Wednesday, February 4, 2009
We lost another foster dog this week. Max had only been with AARF for less than 24 hours, but his loss was just as painful for his foster mom Amy. Max was a 5 year old pug who came to us when his owner could no longer care for him. He was neutered last Tuesday, and seemed to have a hard time coming out of his surgery. By Wednesday morning, he was at the emergency vet, and had gone into heart failure.
My first reaction (and many of you reading this might immediately think the same thing) was that something had happened during his surgery, or he had a reaction to the anesthesia. But, a post-mortem exam revealed that Max had advanced heart disease, and probably only had a few months to live. So, in a way, the surgery did hasten his passing, but it was inevitable, just like Joe's. I am so grateful that Max got to spend his last day in a loving home with a foster mom who showed him so much tenderness and compassion.
But, I am also very, very mad. Max's heart problem was almost positively a genetic defect, one that is passed from generation to generation. And Max was a pure pug. So, there is some pug breeder out there who is breeding a line of dogs with a congenital heart defect that causes premature heart disease and death. And I am confident that this breeder is not disclosing this information to the people who are buying his or her dogs.
I understand the practice of ethical breeders who really care about the dog standards and traits. These breeders are few and rarely need to advertise in the back of the newspaper. Any good, ethical breeder will tell you that you don't make money from breeding; in fact, you usually lose money, because you care so much about the health of the puppies and the parents. And good breeders will screen potential homes as strictly as AARF does, and will always take back a dog that doesn't work out in the new home.
Then, there are the other kinds of breeder, one of which is probably the kind that Max likely came from. First, are the "backyard breeders" who have a big pen in the back yard, and expect their dogs to pump out 2-3 litters per year. They'll sell their dogs to anyone that shows up with cash. They don't care about the breed standard, the health of the dogs, or the welfare of the puppies once they leave the property. They rely on the public's desire for designer dogs as accessories, and they don't care about the people or the puppies involved. If the new puppy doesn't work out, good luck to the new family. The backyard breeder won't help.
The second is the puppy mill breeder. You've seen the news stories about the large puppy mill busts, with hundreds of dogs crammed into tiny cages in big warehouses. Many of the female dogs in these mills are nothing more than breed sows, giving birth as often as physically possible, never touching the grass or breathing fresh air. If they are so lucky to ever get a chance to leave the puppy mill, they still have a long road to a good life, often facing chronic health issues and delayed or non-existent socialization. These puppy mills provide dogs to the fancy pet stores, such as Petland. The puppies may look healthy in the stores, but chances are, they aren't. And the misery experienced by the parents of the puppy can't be justified.
So, please, before you decide that the adoption process is too hard or too personal and decide to just buy a puppy from the flea market or a back yard, remember Max. And before you stop in at Petland or another pet store to get that shiny new purebred puppy instead of that rescued mixed-breed puppy, remember Max.
Max died because an unethical breeder relied on the public's desire for a purebred designer dog. Please help us stop unethical breeding, so no other dog has to go through what Max did.
Here are ways to get involved in the fight against puppy mills and unethical breeding:
1.) Visit the HSUS Stop Puppy Mills website and get involved.
2.) Turn in back yard breeders to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. All breeders are required to have a license.
3.) Encourage the AJC to stop allowing pets for sale unless the seller provides proof of a pet dealer license.
4.) Adopt, don't buy, and encourage your friends to do the same. We can help you find any breed, any age, any size you want. Visit Petfinder and Atlanta Pets to look for a pet.