know our country’s laws are woefully inadequate when it comes to saving injured and abused animals; they allow too many animals to suffer before they intervene, but this kind of animal activism is not helpful. It hurts the animals and it hurts those of us who are serious about helping them. It makes all of us look like crazy animal people.

I don’t want this to become the slippery slope that ends up hurting our fight to stop puppy mills, or to prosecute those charged with animal cruelty.

Stop the crazy people. Just stop. You are hurting all of us with your crazy.

Breathe. Learn the facts. Work with the authorities.

You don’t like the laws? Work to change them. Don’t break them.

Minnesota puppy mills: The fight goes on

August 11, 2015 8 comments

puppy mills 1There is one thing they don’t tell you when you get involved in animal welfare advocacy – the victories are short-lived, and perseverance is required to maintain the momentum.

The battle rarely ends with one victory. There are always those opposing forces to deal with, the ones who don’t want you to succeed: factory farms, big Ag, local communities and politicians, and the ones who may not care, the always underfunded and under-motivated government agencies charged with enforcing the change.

You can work hard to close all the loopholes and to ensure that animals are being saved, but one failure along the chain of implementation and suddenly the fight takes a few steps back, or is put right back to the beginning.

Last year, when we passed the Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder Law, most people thought we had won the fight.  I think it would be more accurate to say we won ONE victory in the war against puppy mills and animal cruelty. Remember those opposing forces? They are always there, looking for ways to slow your roll. Progress is passing a law, but making that progress “stick” takes time, diligence and lots of dedication and follow-up.

As an example, take a look at who the Minnesota Board of Animal Health gave breeder licenses to this year:

  • Debbie Rowell of Country Pride Kennels – Debbie is the Pine River facility that was raided a couple of years ago. 130 dogs were seized in July 2013, including Maggie, my foster dog, and several other Shelties so damaged they will likely be in foster care for life. A Facebook page has been set up to keep an eye on Ms Rowell’s activities. We can’t know for sure, but given her past conviction, I suspect she will be in trouble again some day soon.

  • Wanda Kretzman of Clearwater Kennel, Inc. – This kennel was one of three kennels on the Humane Society of the United State’s (HSUS) Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Wanda’s kennel has had so many violations that the USDA filed an official complaint in March 2015.  She even made the worst list for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in 2013. Her violations go as far back as 1997.  The lovely Wanda has one of the largest puppy mills in the state (with more than 1000 dogs). Needless to say, it is hard to believe she passed an inspection by the MN Board of Animal Health. How does someone with this kind of history pass an inspection by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health? My mind is filled with theories.

  • John & Lyle Renner of Renner’s Kennel – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. USDA inspectors have found numerous injured dogs in their facility, including swollen red skin, eye and dental issues, damaged paws, etc. This kennel is so bad that it has made HSUS’ list numerous times. And yet, they too got a license from the MN Board of Animal Health.

  • Michelle Sonnenberg – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Repeated health and sanitation violations litter Michelle’s dog kenneling history. Sounds like a place you want to get a puppy from doesn’t it? You have to wonder why she refused inspectors into her facility back in April of this year. Maybe she was cleaning things up in anticipation of a visit from the MN Board of Animal Health? Hmmm… maybe so. After all, she somehow was able to get a breeder license from them. Don’t you wonder how?

(Side note: Both Michelle Sonnenberg and Renner’s Kennels sell to the Hunte Corporation which is a broker for Petland stores.)

Eighty plus breeders have received licenses thus far.  They had to submit an application and go through an inspection in order to be licensed.

am3_1403_thumbYou can read what the inspector looks for when inspecting these facilities in the Commercial Dog or Cat Breeder Inspection Guidelines.

You’ve got to wonder how the 4 breeders above passed inspection for  item number 12, which states: “Exercise. All dogs and cats must be provided the opportunity for periodic exercise, either through free choice or through a forced work program, unless exercise is restricted by a licensed veterinarian. (346.39)”

How much you want to bet Wanda Kretzman didn’t pass that part of the inspection? I can’t imagine how she is exercising 1000 dogs, but hey she got a license, she must be exercising them right?

You probably can tell that I am disappointed in the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, but what I am not is surprised. Like I said, we only won the victory, not the battle.

What the opposition doesn’t understand is that time is on our side. More people are getting knowledgeable about puppy mills and how they work. Petlands, and other pets stores like them, are failing (the Petland in Shakopee closed last year and I am hoping the St Paul store isn’t far behind).

And, as more people get educated on what these places are like, they are also taking action. When people realized that Debbie Rowell was back in business, her Yelp profile and Better Business Bureau status took a hit. (If you think Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil, is an aberration, think again.) People are getting involved and when they do, they take action.

So, the fight goes on. The battle is not yet won. More work needs to be done. 

Want to help?

  • Share the information about this and other substandard kennels
  • Educate others that pet store puppies come from these kennels
  • Encourage friends to adopt
  • Contact legislators to support legislation with tougher penalties
  • Educate others about what responsible breeders do and don’t do
  • Volunteer with or donate to Animal Folks MN & share their posts
  • Volunteer with Minnesotans Exposing Petland & share their posts
  • Report substandard breeding kennels to the authorities
  • Do not shop at pet stores that sell animals of any kind
  • Support pet stores that support adoption
  • Contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health: Phone: (651) 296-2942

Are some in the pet industry running scared?

August 25, 2014 7 comments

IMG_8860It appears that some in the pet industry may be running scared. Why? Because they just hired a big gun to lead their national lobby group.

Yesterday, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), a lobby group for pet stores, puppy millers and pet product makers, announced  they had hired the former head of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Ed Sayres to lead their group.

Shocking? Yes, but maybe not as much as we would like to think. After all, Ed left the ASPCA under less than positive circumstances. He and the board were in disagreement over several things, among them Ed’s half a million dollar salary and which legislative battles to pursue. And if one close to the situation is to be believed, there was also a battle going on over focusing more on animal welfare than fundraising. I’ll let you guess where Ed fell on this disagreement.

Practicing "Watch me"

Former puppy mill breeding dog, Maggie, is learning that life outside of a cage can be good.

The decision to hire an industry insider who may have the ASPCA playbook is no accident. The puppy mill industry is running scared. They know that the tide has been turning, and not in their favor.  Cities, towns and counties are taking action where national and state legislators have failed. They are banning the sale of cats and dogs and requiring pet stores to follow the rules, move or close down. If the puppy mill industry hopes to have any chance of turning things around they have to act now. Their hope is that Ed Sayres will be their savior.

The question is… can they turn back the tide?  Can they stop social media from continuing to educate the average consumer about pet stores and puppy mills? Can they stop local grassroots organizations from working with their city, county and other local officials to stop the sale of puppy mill dogs in their towns and cities?  Can they ever encourage the average consumer to buy a puppy mill dog once they have seen what a puppy mill parent goes through? Can they get people to un-see what they have already seen or forget what they already know?

Original Daisy 2

Former puppy mill breeder dog, Daisy, now lives a life filled with love and kindness.

It will be some time before we know if Ed will be the savior PIJAC hopes he will be, but my bet is on you, the average consumers and pet lover.

You and I, we care about our pets. We care where they came from and the conditions they were raised in. We want to make a difference. We believe in fighting for those who have no voice. We also believe puppy mills need to go.  We may not win every legislative battle, but if we change people’s minds, and their spending habits, then we still win.  Ed or no Ed. 

 

Want to learn more about this story? 

The burden of euthanizing an aggressive dog

August 12, 2013 179 comments

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingYesterday I read a painfully poignant post by Phyllis DeGioia about her dog, Dodger and her decision to put him down due to his aggression (“Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice“). Her words were not only  powerful because they came from her own experience, but also because they so clearly articulated the conflicting emotions and guilt one feels when faced with euthanizing a dog due to aggression.

Societally, it is so much more acceptable to euthanize a dog for old age or illness than it is for a dog with behavioral issues.  And yet, many a pet owner has had to face making this type of decision.  I admire Phyllis for her courage in writing about her decision to euthanize Dodger.

In 2011, I wrote about a dog park friend who had to make this difficult decision after her cream-colored Golden Retriever showed serious signs of aggression at just 11 months old. After trying to resolve the issues herself, then seeking out a trainer, and finally taking Sally to a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota, she was faced with two options, constantly supervise and manage Sally around her two young children or put her to sleep. The veterinarian made it very clear that Sally’s aggression was not something that would ever get better. It was not her or her husband’s fault. There was simply something wrong with her wiring. And so, she made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. I cried with her as she walked with Sally one last time around the dog park. It was a heartbreaking a decision, but I supported her.

Sometimes something just goes wrong with a dog. He is born with genetically bad wiring or is mentally ill or has suffered so much from abuse, that euthanizing him is almost a kindness rather than a cruelty.

I feel for the pet parent who has ever had to make this type of decision. It’s never an easy one. There is so much guilt, shame and fear. Guilt because you feel like there was something more you could have done or that you somehow failed your dog. Shame that others will think you a bad pet owner. Fear at what might have happened if you hadn’t made such a difficult decision.

I used to be one of those people who thought every dog could be saved, but my experience as a shelter volunteer has taught me otherwise. Probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to recommend a dog I loved, one I had worked with for weeks, be put to sleep. His  aggression had reached such a level that even I, the one who loved him most, became afraid of him.

Phyllis’ own words from her experience with Dodger summed up exactly my last experience with him – “Being attacked by someone you love is a visceral slam to your gut. For a short while, rational thought is gone. It happens so quickly. Your body shakes, and your heart pounds as the instinctive fight-or-flight response is set off.”  My recommendation to euthanize him was not an easy one, but I don’t doubt my decision to do so. Sometimes, the most difficult decision is the right one.

Reading Phyllis’ piece made me think of one I had recently read on Patricia McConnell’s blog titled, “Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down.” Although Patricia’s post was addressing the guilt we all feel as pet owners when we have to say goodbye to beloved pets, I think these words were particularly applicable to those who must make the difficult decision to put an aggressive or damaged dog down.

“It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (‘if only I had done/not done this one thing….’) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard-working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember:  Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay.” (“Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down“, by Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash)

If you have ever had to euthanize a pet for reasons other than illness or old age, I feel for you. You carry a burden that is more difficult to bear than most. It’s hard enough to euthanize a pet when they are ill and you know that you are easing their pain, but harder still to do so when it involves dog aggression or mental illness. Shame and guilt might be feelings you have, but they have no place here.

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes doing everything you can to save a dog is just not enough. You did your best.  You did not fail.

If you are facing a difficult decision about your dog, consider looking at this list of resources first. There are some great people doing great things with dogs these days. All is not lost. My thanks to SlimDoggy for putting this list together.

Puppy Mills: The Tide is Turning

July 22, 2013 21 comments

IMG_8860

In light of some recent disheartening puppy mill news…

Northern Minnesota authorities seize 131 dogs in animal-cruelty case

North Dakota owner of 170 seized dogs says he’s cooperating

Wheatland breeder petitions to regain custody of dogs seized by Cass deputies

Rescuers seize 169 dogs from alleged Missaukee County puppy mill

Seized dogs in alleged puppy mill being treated; suspect arrested

It’s encouraging to see some good news coming out of one of the states with the most puppy mills – Missouri.

In 2011, Missouri passed the  Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (CCPA), requiring puppy mill owners to provide better care, submit to veterinary inspections once a year, provide access to outdoor exercise areas for all their dogs and removal of kennels with wire flooring.

Despite legislative action to weaken the bill, which it did, and a lawsuit brought by  83 dog breeders, Missourians still managed to keep some major provisions that will now have the opportunity to impact puppy mills where it hurts – in the pocket-book. In fact, it already has begun.

  • The breeder lawsuit was withdrawn thus leaving the CCPA in a good position to move forward – My friend Sue over at Talking Dogs Blog provides some highlights from the breeder lawsuit and the testimony that likely led to it being withdrawn (you really must read it to understand how badly they underestimated their ability to sway public opinion). Mischief Monday: Missouri Puppy Mill Lawsuit Withdrawn

And in California, there’s more change. Several cities are taking the lead on banning puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores.

[San Diego] City Council votes unanimously to ban ‘puppy mill’ sales (Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales?)

[Los Angeles] Ban on sale of puppies in L.A.

[Glendale] It’s unanimous: Glendale City Council to ban pet store sales of dogs and cats

Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales? Here’s a full list of the cities choosing to ban pet sales in pet stores.

Even though Minnesota has yet to pass any bill regulating dog breeding operations (we have some of the largest puppy mills in the country), I am encouraged, because the tide is turning. It’s only a matter of time.

I support the USDA proposed change to internet puppy sales. Will you?

August 13, 2012 23 comments

Daisy – my former puppy mill breeding dog

Well, today is it. The last day to comment on the USDA’s proposed rule change to the Animal Welfare Act. I’ve already made my comment, the question is… WILL YOU?

You haven’t heard about the proposed rule change? Then let me tell you what it means in one sentence. The ability for the USDA to inspect and regulate unscrupulous breeders and puppy mills who sell puppies over the internet.

Right now, yes today, puppy mills all over this country are using the internet to sell their puppies. Why? Because when they sell their puppies over the internet they can’t be inspected by the USDA. Nada. Never. This means they can keep their dogs in any condition they want. They don’t have to give them fresh water. They don’t have to feed them on a regular basis. They can keep them in tiny wire cages for their whole life. They don’t have to exercise them. They certainly don’t have to provide them the minimum of care that puppy mills who sell to pet stores do now.

Yes, yes, yes. I know it’s a bit more complicated than that.  Isn’t everything? But at its essence this rule change is about closing a loophole. One that badly needs  closing right now. All you have to do is look at eBay Classifieds to know that puppy millers are doing quite well on the internet. (BTW eBay – nice that you took puppies and kitties off your main listings page, but hiding them from the main page doesn’t address the real issue. You’re still facilitating the sale of puppy mill puppies over the internet.) And why not? They don’t have to worry about inspections. They don’t have to worry about dealing with a middle-man anymore. They simply pose their puppies next to a pop can or place them in front of a cute background and offer to ship them to you for an exorbitant fee.

So today is the day. It’s your chance to make a difference. As the owner of a former puppy mill breeding dog, I ask you to express your support for the proposed rule change. You can do so on the USDA website directly or you can use the easy form created by the ASPCA. Still confused? Hearing conflicting information from breeders on this topic? Go to the source. The USDA clarified some of questions and issues first raised by hobby breeders about the rule change.

Side note: I expect that I will hear from a lot of responsible breeders about how completely wrong I am about the specifics of this rule change. I am sure I will hear I am wrong to support it because it will have an impact on hobby breeders all over America. Great. Have at it. But before you do, answer me one question, why should I oppose a law that may or may not hurt you when I have seen very little from you in the way of opposing puppy mills?

I don’t see responsible and hobby breeders up in arms about the AKC handing out certificates to puppy millers. I never hear about responsible breeders exposing puppy millers who keep their pets in horrific conditions (and who, by the way, also give responsible breeders a bad name). Maybe you do fight against puppy mills and I just never hear about it. But I certainly haven’t seen the AKC stop giving them legitimacy.

I have always made the distinction between responsible “good” breeders and puppy millers. I support what you do. I respect breeders who care about the well-being of their dogs. But on this we will have to agree to disagree. I am for the rule change. I support it. I recognize that a rule change won’t mean there will be more inspectors available to inspect these internet puppy mills. I recognize that this will not stop puppy mills from selling over the internet. But what I do expect is that it will put a speed bump in their path and I’m good with that.

Blog the Change – Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Calling All Dog Bloggers!

July 14, 2012 29 comments

Blog the Change

Today, July 15, 2012, bloggers and blog readers are blogging about a big event that will occur on Monday, July 23rd. The event? Bloggers Unite for Dog Rescue. We are asking all dog bloggers to participate in a special online global event designed to bring attention to dog rescues. BTC4animals.com is proud to partner with Blog Catalog, Dog Rescue Success and YOU to harness a global online community to help save the lives of dogs in need.

Every day dog bloggers bring attention to a variety of animal issues – puppy mills, dog health issues, pet safety, missing dogs, Breed Specific Legislation and pet adoption. On July 23rd, we are asking all dog bloggers to bring attention to the importance of dog rescues and dog adoption.

As consumers we make decisions that impact the lives of animals every day, but perhaps the one that has the most impact is the one we make when we first choose to get a pet. Buy or adopt? That is always the question.

Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—is put down in U.S. shelters each year. Only 20-30% of the homes in the United States have a dog that was adopted from a shelter or a rescue. (The rest are coming from someplace else – responsible breeders, backyard breeders, puppy mills, and pet stores; but the majority of them come from a family friend or neighbor who chose to breed their dog or who’s dog became pregnant when they got out of the yard.)

As dog bloggers, we can bring attention to this issue, educate people on the the importance of pet adoption and encourage them to adopt from a local rescue. There are so many wonderful rescues out there who do such good work, and most them do it with very little funds. Thankfully, many of them have a small core of dedicated volunteers who are willing to foster, train, promote, vet and care for these dogs. Without these rescues so many more dogs would die.

Let’s give these unsung heroes the recognition they deserve!  Join us on July 23rd as we Unite for Dog Rescue.

Tell others! Post this to Facebook and Twitter:

SPREAD THE WORD – BLOGGERS UNITE FOR DOG RESCUE – Promote dog adoption on July 23rd! http://bit.ly/pO7dZp #BtC4A

This is Matt – He was hours away from death when a local rescue stepped up and offered to take him in (Wags & Whiskers). Thanks to his foster mom, Anne, for offering to foster Matt and for making him feel at home. You can follow Matt on his Facebook page – Adventures of Matt.

Get involved!

  • Blog about a Dog Rescue related topic on July 23rd, 2012
  • Add one of the badges below to your blog and help spread the word
  • Interested in adopting a companion? Visit Petfinder or The Shelter Project.
  • Donate to a local dog rescue organization
  • Foster a dog
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue organization
  • Share this post across all forms of social media and encourage others to participate!
  • Post one of these badges to help promote this event. Copy and paste–help yourself!

Learn more:

Bloggers Unite for Dog Rescue

Pet Adoption Resources

Bloggers Unite for Dog Rescue

A direct link to Matt’s page – Adventures of Matt

Dog for Sale -Yes. I Walked Away

March 14, 2012 38 comments

I don’t tell this story to many people, partly because it’s not something I would share in a normal conversation, but mostly because I have such conflicting emotions about the choice I made.

It happened several years ago, shortly after my Sheltie, Alicia, had died at the ripe old age of fifteen. My family and I had been talking about getting another Sheltie for a while, when I saw an ad in the paper offering Shelties for sale. We had loved Alicia so much. She had had such a great little personality. We wanted another dog like her to fill the hole that had been left behind when she left us.

The ad provided a number and I called it. The woman said she was located in Princeton Minnesota, almost 60 miles from home, and gave me directions to her home. My sister and I agreed that we would make the trip and call my mother once we got there so she could offer some input in the decision.

Even though an hour away, we didn’t mind the drive. After all, we were going to get a new dog!

The lady had told me to go through downtown Princeton and keep going for a few miles and then look for a specific mailbox. We watched for the mailbox as soon as we left town and finally saw what we were looking for. As we turned into the dirt driveway, we noticed a ramshackle white mobile home. It was small and dirty and looked like it had not been well maintained. The yard was much the same.

Right away, we could hear lots of barking coming from inside. LOTS of barking. My heart sank a little. This did not seem like the place I had imagined. We pulled up to the house and watched as a lady came outside. hat I noticed right away was that she shut the door tightly behind her. No little Shelties came out with her. In fact, there were no other animals outside at all. Not one family pet running around to greet us. Maybe she didn’t want to create more chaos by letting her dogs out too?

Instead of leading us back to the house (where all the barking was coming from), she led us to a barn back behind the house. As we walked with her, she told us a little more about the dog we were about to see. She talked about the dog’s parents as if they were beloved family pets, but I know now that this was most likely a bunch of lies. A story she told people to make them think her dogs were coming from a loving family home (“family-raised”). The truth is, to her this was nothing more than a business transaction. She didn’t even seem all that emotionally affected by the fact that she would be losing a dog. A beloved family pet.

We walked into the barn and she led us to a stall. She waved her hand over the stall door at the little Sheltie standing inside. She was a beautiful sable Sheltie, not a puppy, but a grown dog. She looked very scared. There was also something odd about her. She was really, really quiet. She didn’t bark. She didn’t jump at the stable door trying to greet us. She didn’t even spin around in excitement in typical Sheltie manner. Instead, she just stood there. Silent. She had a look that in her eyes that I now know, having seen it in my own Daisy’s eyes, she was shut down. Not only was she not engaging with us, she wasn’t engaging with anybody, not even the woman who supposedly had cared for her in her home. Not what I would call “normal.”

We cooed over how pretty she was, but it was half-hearted on my part. I already had a sneaking suspicion that something was very wrong here. The woman told us a little about the Sheltie, but I don’t remember much about the conversation. My mind was already stewing over my suspicions and the conflict it presented.

I told the woman I needed to call my mother to get her input and approval, but my cell phone wouldn’t work. I tried it outside the barn, but no luck. I told my sister that I couldn’t seem to get a signal and then turned to the woman and told her I would need to go into town to see if I could get a signal so I could speak with my mother. Suddenly, the woman looked a little nervous. A red flag?

As we drove down the driveway, I turned to my sister and said “I think this is a puppy mill. I don’t think I can take this dog.” When she asked why, I told her that if I purchased this Sheltie I would be supporting a puppy mill. I just didn’t think I could do that. Could I?

I struggled to decide what to do as we drove back into town. What a decision. Rescue a Sheltie that was clearly in a bad situation and support a puppy mill? Or, leave the Sheltie behind and know that I had chosen not to give my money to a puppy miller? No wonder so many people choose to take the puppy. What kind of choice is that?

I wish I could say that I made the right choice that day. The truth is I don’t know if I did or not. What I do know is that I called my mother when we got back to town. That I shared my suspicions with her about the woman and the dog. I also told her I didn’t think I could buy the dog knowing I would be supporting a puppy mill. She supported my decision, knowing it was not an easy decision for me.

I didn’t drive back to the woman’s place that day, but instead drove home with a heavy heart, wondering if I made the right decision. To this day, I wonder about that little dog. What ever happened to her? Did she ever get a home? Did she die in that horrible place? Part of me wishes I knew the answers to those questions. But, maybe it is better not to know.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that I know what it’s like to walk away from a puppy in a mill. I know how hard a decision it is to leave a dog behind. Living with my decision is not easy, especially knowing I will never know what happened to that poor dog. That’s why I more motivated than most to change the laws in this state. No one should have to make that kind of decision, but more than that, no dog should have to live like this dog did.

That’s why I am asking my fellow Minnesotans to join me in asking our state legislators to change the laws. Animal welfare groups have been working for SEVEN years to change the laws in this state, to no avail, but my hope is that this year will be the year. Something needs to change and the only way that can happen is if all of us say “No more!” Will you join me?

So how can you help? Choose to do just TWO of the actions below.

1. SIGN the petition supporting dog and cat breeder regulation in Minnesota.

2. TWEET this post to your friends and family and ask them to sign the petition and contact their Minnesota state legislator.

3. SHARE this post with your friends and family on Facebook and ask them to sign the petition and contact their Minnesota state legislator.

4. ASK your veterinarian and his/her vet techs to sign the petition in support of this bill. Ask them to indicate they are a vet or vet tech in the last box on the petition. (You can also contact Cheryl@animalfolksmn.org and she will mail you the petition forms and literature on the bill.) 217 vets and vet techs have already signed the petition. Let’s double those numbers!

5. SHARE your own story about buying a cat or dog or rescuing a puppy mill dog. I welcome any and all of your stories here, whether inside Minnesota or out, but if from Minnesota please do share it on the AnimalFolksMN site. These will be used to show legislators why there is a need for a law to regulate puppy mills.

6. CONTACT your own Minnesota State Senator and Representative

To find out who represents you, go to: MN District Finder

This link is easy to use. Just type in your address and zip code. It will list who represents you based on where you live. Please contact your State legislators – your MN House Representative and your MN Senator. Click on their names and you will be linked to their phone number, email and address.

NOTE: In addition to the bills’ authors, some legislators have already expressed their support publicly by co-authoring the bills. To find out if your legislator is a co-author, go to: Authors and Co-Authors

7. CONTACT Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

The bill must first pass through legislative committees and be voted on by the full House and Senate before it reaches the Governor to be signed into law. But we need the Governor to hear your voice now. Please contact Governor Mark Dayton and ask that he support S.F. 462/H.F. 702.

Governor Mark Dayton
Phone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717
Fax: 651-797-1850
Email contact form: http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/
Governor Mark Dayton on Twitter
Governor Mark Dayton’s on Facebook.

WHAT TO WRITE:

If you call, you’ll most likely reach voicemail or speak with an aide or assistant. Just be yourself. Speak from the heart. Keep it short and respectful.

NOTE: S.F. 462 is the bill in the Senate. H.F. 702 is the bill in the House.

Example for Senator:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a constituent and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that my Senator ________________ (name) support S.F. 462, which will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. This bill is authored by Senator Barb Goodwin. Thank you.”

Example for Representative:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a constituent and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that my Representative ________________ (name) support H.F. 702, which will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. This bill is authored by Representative John Lesch. Thank you.

Example for Governor:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a Minnesota resident and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that Governor Mark Dayton support S.F. 462, authored by Senator Goodwin, and H.F. 702, authored by Representative Lesch. These bills will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. Thank you.”

For more information on this bill go to AnimalFolksMN.

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