By Priscilla Feral, Friends of Animals
The business of producing puppies makes puppies a cash crop.
The United States, we hear, is a nation of animal lovers. Yet the business of producing puppies -- whether from puppy mills or other breeders, many of whom pay for pedigreed dogs to be registered by groups such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) -- makes puppies a cash crop.
What does it mean to be an AKC-registered dog? It means the animal had two parents of the same breed. When the AKC registers dogs, the owners get papers that enable them to command a price for the puppies who are bred and sold, whether from their homes, from breeders' kennels, or through the pet shops. The AKC counts on puppy mills (high-volume pet dealers) for the bulk of the puppies they register.
If the AKC won't recognize a particular breed, the dogs of that kind are likely registered and sold through other pet registries, such as the Continental Kennel Club (CKC). The coveted paperwork then allows people to charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for registered dogs, who are treated as stock in a harrowing commercial industry.
In late January, 2010, a dog breeder appeared as a defendant on Judge Judy Sheindlin's courtroom television show, Judge Judy. He had sold an Old English Bulldog puppy to the plaintiff -- a family who complained that their eight-month-old male puppy wasn't registered with the CKC, and that they had therefore missed out on $2,000 in stud fees. The defendant claimed the puppy's owners were making up excuses to rid themselves of the dog, who was accused of jumping on the couple's two children -- and, oddly enough, chewing tires. Perhaps the dog lived in a garage, as the couple expected him to exist to sire puppies. They also complained that the puppy's tail was too long.
English Bulldogs originated in Britain. The Old English breed is actually new: It was started in 1971 through a breeding scheme in the United States which aimed to make the original breed leaner, taller, and more aggressive-looking. To achieve this effect, English Bulldogs were interbred with American Bulldogs, Pit Bull Terriers, and the powerful, sandy-brown Bullmastiffs; and thus appeared the Old English Bulldogs. The AKC registers English Bulldogs, but would have none of the newer version. So this new breed was scooped up by the CKC.
The defendant seller produced CKC papers. But then the plaintiffs complained that they already lost one stud fee in the first eight months of the dog’s life.
Judge Judy ruled for the defendant seller, tossing out the lawsuit, and the family replied that they'd be left having to work the dog into their family.
I usually find Judge Judy an exciting, satisfying show. But this episode horrified me.
Early in 2010, PetSmart Charities released the results of a survey they commissioned to make sense of the public's actions and perceptions regarding sterilization, adoption of dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups, and killings of animals in pounds. Surveying 3,000 adults, the study found the following facts.
- Of the unsterilized animals acquired in the past year, 48 percent hadn't been spayed or neutered.
- Most of those surveyed had no idea that 4 - 5 million adoptable dogs and cats are killed in U.S. shelters every year.
- People earning $55,000 or more were more likely to adopt from shelters and rescue groups than those earning less. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it could indicate that lower earners are buying animals as breeding investments.
- Residents of southern states and those under age 35 are the least likely to sterilize animals.
We all need to raise awareness, and take action. Last year, Friends of Animals arranged and helped fund the sterilization of approximately 36,000 cats and dogs -- a 15% increase over 2008. We expect to cover more than 40,000 surgeries in 2010. The total number of sterilization surgeries we've produced through our nationwide network of veterinarians over the years now exceeds 2.5 million. Your investment in our work is so very much needed and always appreciated.