As always, I want to be clear and this is why I reiterate a point made often on this blog: No one wants to see pets suffer and die in sub-standard conditions. It makes no difference to me whether these dogs are being warehoused for breeding in a “puppy mill” or warehoused for killing in a “shelter”. Causing suffering and needless death for pets is wrong. Full stop.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has never done anything to make me believe they care one bit about dogs suffering and dying anywhere. Neither has the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). And yet the two are frequently pitted against one another by reporters seeking “both sides of the story”. Newsflash: it’s the same story.
The Today Show website has an investigative report on AKC registered puppies and interviewed both an AKC representative and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, presumably for balance:
[Wayne Pacelle] says that while most AKC-registered breeders are probably fine, they’re seeing too many bad apples, from Montana to North Carolina. In some cases, those breeders are even convicted of animal cruelty.
“Most” are probably ok but some are bad – even to the point of animal cruelty. Gee Wayne Pacelle, have you ever heard of this system of pet killing facilities we have in our country? They deceptively call themselves “shelters” and you know, “humane societies” when in fact they are causing pets to suffer and die. “Most” are not fine. In fact most are killing healthy/treatable animals – the ultimate form of animal cruelty. And the directors of these pet killing facilities are keeping puppy mills in business.
But it’s no surprise Wayne Pacelle wouldn’t talk about that. It’s his job to ix-nay the uth-tray in order to keep compassionate donors on the hook. Thankfully more people are catching on every day. A reporter for WZTV in TN ran this story yesterday:
We checked the HSUS tax records Form 990. It shows the non-profit took in over $133 million in donations last year. Of that, $6 million went to local shelters.
So what does the Humane Society spend your donations on? Primarily fundraising, advertising, legislation to protect animals, and the lobbyists to push it through.
What else does the Humane Society of the U.S. spend your donations on? $17.3 million on lobbyists between the years of 2005-2009, more than it gave to local animal shelters in that time. In a letter, half a dozen congressmen called for an IRS investigation into HSUS’ tax exempt status. Tax exempt organizations are prohibited by law from attempting to influence legislation on a large scale. In a response, the IRS confirms to a congressman that it’s investigating, but wouldn’t comment on what, if any action it may take.
The reporter states that for 3 weeks, Wayne Pacelle declined the station’s requests for an interview.
We are not all on the same team. I am for no kill which means pets suffering and dying anywhere is unacceptable to me. HSUS and AKC are both on Team Screw The Pets, Show Me The Money.
November 12, 2012
An Ohio farmer named Jonas Beachy has been charged with 23 counts of animal cruelty after authorities seized 52 dogs from his farm on October 1. The dogs were allegedly severely matted, suffering from untreated injuries and living in filthy conditions. Mr. Beachy says he cares for his dogs and they were seized due to the fact that he is Amish and there are cultural differences at play.
“We don’t have TV and we don’t listen to the news,” Beachy said. “I was not aware that I was violating any laws whatsoever,” he said.
Right. Because TV and radio news are the main sources most Americans rely upon to make ourselves aware of laws.
Apparently Mr. Beachy sees no problem with a dog living in this condition. Because TV!
Mr. Beachy says that he has since read the applicable OH laws and determined that he “did not violate any laws”. His first court appearance is scheduled for November 27.
There are not nearly enough shelter pets for everyone in the U.S. who plans to get a pet this year. This is ok because some owners, about 1.5 million, are already set on an alternate source (a breeder usually) for the new pet they plan to get within the next year. Of course many, about 5 million, are determined to adopt the pet they will be getting this year. Since we have an estimated 8 million pets entering shelters in this country every year, we have plenty of animals for these 5 million owners to choose from. But there is a third group of people, about 17 million, who are planning to add a pet to the family within the next year and are open to the possibility of adopting from a shelter as a source for that animal. We have only about 3 million shelter pets left in the total estimated population who are healthy/treatable and available for adoption. As is plain, if we were to convince even half of these 17 million homes to adopt from a shelter, we would be coming up short by millions of animals. Even if we adjust our estimates (to allow for a tough economic situation) and suppose that there are a million more pets being taken in by shelters this year and a million less homes intending to add a new pet, we still wouldn’t have enough shelter pets for even half of those open to adoption.
So why are an estimated 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets being killed each year? Obviously there are more than enough homes for them so that is not the answer. Are we failing to get the message out to enough of the target market that shelter pets are good and adoption is a positive experience? I don’t think so. While marketing is an ongoing effort, I believe we’ve done well in this area – definitely well enough to convince at least 3 million people who were already open to the idea of adoption anyway.
The short answer is this: The reason 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets are going into the dumpster each year instead of home with people who want them is because shelter directors are killing them instead of doing their jobs.
The longer explanation is multifaceted and involves the entire community:
1. Shelter staff and volunteers drive the public away by blaming them for various mythical crimes such as failure to neuter and pet overpopulation. People are further driven away when they know the facility kills animals and every pet they look at might be taken to the kill room if they don’t adopt him. It’s too overwhelming for compassionate people to enter this kind of environment. And of course no establishment is going to attract customers if the service is lousy, the place stinks and/or the merchandise is displayed in the equivalent of a dungeon.
2. Shelters and rescue groups turn down applicants they deem unfit for pet ownership. While I support having adopters providing a picture ID and a completed adoption application so they can be checked for prior animal cruelty convictions, I find it objectionable to deny adopters for such reasons as having a job, not having a fence, having children, or being unable to pay a $350 adoption fee. It is not possible to determine the quality of life a pet will have by using an arbitrary list of criteria such as is commonly used by many shelters and rescues. There are responsible pet owners who will never lose a pet regardless of fence quality, type or lack thereof just as there are responsible pet owners who will lose a pet regardless of fence status. Similarly, there are irresponsible pet owners who work outside the home just as there are irresponsible pet owners who work at home or are unemployed. By refusing to let pets go home with the people who want them, shelters and rescues are keeping cages occupied that could otherwise be freed up to save the next pet in need.
Recently I heard a teenage girl being interviewed on a TV show. She said she practiced Satanism. When asked why, she responded, “Because it’s the only religion that accepts everyone.” Setting aside my own religious views, I have to admit she makes a good point. No one wants to be harshly judged or rejected. And as with religion, pet owners have the freedom to choose where they will get their pets. You know what groups in the pet world “accept everyone”? Pet stores. Irresponsible breeders. People giving away dogs and cats online or in parking lots. The people being turned away by shelters and rescues will get pets from somewhere, probably a source that does not provide continuing education and assistance, and they will likely move into the group who will never be open to pet adoption. Win? For whom?
3. Shelters don’t allow adopters to see, touch and fall in love with their pets. Some shelters are never open to the public for adoptions, others are only open when most people work. Some facilities only allow visitors to see a portion of the animals there and/or don’t allow adopters to touch the pets. All, some or none of the animals may be posted online for adopters to see using good, adequate, or horrible photos. Every shelter, especially those in low traffic locations, should be bringing animals to daily offsite adoption events in high traffic areas but many hold no offsite adoptions whatsoever. The bottom line: If people can’t see the animals, how will anyone be able to save them?
4. Shelters are killing animals based upon arbitrary criteria such as breed, coat color, heartworm status, age, weight and number of days spent in the facility. By assuming for example that people don’t want Pitbulls, or that there are too many tuxedo cats on the adoption floor already and therefore marking these pets for killing, they are unavailable to be adopted by people who want them. It sounds obvious, I know.
Somewhere out there right now, I imagine there is an adopter looking for a tuxedo cat because he wants to adopt a kitty and he happens to fancy tuxedo cats. There are plenty available in shelters so no problem, right? Let’s say this adopter only wants to adopt a pet he meets in person and feels a special connection with. So he visits his local municipal shelter. They do in fact have two tuxedo cats but he doesn’t make that connection with either. In the kill room however, they have just killed a tuxedo cat (for being one too many) who happened to be a very vocal pet. The adopter’s last cat was also a talker and in fact, had he met this one, he would have likely felt that special connection he was hoping for and adopted him.
My point being that shelter directors have no way of knowing which particular animal will cause an adopter to fall in love. By operating on the assumption that they do know, they are preventing pets from being matched up with the people who want them. Contrary to the belief of shelter directors who kill based upon arbitrary criteria such as coat color, adopters are not looking for any pet whose fur is of a particular color – they are looking for an individual pet that appeals to them in a unique way. The more pets available for adopters to meet, the greater the likelihood they will find that special animal they want to take home.
You know how this owner will be able to meet lots of tuxedo cats? By visiting every pet store in the county. And the more he meets, the greater the chance he will fall in love with one.
5. Shelter directors see killing as an option for controlling the population. If a compassionate director committed to saving animals’ lives was put into place at every pet killing facility, killing healthy/treatable pets would not be an option. Instead, the director, staff and volunteers would have to work their tails off to get animals out the door alive by any responsible means. This is what the directors, staff and volunteers at open admission no kill shelters do every day. It’s hard work that requires dedication, creativity and flexibility but it is the only ethical approach toward shelter population control.
By killing the approximately 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets that an estimated 17 million people planning to get a new pet are open to adopting, shelter directors are driving those 17 million people to other sources. Pet stores (supplied primarily by puppy mills) and profit driven breeders stay in business because there is a reliable market for their products. As long as there is a profit to be made, these undesirable sources for pets will remain plentiful. Killing healthy/treatable shelter pets ensures that puppy mills will continue to meet the demand for pets that shelters are not. If shelter directors would do their jobs and start getting every healthy/treatable pet in their care out alive, the demand for pets from alternative sources would be reduced. Put into simple terms, if shelters really want people to adopt, they need to let them.
Remind me again how the so-called irresponsible public is to blame for shelter pet killing?
May 18, 2012
A change proposed to the Animal Welfare Act will affect dog breeders who sell via the internet. Breeders who own more than 4 intact bitches would be required to open their breeding facilities, which in many cases is a person’s home, to the public or to USDA inspectors.
Do you think this proposed rule will protect puppy mill dogs? How do you feel about opening your home to strangers who contact you online about a puppy? Remember Bobbie Jo Stinnett?
September 16, 2010
Dear Cruel MoFos of the World,
My outrage-o-meter is seriously overloaded. Like the needle is shaking in the red zone and little puffs of smoke are seeping out accompanied by the occasional spark.
Please knock it off.
Seneca Co, NY: A puppy miller with a disturbing track record of problematic USDA inspection reports (pdf) was told by a USDA inspector at the June 29th inspection to address the issue of Brucellosis in his kennel. When the inspector came back on July 15, the puppy miller, David Yoder, informed the inspector he had indeed dealt with the contagious disease situation: by putting his dogs, 5-6 at a time, into a whelping box, Rube Goldberg’d into a gas chamber via an exhaust pipe and a 3 horse power farm engine. He couldn’t stay to monitor what level of suffering the dogs endured while being gassed because, you know – there were fumes and stuff and the puppy miller got a headache. So Mr. Yoder left them to die in view of the main kennel dogs who also suffered from the fumes. He came back after a bit to remove the bodies and put the next batch in for killing. In all, Mr. Yoder killed 78 dogs and 15 puppies in this manner.
OK, now we come to the really outrageous part. (You didn’t think that was it already I hope?) The USDA inspector typed up the report noting “This method of euthanasia should not be used again”, and mentioned that the remaining dogs had so much shit piled up in their cages, it wasn’t falling through the mesh floor anymore. The report was filed and tra-la-la, business as usual. Until:
Mary Anne Kowalski, a board member of the Seneca County SPCA, said she was not aware of anyone from the USDA reporting what she believes is a clear case of animal cruelty to local authorities.
Kowalski, who discovered the report of the gassing on the USDA website while updating her files [on September 13], said she was stunned at what she read. “I just lost it,” she said.
Kowalski said she reported the incident to the sheriff and district attorney in the hope that cruelty charges will be brought against Yoder.
Mr. Yoder’s wife commented to an area newspaper:
Barbara Yoder said today that USDA inspectors had urged them earlier to euthanize their dogs because they had contracted brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can also be passed to humans.
She said the USDA inspector “scolded” them for not having put the dogs down sooner.
Cruelty charges for the Yoders? Perhaps (investigation pending). For the USDA inspector? *tumbleweed* *howling wolf*
August 10, 2010
Pennsylvania: I’m not going to attempt to cover all the details of the case against Almost Heaven Kennels which resulted in the owner, Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, being sentenced to 6 to 23 months in jail on cruelty and related charges this year. Bill White of the Morning Call has been covering the story for years. I plucked some details from a couple of his columns to give you a taste of Almost Heaven.
A whistleblower who worked at the kennel for several years explained that Mr. Eckhart instructed her to sell puppies, no matter what she had to do to make the sale. She went along with this practice of lying to customers, knowing it was wrong, because she says she wanted to get as many dogs as possible “out of that hellhole”.
The scheme basically went like this: A customer would make an inquiry for a certain breed and/or age puppy and she would fill it, regardless of whether the kennel had the type of puppy requested. She would make up birthdates to make older pups seem younger, fabricate breeds to match the customer’s request, and then start writing in phony vaccination and deworming dates on a false veterinary record. The customer would plunk down the selling price (roughly $1000) and off they go with the exact puppy they were looking for. If any potential buyers attempted to perform due diligence and ask to see the parents of the puppy, she was prepared:
She said she would keep a fake mother and father dog cleaned up and available — friendly dogs she had obedience-trained — to show prospective buyers. “It was always a lie,” she said. “The whole thing was a lie.”
The rest of the 800 animals reportedly lived in appalling filth. Mr. Eckhart was ordered by the court at one point to stop accumulating dogs – an order he violated – and even tried changing the name of the kennel and listing his assistant as the owner on the website.
At trial, Mr. Eckhart’s attorney had an answer for everything. The kennels were filthy because authorities had locked Mr. Eckhart’s employees out during the raid, preventing them from cleaning. The dogs in the worst shape at the time of the seizure were rescues who had arrived only days before. Basically, Mr. Eckhart is a hero who just can’t say no to helping any dog in need. He’s guilty of having too big a heart.
They jury, on the other hand, found Mr. Eckhart guilty of cruelty and failure to comply with the cease and desist order. He began serving his sentence in May. On day four, Mr. Eckhart assaulted a prison guard. His lawyer has an explanation for that, too: His client was detoxing from all the prescription drugs he’d been taking. In fact, Mr. Eckhart doesn’t even remember what happened, seeing as he was in such a fog and all.
Now, after serving just a few months of his sentence, Mr. Eckhart wants out. He feels he should get probation, his sentence was too harsh, blah blah blah. The judge is set to make a ruling on the request in future. If denied, Mr. Eckhart will seek release on bail, pending an appeal of his conviction.
Mr. Eckhart’s attorney described him at trial thusly:
”He’s the last bastion of hope for animals that have nowhere to go.”
I’ll be interested to see if the judge decides to keep the Bastion in prison.
Thank you to Heather H. for alerting me to this story.
June 1, 2010
The IL Senate has passed a bill that is supposed to protect consumers with regard to pets sold in pet stores:
In Illinois, the legislation requires pet shops to post information on or near the cages of dogs and cats that includes: the name and address of each animal’s breeder; a record of all veterinary conditions and treatments; and any known information regarding congenital or hereditary defects of the animals’ parents.
Is this really going to help protect consumers? Let me fill out the information for one of the 47 puppies I’m selling to a broker this afternoon:
Name and Address: Mary Bad-Breeder, PuppySunshineville, USA
Veterinary conditions and treatments: Veterinary health certificate issued today.
(That is to say, my Vet gave this puppy a health certificate declaring he showed no signs of communicable disease and was too young for a Rabies shot at the age of 5 weeks when I prematurely removed him from the dam to turn over to the broker. The puppy may have had some other condition before that but I won’t be listing that here because I didn’t want to pay the Vet to come out and look at him. Therefore, no record.)
Known info on hereditary defects of parents: N/A
(That is, the parents may be defect free or may have every defect listed in the vet school textbooks – I don’t know because I don’t pay for those kinds of screenings.)
So the consumer sees a puppy from Mary Bad-Breeder who was issued a health certificate by a Vet a few weeks ago (which probably misleads the buyer into believing the puppy is therefore healthy) and the parents have no known congenital defects. Sounds like a winner!
Again, we don’t need new legislation for pet breeding. We have laws already on the books and the framework in place to enforce those laws. What we need is to fill in that framework with solid material and get the job done. Maybe, after we’ve been doing a good job at it for awhile, we might find a need for legislative changes. But how can we possibly know that now, when we’re failing to even pretend to have a handle on licensed pet breeders in this country?
May 26, 2010
Warning – There are extremely graphic photos of animal cruelty at both of the links below.
As many of us have been saying for years, the USDA has been falling down on the job with regard to licensed dog breeder inspections. Raised by Wolves has a first look at a report (pdf) the USDA has released in which they audit their own inspection practices. They basically give themselves an F. Minus.
- AC’s [Animal Care's] Enforcement Process Was Ineffective Against Problematic Dealers.
- AC Inspectors Did Not Cite or Document Violations Properly To Support Enforcement Actions.
- Although APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] previously agreed to revise its penalty worksheet to produce “significantly higher” penalties for violators of AWA [Animal Welfare Act], the agency continued to assess minimal penalties that did not deter violators.
- APHIS Misused Guidelines to Lower Penalties for AWA Violators.
You get the idea. And while this isn’t news to many of us who have recognized the results of the deficiencies in the USDA inspection process for years, I for one have often blamed the lack of funding which results in too few inspectors, lack of follow up, etc. Now I’m seeing that there appears to be rampant corruption within the agency, whether that be intentional or due to ignorance I neither know nor care.
The failings here are not simply a lack of funding. They are a systemic rot within the agency characterized by negligence – criminal negligence in this layman’s opinion. As a taxpayer, I expect far better from my government. The rot needs to be gutted from the USDA inspections process and replaced with solid material. For starters, any inspectors who saw the suffering dogs depicted in the cruelty photos and did not take appropriate action as per their job descriptions need to be 86′d. And I’m betting there are more that need to go.
This report reinforces my thought that there is no point – and indeed it would be counterproductive – to add new breeder laws to the books. We are not getting the job done as things stand. Let’s correct that before we talk about piling on more laws regarding pet breeding. We have the framework in place to get these tasks done but we are severely lacking in execution. I would think that’s a fixable problem. It’s called accountability. USDA inspectors need to do their jobs, not just cash the paychecks we provide for them every week.
May 4, 2010
Editorial: Is HSUS trying to guilt us into going vegan?
That piece got me thinking. When I see the HSUS commercials showing images of cows being treated cruelly at a slaughterhouse, I think of that in terms of something unusual. Similarly, when I see images of filthy dogs in dank cages, I think, “That’s not how most breeders take care of their dogs”. Of course I’ve known a lot of dog breeders so I feel confident in my assessment there. But I really don’t know any slaughterhouse operators. I just sort of assume that most people in animal agriculture are normal, compassionate folks doing a job. Am I wrong? Could I walk into just about any slaughterhouse and secretly film hours and hours of cows being treated inhumanely because that’s the norm, not the exception? Or do I have the context right – that this kind of thing is an aberration? What’s your take?
April 12, 2010
Some specifics on the seized dogs have emerged:
- Two Chihuahuas will require surgery. One has a busted left eye socket, which has left the dog blind. The other has a puncture to her side that allows air to leak from her lungs.
- A 10- to 12-year-old greyhound is missing much of her lower jaw and nearly all of her teeth from poor dental care. The dog is pregnant. A shelter veterinarian said the dog shouldn’t have been bred after age 2 or 3.
- An adult Weimaraner is malnourished to the point where the outline of his ribs and hip bones could be seen through his skin. Officials said the dog weighs about 40 pounds, but should weigh about 75 pounds.
- Other dogs have dozens of ticks — more than 30 on one greyhound; mammary tumors; bloody diarrhea; heartworms; missing teeth; bruising; and open wounds.
This in contrast to the kennel’s web site claims:
On its Web site, Rush Kennel bills itself as “North Carolina’s No. 1 dog kennel,” a place where Weimaraners, Labrador retrievers and other breeds frolic in a fenced play yard before the day ends with a massage, pool bath and pedicure.
18 complaints against the kennel are on file with various agencies. Among the complaints:
- A Winston-Salem woman who purchased two poodles last May. One died from worms two days after purchase. The other was diagnosed with glaucoma.
- A South Carolina woman who said she went to purchase a Weimaraner puppy from the kennel. She asked to see the dog’s parents and but was told “that it wasn’t allowed,” and also told she could not see where the dogs were kept.
- A man who reported the puppy he picked up from the kennel in January was infected with worms and parasites, and very underweight. The man said he called the kennel to request copies of X-rays and veterinary records, but an employee refused and became defensive before hanging up on him.
- A woman who purchased a Weimaraner puppy in 2003. At 22 months the dog developed a “terrible cough, began to appear thin and began to tire easily.” The dog was diagnosed with “multiple heart defects and congestive heart failure.” The dog had to be euthanized. The woman wrote that a cardiologist told her the dog’s conditions were hereditary and “a breeder should not have bred a dog with the defect.”
- A New York woman who said the Yorkshire terrier puppy she bought in June 2008 arrived at her residence “obviously sick, urinating on itself, lethargic, and “it smelled bad” and “it was not moving.” The woman said she received no medical records with the dog and took it to a veterinarian, where the puppy died.
Apparently local AC officers would regularly ferry discarded dogs from the kennel to the local shelter – 40 – 50 of them in the last 8 – 9 years. The shelter director, Marsha Williams:
“We would have to treat them for whatever illness or other problems they had,” she said. “They were not in very good shape when they were brought in to us. She said they were tired, like they were too old or she didn’t want to breed them anymore.”
So apparently local animal control, the shelter, the Better Business Bureau and the State Department of Agriculture were all aware of potential problems at this kennel but nobody ever did anything. NC does have animal cruelty laws on the books but it looks like in this situation, nobody could be bothered to enforce the law.
And now, the HSUS is using the opportunity to again push to get their “puppy mill bill” passed in NC. Authorities are not enforcing the laws already on the books, why would we add more and where will the funding for enforcement of this new law come from? It makes no sense to me. Failure to enforce existing animal welfare laws is not a logical stepping stone to creating new laws.