"Puppy Mills: Do Something!"

This article first appeared in the July 1999 AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission. AKC logo
by Mary L. Price

Our guest columnist is Mary L. Price, the Newfoundland Club of America’s Rescue Chairperson. She designed and implemented the NCA’s Rescue program in 1982.

When purebred dogs are found in puppymills breed clubs are faced with two options:

1. do nothing, thereby passively supporting puppymills and shifting the responsibility for their breed’s rescue to other groups, or

2. do something to rescue their breed from that part of the companion animal production system that exploits rather than reveres purebred dogs.

The Newfoundland Club of America developed a policy to prepare for the eventuality that Newfoundlands would be offered at puppymill dispersals. That policy guided the NCA Rescue Service recently when 24 Newfoundlands were acquired at a Missouri dog auction offering over 170 purebred dogs. The fate of these Newfoundlands impelled over fifty Rescue volunteers from eight states into action.

The primary reason to acquire dogs from any source – puppymill/wholesaler, retailer, shelter, owner-surrender – is to affect the rest of their lives. The Rescue Service arranges veterinary care including spaying and neutering, provides foster care and then places dogs in loving homes, the direct effect of acquisition.

Removing breeding stock from puppymills has many indirect effects, not the least of which is the prevention of future litters. Analyzing their pedigrees determines how puppymills acquired their breeding stock and provides the opportunity to remind responsible breeders to screen their puppy buyers very carefully and to strongly encourage the AKC Limited Registration option. Comparing the AKC Stud Register and the USDA List of Licensed Dealers (puppymills and brokers) tells breed clubs “in whose hands is our breed”.

Generous donations, bequests and grants to the Rescue Fund provide the means to rescue from puppymills and other sources, and then to care for the dogs.

When Rescue funds are used to acquire dogs from puppymills, occasionally the question arises “Aren’t we just contributing to their profits?”. Proceeds from auction sales are disbursed to many businesses, such as the auctioneers for their commissions; veterinarians who prepare the USDA interstate health certificates; microchip and tattoo companies (AKC requirement for auctioned dogs); distributors of dog food and supplies (vaccines and wormers); states and counties for sales taxes and kennel licenses, etc. If these puppy farmers have other agricultural operations other vendors, including seed and fertilizer companies (crop liens), etc. are paid, as well as vendors’ claims if bankruptcy has been filed.

The monetary toll on the Rescue Fund can be large. It is offset by placement fees, appeals to the fancy for special donations and applications for grants from charitable foundations. The emotional toll on Rescue volunteers can also be great. The difficult decisions, to euthanize very sick dogs, or to abort litters, etc., is balanced with the secure feeling that these dogs were given a humane and dignified end by people who are dedicated to the breed.

The rewards of Rescue work come from the knowledge that every effort was made to help each dog. The delightful reports and pictures from the adoptive families describing blooming personalities and newly–learned activities and antics recharge Rescue volunteers for the next Rescue challenge.

Our Rescue program, modeled by many breed clubs, is successful due to the trust placed in our Rescue volunteers to make sound decisions that provide the best assistance to the Newfoundlands in need. By supporting Rescue work the Newfoundland Club of America has made a significant commitment to one of its constitutional objectives – “to do all in its power to protect” Newfoundlands. - MLP