Tag Archive: puppy mills

Educate Children About Puppy Mills

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably are well aware of the problems with puppy mills, the irresponsible breeders who house the dogs in poor conditions and have no regard for proper breeding and veterinary practices. Many people are slowly getting the message not to buy puppies from pet stores, from over the Internet, or at so-called farm-raised breeders. But how can we get to the children, the future puppy buyers? Can we rely on their parents to teach them? We need to get in front of kids at an early age to educate them about responsible pet ownership and how to go about finding a puppy from a reputable breeder.

That’s why the Educator Edition of the documentary Uncaged: Second Chances for Puppy Mill Breeder Dogs was developed. Ann Metcalf and I co-produced this film and together, we created the Educator Edition with the intention of finding teachers to show it to their students. The Educator Edition includes a copy of the film and a workbook with lesson plans to educate and instruct students about puppy mills and how to go about finding a reputable breeder. It is recommended for students who are 11 and older. In the Educator Edition, kids will learn:

– define what a puppy mill is;
– list what dogs need to grow, be happy, and become socialized;
– describe the steps to a responsible dog adoption;
– make plans for taking care of a dog;
– identify ways to personally improve how dogs live.

Are you a teacher, know a teacher, or possibly involved with youth groups such as scouts? Any place where children can learn will benefit from this film and the exercises in the lesson plan. Please go to my web site for information on how to order it. Please, if you care about dogs, you will help to educate the future purchasers of puppies. That’s the only way that puppy mills will be eliminated.


Puppy Mills No More

UPDATE: When I originally wrote this post, the owner of We Love Pets seemed to have changed, no longer selling puppies from puppy mills. He was actively pulling needy pets from open admission shelters and promoting them in the store. But over time, we learned that he had resumed getting puppies from puppy mills. He claimed that he was “rescuing” them. The facts came out that he was again supporting puppy mills and selling them. The store has now closed. I apologize if I ever gave the impression of supporting this store while they were selling puppy mill dogs. I would never do such a thing. He fooled a lot of people and it’s good that he is out of business.

On December 31 2012, I attended and wrote a blog post on a protest held outside of the We Love Pets pet store in Media, PA. The protesters had been standing on the street outside of this store each weekend for a very long time, holding posters to passersby that this pet store sold puppies from puppy mills. Indeed they did and charged a lot of money for them. People who knew no better spent that money and bought these puppies.

But over the course of time when the protests were occurring, the owner of We Love Pets was beginning to learn the facts of the puppy mill business. The turning point was the day that a puppy died in his arms. From this incident and through the education he was receiving from one very kind and compassionate puppy mill rescuer, the owners of We Love Pets made the very brave decision to convert their store into a 501(c)3 rescue organization this year.

I took the opportunity to visit the store right before Christmas to see for myself what was now going on at We Love Pets. I am very pleased to say that they truly have made the change from selling puppy mill puppies to adopting out dogs and cats who had been in shelters, surrendered by their owners, and from hoarding situations. The pens and cages that housed the animals were remarkably clean and the pets all looked so happy and healthy. I could tell that they were getting good care.

The store was exceptionally crowded with adoptions happening regularly. While I was there, I was so impressed to hear the owners talking with a potential adopter of a German Shepherd. The potential adopter already had a shepherd but he wasn’t neutered. The owners of We Love Pets were steadfast in refusing to adopt the dog to this person unless their dog was neutered. They really understand that irresponsible breeding must be stopped by having pets spayed and neutered.

I have seen the owner of We Love Pets going into an animal shelter many times, pulling out animals of all ages and breeds. I’ve seen many Pit Bulls who had been sitting at the shelter for months with no prospects finally find a home when We Love Pets took them. I recently saw a pair of cats, one of them blind, who came from a shelter and found their forever home through We Love Pets. The list is long of animals that they have helped and I am very impressed to see this happening.

Every pet store that sells puppies from puppy mills needs to take a good, hard look at their ethics and consider following the path that We Love Pets has taken. If all or most pet stores follow suit, maybe we can have a chance at shutting down the large-scale puppy mill operations in this country.

Don’t Be Deceived

Would you know a puppy mill when you see one? Sadly, most people would not. Does that seem surprising to you? After all, we’ve all seen the photos of rows and rows of cages with scruffy-looking, sad-faced, and anxious dogs. That’s what a puppy mill looks like, right? While this may be true, puppy mill owners know that people are looking for these rows of cages. The plethora of farmers in several of the counties where I live in Pennsylvania, mostly Amish and Mennonite (but a small few are not), are clever people. They are not “simple” when it comes to fooling the public about how the dogs are bred.

This past weekend, my foster Poodles and I went to a pet festival at a local pet store and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people with their dogs. Out of curiosity, I always ask them where they got their dogs. It just amazed me how many people told me that they got their puppies at farms.

“But it wasn’t a puppy mill,” they all said. They went on to describe the nice lady who said she only breeds her dog once a year. They also said they met the puppy’s parents who were running freely on the farm. It was always the same, suspicious story.

I must have had teeth marks on my tongue from biting it so much that day. All of these puppy purchasers had been duped by very smart puppy mill operators. These breeders are fully aware of the public perception and they do a savvy job of covering up their large-scale breeding operations. They know that some people will want to see the puppy’s parents; they know that some people will be looking for the rows and rows of cages or rabbit hutches that house the breeding dogs; and they know that the bucolic image of a farm-raised puppy appeals to the uninformed puppy purchaser. They also know that many people are so intent on getting a certain breed of dog and will overlook the possibility that it’s a puppy mill.

The farmers/puppy mill owners have a network of friends and relatives who are in the business together. The breeding dogs are definitely in rows and rows of cages on someone’s property but maybe not where the puppies are being sold. Someone else is doing the front-end selling, the farm of a relative or friend where the breeding dogs cannot be seen or heard. When the puppies are ready to be sold, they go to the bucolic farm setting. And the so-called puppies “parents” more than likely are not the real parents. As I described in my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, a set of socialized, attractive parents are trotted out to wow the buyers. In reality, the pup’s real parents are stuck in a cage on another farm.

The duping of puppy buyers goes beyond the farm – to the Internet. There are many web sites selling Lancaster County-bred puppies, any breed or mix that you can imagine. Don’t be fooled that these breeders are not Amish, thinking that the Amish do not use technology. Wrong! The Amish do not use technology in their homes, however, they do have electricity, cell phones, laptops and Internet connections. Yes, indeed. As long as it is not in the house, they are allowed to have them.

Do you really, really want to help the dogs and stop puppy mills? Then please spread this information around.

A LIfe Cut Too Short

I never met him but his story is all too familiar to me. Ralphie, a sweet Basset Hound, was rescued from years in a cage as a breeding stud in a puppy mill. He finally found his freedom and was adopted by Dana Mania, a dedicated volunteer with Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue. After living with and being loved by Dana, her husband and many other canine friends for just two short years, Ralphie passed away last week. It isn’t fair, to suffer for so many years then to finally find freedom and love, only to die once he knew what it was to be loved. It’s a bitter pill for Dana to swallow and so difficult to accept. Our hearts go out to her, for all she did for Ralphie to help him to adjust and for loving him despite his typical puppy mill dog quirks. 

She’s not the alone. Steve Jackson and his wife adopted Camille from Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in 2007 and renamed her Callie. Callie had been a very psychologically damaged dog from her years of captivity in what must have been the worst of the worst puppy mill. But through the love and patience of first her foster mom, Dawn, then finding her forever home with the Jacksons, Callie flourished and was enjoying her freedom. Cancer struck and she was gone only a year after being adopted. Like Ralphie, Callie only knew freedom and love for a very short time. 

Callie Jackson

I could give many more heartbreakingly similar examples like Ralphie and Callie. Why do these dogs so often die soon after being released from their lives as prisoners in puppy mills when they now have so much to live for?  It’s likely due to several factors:

–          Stress

–          Poor genetics (It’s a known fact that puppy mill operators don’t care about the health history of their breeding stock)

–          Inadequate nutrition

–          Lack of veterinary care (poor dental hygiene may lead to many health problems)

–          No exercise

All of these issues are bound to take a toll on the dogs’ bodies. Additionally, the adjustment to living in a brand new world – a house with people, strange noises, etc. – is also stressful like a prisoner trying to adjust to life on the outside after living in a small world for so long. Change, even if we perceive it as better, can still cause stress. 

Stories like these renew my anger at the fact that puppy mills are still so prevalent, and that so many people remain unaware of where their puppies are coming from. I met a man the other day who proudly told me that his daughter bought a rare breed of dog, a Husky mixed with a Chihuahua (?!??!) and she paid $1500 for this “special breed”.  Without hesitation, I shook my head and told him that it was a shame that she spent that kind of money for a mutt that she could have found in a shelter for $100 adoption fee. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, people do more research on what kind of TV to buy than the dog who will be sharing their lives. It’s time to educate people – in honor of the Ralphies and Callies and other dogs who are locked in cages making puppies for people who don’t know where they come from.

Oh The Irony!

I’m a longtime reader of literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog.  She gives amazing advice to writers.  Today, she announced that she is accepting queries, after having been closed to them for quite a while. My heart leapt!  Maybe she’ll be the one to represent me!

I read further down her post to the list of genres she is looking for. Fiction – great! Memoir – cool!  I’m very hopeful!  Ooops, Bonnet fiction. Uh-uh.  Is everyone familiar with this newly popular genre of fiction? If not, it’s Amish romance. Hmm, I’m guessing that if Rachelle is representing Amish romance, she may not be too thrilled about my mystery novel involving intrique and deception at — an Amish puppy mill!  I guess it can’t hurt to query her and maybe she’ll see the irony but maybe I shouldn’t waste my time.  Onward!  Next agent??

Happy April, happy weekend everyone!

Too Many Ideas!

I need your help.  Now that my first book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, has been published and is doing well, I’ve started another book. And another. And another.  Yes, I guess you could say that I have A. D. D. with three books in the works!  But I’m jazzed about all of them yet I know I need to focus my attention on only one.  Can you help me by giving me some input?

I’ve written about eight chapters of a mystery novel set in a locale where there are a lot of puppy mills. Intrigue involving breeders, shelter workers and law enforcement. Friends tell me that this book could be even more effective in teaching people about puppy mills than my other book.  I like that idea. My writers group has read it and said it was good. But writing a novel is a whole new genre for me and I’m finding it quite challenging.

I’ve also been working on a book to sell as a companion to my first DVD, Successful Dog Makeovers, which gives advice on typical problem behaviors of rescued dogs such as attention seeking, barking, leash pulling, counter-surfing, etc.  There are a few things in the DVD that I wish I had done differently and the book would give me the opportunity to clarify and do it better. I know that there are a lot of good dog training books on the market but mine targets shelters and rescues.  Do you think it would sell? After my experiences with trying to market Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! to various rescue groups, I found that some thought that they already knew all about how to rehabilitate mill dogs and didn’t need the information. Is that the prevailing attitude about all dog behavior?

And finally, I feel I’m being guided to write about the path that I’ve taken to help the animals. For those of you who know about how I came to work with the animals, they have been amazing teachers to me and I’d love to share this spiritual journey that I’m sure others who work with animals can relate to. This topic was the reason I started this blog in the first place. Although I’ve been posting a lot about dog behavior recently, I feel I need to be true to my original goal and share these insights.

The dilemma of being a writer is balancing staying true to what’s in your heart versus thinking about what will sell the best. I’m trying to go with my heart but it’s tough when your says “write all three!”

Will you be so kind to give me your feedback on what you would want to read?  I will write all three but hopefully one at a time! Thank you for your honest feedback.

Dog Training Tip of the Week – Begging

Quite possibly one of the most irritating of bad behaviors is a begging dog. It is engendered by a spectrum of possible actions from the ignorable silent stare (which my dog favors!), all the way to barking, pawing, whining, and nudging that cannot be overlooked. Sorry to tell you, folks, most dogs are taught to beg by us, their loving people!

It’s so tempting to sneak your dog a tasty morsel while you’re watching TV and snacking on popcorn, chips and pretzels. You may even laugh as you teach your dog to  catch it. Dogs are fast learners. They see the “picture” of you sitting in the spot where you fed them and they think that they know what’s coming next. The first time that your dog signals to you (a stare, a whine, a bark, a nudge, a paw) and you give the dog what he wants, you have taught him to beg. He gets what he wants by staring, whining, barking, etc. My dog knows the sound of the spoon scraping the last drops of ice cream from the bowl. He knows that he gets to lick the bowl when I’m finished. When he still had his hearing, he would come running from another room when he heard that sound!

Our human brains think that by giving the dog what he wants when he begs, it will satisfy the dog and the behavior will stop: “I’ll just give Rover a piece of my steak to quiet him.” Wrong! You’ve just reinforced the behavior and taught the dog that he gets what he wants when he barks, stares, whines, etc. Most begging behavior will escalate to downright obnoxiousness if you continue to indulge the dog.

How do you stop begging behavior? It’s not easy and will require diligence, patience and consistency from everyone. When the dog begs, you must ignore him completely. Yes, I know it will be stressful to listen to your dog barking at you during dinner or while you’re trying to watch the game. But it’s vital to show your dog that he gets nothing by being pushy. And everyone who interacts with your dog must adhere to this policy.  Eventually, your dog will get the message that nothing is coming his way.

In addition to ignoring the begging, teach your dog an alternative behavior. Have your dog practice an extended down-stay when you’re eating dinner. This will take practice but as we know, anything that pays off requires some work.  And if you really, really want to share your food with your dog, place it in his bowl. Have him sit and wait, then give it to him.  As for my dog and ice cream, he must lie down quietly or else he gets nothing. When the bowl is ready for him to lick, I ask for a paw and a kiss.

A well-mannered dog is such a pleasure to be around!

Goodbye for Now, Mr.Vick

Sorry Philadelphians, I’m not an Eagles fan. I couldn’t wait for them to be eliminated and I cheered last night when I heard they lost to the Packers. And it was for one reason alone – Michael Vick. Since September I have had to endure the endless pictures of his face or seeing him interviewed on the news day-after-day. Blogs and articles were written with opinions on why we should forgive him for his beyond-heinous treatment of the dogs at his Bad Newz Kennels.  The most self-righteous among us preached that Vick deserved a second chance like anyone else. Even President Obama called the Eagles’ owner to congratulate him on giving Vick the opportunity to redeem himself. I could not get away from the media coverage of this man.

Okay, everyone deserves forgiveness and a second chance. But my reason for being glad that the season is simple: I can’t stand to see Vick’s face. The sight of him makes me physically ill because I can’t forget the faces of the dogs he tortured. I see Vick’s face and I get flashes of bloody dogs with parts of their faces ripped off. I can’t help it. In my profession, on a weekly basis I see animals coming into shelters who have suffered abuses caused by dog fighting, intentional burns and other signs of intentional trauma. We look upon the people who did these things to the animals as morally corrupt individuals.  And they are.  But 99.99999% of them do not have multi-million dollar careers and will not be made into media heroes. Thank goodness. 

Let’s imagine that a star football player abuses a child, serves his time and wants to return to the NFL. Would he be welcomed back and even voted as MVP? Could parents stand to look at HIM?  Highly unlikely.  Why does it have to be different for someone who tortured and killed dogs?  The way someone treats an animal is a direct reflection of their character. My love for animals is as deep as a parent’s love for their child. You can argue forever that an animal is not a child – but no amount of persuasion will change what’s in my heart.  I was born with a passion to help animals.

Let’s face it; money and prestige are more important in our society than moral character. When will we learn to start making stars out of people who achieve greatness for their compassion and lives of good works?

A Pet for Christmas?

An animal activist sent out an email last week saying that it was wrong to get a pet during the holidays, and that rescues and shelters should not be adopting during this time. She claims that people are too busy to properly care for the new pet, and that after the holidays the pet will be ignored and dumped at a shelter.  I do not wholly agree with her. While it may be a true that some people will buy a puppy for the kids for Christmas, then later not have time for it. But is that a reason to call for the suspension of all adoptions?

I think that she was taking the credo of “no pets as gifts” to the extreme. Of course, I could not agree more that a pet should never be given as a gift – all year ’round. And I don’t need to remind all of you that puppies are never to be purchased at pet stores, on the Internet, or from unreliable breeders. (Actually, I’ve heard that the best breeders never schedule a litter to be ready during the holidays.)

But what’s this about no adoptions at holiday times? Come on! Not everyone is crazy-busy at this time of year. For many people, the holidays are a chance to enjoy quiet time at home and with family. Twenty-two years ago, I adopted a dog on December 21 and I had a blissful twelve days off of work to get her settled into her new home. It was a special memory that I will take to the grave.

With so much overcrowding in shelters and rescues, plus with donations lacking this year, it would be foolhardy to stop adoptions now. Wouldn’t we all love to see every pet find a home in time for the holidays?  Yesterday, I volunteered at Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue’s monthly Meet and Greet where people can visit with the adoptable dogs. Happily, there was a nice crowd of people attending and not out Christmas shopping. To tell these potential adopters that they have to wait until January to have a dog would be a crime – for the people and for the dogs. Plus, add in the expenses of sheltering the dogs for a few more weeks.

As you know, I’m all for protecting the animals but there comes a time when we need to be reasonable. Yes, we want every pet to go to the best home under the finest circumstances. All we can do is trust that holiday-time adopters have the best intentions to give a homeless animal a loving home.

Training Dogs Using Hand Signals

In my obedience classes, I’ve always taught the accompanying hand signals for all commands. Some dog trainers wait until advanced classes to include this lesson but I believe it’s important even for beginners and puppies.  Dogs respond reliably and often quicker to hand gestures versus voice commands. 

Because of variations in our speech, it seems that dogs prefer the consistency of gestures. So many of us talk to our dogs in sing-song voices, often asking or pleading instead of telling.  I hear, “Can you si-it?” instead of “Sit.” No wonder the dogs blow us off!  Hand signals are clear and lack the intonation and emotion our voices may convey.

Why else are hand signals important? Many dogs go deaf as they age.  My dog has lost most of his hearing and the only way to communicate with him is through hand gestures. In addition to the signals for the basic commands of sit, down, stay and come, he has become adept at knowing where I’m pointing.  My one index finger can mean so many things to him.  And a “thumbs up” has become recognized as “good boy!”

I just met a dog who was rescued from a shelter and his foster mom quickly realized that he is deaf. In just one day, she taught him “thumbs up” and he is well on his way to learning more signals.  Dogs are amazing at watching our visual cues and I’m confident that she will be communicating effectively with him before long. 

If you have read my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, you’ll remember that Molly is deaf (and was disgracefully breeding puppies who are probably deaf as well ).  Her adopters taught her many hand gestures. It doesn’t take long. 

Consistency is important.  It really doesn’t matter what signal you use, just so you always use the same one for the same command or meaning.  Try it!  Your dog will love the challenge and it will impress your friends. Nothing wows people more than when I raise my hand over my head and my dog lies down. It takes some practice but the results are worth it.