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How You Can Help Stop Puppy Mills

We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.

I read the most gut-wrenching article about puppy mills in The Rolling Stone last month titled, “The Dog Factory: Inside the Sickening World of Puppy Mills.” The reporter, Paul Salotaroff, joined a task force from The Humane Society in a massive puppy mill raid in North Carolina. The story begins with a sickening description of the house under investigation, continues to the discovery of sick puppies and deformed breeding dogs, and ends with the rescue of 128 animals (dogs, cats, and goats) and the arrest of the owner of the operation. Barbara Yates, the woman allegedly responsible, had been running this USDA-inspected puppy mill out of her basement for at least five years and was making a living selling those puppies online. The photos and stories are graphic, but the piece is an informative call-to-action.

The tagline of the article calls puppy mills, “the secret shame of the pet industry.” Those words hit me hard, because, you see, I’m part of the pet industry and I had no idea how devastating and wide-reaching this problem really is. We have a sign in our window that says “We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.” We signed a pledge with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to never sell animals in our store, and when someone comes in looking for a puppy, we send them to local shelters or rescue groups instead. (Check out our Pet Resources page to find one near you.) Based on my background, and the good people I’ve been around, I mistakenly held the belief that most dogs I met came from a shelter or a responsible breeder.

The unfortunate reality is that many dogs are purchased in a pet store or from an online broker. Sales of puppies from puppy mills are happening closer to home than you may think; right here in Colorado. We boast of our dog-friendly towns and high adoption rates at local shelters, but there are still at least 25 USDA-licensed puppy mills in Colorado with an estimated 1,300 breeding adult dogs. Our state makes up just a fraction of the over 10,000 legal puppy mills and brokers nationwide. Some are massive livestock facilities while others are crowded basement operations hidden in suburban neighborhoods. That’s the kind of “secret shame” Salotaroff is talking about.

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill, also called a puppy farm, is a commercial dog breeding facility. A court in Minnesota determined the definition to be “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.” Avenson v. Zegart, 577 F. Supp. 958, 960

How is this happening?

Brokers and pet stores make impressive claims on the reputability of their suppliers while deceiving consumers with terms like “USDA Licensed” and “AKC Registered” and marketing their businesses with stock photos of cute puppies, smiling breeders, and clean facilities. 

What does USDA Licensed mean? The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspects breeding facilities to make sure they adhere to the guidelines laid out by the Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good, right? Well, the Animal Welfare Act allows up to 12 dogs kept in a single cage and has no limit on the number of animals kept on a single property. Cages must be six inches larger than the dog so the dog is able to stand up, but unlikely unable to turn around. What’s worse is that dogs never actually have to be let out of those cages. The breeders are required to have a written exercise plan, but there is no requirement that those plans are ever carried out. Facilities are inspected as infrequently as every three years and fines for violations often go unpaid.

What does AKC Registered mean? AKC Registered only means the puppy and his or her parents have been registered with the American Kennel Club as purebreds. It does not have any guidelines for health or temperament of the dogs registered. While the AKC does encourage choosing a responsible breeder, many puppy mill dogs come with papers stamped with “AKC Registered.”

Secondly, internet sales are booming.  In the last ten years, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) have cracked down on stores selling puppy mill-bred dogs, but online brokers have allowed the industry to continue and thrive. Of the 2 million puppies bred and sold each year, approximately half are sold online.

What can we do?

The Humane Society of the United States recommends we “choke the blood supply of puppy mills” by not giving the industry any money and never buying a puppy from a pet store or through a website. Instead, they encourage adoption of a shelter dog or finding a reputable breeder.

  • If you want to buy a purebred puppy
    • Choose a reputable breeder and investigate their history and references. The HSUS published a thorough checklist to simplify this process. A responsible breeder cares not only about the health and temperament of their dogs, but also about where their puppies end up.
    • Responsible breeders won’t use a third-party to sell their animals so beware of pet stores and online brokers who claim to have working relationships with “good” breeders. Meet your breeder face to face in his or her home.
  • Adopt a shelter dog!
    • 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in US shelters every year! There are a ton of rescue groups and humane societies in Colorado where you can find adoptable animals in need of good homes. PetHarbor.com, and Petfinder.com can help you find a dog or puppy based on breed, age, and size. These websites fully vet the shelters and rescues, which makes it very difficult for inhumane breeders to sneak through. Despite this vetting, it’s still a good idea to research reviews and any complaints.
    • In addition to helping end pet homelessness, puppy mills, and unnecessary euthanization, adopting an animal better for your wallet too! The Simple Dollar, a website devoted to simplifying personal finance, has a great blog post on The Financial Benefits of Adopting A Pet compared to purchasing from a breeder or pet store.
  • Get involved
    Learn more about what’s happening and tell your friends. We recommend starting with the resources we used to investigate this article:

Helping Cats with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

Dottie, our long-time foster cat, was born without a right hind paw, but that doesn’t slow her down a bit! Unfortunately, when she first came to us, we couldn’t say the same thing about her Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), which caused severe vomiting, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort that kept her from have having much fun.

The good news is that with a new diet, close oversight, and a little TLC, we’ve been to help Dottie make a full recovery and live a happy, healthy life. We want to take the opportunity to explain what irritable bowel disease is, how it affects cats like Dottie on a daily and long-term basis, and how you can help your cat with IBD or similar stomach issues.

IBD is a general term referring to a group of gastrointestinal disorders that are believed to be the result of intestinal inflammation. The source of the intestinal inflammation is attributed to one or more of the following factors: genetics, diet, and/or diminished intestinal microflora. Cats with IBD will typically exhibit chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea and be at increased risk for intestinal lymphoma.

Current research supports the idea that diet plays a large role in the overall health of both humans and animals. For decades cats have unfortunately been fed highly processed, species-inappropriate foods. Cats are obligate carnivores who have no known dietary requirement for any carbohydrates in their diet. The average kibble is well over 25% carbohydrates! (Please see previous post on carbs in pet food for more details). It is essential that cats with IBD, or displaying symptoms, be fed highly digestible proteins. The more processed a food is, the more chemically altered and less digestible it becomes. Feeding such highly processed, carb-heavy foods has the potential to greatly damage overall intestinal health, especially in cats prone to digestive disease.

Healthy gut flora (or the lack of) is linked to the severity of intestinal inflammation. If a cat’s natural gut microflora is depleted, it is unable to fully digest and absorb the necessary nutrients. This is why it is extremely important, especially after a round of antibiotics, to use a PreBiotic or ProBiotic to re-establish and maintain a healthy flora.

There are varying degrees of IBD, but in all cats with IBD, no matter the severity of their symptoms, it is absolutely essential that they are fed a diet that is highly digestible and unprocessed. The house cats of today are no different from their predecessors. They are built to process and thrive off of their natural prey source of rodents, rabbits, and birds – a raw food diet.

The severity of Dottie’s IBD appears to be minimal. Upon her arrival at The Happy Beast, we fed her an exclusive raw food diet and her stools immediately solidified. It should be noted that she does become loose if she gets even the highest quality canned food. On a day-to-day basis, Dottie is very low maintenance, she eats her raw food, plays around with her catnip toys and loves scratching on her natural tree posts. Long term, we feel that because we got her on a raw food diet early on in her prognosis, she will live a long and healthy life.

Do you have a cat with IBD? Send us an email or stop by the store in Lafayette and ask how we can help!

Restoring Their Roar: Our Newest Foster Cats

We recently welcomed three new foster cats at The Happy Beast – Fancy Pants, Violet, and Dottie (in addition to our other rescue, Mr. Kitty, now christened “Teo”). All three cats came to us suffering from chronic diarrhea, which was the result of their irritable bowel disease (IBD). Dottie was also born without her right hind paw, but gets around fine and climbs like a champ! All three cats were originally rescued from hoarding situations by Almost Home Adoptions for Rescued Cats, which is a cage-free cat rescue in Westminster.

The rescue had tried everything to help resolve the cats IBD, except for putting them on a raw diet. As a last ditch effort, the rescue contacted us and asked if we would be willing to foster them and put them on a raw food diet. Of course, we agreed and all of the cats are doing much better now.

Dottie has made the quickest improvement and as soon as we transitioned her to a raw diet, her stools became solid. The rescue had a feeling this would happen because her brother also suffered from chronic diarrhea, which was resolved once his adopted family put him on raw. It has been an interesting process and we have been taking copious notes about their progress. Fancy Pants and Violet still have a way to go, but are making progress. Their stools haven’t quite solidified, but they have fewer episodes of diarrhea. This is really nice for us because it means there is far less clean up!

Another interesting observation is that even when Dottie ate a high-quality canned food (she would get into Teo’s leftovers) she would immediately have soft stools. This happened on three different occasions. It seems that her body needs raw. This makes sense because cats certainly don’t cook up mice after they catch them. 🙂

Dottie is now up for adoption through Almost Home Adoption Center. She is a lovely cat and must be kept on a raw food diet, as her digestive system is very sensitive.

Stop by the store to say hello and meet these sweet kitties!

Change a Pet’s Life Day

Here are four ways for us to change an animal’s life for the better this year (Which will ultimately make our lives better too!)

Adopt

The motivation behind Change a Pet’s Life Day is to help animals in shelters and rescue groups find their forever homes. PetFinder.com is an awesome site that lets you search for animals by breed, size and age or you can browse through all the dogs and cats in your area. You can find puppies and kittens or older animals who already have some training. Providing a great home for an animal in need is the ultimate way to change their life!

Foster

If you’re not ready to commit to keeping an animal for the rest of his life, consider fostering! Most rescue groups are based solely in fosters homes and many shelters rely on fosters for animals who are stressed by the shelter situation. Dogs in foster homes tend to find their forever family faster than ones in shelters because they’re out and about meeting friends and neighbors! (Be warned: many foster families “fail” the process and end up adopting their foster pup! It’s a happy accident!)

Volunteer

We’ve made a friend at The Happy Beast who volunteers for the Colorado Rabbit House Society in Broomfield- a rescue devoted entirely to bunnies! She told me they are always looking for volunteers to feed the rabbits, clean the cages and to take care of daily chores. How fun would it be to spend an afternoon with a whole bunch of rabbits??

Check out volunteermatch.org to find opportunities to volunteer with animals in your area. We can put you in touch with our favorite rescue groups too!

Exercise & Train

Behavioral problems are the most common reasons given when people drop their animals off at a shelter. While most of us can’t imagine giving up our pets, providing them with a balanced and active home can make sure we’re never faced with that dilemma! Make sure your pets get plenty of mental and physical exercise. Play with your cats and give them a variety of toys. Walk your dog, take him on hikes and teach him new tricks.

Alright, now get out there and change some lives!