Monday, April 16, 2012

Pet Stores and Puppy Mills, Part Three

I was still on iChat over the computer when the pet store owner called my family member. I had already pointed out to him that one dog seemed sick, that they had come from the top puppy mill state, that their papers were from a sham registry, and he’d likely be overwhelmed by training 2 dogs at once. I could see he was starting to have regrets, and he put her on speakerphone so I could hear both ends of the conversation.

When he inquired about the registry, the woman told him all registries are the same and one isn’t better than another. This is completely untrue. The AKC and UKC certainly have their shortcomings and their papers aren’t a guarantee of quality, but they’re universally recognized as the most legitimate organizations with goals of improving breed standards through performance and conformation events. The others pretty much exist just to take your cash by entering your dog into their computer.

When he said he was getting doubtful about the origin of his puppies, the store owner actually got angry. She claimed she would NEVER use a puppy mill, and that she carefully screens all breeders first. She said they only have one litter at a time, they sleep in the breeder’s laundry room, and the dogs are hand raised as a member of the family before they arrive at her store. It then took her 10 minutes to locate the breeder’s number when he asked for it. She ended the conversation by saying all sales are final, and the only reason she takes a dog back is if it’s sick.

Two days later he got a phone call from the vet with the fecal results: both puppies had coccidia and giardia. When he called the store owner to complain the dogs were sick, she told him that as far as their return policy is concerned, that “coccidia and giardia are normal, common occurrences in dogs, and don’t qualify as being sold sick animals.” While these parasites are common in pet store and puppy mill dogs, they are not normal occurrences with a responsible breeder using healthy animals. He also discovered one of his puppies was a poop eater. This is common with pet store puppies that are forced to live for weeks or months in the same small area they eliminate in. It can be a difficult habit to break, and since giardia is spread through feces, the puppy could continue to reinfect herself with the parasite.

After two weeks of caring for the dogs, he was stressed out and frustrated. Since he works from home and his wife commutes, he was doing the majority of the work and he was exhausted. He was getting up at 3am and 6am to housetrain them, and could only leave the house for 2-3 hours at a time. He wasn’t used to being so tied to home, and everything cost double, including vet visits, parasite medication, vaccinations, supplies, and double spay operations. He was having real doubts about his decision, and acknowledged he was overwhelmed with the time commitment they needed. He even contacted a local SPCA to inquire if they’d be able to find homes for one or both of the puppies if they decided to give them up.

Check back for the conclusion of this story, including my conversations with the breeder and store owner.

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