Tag Archives: AKC

Tails: Looking from My Side of “The Post”

A few weeks ago, The Washington Post printed a story about dog auctions.  It wasn’t just any story about dog auctions, it was one that insinuated that it is the animal rescuers buying at auctions who are fueling the puppy mill industry.

It has taken me a few weeks to gather my thoughts and tame my emotions.  As many know, puppy mill dogs are nearest and dearest to my heart and saving them from a life of living hell is what I am most passionate about.  To hear that people like me are to blame, well, it takes some time to not just react and say something I might regret.

The thing about dog auctions and puppy mills is that I think it is easy to taint people’s minds into believing they aren’t as bad as they really are.  For one, few people will ever actually step foot into a dog auction or puppy mill and see one for themselves.  Two, far more people want to believe that dogs aren’t suffering in crappy, small cages, with no human attention, bred continuously just so Petland (or insert any pet store) can mass market cute puppies.  The entire idea of puppy mills goes against what most dog loving people want to believe, so if someone is willing to paint the picture prettier, people are sure to buy it.

However, as someone who has been, who has bought and who has lived with numerous mill survivors, I refuse to let anyone try to paint a pretty picture.  Dog auctions are cruel and nasty, exploiting man’s best friend in the absolute most barbaric way.  Anyone, I mean anyone, with a beating heart and a love for animals will leave a dog auction in one of two ways: with a dog they bought or an understanding of why someone would buy a dog.  To be honest, anyone who leaves there differently, isn’t someone I want to know.

Maybe not everyone would go to an auction, buy a dog and then make it her life long mission to educate people and free dogs from puppy mill hell, but I did.  What I saw and the things I continue to see a decade later, fuel my passion to set the record straight.  Maybe the reporter doesn’t see dogs the way I do or maybe she has never been surrounded by crates of dogs just bought at auction, or fostered an emotionally broken mill dog, or woke up in tears knowing how many more there were to save.  Maybe she just doesn’t have the compassion I have for dogs.  I search my soul to understand why anyone would try to blame rescues for saving lives or paint puppy mills as a pretty picture.

They matter, don’t they? (All bought at a dog auction)

I have been surrounded by crates of dogs just bought at auctions.  I remember bringing them to the shelter and watching as first time auction goers held these frightened, shaved, often sick dogs in their arms and cried a thousand tears.  No one able to speak because the idea that such cruelty was legal left everyone speechless.

I have fostered mill dogs so scared of every little thing they shut down completely.  Dogs afraid of stairs, grass, people, toys, even a water bowl.

I have looked into the eyes of over a thousand dogs only to see no soul able to stare back at me.  I have felt the pain and the helplessness.  I have been there and I believe I understand what this is really all about.

This dog was sold at 10 years old with completely rotted teeth, skin infections AND PREGNANT to unknowing buyers.

(Pictures courtesy of The TRUTH About Puppy Mill Auction Rescue)

Let me start right away with the most obvious fact.  The live pet trade is a 2.1 BILLION dollar business annually.  I have reached out to numerous contacts who buy at auctions to get a feel for what they believe is actually spent by rescue in a single year at all dog auctions.  In agreement, the number is around 1 million dollars.

Now, of course, a million dollars associated with rescue might seem shocking.  Rescues always say they have no money, but this number includes rescues all over the country who specifically raise dollars to buy dogs at auction.  Unlike what The Post article stated, the majority of rescues who buy at auctions are very forthcoming with donors about where the money is going.  In fact, most set up fundraising pages specifically for auctions and the medical costs associated with mill dog rescue.

One million dollars is less than .05% of the entire pet trade business!  How on Earth can anyone make a statement that a group who contributes less than .05% to an industry is solely responsible for its success?  It is simple math.  Rescues are not the ones perpetuating the horrifying business of commercial breeding.  They just aren’t.

Instead, they ARE saving thousands of innocent, helpless dogs from a lifetime of hell.  There is a new FB page dedicated to educating the public on the very dogs bought at auctions by rescues.  It is called The TRUTH about Puppy Mill Auction Rescue.  On this page, they post pictures and medical histories of the dogs they have pulled from auction floors.  Interestingly, one will find that the dogs they pull are not puppies but dogs so sick and neglected that they could barely stand, barely function.  Females who were listed as pregnant who still had stitches from the last caesarean.

Stitches still in and sold PREGNANT (pictures courtesy of The TRUTH About Puppy Mill Auction Rescue)

The Post reported that breeders who attend these auctions have lovely kennels.  Yet, with further investigation, these are actual pics of the breeder shown in that article.  A much different reality than previously reported. Over 230 dogs in one place.

There was talk of how much is too much to spend at an auction saving lives.  Sadly, this has become a great divide in the animal welfare world.  As someone who has spent $25 – $450 on a single dog at auction, I ask what price is right?  Some say not more than one would spend on lunch.  I say, “Lunch where?  A deli, a sit-down cafe, or on the 16th floor in Trump Tower?”  Who decided what is lunch money?  Who decides what number is okay?

Is it okay to buy a 10 year old Chihuahua for $40 but not okay to buy a 6 year old Shih Tzu for $800 whose eyes are crusted shut and still has rusted metal wire in her infected belly from a half-ass caesarean?  Would someone in rescue actually believe it makes sense to leave her to suffer?

Some say they disapprove of one rescue spending $25,000 at an auction.  So, if 25 rescues attend and each spend $1000 that would be acceptable?  Others find disapproval in breed specific rescues attending saying it is unfair to only buy their breed.  Hmmm?  Do they feel that way when Great Dane rescue pulls a Dane from a county shelter?

Lastly, there are those who say, “I know I would buy if I went to a dog auction, so I don’t go.” And, they go on to criticize those who do for spending so much money.  Well, here is a newsflash, just because you choose not to go, does not mean there aren’t thousands of dogs still suffering and in need of rescue.  Just because you choose to look the other way, put your head in the sand, does not mean that this hellacious industry doesn’t exist.

From day one, I have said I would never be a hypocrite.  I have bought dogs at auctions for all kinds of prices, all kinds of reasons, and all kinds of breeds.  From prices of $25 to over $400. For reasons such as the oldest there to the one who looks sickest.  From breeds like Chinese Crested Powder Puff, Goldendoodle, Dachshund, Puggle, Shih Tzu, to mixes, etc… It is easy to sit outside the auction house and make random statements about who is acceptable to rescue and for how much. Try walking in…

I beg ALL rescues to walk in just once and look into the cages and see the hundreds of eyes looking back at them and then tell me who doesn’t deserve to be saved that day.

I don’t think they can and that is why I continue to support those brave enough to walk into an auction and face the lifeless dogs and do whatever it is they can to save them.  To me, all dogs matter and these dogs deserve a second chance just as much as dogs in the meat trade, the strays in 3rd world countries and the homeless dogs on death row in our own city shelters.  And, when one realizes that less than .05% of the money in the pet trade is coming in due to rescue, can’t we deem their lives, “priceless” and move on?

Much of this dog’s jaw was rotted off at the auction. Yet, AKC checked her “good.” (Pictures courtesy of The TRUTH About Puppy Mill Auction Rescue)

That is what we need to do: move on from an article that places blame on the very groups doing everything in their power to make things better, from physically saving mill dogs to standing before their legislators begging for change.  The number one thing The Post article failed terribly at was actually describing mass breeding operations.

Rescues wouldn’t spend money or time buying mill dogs if they didn’t feel it was the dogs’ only hope.  Rescues go to auctions because they know damn well where these dogs are coming from and it is NOT the pretty kennels The Post described or pictured.

Most of the breeders who attend the auctions are large scale, USDA licensed, puppy factories.  They aren’t hobby breeders.  These places have hundreds of dogs on-site and few people to care for them  Thanks to Bailing Out Benji we can take a look at the sheer number of puppy mills in just the state of Missouri, where the auctions take place.  There are over 800 mills and some of the HSUS 100 worst!

Rescues don’t go to auction to contribute to the industry.  They go to save dogs from suffering.

For maps of puppy mills in other states, visit this page at Bailing Out Benji.

To get an in-depth look into the world of USDA licensed kennels, I strongly urge you to buy a copy of The Doggie in the Window, by Rory Kress and sit down and read her description of the numerous USDA approved kennels across America.  Kress is the ultimate journalist using all of her impeccable skills to demonstrate the failed USDA’s attempts to regulate the commercial breeding industry.  She shows throughout her amazing book how these facilities are stricken with dead puppies, sick dogs, rats, feces covered floors yet pass inspection again and again.  Dogs with no food or potable water, no medical care, left to suffer because the USDA is NOT doing their job.

The Post never mentioned that “USDA licensed” means jack shit in the USA.

If you love dogs, and I think you do because you read my blog, please make sure you do your research before buying into the crap The Post is selling.  I have been in the trenches, I have held the head of a sick mill dog, I have carried numerous crates full of mill dogs just rescued from auction, I KNOW, I REALLY KNOW the truth.

I wrote Bark Until Heard detailing the heartbreaking things I witnessed at auction, just so people would know the truth.  I am passionate about only this.   Do not be fooled by the agenda of others.  The truth is the truth and it is that millions of dogs are being held prisoners of greed in the hands of people who only care about money – not animals.  

The success of puppy mills has NOTHING to do with the rescuers and everything to do with the bad breeders, the worthless USDA inspections and the lackadaisical legislators failing us everyday to make the changes needed.

Please, before you judge the passionate work of rescuers literally SAVING the lives of innocent dogs, go to an auction, foster a mill survivor, or, at the very least, talk one-on-one with someone whose heart breaks a million times when they painfully recall the mill dog they couldn’t save – those are the people who KNOW the real truth, the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking reality of mass-breeding and dog auctions.

My soul knows the truth, my heart feels the truth and my eyes have seen the truth behind mass breeding and dog auctions and because of that I have zero regrets about buying a dog’s freedom.

What price would you pay to save them?

 

Tails: Buying at Dog Auctions – It Isn’t Just About Numbers

Last month was the 10-year anniversary of my first puppy mill auction.  In many ways it seems a lifetime ago, but often, when I have vivid flashbacks of the cruelty I witnessed, the emotional pain and anger are still so raw that I feel like the auctions were just yesterday.

As I type this blog my four dogs sit at my feet.  Three of which were bought at dog auctions. Two of which I bought and RESCUED personally.

Penelope, I bought her at my 3rd dog auction. She was listed as, “A good mama – will make you money.” She enjoys freedom today.

There is a lot of controversy over buying dogs at puppy mill auctions “these days.”  The truth is there was controversy a decade ago when I did it.  The protestors were outside and the “rescues” were inside and, often, when we met words were exchanged.  Until, one day, a great man, Chuck Wegner, led the auction day with a quick speech.  In it, he gently suggested something to the effect of, “While we might have different approaches, we are all really on the same side.  Let’s not forget that.”

Or, I remember a passionate protestor coming into the auction barn to warm up.  It was far below zero out and they protested the entire auction.  She walked over by me and said, “My head is out there, but my heart is in here.”

Yes, to those who disapprove of buying dogs at auction, it is definitely putting money in the pockets of those whom we despise the most.  From a purely economic equation, it is wrong.  You are all absolutely right.

But, and there is always a but, no one gets into animal welfare for the economics of it.  Ever.

Honestly, I never intended to buy at my first auction.  I was there as a reporter.  I just went in to understand the story I was writing.  The next thing I knew I was wiping the tears rolling down my face, getting a bidding a number and buying the oldest, saddest dog there for $65.

It is easy to say no one should buy these dogs at auctions based on the black and white principle of supply and demand, but until you go to one, until you look into the eyes of these broken souls, you simply cannot understand the grey area.  The emotional piece.  The very core of any animal welfare advocate’s heart.

The day I bought my first dog the President of the No WI Puppy Mills group, the group who was there protesting the auction, told me, “While we do not encourage anyone to buy a dog, if you do, please share their story.  Tell everyone about them.”

I have done that for 10 years with all 3 of my auction dogs.  Not only did I publish a book describing every detail, but on a daily basis my dogs are billboards for the reality of puppy mills.  I might have spent a few hundred dollars buying them, but, in 10 years, they have educated thousands of people.  From an economic standpoint, I would say that was pretty cheap PR.

Thorp the day of the auction.

I am not trying to underscore the concept of “not buying” at auctions.  I truly do understand it.  I think about it all of the time.  I try hard to tell myself buying is wrong, but then I remember how I felt looking at all of the hundreds of helpless dogs, desperate for a new life.  Yes, my head understands completely, but my heart not so much.

I do not believe that the buying of dogs at auctions is what is keeping puppy mills alive in this country.  Between the pet stores, back yard breeders, and on-line sales of puppies, mass breeding is alive and well and will be until legislation is passed across all 50 states to change it.

I have legislated for change and it does work.  We don’t have auctions in WI anymore.  I whole-heartedly believe that legislation is the key.  I also know that many of the rescues buying at auctions ARE legislating at the same time.  They understand its importance.

No, buying at auctions is not ideal.  It certainly is not “saving them all.”  However, just like the infamous “Starfish Story,” it does make a difference to the one who was saved.

I have three dogs who never deserved to spend their lives as prisoners of greed.  They came to me sick and scared.  They were helpless and I helped them.  I will never regret that.  And, while buying dogs for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions makes me cringe, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say, “I understand the emotional component.”

There are numerous things about rescue that do not follow black and white economics or statistical analysis.  Let me point out a few:

  • While over a million dogs are needlessly killed each year, we still have rescues denying people dogs and/or making them fill out lengthy adoption forms and jump thru hoops to adopt them.
  • There are places in the South BREEDING dogs so that the north can bring them up for adoption.
  • There are overcrowded shelters charging expensive re-claim fees for families to get their dogs back.  Since many families can’t afford the fees, their dog just gets added to the overcrowded shelter instead of simply being sent home.
  • There are overcrowded areas of the South charging rescues ridiculous fees to PULL the dogs from their care and save them!  (When we pulled dogs from Chicago AC to take across state lines, we paid $15 for a rabies shot and health certificate)
  • We bring in thousands of dogs, each year, from foreign countries while 1 million of our own dogs are killed.  Or, in the North we kill dogs everyday in crowded shelters as van loads of dogs are brought up from the South.

All I am pointing out is that there are many things in the rescue world that do not speak to black and white numbers.  Animal advocates are motivated by their heart.  They continue to try and save regardless of the “numbers.”

I am not saying it all makes sense.  Not much of it does.  But, I can understand the heart behind it.

I have not been to an auction in 9 years.  But, I  have often donated money to rescues specifically to buy dogs at auctions.  My third dog was bought at an auction by a rescue and I foster failed her.

Alice at the vet right after auction.

In an ideal world, all dog auctions would be illegal.  Until then, rescues will continue to buy dogs at auction in an effort to save them and give them a 2nd chance.  No, it is NOT helping the cause, but it is helping the ones who are freed. And each of the ones freed are a true story to share with the world.  They are all opportunities to educate others.  Far more people understand and know about puppy mills and pet stores today than they did 10 years ago because so many of us are sharing these dogs’ stories.

As I come to the end of my blog, perhaps I should acknowledge what could be perceived as naivety.  I write this from my perspective.  That perspective is one that believes rescuers buy dogs at auctions only to provide them with a 2nd chance at a loving home.  The rescues I work with and the dogs I have personally bought and re-homed were all given proper medical treatment, they were all spayed and neutered and, for the most part, no matter the adoption fee, almost all of them cost me or the rescues far more to rehabilitate and/or medically treat than we ever got back.  We never did this as “brokers,” we did this as rescuers.  

My comment to those who just “broker” the auction dogs, buying and selling them without medical care or being spayed and neutered, only counting on profit and calling it “rescue” is, “Shame on you.  You are not a rescue. You are not an animal advocate. You are greedy and evil and should be held in the lowest form like any other puppy miller.”

Alice living the life she should have always had.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tails: The truth behind the ribbons

I did a short rant on my fb page today, but I feel the need to write more.  You don’t spend 7 years fighting for better legislation for puppy-mill dogs and then, feel at peace when watching a dog show.

I have loved dogs all of my life.  I feel rather competent when it comes to identifying breeds and have always enjoyed watching the dog shows.  People who know me, know that I could love any dog at any given time.  From Shih Tzu to English Bulldog to Great Dane to Chinese Crested.  The dog show is like a candy store for me so many to choose from.

Sadly, after attending my first dog auction 7 years ago, I find it hard to watch the shows without feeling complete heartache.  Sure those dogs prancing the ring are beautifully groomed.  Their teeth glisten and their tails wag.  But, what goes on behind the ring, behind the ribbons is anything but bright and shiny.

Let’s make the assumption, as huge as it may be, that the breeders of the dog show dogs are good breeders.  I won’t lie.  There is proof floating around now that many of the best in show dogs have found themselves abandoned when they grow old and unworthy.  There are pics circulating of past winners now emaciated and left for dead.  So, my assumption is weak at best, but to keep things simple, let’s go with it.

The dog shows fuel mass breeding.  Beautiful dogs big and small grace the stage and send ignorant people into pet stores to buy one just like the one they saw on TV.  Mark my words… the pet stores will begin stocking up on Beagles now that Miss P took “Best in Show.”

This means two things: puppy-millers will get rid of some of their other breeds to make room for Beagle stock.  By get rid, I mean kill, abandon, whatever… Those breeding dogs have such little value to them.  They will bring in lots of Beagles to make more Beagles and next year when the Shih Tzu wins the show (should have this year, I am a little biased) they will throw out the Beagles and bring in the Shih Tzu.

It is nothing more than business to them.  Those dogs aren’t man’s best friend, they are products bought and sold like canned goods and produce.

It was even said that Miss P can retire to motherhood now as her pups will bring in big dollars.  Even on the “good” side of breeding, it is all about money.  Why can’t Miss P just be a family dog now that she has earned her title.  I know that is not how it works.

There has always been a part of me who strongly believes that there should be NO more breeding until every homeless dog has a home.  Yet, the other part of me does see value in having so many different breeds to choose from.  Not everyone wants a Chihuahua nor does everyone want a Mastiff.

But the whole thing, ALL of the breeding, is fueled by greed.  Whether it be the backyard breeder or the grand champion breeder, it always comes down to money.  Is there anyone doing it ONLY because they love the breed?

I think the only ones doing it for the sake of the breed are the rescues.  They take in countless animals on death row and find ways to pay for their vet bills and adopt them into loving homes.  Breed rescues are the only ones doing it for the breed.

Why haven’t breeders (at least the good ones) fought harder for better legislation to protect the breeds they say they love?  Why is it that the American Kennel Club (AKC) has fought nearly every bill that attempted to improve the lives of breeding dogs.  It is all about money.  For every dog registered to the AKC there is $50.  Imagine if there were less dogs being bred… less money for the AKC.  Simple math.  Simple greed.

The rescues are the only ones fighting to protect the breeds.  No money there, just love.

As I type this, I look across the room and see my AKC Shih Tzu and my AKC Chinese Crested.  I bought both dogs at an Amish dog auction.  They were matted and sick and afraid of humans.  When I watch a glamorous dog show, they sit next to me, a constant reminder that behind all the shiny ribbons is a business that  profits from cruelty and neglect.