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How Much is that Doggie on the Internet?

October 24, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - You can buy just about anything online now, but when that purchase is a brand new puppy, how much do you really know about where or how the puppy came to be? Thousands of puppies are bred and sold by large-scale commercial breeders, often called "puppy mills." These dogs can come with diseases that ring up huge veterinary bills for the unwitting buyer, according to Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States Puppy Mills Campaign.

Kahn says lots of these pups are bred and kept in filthy, cramped cages, where humane treatment takes a backseat to profits.

"We see dogs that are filthy and have severe illnesses - often they're genetic diseases. We've seen facilities where the dogs haven't been fed."

Kahn's organization is gathering signatures on an online petition to ask the Obama administration to cover commercial breeders under the USDA Animal Welfare Act. It would require minimum standards for humane treatment. Opponents of that idea say many states already have laws covering breeders.

The Humane Society recommends adopting a dog from a local shelter or a rescue first, even if you are looking for a specific breed. Kahn says about 25 percent of homeless dogs are purebreds. If people decide to go through a breeder, she suggests doing a little research first.

"We encourage people to go to a responsible breeder. That's someone who does not breed their dogs purely for profit, someone who genuinely cares about the welfare of the dog."

Kahn says a good online resource is www.petfinder.com. For information about the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill operator, she suggests visiting www.humanesociety.org.

The online petition is available at http://tinyurl.com/42hl4bc.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA