By MARY GOORICH
Approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The existence of puppy farms and popularity of purebred dogs hinder the chance of shelter animals to find homes. Single breeding facilities like these produce hundreds to thousands of puppies each year alone. In total there are over 2 million puppies bred in mills every year according to the Humane Society.
For this reason alone, puppy mills are inherently unethical.
Just this past summer on a trip, I visited a puppy farm I heard about from some friends. Immediately, I envisioned myself tussling with golden retriever puppies, cuddling the cutest of creatures. This is my idea of heaven.
And that vision did come to fruition. When I stepped into the pen, all the puppies awoke to gain attention, bounding to chew my shoelaces, submissively rolling over awaiting us to acknowledge them. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen.
This, unfortunately, was only a small fulfillment of my fantasy. A quick turn of the head revealed puppies lying in their own filth. Overcrowded; the pups were drinking from water bowls compiled with their own feces. Desperately they crawled on top of one another to avoid the hot concrete. Workers picked up the puppies harshly as if they were objects.
I can’t swear the animals were treated cruelly. In all fairness, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Even so, it wouldn’t make a difference in the argument that stands–commercially breeding animals for profit is unethical as an industry.
After remarking how adorable the dogs were, the workers’ first response captured us in awe: “They start at $1000.”
In America alone, there are an estimated 10,000 large-scale puppy mills, not including litters from single families. Every dog bred is quite literally the death of a dog in a shelter. Many people adopt specific breeds because they wish to train them for particular sports such as duck retrieving, herding, lure coursing, hunting, pointing, dog show competitions and more. Others desire unique and specific breeds as a sign of wealth and luxury.
But large scale operations of puppy mills are cruel with dogs living their lives in cages forced to have puppies until they are too old, going on to be euthanized themselves or hopefully adopted out as adult dogs. Even more so, dogs who are bred or utilized for hunting purposes are abused. Just this past week, a Virginia kennel owner was charged with animal cruelty after authorities said they discovered more than 20 dead hunting dogs there. Dinwiddie County Animal Control went to the property late Friday based on a tip discovered the dead dogs inside the kennel.
The abuse must end, along with the exploitation of breeding dogs solely for monetary value.
Even on my short visit to the puppy farm, this was evident. The nearly 50 adult dogs were all the most gentle beings. Though again–overcrowding was an issue–females were put together in a large area together while the males were all in individual small cages outside. There appeared to be very little shelter from the chance of extreme weather.
It goes without saying that those who do choose to invest in puppies and/or dogs from breeders are not poor caregivers. Many results in loving homes for worthy animals. However, with only a bit of digging, the specific breeds can also be adopted from local shelters. The Shelter Pet project, a collaborative project between both the Human Society and Maddie’s Fund, whose mission is to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, is a reliable source to finding the perfect furry friend.
Even more so, if you are considering adopting a dog in the Fredericksburg area, the local SPCA and other shelters are willing to accommodate experienced and first-time adopters.
If you can’t commit to adoption but want to contribute time toward homeless dogs, Doggy Day Out, a program supported by the Fredericksburg SPCA, allows locals to check out a dog for a day and take them on hikes, to parks or even to get a Puppuccino from Starbucks.
Adopting a pet is a commitment for their lifetime and a mature, costly dedication. Next time you consider adopting a dog, go to your local shelter. Ask what dogs have been there the longest. Ask what dogs are next to be euthanized. I promise you, no matter the cost–you’ll find a forever friend.