Last week, the Fayette Humane Society removed its adoptable cats from the Washington Court House PetLand. PetLand made the decision to sell commercially bred puppies while healthy, adoptable dogs in Washington Court House and all over the country are killed because there are not enough homes for all of them.
The Washington Court House PetLand is now selling puppies from high-volume, commercial dog breeders. Some of these dogs are professed to be purebreds, some are “designer dog” mixes, like Puggles (a Pug and Beagle mix.) Most high-volume commercial dog breeders value profit above the welfare of the dogs, keeping their breeding dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, socialization, protections from the elements, sometimes even food and water.
Many live in wire cages, never touching the grass, playing, or even being groomed. Most females are bred as frequently as possible, with no time to recover between litters. Many puppies born in these terrible conditions have or will develop physical problems that cause them to be rejected by puppy brokers and pet stores. Dogs that are sick, or females that can no longer reproduce, are often abandoned, shot, or just left to die. To high-volume commercial dog breeders, dogs are purely a commodity. Their worth is based on their ability to make money for the breeder.
You may hear that these commercial dog breeders are “USDA licensed.” Unfortunately, the standards of care required by the USDA are woefully inadequate and not what most of us would consider humane. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA,) dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages only six inches longer than the dog’s body in each direction, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. It’s completely legal to house dogs in cages with wire flooring and to breed female dogs at every opportunity.
The standards of care currently required leave a lot of room for dogs to be severely mistreated. In addition, the USDA itself has found that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS,) the division of the USDA tasked with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, has frequently failed to enforce even these minimal requirements.
As a practicing veterinarian, I have seen numerous dogs and puppies from high-volume commercial breeders, often purchased from pet stores. Many are physically ill with congenital or acquired problems; many are socially and emotionally abnormal. I cannot forget a bulldog who lived in a commercial breeding facility for six years. He was unresponsive to people and could only sit with his rear legs tucked abnormally under him, as though he had never had the chance to extend his legs. As the Executive Director of the Fayette Humane Society, I have seen hundreds of unwanted puppies who need homes. Every dog purchased from a commercial breeder takes a possible home away from a homeless dog, desperately in need of a loving family.
I would ask all Fayette County residents to consider if we want to allow dogs to be sold like Twinkies or tee shirts, their lives only worth the profit they can bring to breeders, brokers and pet stores. If we do not purchase these dogs, the money will not flow back to the commercial breeders, and perhaps we can take an important step to stop the never-ending cycle of breeding and selling – where everyone wins except the dogs.
Lee Schrader, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Small Animal Internal Medicine)
Executive Director, the Fayette Humane Society