As a veterinarian near Amish country PA, how can I better spread the word?
There are parts of the profession I have learned to accept, even though I disagree, but this one never gets any easier. It’s the family that comes in with a new puppy that they’ve just purchased from, guess where, a puppy mill.
Did you know that when the horrors of puppy mills made it to mainstream media, the sale of dogs from puppy mills actually increased because people wanted to rescue them? This just further encourages the industry, and is not the answer!
Unfortunately, we live very near Lancaster PA. When friends and family come to visit, they often want to take a day trip to see the picturesque barns and wooden fences of Amish country. But I refuse to accompany them; I know that inside those picturesque barns are thousands of crowded puppies matted in their own feces and urine, living in a squalor of filth. I will have nothing to do that could in any way be in support of their puppy mill practices.
Being so close to puppy mill country, I get to be “the bad guy” time and time again. Actually, as a veterinarian, I took an oath which requires me to educate these wide-eyed new puppy parents on all the genetic disorders that their newest family addition has. It is not an easy thing to do, to walk the line of educating them without offending them. I do believe some of these pet parents didn’t realize their mistake.
I can think of one particular little Yorkie Lucy that was so scarred from growing up in fear that she suffered from crazed aggression. Despite repeat visits to the University of Pennsylvania (quite the premier veterinary hospital, if you don’t know) to seek behavioral help, despite behavior-modifying drugs, despite herbs, despite her parent’s best efforts, it was still the veterinary behaviorist’s expert opinion to euthanize the dog because Lucy had actually become a danger and was attacking the children in the family repeatedly. After all modalities of treatment and therapy were exhausted, it came down to the end.
That was one of the most mixed-emotions euthanasias for me. I felt compassion for the family because they were devastated it had come to this, and I felt anger because it was not Lucy’s fault. I felt sadness that we were even in this situation at all, as it seems like such an obvious issue that it should not still exist. I have never seen a domesticated animal like Lucy. She was enraged, sick with aggression. I am convinced that her brain was mis-wired as a result of her genetics and her environment– the reckless puppy mill she came from.
Puppies from puppy mills usually don’t have stories quite this dramatic and conflicting, however, they do usually suffer the countless myriad of diseases, conditions, and defects that come along with the background, both behavioral and medical. The dog health problems can be numerous. They often end up causing much frustration to their families, require unusually extensive training efforts because of their lack of crucial socialization skills, and rack up abnormally high vet bills in attempts to alleviate these illnesses. Even after all efforts made by the best owners who have purchased a puppy mill puppy, their lives may be drastically shortened by genetic conditions that cannot be treated medically.
As a veterinarian in this part of the country, how do you think I should properly educate these clients that are apparently living under rocks and don’t know that buying a puppy from puppy mills supports this despicable business? It’s in the movies, it’s on the news, it’s been blogged about tens of thousands of times, so what can we do to get out the message to more mainstream folks?
Think you are a puppy mill expert? Check out our monthly puzzle contest designed to promote awareness to the public about puppy mills, not to just us pet people. Click on the puzzle to enlarge it, and read the instructions. Be sure to share with your less pet-obsessed people. We all know the puppy mill message; let’s get it out to them! One lucky person with the right answer will win a $50 gift card to PetSmart!
Thanks for all that you are doing today and everyday to promote & end puppy mill pet suffering,