The Public Square

Mary Tiefenbrunn on selling puppies at the mall


They're Selling Puppies at the Mall - What's Wrong With That?

Right now, it's trendy to have a designer dog or a tiny little purebred that you can carry in your purse, like Paris Hilton's Chihuahua. So it's no surprise that boutique shops selling specialty dogs are popping up around the country, and even right here in Champaign.

What's wrong with that?

Puppy retailers pronounce that they obtain their dogs only from high quality breeders with whom they have "relationships." However, they also tell customers that they can get "any breed" of dog the customer wants and they maintain a steady inventory of puppies of a variety of breeds. Regardless of the claims of puppy retailers, it is impossible to maintain this type of puppy inventory without acquiring puppies from large scale commercial breeders. Such breeding facilities are often referred to as "puppy mills." Retail pet stores and their customers keep commercial breeders in business.

What's wrong with that?

In a (circa 2000) Dateline (NBC) investigative report, a former employee of a commercial dog breeder told reporter Chris Hanson that when she returned from a delivery run with puppies that were too sick to be sold, the proprietor told her to toss them in the trash burner. The puppies were still alive.

That kind of decision can only be made when a puppy is considered nothing more than merchandise. As in any commercial enterprise, the goal of a commercial dog breeder is to make money and the quality of life of the breeding dogs as wells as puppies takes a backseat to the bottom line. To put it bluntly, life for a breeding dog at a commercial breeding facility is horrific. These dogs live out their entire lives in small, often over-crowded cages. At many facilities, the cages are outdoors where the dogs are exposed to extreme weather conditions. The floors of the cages are often made of wire, so that feces and urine can fall through. The females are bred repeatedly, often ever heat cycle so frequently that they are unable to maintain the nutritional stores required to produce strong healthy puppies. To further keep costs down, breeding dogs receive only minimum veterinary care - that which enables them to continue to reproduce. The health of the breeding dogs is not as important as getting more puppies to market. Dogs that are no longer capable of breeding are killed.

Any doubt that keeping a dog in a small cage twenty-four hours a day, day after day, is inhumane evaporates when you witness the neurotic coping behaviors many of these dogs develop. Some engage in self-mutilation, others obsessively pace or jump, repeating the exact same patterns over and over and over. Whether physical, mental, or emotional, the suffering is apparent and in many cases, extreme.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows that dogs form strong attachments to their human companions, thrive on exercise and mental stimulation, and experience physical pain. Anyone who has ever loved a dog would be repulsed by the living conditions found at commercial breeding facilities. Anyone who has ever loved a dog should oppose the inhumane business of mass producing puppies for retail sale.