DEAR DR. FOX: I just have to say that I take offense to the way you refer to rescuers who take in puppy-mill dogs as “rescues,” in quotes, as if they are not legitimate.
I work for a 501c3 rescue that gets retired breeding dogs and puppies with defects from puppy mills. In most cases, the group has to pay a nominal fee to the puppy mill to get the dog, and then invest hundreds of dollars in medical care for each one. They need to be spayed or neutered, have shots, a microchip, and dental exams. In some cases, they need lifesaving surgeries; they recently did an open-heart surgery for one puppy. Many have untreated diseases and need lots of medical testing, not to mention medication.
These dogs come in unsocialized, never having lived in a home or been touched gently by a human ever in their lifetime. These dogs take months to rehabilitate and get healthy enough, physically and mentally, to be adopted -- almost always at a huge loss to the rescuer when you consider the money spent to get the dog well (compared with the adoption fee).
To insinuate that rescuers who do this aren’t real rescuers is demeaning and very wrong. There are many rescuers out there who have “great reputations,” but who only take in young, healthy dogs, give them minimal vet care, then adopt them out for high fees -- making HUGE profits. It is essentially dog-flipping. They adopt out in high volume, and they don’t have a decent application or contract, or do home checks. At the same time, many wonderful rescuers are getting bullied and harassed online for their practice of getting dogs from puppy mills, whether it’s from dog auctions or directly from the mill, because there are people out there who don’t consider it a true rescue.
The fact is, if all of these types of rescues could work together, they could save more dogs, and things would be much better than all the bullying and harassment that goes on now. The reputable rescuers who take in dogs from puppy mills provide full disclosure; the adopters know exactly where the dog came from. It’s not a big secret. There’s room for ALL kinds of rescues, and the bottom line should be SAVING DOGS.
If you can look at a mama dog recently pulled from a puppy mill -- filthy, covered in mats and fleas, with rotting teeth, ear infections, stomach drooping from being overbred, with splayed feet from living in a wire cage, terrified of people because no one has ever treated her well -- and think that saving that dog is not a real rescue, you are very wrong. -- M.M., Salt Lake City, Utah
DEAR M.M.: I totally agree with you. For those people looking to provide a dog with a forever home, your letter establishes guidelines to ask about the origin and history of the pup or adult dog they are considering adopting. It will be the basis of an article I must now write on this issue.
Any and all background information concerning our wonderful dog, Kota -- part Australian red heeler, whom we adopted from Minnesota’s Animal Humane Society -- was flatly denied to us. But we were able to find some information thanks to the phone number on her anti-rabies certificate. She had come from Alabama and was released to us for $400 as a “healthy dog,” only for us to spend more on testing her for heartworm and treating her for hookworm, whipworm and giardia. Parasites were present in her at the time of adoption, putting us and other dogs in our community at risk.
Your communication helps clarify a complex issue. Large commercial dog-breeding operations should be abolished, or at least fully inspected by trained veterinary humane officers. This would be preferable to inspections by departments of agriculture, equivalent to the ones done on livestock facilities and those poor captive mink, foxes and other inhabitants of wild fur-farm ranches. Factory livestock and poultry factory farms should all be closed down for humane, as well as health, reasons.
Rescuing the long-incarcerated and traumatized breeding stock and pups from puppy mills is praiseworthy, but will have to continue without end until this large-scale commercial exploitation is outlawed. All concerned should read Kim Kavin’s seminal book, “The Dog Merchants.”
I was one of the first to investigate and report on puppy mills with dog writer Herm David back in the early 1970s. Things have only become worse since then. Progress in animal protection has been limited by vested interests on many fronts where animals are regarded as mere commodities, as per my book “Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals.” America will only be great when all creatures are given equal and fair consideration.
CALIFORNIA OFFICAL WARNS PUBLIC ABOUT FLEA-TYPHUS LINK
A San Diego woman who has an indoor-outdoor cat and recalls being bitten by fleas was hospitalized for murine typhus.
“Keeping fleas off your pets and out of your homes is the best prevention for murine typhus,” said San Diego County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/1)
To repeat myself ad nauseam: Cats should be kept indoors for their own health and well-being, as well as our own. Every municipality needs to put effective public education and legislation into action to help achieve this responsible community goal. Our nearby Animal Humane Society here in Minnesota releases cats in midwinter to fend for themselves, and we have one hungry one on our property right now. Cats can transmit many diseases fatal to humans -- probably more than any average rat, mouse, bird or insect they may kill for food.
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