Two weeks ago I wrote about the connection between pet stores, like Puppies of Westport, and commercial breeding facilities called puppy mills in "" Now, I hope to encourage each of you to take simple steps to help eliminate the need for puppy mills.
We can stop the suffering of dogs in puppy mills if we all work to spread the word -- it is ultimately through educating others that we will be successful. Please try to have conversations about pet stores with friends who are not already involved in pet rescue. Be passionate, but not condescending (we won't win anybody over by being mean).
I am by no means an expert on puppy mills, but I have learned a lot while researching story. I have a hard time sleeping after watching puppy mill videos online. Reading about the specific 'breeders' that are used by Puppies of Westport and throughout the state of Connecticut has made the issue very local.
Unbelievably, one of these breeders actually had 984 dogs on her property during a regular USDA inspection in April. Of the breeders that I have researched, violations range from poor veterinary care (meaning animals were found by USDA inspectors to be obviously sick and/or injured and in need of veterinary care) to the 'cleaning, sanitization, housekeeping, and pest control' issues mentioned in the previous article. I read about dogs with mouth/gum/dental problems, dogs with eye problems, and dogs so matted their fur was 'tightly adhered to the skin' including a Maltese whose 'matting on his back was one solid matt covering 75% of his back' and a Cairn Terrier who 'had clumped matted hair on her chest, back, belly, legs and had solid matted hind quarters' and dogs with hair loss and tumors.
The term 'drainage and waste disposal' came up multiple times. Dogs were found that did not have shelter from rain or sun, or who were forced to temporarily live in standing water. Ventilation appears to be a problem as a 'strong ammonia odor' is noted on some reports. And there were dogs who were transported in unsanitary conditions.
This is by no means a complete list, and only covers the few breeders I had time to research. Some breeders did not have any violations -- so that still means that these dogs spend their lives in tiny, crowded cages often standing on wire mesh. Many reports describe the dogs as living in elevated 'hutch-style' cages. Would you keep your dog in a hutch? Many breeders are now using self-feeding and watering systems, eliminating the need for any personal interaction. Even the best puppy mills are hell-holes.
But I believe the puppy store industry is not only built on cruelty, but deception as well. Customers who walk into a bright, shiny Puppy Store are greeted with a smile and led to believe that they are contributing to an ethically and humanely run industry that values pets the same way they do. I believe the store owners take advantage of every customer who thinks they are purchasing a healthy and humanely-raised pet from a great breeder. In reality, these very breeders sell their puppies to many other pet stores throughout the state, and across the country. Each store is just another drop-off point for the truck delivering them from the Midwest puppy pipeline.
If you feel you have been taken advantage of by a pet store owner in Connecticut, please let me know. You can contact a member of the Westport Coalition Against Puppy Mills at email@example.com. Please also contact us if you would like to get involved (we do more than protest).
If you purchased a sick pet from a puppy store, you may be able to recoup some of your vet bills. The Connecticut Puppy Store Lemon Law allows you to be reimbursed for certain bills up to $500. (a drop in the bucket, I know, but at least it's something) and still keep your pet. This is crucial as most people do not want to give their dog back to a puppy store. You get the money and you get to keep your pet. And, the money comes directly from the pet store you purchased your puppy from.
Also, if you see something in a pet store that doesn't look right, such as a puppy that seems sick, or a puppy that has outgrown its cage, please call the State Department of Agriculture/Animal Control at (860) 713-2506.
On a happier note, I am pleased to report that Tigger, the adorable bulldog from Long Island Bulldog Rescue who was featured in my previous story, has found a fantastic home :) If you are interested in adopting a pet, but don't know how to get started, the best resource is petfinder.com. Through it you can find great local rescues, such as PAWS which is just a short drive from Puppies of Westport. I've included a few pictures of pets who are available for adoption from PAWS.
Please help spread the word -- forward, share and start conversations about pet stores and puppy mills. Thank You!