This is guest post from a passionate animal care advocate that wanted to have this story heard, but wished to remain anonymous. We thought the story should be told on SingingDogs.net for people to be educated and aware about puppy mills.
Bidding on puppy mill dogs at an auction is controversial. On the one hand it is like buying a puppy from a pet store; you are putting money into the hands of the puppy millers and many rescues won’t buy dogs from auctions for this reason. Other rescues feel that the dogs will be sold regardless, so the mill breeders will get their money regardless, and they focus on relieving the plight of the individual dogs being sold.
We arrived at 2:30 pm, about halfway through the auction. The first shock was that the place was packed with at least 150 cars. There were so many people in the arena where the auction was held that it was difficult to move, see, or hear one another without putting your ear next to the speaker's mouth. Imagine the dogs trying to cope in such strange surroundings amidst that din! There were signs posted on the wall warning that anyone using cameras or video cameras, including cell phone versions, would have their equipment confiscated.
The dogs were brought out in lots by breed, up to 4 at a time. Smaller dogs were placed in a sitting position on a table, larger breeds left on the floor. Bidding was per dog, with the highest bidder getting to say which dog of the 4 they wanted, up to all 4 at the high bid price.
Some dogs went for as little as $50, but most were considerably more than that. I was also shocked to find that some breeds sold for as much as one would pay for a puppy from a reputable breeder; Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers sold for $1200. I was surprised to find Neapolitan Mastiffs being auctioned. The most numerous breed was the English Bulldog. I wondered aloud why puppy mills would raise a breed that had such small litters born by caesarian section, but someone explained to me that they would sell each puppy for as much as $2,500.
When bidders were ready to check out, they went to a line where they could pay by cash or credit card. Then they moved to a line where they signed a transfer of ownership form, and received vaccination records for the dog.
Then some guys brought the dogs out of a holding pen area to load them into the buyer’s vehicle. We had intended to go into the holding pen area to look around until we noticed that at least 1 dog in the auction had failed its brucellosis test. As my friend and I have litters planned, we decided to stay outside and wait for our dogs to be brought out to us.
As we got a better look at the dogs, the following issues came to light. All of the dogs had severely overgrown toenails. Most of the dogs were grossly overweight. Puppy mill breeders free-feed cheap dog food in big buckets; they have too many dogs to monitor individual intake. The dog’s coats were poor and greasy due to the cheap food and lack of brushing or baths. Few of them knew how to walk on leash. One dog had a puncture on her nose that was oozing pus. Two of the females were full of milk; their puppies had obviously been pulled off of them so that the dams could go to auction. The biggest dog we took had extensive pressure abrasions on her hocks and elbows from resting on hard surfaces. The only vaccinations on record were rabies shots. Most of the dogs had only had these within the past month so that they could go to auction. One of the dogs had just received her rabies vaccination that day.
For these dogs, at least, and those purchased by a couple of other rescues in attendance, their life is about to take an abrupt turn for the better. The majority of dogs went to other puppy mill breeders and a fate I wouldn’t wish for any dog. I encourage all of us to screen our puppy buyers carefully, make sure that our spay/neuter contracts are honored, and to stay in touch with puppy buyers, doing all that we can to make sure that no dog bred by us ever ends up in these straits.
While waiting to collect our rescues, I picked up two magazines from a stack published by the “Professional Kennel Industry” and brought them home to study later. The shocks just kept coming. In what follows, everything in quotes comes verbatim from one of the two magazines.
There’s a memoir-like article by a guy who moved from California to Missouri with 13 dogs; he nonchalantly mentions that he now has 320 dogs. Can you imagine? Forget socialization; even if someone had 10 employees it would be impossible to provide adequate basic care for that many.
The advertisers in the magazines surprised me. Pro Pac and Sportmix, the makers of those cute little biscuits we put out at shows, had an ad with a banner at the bottom saying “We are Proud Supporters of the Breeder Industry!”
And how about this ad from the Hunte Corporation? “Get 5 pounds of puppy dog food free for every puppy you sell to The Hunte Corporation” The logo is “Hunte (with a little Christian fish symbol under it) where puppies come first!”
Several registries advertised in these magazines. America’s Pet Registry (APA), located in Arkansas, styles itself The People’s Registry. They have what they call a hybrid registry for designer dogs.
Most of the dogs we rescued were registered with the American Canine Association, Inc. (ACA) “Receive credit and recognition for being one of the finest breeders in the nation”. ACA was advertizing its Champion of Champions Conformation Show in Poplar Bluff, MO. If I remember what she told me correctly, my friend from Missouri said that you have to be licensed to have more than 10 intact bitches, unless you show them, so these organizations now put on shows.
And yes, AKC was among the advertisers. “AKC for You! Dedicated Support For Your Breeder Needs!” “AKC Registration of Breeding Stock Our Administrative Research Registration service (ARR) allows AKC staff to research pedigrees of dogs not currently registered with AKC. If the dogs come from AKC registered stock, the dog may be eligible for AKC registration. The AKC is currently waiving all fees for this service.”
The AKC ad appeared facing an ad for The Cavalry Group. While both magazines were full of diatribes about Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), this group appeared to be the most extreme in its fear-mongering. “The Cavalry Group is here! Protecting your farm, your animals, and your livelihood from illegal searches of your farm or business, illegal seizure of your animals or property…”
Back to other AKC ads: “Waived Late Fees Have you postponed registering your litter or dog? In many cases the Breeder Relations team can waive any late fees.” “AKC Web Banners Breeders in good standing may use an AKC web banner on their web site. What better way to signify you are part of America’s premier purebred registry? Contact Breeder Relations for details.”
In an article by Michael Ganey, AKC Marketing Director, titled “The AKC Offers New Breeder Support”, the following paragraphs appear: “One size does not fill all – You sell your puppies in many ways: to distributors, direct to pet stores, or directly to families. No matter which approach you choose, it’s a decision that fits your personal style. Some folks like dealing with families over the phone and in person. Others enjoy working directly with pet store owners and managers. A third group enjoys the convenience of having distributors handle all the sales and delivery of tasks on their behalf. There is even a small group that employs all three strategies. It’s all a matter of personal choice and preference.
We responded by streamlining our communications to fit the way you sell. Distributor customers now receive monthly reminders highlighting the bonuses AKC puppies often command. And new marketing tools and services are being developed for breeders who sell direct.”
Clear enough for you? AKC feels it has to compete with these other registries and is willing to support puppy millers to do so.