Guest Columnist

Stifling the puppy-mill pipeline

Volunteers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued 170 dogs from a puppy mill at a home west of Manly in the fall of 2018. The dogs were found in “appalling and overcrowded conditions,” according to a press release. (Submitted Photo)
Volunteers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued 170 dogs from a puppy mill at a home west of Manly in the fall of 2018. The dogs were found in “appalling and overcrowded conditions,” according to a press release. (Submitted Photo)

My personal and organizational support for implementing the puppy mill sales ban in Cedar Rapids is based on experience in medically treating released adult mill breeding dogs through work with Critter Crusaders of Cedar Rapids.

It is shocking and very sad to witness the condition that these pets are forced to live with. We have four dogs currently in our medical system, each released from breeders considered to be some of the state’s worst. The dogs suffer from fractures, overwhelming skin issues, cancer, broken teeth, sepsis … the list is endless.

The proposed Cedar Rapids puppy mill sales ban will assist in choking off the pipeline from supplier to retailer, and ultimately to the public.

Why is this important? Things move slowly at the state level. Many great organizations have been working for years to enact protections for captive factory mill dogs and, to this day, animals remain in horrendous conditions with forced breeding and little access to medical care. Factory mill breeders view these dogs as expendable. They are money producers, not pets.

It is a sweet deal for the retailers. They purchase large groups of purebred and designer pups at reduced cost from the mill breeders. Retailers then turn around and sell these pups for top dollar. The consumer gets an adorable puppy, which might have medical issues down the road from poor breeding practices. These have included heart conditions, retinopathy, hip issues and more.

These pups certainly all deserve a good life as well. Remember, factory mill breeding is not about the quality of pups produced and sold. It is about the quantity. Retailers become an important part of the money train that drives the engine. Every parent dog confined in those mills and forced into a life of breeding is a living, breathing pawn.

It is Iowa’s dirty little secret, legal animal abuse.

Reducing the number of retailers, even if Cedar Rapids only has one retail outlet, will ultimately have a huge impact. Banning the sale of mill pups in retail stores is quickly becoming a national focus. One store that propagates the production of mill pups by selling the pups locally is one too many. Each community that allows this to occur becomes part of the problem and a link in the chain of the abuse that occurs daily in Iowa’s factory and commercial breeding operations. The puppies are adorable but their parents are living each day in a shop of horror. Collectively, we can make a difference.

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It is also extremely important to recognize the many wonderful, reputable breeders who do this right. They have wrongly taken a hit in this conversation.

A distinction needs be drawn between inhumane factory or commercial mill breeders and reputable breeders who promote the integrity of their dogs by protecting bloodlines and producing gold standard pups.

These are the breeders who stay true to the love of their dogs and the breed or breeds they promote. All of us who are involved in local or state puppy mill work have a responsibility to highlight this distinction.

• Jan Gatto Erceg of Solon is medical coordinator for Critter Crusaders of Cedar Rapids, which provides medical care to homeless dogs and cats at no cost to Eastern Iowa shelters and rescues.

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