Weighing in on Oprah’s Show on Puppy Mills

I am no expert on puppy mills, but I am intelligent enough to know that there are varied points of views and assorted experts who have weighed in on this topic over the years. I am just as horrified as others are about the puppy mill situation but have difficulty when Oprah decides to take on the subject.

Folks are led to believe that all of the persons that Oprah brings to her show are the best and the most definitive in their respective expert positions. But, I am not one of those folks. I have shuddered when I see the dog training experts that have graced her stage, and was aghast when she decided to adopt 3 Golden puppies at one time.

That said, I would not be the best person to critique her recent show on puppy mills and early spaying/neutering. I do have to say that the jury is still out on the best age at which to spay or neuter as doing these procedures too early can have other health repercussions with respect to bone development and development of cancers.

Here is an intelligent discussion from Roberta Pliner, a woman who writes professionally along with being the owner of Irish Wolfhounds.

Well, almost everyone who’s weighed in on this topic thinks the show wasn’t as bad as expected, and even not bad at all. Really?

But the program asserted:

1. Ninety-nine percent of all dogs in pet shops come from puppy mills, such as the horrible substandard kennels as shown on the program.

Answer: If this were true, the pet shops would have been out of business a long time ago for lack of healthy puppies. The truth is that 99 percent of pet shop puppies come from clean, highly regulated, well-managed commercial kennels. Whether some of us think commercial kennels are good or less good ways to breed dogs is another question, but the vast majority selling to pet shops are not filthy puppy mills. Nor are their dogs overbred, inbred, and given no veterinary care. State and local law at both ends of the sales equation demand proof of vaccinations and health certificates, thereby mandating veterinary care.

1A. A corollary to the above was the assertion that 99 percent of all dogs acquired through the Internet came from substandard kennels who inbred, overbred, and gave their dogs no veterinary care.

Answer: The Internet includes in large measure breed and all-breed lists, breeder websites, dog club websites, general dog care lists and websites….IOW, a host of ways in which breeders and prospective buyers meet on the Internet, after which they can check each other out much more thoroughly and easily than was ever possible pre-Internet. The Internet makes it possible to find more good breeders and more good buyers than any other way of finding good dogs and good homes for dogs.

2. Spaying and castrating dogs are very easy operations, as shown on the program.

Answer: But only a small part of the castration operation was shown and that shot through a filter, and none of the spaying (OHE) operation was shown or even discussed. Castrating dogs and spaying bitches are NOT easy operations. The assembly-line low-cost spay/castrate programs don’t tell you how many patients they lose. For that matter, most good vets won’t even tell you how many patients they lose during or after those very surgeries.

3. People looking for a new dog can find any breed, any age in shelters or breed rescue groups.

Answer: There are over 300 pure breeds in the U.S., of which only about 40 or so will be found in shelters, and perhaps another 20 or 30 with some degree of regularity in rescue groups (though not necessarily wherever one lives). These are the 60 or 70 most populous breeds in the U.S. Beyond them, as the breeds become less and less populous, the chances of finding any in rescue, much less shelters, becomes infrequent to remote to nonexistent. However, that those less populous breeds continue to have loyal followings means that they and no other breed fulfill their owners’ preferences and needs. To persuade someone who wants one breed to take some other dog from a shelter is to invite another owner-relinquished dog.

4. The awful conditions of the Pennsylvania kennels shown on the program and identified as Amish concentrated in Lancaster County were said to be perfectly legal, therefore hard to correct.

Answer: Pennsylvania, like every other state, has specific anti-neglect and anti-cruelty laws mandating a certain minimum standard of care. Moreover, Pennsylvania has very stringent laws governing the management, structure, and husbandry of all kennels with more than 26 dogs on the premises. As well, all kennels who sell wholesale are subject to USDA regulation, all 66 pages of it. The conditions in those kennels shown on Oprah are NOT LEGAL, so the problem there is enforcement. That has nothing to do with whether dogs are spayed or castrated elsewhere. If every dog in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were spayed or castrated tomorrow, that wouldn’t change conditions in those bad kennels one iota. If they are not meeting state and federal standards of care, then inspect, investigate, and correct as needed on that basis.

5. Shelters all over the country are at or above capacity, which is why all dogs who are not adopted have to be euthanized. This is happening in shelters in every community all over the country.

Answer: This is not true. Shelters in most of the Northeast, parts of California, and parts of Florida are so underutilized that they import most of their dogs from other states or countries. At present, 300,000 dogs are imported from third-world countries every year, and they’re coming in with rabies and other zoonoses. If shelters in the South (as shown on the program in Ft. Worth) are killing their excess dogs, it is because they are not doing good outreach as taught by Nathan Winograd, founder of the No-Kill ethodology, and/or are not networking with Northern shelters to transport some of their excess dogs to where there is a greater demand for them. Other than dogs who are very old, seriously chronically ill, or bad-tempered, there is no reason to euthanize any dogs in the U.S.

6. The main reason cited for too many dogs for available homes was the failure of Americans to spay or castrate their dogs.

Answer: According to the current edition of the APPMA’s National Pet Survey, the bible of the pet supply industry, 75 percent of all owned dogs in the U.S. and 87 percent of all owned cats are spayed or castrated. Far from not spaying or castrating enough dogs, the numbers of intact dogs are so low at present that many breeds are at risk of extinction.