There has been a lot of press surrounding the new large-scale study conducted by Best Friends Animal Society and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine; in a nut shell, this study found that puppy mills inflict irremediable damage to pet dogs. It found that dogs used as breeders in puppy mills had long term psychological damage, regardless of how clean and well run it was. Here is an excerpt:
The results of the study indicate it really doesn’t matter if the breeding operation claims to be shiny and clean, abiding by the laws, or even whether or not they are licensed by the USDA,” McMillan said. “This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large scale breeding facilities don’t just suffer while they’re confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years even when they’re placed in loving homes. Many of the dogs show difficulty in simply coping successfully with normal day-to-day life.
There is no precise, legal definition of a puppy mill. It is generally accepted though, that they are large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities that operate for profit. It is generally understood that they will sacrifice animal welfare to maximize profits. In Defense of Animals notes that any breeder with 4 breeding animals that sells to wholesalers must obtain a USDA license, but that average puppy mills house 65 to 75 animals, though some house thousands.
The main contributing factor to the damage done to these dogs is poor breeding (inbreeding and over breeding), the isolation and lack of "normal" exposure to people, places, noise, etc. Even a small facility that keeps dogs in cages, inbreeds, over breeds, and limits stimulation and socialization can be damaging. The study admits that these dogs will often never be "normal".
So how is this different from what the Vick dogs experienced? The Vick dogs were kept like puppy mill dogs and in addition many suffered the added abuse associated with dogfighting. Federal officers reportedly removed about 54 apbts from Vick's property according to a transcript of his indictment. Of the 54 apbts, about 30 were found on chains in a yard.
Examples of dogfighter's yards show these are large scale
puppy mills designed to produce mentally damaged dogs
The Virginia Beach SPCA reportedly took Vick's 9 beagles, two rottweilers, and a cane corso according to other sources. The beagles had been kept in cages and reportedly had been used both as bait dogs and as blood sources for blood transfusions for the fighting dogs.
Note that JR suffers from the exact
behavioral issues described in the BR study
Do you see any irony here? In fact, how is this different from what LOTS of pit bull breeders are doing with their "yards"? Vicks pit bulls were not pets, they were kept in isolated kennels, yet the public was told they all went on to assimilate easily and become normal pets! We all know that, in reality, thats not true. Read about Best Friend's Vick dogs: Shaky Mel, Handsome Dan, and the saga of Tug, Denzel and their victim, Beans). Then there is Sweet Jasmine, Sweet Pea and a third, nameless pit bull. Read their accounts and notice that these dogs were suffering in just the way the new BF study describes puppy mill dogs always suffer.
A perpetually terrified Sweet Jasmine bolted
Stirling, was struck by a car and died.
The HSUS, ASPCA, Best Friends, and other humane groups have previously been VERY careful when discussing commercial breeding operations, for good reason. MANY working dogs are raised in conditions that may constitute commercial breeding operations. Hunting dogs bred and raised on hunting plantations down south are very typically raised in outdoor kennels, whelped outside, and not treated or handled as pets. Some detection dogs used for security are kennel raised dogs...Some trainers stopped placing bomb sniffing dogs in homes, in part because they were using play drive for training, and the toy had to become a high value resource; in a family home, they were playing a lot, and lost motivation. Kenneling them allowed the rewards to be more controlled.
There is a very real distinction between working dogs, being used for a specific purpose, and pets, whose role is that of a companion animal. Working dogs who are kenneled and bred in commercial breeding operations are NOT pets, but they ARE afforded an opportunity to regularly engage in the type of meaningful "work" which they are genetically motivated to do. In doing this "work", they get companionship from their handler, appropriate excersize, and rewards, which may consist of food, playtime, affection, etc. Because of their inate drive and desire to perform the "work" which they were bred for, and the fact that this work allows them to form a close partnership with their handler, the quality of life these dogs have is often as good as, if not better than, many pet dogs.
On the other hand, the "job" of a pet dog is to be a healthy, friendly, biddable companion who can assimilate easily into our home and community. That is the "work" of a pet dog. The study makes it clear that commercial breeding operations do NOT produce dogs that are suitible for this "work".
One working dog that must also be highly companionable is the Seeing Eye dog. Long ago, The Seeing Eye recognized that they needed to raise their own dogs to develop dogs that have the best innate temperaments and that were physically very healthy. They also recognized that the had to raise the young puppies in families in order to produce mentally healthy, sociable, companionable and biddable dogs that were suitable for their work.
Companionable, biddable, working Lab puppy being
raised with a foster family as part of the Seeing Eye's
Dusty, a Seeing Eye dog in training, was living
with a foster family as part of the puppy raiser
program when a pit bull attacked him and he had
to be washed out of the program
So any kennel that claims to breed dogs as companions, yet houses them like livestock, can be labeled a puppy mill. Which begs the question....which type of breeder are these APBT breeders who run large "yards"? If both common sense and science show us that raising dogs on chains and in kennels does NOT produce a dog that makes a good pet, can we then assume these are "working dogs"? If they are "working dogs", what kind of "work" do they do? If you have 50 pit bulls on your property, on chains and in kennels outside, and are selling their puppies for huge sums of money, what kind of people are buying them? Since anyone looking for a pet pit bull can find literally hundreds of them in local shelters, with incentives thrown in such as reduced adoption fees, free or low cost training, s/n, shots, etc, why would someone buy one from a breeder? If pit bulls in pet homes are being abandoned by the tens of thousands and ending up in shelters, doesn't that mean they are failing at their "job" as pets? Doesn't it indicate that there is NO pet market for these dogs? So what is the real market for large scale pit bull breeders?
Why is it not OK for a pug to be raised in a kennel, but it IS OK for a pit bull to be raised in a "yard"? Why are the Vick dogs held up as success stories, when they show all the same symptoms as the permanently damaged puppy mill dogs? And if all these large scale breeders of fighting dogs are truly selling them as pets, why isn't Best Friends publicly condemning them for the damage done to these dogs?
So is Best Friends willing to take on the dogmen now? The Best Friends study concludes that dogs raised in large scale breeding operations will never be what our society considers "normal". We have no complaint with that conclusion. But at the same time that BF is paying for and promoting this survey, they also advocate for the placement of pit bulls found during dog fighting investigations. These pitiful victims of the dog fighting culture have been raised in isolation, have not been socialized, bred for an activity so violent that it is a felony in all 50 states, and they are inbred to an extreme. BF has successfully championed changes in state law to allow these most dangerous damaged dogs to be adopted into our communities.
Why isn't BF concerned with the breeding and husbandry practices of pit bull breeders? Why isn't BF concerned with the safety of the humans, pets, and livestock that will come into contact with the dogs bred and trained for dogfighting that they have placed in your neighborhood? Can Best Friends explain how dogs of a hundred different breeds are damaged by commercial breeders to the point where many never become normal pets, but pit bulls can be raised in yards, rescued from fighting rings by amateurs and, with hugs and kisses, become normal pets?
Can we ask Best Friends to publicly condemn dog fighters' commercial breeding operations? Who do you think is buying these old time dogfighter's dogs, and for what purpose? Can we conclude that dogs not bred by responsible breeders and raised and housed as pets will not be "normal"? Shouldn't that mean we should be looking at regulating large scale pit bull breeding operations? Shouldn't we demand that BF look at their own research and condemn the practice of attempting to rehabilitate fighting bred dogs from dogfighting busts? After all, they have just proven that these dogs can never become normal and safe companions in homes.
Authors: Branwyne, april29, snacksizeddog