One of the hardest parts about rescue is having to deal with people who are the worst of the worst; the puppy millers and the backyard breeders.
What is the difference between a puppy mill and a backyard breeder (byb)? A puppy mill is a large scale operation with hundreds of dogs usually kept in deplorable conditions. They may or may not be USDA licensed and may or may not have inspections. A backyard breeder is a small scale puppy mill. They are not “hobby breeders” (people who breed rarely and typically only have a few dogs). They typically keep within the proper numbers for local laws to not have to be licensed. Some do have kennel licenses. But they are the same as mills in that the dogs are not pets, they are a money making commodity. They are kept in kennels or garages and get bred over and over, the same as dogs in puppy mills. Unlike licensed puppy mills, backyard breeders usually never have inspections.
So, what do rescue operations do to shut down puppy mills and backyard breeders?
In order to file a complaint and have an investigation you have to have years of documentation regarding the mill or the byb. Photos of how the dogs are kept, photos of the dogs that come from the mill/byb and their condition. Vet records about the condition of the dog when it comes into rescue. There are organizations that are solely for shutting down puppy mills. The Humane Society, the ASPCA, PETA and Best Friends all have teams for this. They know what they are doing and have the means and manpower to conduct full investigations.
The problem with puppy mills and bybs is that the laws and legislations regarding dogs and breeding are too lax. Check out this fantastic website for more info: http://www.thepuppymillproject.org/relevant-laws/ . In most states the bare minimum requirement for puppy mills is that the dog has food, water and shelter. Now, for us, that is horrible. That is unthinkable. But in the eyes of the law, dogs are “things”. Dogs are business. They are stock. So as much as the idea of a dog kept in a cage barely big enough for it to stand up and turn around in horrifies us, to the law, it is “adequate”. Neglect, which is awful to anyone who loves their dogs, is a fine line legally. When is neglect abuse? That varies by state, by city, by legislation. I was told by two different investigators that neglect is not abuse unless there is proof of PHYSICAL abuse. So, in the case of the dog we got in….he had a cage, he had shelter, he was given food and water. He had matted fur, ear infections, a hernia and rotten teeth. BUT he had been seen by a vet only 1-2 years before. Adequate care. No signs of physical abuse. NO investigation, no matter how hard I pushed. There was not enough evidence of abuse to warrant an investigation. If you haven’t already, go to our Facebook page and check out the album Flynn-now Finny to see the photos of his condition when we got him into rescue.
The problem with many investigations into mills and bybs is that a lot of times the investigations and accusations are made before there is enough evidence. Once they are tipped off that they are being watched, and find out firsthand from the investigators what they are looking for, breeders can then even more easily make sure they are within the bare minimum of compliance and keep operating. Even puppy mills that have horrific charges are given the chance to clean up their act, get re-inspected and keep on breeding. A great website to see this in action is http://www.caps-web.org/research-investigations/investigations/reports-and-videos . Check out this site to see the findings from investigations. It is disheartening to see that many of these mills are still in operation.
So, if they are within compliance of their license, if they are within compliance of the number of dogs, and if the dogs are in small cages with food and water….they are good to go. The dogs can be matted and filthy and have some medical issues, but as long as it’s not too bad, it’s neglect and not abuse and neglect is hard to define and even harder to prosecute.
I find that horrific. I am appalled that a dog can be kept in those conditions and it’s considered to be legal. But that is a fight that has been going on for years, and one that I don’t have time to participate in and still run a rescue. Here are some fantastic tips about what YOU can do to help stop puppy mills: http://www.prisonersofgreed.org/actions.html
So, I do what I can. I get as many dogs out as I can. I take their pictures. I share their stories hoping that it will open people’s eyes to the reality of puppy mills and backyard breeders. It’s one thing to read about a puppy mill dog and to see the photos online. It’s another thing entirely to hold that dog. To smell the stench that clings to them despite bath after bath. To see the rotten teeth, the oozing ears. The burns from lying in urine for years. To see them tremble at the gentlest touch because they have never known kindness. To see them cower when you reach for them because they have never been held. The fear, the sadness in their eyes is heartbreaking.
Giving money to the people who do this to these dogs is not something I like to do. It’s not. But when the other option is turning my head from them and allowing them to stay in those conditions for their whole lives- well, there IS no choice in my mind. Our goal is to get the dogs that are at the highest risk. The puppies that are older and getting ready to go into heat or have physical defects or medical issues. Those puppies that don’t sell when they are young are at high risk to end up in another mill or with a different byb or in an auction. Then there are the dogs that are still old enough to breed that the mill or breeder are getting rid of without spaying or neutering so they can be bought by ANOTHER breeder or mill and continue to be bred.
I know that when they come into rescue they will get medical treatment, they will be spayed or neutered and they will be rehabilitated as much as they can be in the time we have them to prepare them for life as a member of their adoptive family. Some of these dogs have never been touched or held. Getting them into rescue removes the chance of them being bought by another mill or backyard breeder to continue breeding. The mills and bybs will get their money, one way or another, so we choose to help as many dogs as we can get out and have a chance at life.
And we will keep hoping that somehow down the line the laws will become stricter and that eventually even the laws will reflect the idea that pets are family, not things. At CCR “All Lives Matter.”
These 29 dogs were all rescued from backyard breeders, puppy mills or auctions. Each of them, save for Haley who died during complications from her spay due to her time as a breeding dog, are now healthy and happy in their forever homes, given a chance at life many dogs in their situations never get.
I have had people question me about “breed specific” rescues. Some have indicated that they feel breed specific rescues are wrong, that they are snobby, elitist people and that they don’t care about all dogs or they would rescue ALL breeds.
The thing is, I honestly feel that BOTH types of recues are vital to saving dogs lives.
All-Breed Rescues-As it says, they rescue ALL breeds. They do not discriminate. The people that run these rescues are usually very knowledgeable about a variety of breeds and their needs and temperaments. They are better able to identify breeds in a mixed breed dog and in that, help a potential adopter know if that dog will fit in their home. Without all breed rescues, millions of “mutts” would die every year in shelters.
Breed Specific Rescues-They specialize in one breed, or maybe a few breeds of a similar nature (ie, spaniel rescues or terrier rescues). Depending on the rescue, some will take mixes or “designer” dogs of that breed, some deal only with purebreds. The people that run these rescues are especially knowledgeable about their breed of choice. They know the temperaments, the health issues and the common good and bad traits of that dog. They can assess a dogs compatibility with a potential adopter because they know the breed, and can educate people unfamiliar with that breed of the good AND bad of that particular breed. Because they are knowledgable about the health issues of that breed they are better prepared for dogs with medical conditions common to the breed. Without breed specific rescues even more purebred dogs would end up in shelters (and plenty of them already do! Shelters are NOT just “mutt” dogs!) and millions of “purebreds” would die every year in shelters.
You see, ALL rescues have (or should have) a common goal. To save dogs. Rescues should (and most do) work together for the common goal of saving dogs and finding them great homes. By cross posting, transferring dogs and working together, even more lives are saved. Rescue shouldn’t be a competition, though for some it is. Rescue should be “All About the Dogs”, and hopefully as social media brings rescues together with each other and with potential adopters, the number of dogs that die in shelters every year will go down.
The one thing that ALL rescues have in common is that they are always in need of good, loving foster homes. So if you want to help save lives, contact a local rescue and ask to be a foster! You may not change the world, but you will change the world for that dog!