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Paw Justice & The Fight Against Puppy Milling

by Fiona Tomlinson on 2013-09-27 14:56:35

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I was recently asked one of those “Miss Universe” questions: “What is the one thing you would like to see changed in the area of animal welfare?” My first thought was to see a huge reduction in the number of dogs being euthanised across the country. The figures are astounding and I think if the general public had any idea of the hundreds and hundreds of dogs that are euthanised weekly they would be horrified.

Then my second thought went to the Puppy Milling Industry and the backyard breeders that pump out the posh mongrels (the “oodles”, “doodles” and “something- poos”) and the unregistered purebreds of the dog world. Dog-stock from these two groups often fetch more in pet shops and on the internet than that of a registered New Zealand Kennel Club dog and more often than not they have inherited congenital issues that affect their overall health, movement and breathing. I’m sure there are some awesome breeders of these types but by and large these dogs are bred entirely for financial gain with little respect given to the conditions they live in.

Puppy milling and backyard breeding contribute heavily to the increasing pet overpopulation problem in New Zealand and worldwide. And this in turn results in thousands of dogs being surrendered and picked up as strays by animal management companies throughout the country.

Your local pound or shelter is no longer home to the pit- bulls / staffy cross types of the dog world. You’ll find an amazing mix of dogs, large and small , young and old. Increasingly you’ll find the posh-mongrels mixing it with the “South-Auckland-Specials”.

If you are a pound dog and you happen to be lucky, you’ll get the chance to find a new home. Most councils offer a rehoming service for the dogs they deem suitable and are becoming better at marketing the dogs on Facebook, hence increasing the rehome rate. Several rescue groups throughout the country sweep in and extract dogs from their local pounds and foster them till they find their forever homes. These dogs are the lucky ones.

For those not lucky enough to make it to a rescue group, shelter or find a place in the rehoming section of the pound there is only one way out. It’s the row of kennels known as E-Row. If you are unlucky enough to be sitting in one of these kennels, it’s the end of the line baby. It’s just a matter of how many dogs are being put down that day.

From the time a dog enters the pound the councils are legally obliged to hold onto that animal for a minimum of seven days. Beyond this they have the right to either rehome it or put it to sleep. It’s basic economics: the pounds just can’t afford to keep all the dogs entering their facilities. Backyard breeders not only contribute to the burgeoning numbers of dogs sitting in these facilities but also steer potential new dog owners away from rehoming an animal.

Puppy Milling or Farming is defined by the American SPCA “as a commercial dog breeding facility that operates with an emphasis on profits above animal welfare, often in substandard conditions with little regard for the well-being of the dogs in their care”.

If after all this you think that Puppy Milling is not a problem in New Zealand then think again. If you haven’t had the chance to check out the 60 minutes documentary from 2010, I suggest you take 15 minutes to watch this heart-wrenching story and think how we as individuals can stop this industry and in the process move towards a country of the future where responsible breeding and animal welfare have no need to be challenged.

Inside Puppy Factories

So what is being done to hinder this industry overseas? Los Angeles city is progressing well, with a citywide ban on the sale of puppy mill pets. Several municipalities across Canada are also applying pressure to the stores and breeders by introducing by-laws to prevent the sale of domestic animals in stores.

And the Canadian Humane Society has developed a Puppy-Friendly Pet Store Pledge. Since 2009 over 100 stores nationwide have joined and pledged to not sell puppies from their shops. They advocate opting to aid in the adoption of unwanted and stray dogs.

How can we encourage the New Zealand public to support ethical business by shopping at puppy-friendly pet stores and how can we continue to alter the perception of pound and shelter dogs and make them the “uber-cool” option for people looking to add a four-legged member to their family? In New York City, a rescue dog is considered the ONLY option when adding a dog to the family. To not rescue is incredibly un-cool.

Having said that if you are desperate for a purebred animal, then please do your homework. If you are happy to have an older dog then there are many breed specific rescue groups who regularly have perfect animals looking for a new home. You can check out the NZKC website for breeders of specific dogs too, but please do your own homework. Not all registered breeders have their dogs’ best interest at heart. For a lot it’s about making money with some puppy-mills existing behind the fac?ade of efficacy. This is not cool.

Remember, reputable breeders never sell puppies through a pet store and if they have advertised their animals on the internet they will ALWAYS insist on meeting the person purchasing the dog. Without exception, a good breeder will be more than happy for you to visit the pups with their litter and with their mother at home. A good breeder will also take a puppy or dog they have bred and rehome it should your circumstances change for the worse.

I know of one Standard Poodle breeder in Auckland who re-homed two beautiful mature poodles after the Christchurch earthquakes. She fostered them herself till the right families came along for her dogs. That is the sort of breeder you want to support, not the one who shows one variety of dogs while pumping out a mixture of crossbreds and “so-called” purebreds in the back of the barn.

In New Zealand, The Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare 2010 has a Best Practice Code including the minimum age at which a bitch may breed and guidelines as to the whelping and rearing of litters from a bitch’s consecutive seasons. However there is no way of regulating this or enforcing it, it’s a matter of the ethical consciousness of the person breeding the animals.

Likewise the NZKC has an Accredited Breeder Scheme similar to that of the Kennel Club in the UK, which limits the number of litters each breeding bitch may have registered to her in a breeding lifetime. This does not however prevent the breeding of litters beyond the four stipulated in the guidelines of the scheme, only the registration of those litters.

What can we do as a collective to get more governance in the animal breeding industry? What does the Kennel Club need to do to elevate their Accredited Breeding Scheme so that all their breeders are ethically staunch? How can we flush out those who hide behind the fac?ade of the Accredited Breeding Scheme while pumping out litter after litter of crossbreeds? And how can we apply pressure to shops that sell livestock and instead place the emphasis on re-homing gorgeous dogs that deserve the very best we can offer?

If we can slow down, hinder and finally stop this puppy farming industry imagine the long-term impact on the overflowing pounds and shelters? Imagine a New Zealand where the first place you think of getting a dog is your local shelter or pound and if you wanted a purebred dog you knew that EVERY breeder was not only registered and licensed with the NZKC, but also had the best interests of their dogs at heart.

Come on New Zealand, show your commitment to Responsible Breeding. Lets cut off the source of our canine over-population. Lets stop puppy milling and backyard breeding in New Zealand and lets elevate the standard of purebred breeding by purchasing from only the best breeders of purebred dogs. Lets see the end to scandalous euthanasia rates of dogs in pounds. Remember, every dog has the right to a good life with a good human. No dog deserves to spend the beginning of their life in the glass box of a pet store and their last days in E-ROW waiting to die.

All content is owned by Fiona Tomlinson and Paw Justice and may not be reproduced unless by prior permission.

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Paw Justice & The Fight Against Puppy Milling

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