Is That Puppy You're Buying Healthy?
Friday, May 31, 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa – In recent months, two Iowa communities have been asked to consider ordinances that would ban the purchase of commercially-raised dogs. The move followed the "Horrible Hundred" report by the Humane Society of the United States, that identified Iowa as the number two state for the worst puppy mills in the nation, according to inspection records by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Iowa had 13 breeders included among the worst offenders. Iowa's Mindi Callison owns Bailing Out Benji, an animal advocacy group. She says the culture of instant gratification often means people want a dog shipped to them within days – and it's typically from a puppy mill.
"And our largest here in Iowa has over a thousand breeding dogs, and those aren't including the puppies,” says Callison. “They're just constantly churning out puppies to supply that 'Amazon culture' of demand."
Puppy-mill dogs are usually sold to pet stores, where some animals in the past two years have developed a bacterial infection that can be passed to humans, inducing flu-like symptoms. Both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have looked into banning puppy-mill purchases.
Journalist Rory Kress wrote the book "The Doggie in the Window: How One Dog Led Me from the Pet Store to the Factory Farm to Uncover the Truth of Where Puppies Really Come From," about the issue last year, after wondering about the origins of the dog she purchased from a puppy mill. She says her investigation turned up an obvious red flag.
"If you are not allowed to go onto their property and see where the dogs are kept, see how they live, walk around freely, spend time there, you're probably dealing with a puppy-miller,” says Kress. “Puppy-millers very frequently will offer to meet you in a neutral location."
While Callison advocates for adoption or rescue, she says you don't need to roll the dice on whether you'll get a healthy dog.
"If someone really, really wants a puppy, of course we always advocate for adoption through shelters or rescue,” says Callison. “But they can also go find a reputable breeder, and they can meet the parents of the dog and ask for those health records."
Calison notes that Iowa's puppy mills are concentrated in the northwest and southern parts of the state.
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