Address ‘barbaric’ puppy mill industry

We have a tremendous crisis in this country that needs immediate attention.

“Lifer” is the apt term used to describe female dogs kept in puppy mills, sentenced to an existence of continual pregnancy to produce the cash crop of puppies sold in pet shops across the country.

These lifers receive little or no human interaction, compassion or companionship. They are kept in small, overcrowded cages and are often chained together with male dogs for weeks at a time to facilitate breeding.

They are forced to become pregnant and deliver litters to the exclusion of healthy, normal canine activities.

Such horrors are all typical sights and conditions documented in ongoing ASPCA investigations.

Dogs living in squalid, unsanitary circumstances receive less consideration than machines on an assembly line. One facility’s stacked cages forced puppies on the bottom row to be defecated and urinated on collectively by all the animals above them.

Lack of adequate veterinary care was illustrated when state regulators documented a rabid 4-month-old golden retriever bred at a Pennsylvania puppy mill and sold in the western part of the state. As a result, six people have received anti-rabies treatments, including a 6-year-old boy and two veterinarians.

Almost always, the only human concerns given puppy mill dogs are how many litters and how many dollars they can produce. So, it’s no surprise that conditions at puppy mills today are as miserable as ever.

But the investigations also revealed some disturbing new trends in this cruel enterprise.

An industry once centered in the Midwest and Great Plains states has now spread east to Pennsylvania and probably upstate New York. The ASPCA uncovered 70 dog breeders in one Pennsylvania county alone.

Lancaster has the largest concentration of wholesale puppy breeders in the United States.

Humane organizations and governmental agencies believed previously that the bulk breeding of puppies was considered by operators to be a secondary crop for side income.

It is now clear that the puppy mill industry is a major money maker for everyone from the operator to the pet shop owner.

According to investigations, one Pennsylvania breeder sold 1,293 puppies last year for estimated sales of $290,000.

One of the biggest problems revealed is breeders relinquishing their U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses, thus hoping to escape the regulation of federal inspectors.

Given authority under the Animal Welfare Act since the 1970s to set and enforce federal standards for sanitation, nutrition, housing and general conditions for dog wholesalers, the short-staffed corps of USDA inspectors — only 73 nationwide — has tried to regulate puppy mills. But the results have been uneven at best.

Rather than correcting such problems, some of these breeders simply give up their licenses, knowing they will no longer be scrutinized by the USDA if they do.

The conditions documented in investigations cry out for swift and decisive action. We need an end to this atrocity.

With the euthanasia rate in this country’s shelters, the killing of lovely dogs daily, there is no need for the continuation of this barbaric industry.

Carol Hartsock

Hollidaysburg

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