The recent dog attack case brings into focus the problem with pet shops and backyard breeders who breed animals indiscriminately without any appreciation or concern for breed standards, genetics, the animal’s health or socialisation.
Most people do not realize that the majority of dogs for sale in pet stores are the product of backyard breeders. But when such breeding is carried out on a large scale, the term puppy mill or puppy farm is used.
Puppy farms are institutions of cruelty usually hidden from public view where dogs are housed in shockingly appalling conditions. It is not unusual for large number of dogs to be crammed together in filthy pens and cages. Treated as breeding machines they supply pet shops with puppies many with behavior and or health problems. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are often put down, discarded or sold off cheaply.
Puppies and kittens from these backyard breeders are typically taken from their mothers at too young an age, packed into crates, and delivered to pet stores, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Socialization, exercise and veterinary care are often denied in this cruel, money-hungry industry.
Pet shops treat puppies, kittens, birds, hamsters, mice, rabbits, and other animals as if they were fashion accessories and sell them to anyone who purchase on impulse. Conditions at many pet stores are inadequate at best; at worst, they are outright abusive. Puppies are often kept in wire-bottomed cages and other small animals such as mice, hamsters, gerbils, and rats are often crammed en masse into small, filthy, crowded cages.
Dogs and kittens sold in pet stores are deprived of regular, human contact and are notoriously difficult to socialize and train. Compounded by the fact that, unlike good animal shelters, pet stores do not screen potential animal adopters, which means that many animals purchased on a whim by unprepared people end up at animal shelters.
Many dogs are put on chains by their owners which is one of the cruellest punishments imaginable for social animals who need and deserve companionship, exercise, and mental stimulation. Deprived of all these they become ticking time bombs. Many people, especially children, have been bitten, mauled, or killed by chained dogs. Similarly, keeping dogs in crates or cages prevents them from satisfying all their needs.
Neither the Municipal Council nor the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) is aware of the number of puppy farms there are in this country. Many puppy farms operate in highly remote areas and are unknown by authorities, while the existence of backyard breeders maybe more visible within the community due to health concerns, noise pollution and animal cruelty or neglect.
Puppy farms and breeders produce any type or breed of dogs – pedigree, cross breeds and mixed breeds. There are no inspections of these breeding facilities, no standards that they are required to meet and no consequences for providing inadequate care. Lack of enforcement by the council and the veterinary department means that animals are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions.
Breeders, pet shops and puppy farms fuel the companion animal overpopulation crisis by bringing more animals into a world that is already bursting at the seams with unwanted ones. Every newborn puppy or kitten means there is one home fewer for a dog or cat awaiting adoption in an animal shelter or roaming the streets.
There is no control of who can sell, breed and import pets. Animal welfare groups have emphasized on the importance of introducing stricter laws relating to animal welfare in this country and help put an end to puppy mills and other inhumane animal farms. One of the best ways to inhibit backyard breeders would be to ban the sale of puppies in pet shops.
Letter to the Editor, 23 August 2012