Friday, April 4, 2008

OPRAH and The Puppy Mill Show

The way rumors were flying around the internet when it was first announced that Oprah Winfrey was going to do a show on puppy mills, you'd think the sky was about to fall! Responsible breeders in the dog fancy were afraid they were going to be vilified when they are not at fault. One post from some man who claimed to represent an organization of Sporting dog people went so far as to advise boycotting Oprah's sponsors. How can anyone call for a boycott or get upset before they've seen the program? People were leaping to so many conclusions that it was like watching grand jetes at the ballet!

Like every other dog lover, dog writer, behavior consultant, etc., I simply had to stop my day and watch the show. It was, at this point, mandatory viewing. What did I come away with after the fact? Lisa Ling did an admirable job going undercover at a puppy mill and showing the public (if they care to pay attention) the disgusting, inhumane conditions of the origins of most pet shop pups. There was a visit to a kill shelter where dogs must be chosen to be euthanized because they haven't been adopted and their time is literally up. It's gut-wrenching.

There were stats (in my mind, over the top) about how many purebreds are in shelters. Most are taken by breed rescue, rehabbed and rehomed so that wasn't quite on target but a small point to quibble about. Oprah's veterinarian, Dr. Sheldon Rubin, not only showed how easy it is to neuter a pet and told of the importance of spay/neuter as a health issue but Oprah pointed out that there are lost cost spay/neuter clinics so there's no excuse for not having your pet spayed and neutered instead of adding to the population.

Viewers were advised to get their dogs from a shelter or breed rescue and even the man from the rescue group said that the problem doesn't come from responsible breeders because they take their dogs back, even after several years so their dogs aren't landing in the shelter. Buying from a reputable breeder is quite different from buying from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill dog.

All in all, it was an excellent program and Oprah Winfrey did a great service today in helping to educating the public.

Those of us who specialize in writing about dogs and cats usually end up preaching to the choir, seldom being able to break through to the mainstream media. This time, the mainstream media picked up the ball and ran with it. And scored!

Brava, Oprah! I hope others follow your lead and I hope that you will revisit this topic in the future.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know? Being a small breeder, I was a little skeptical when I first heard Oprah was doing this show, even a little afraid, but I have to agree with you that she nor her guests bashed the responsible dog breeder. Unfortunately they did not support the responsible dog breeder either. It appeared that the show was geared to get dogs rescued from shelters etc. I have no problem with this. All dogs whether big, small, purebred or mutt deserve a loving home, but rescue dogs are not for everyone. They require special handling in most cases. This was not brought up either I don't believe. I can say that I was pleased to see such a popular show focus the puppymill aspect. I can't believe that in the US that these places can possibly be legal! Hopefully with a bit of publicity, such as this show, will help put a stop to this cruelty.

Darlene said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree. But the show is only an hour long and I hope that Oprah and others will be encouraged to dig more deeply, to talk about commercial breeders whose puppies can't possibly be socialized when they are born in a facility even if it's clean. And you're so right about most shelter dogs coming with "baggage." As a behavior consultant I know that only too well. But her show was a step in the right direction. I hope we will see another such program in the future. Perhaps with some encouragement, she'll do just that.

Anonymous said...

I agree Darlene (now that I found where to post a reply). I didn't know what to expect ... I was inundated with emails from Peke people.
They did mention responsible breeders who take the dogs back.
I don't watch daytime TV but know she has a huge following. My library has a section with only Oprah books recommendations.

Anonymous said...

You do not know how they socialize?? Well obviously you are ignorant to the entire process.. You admit you do not know. Yet you felt free to assume. Commerical kennel puppies tend to be sweeter then home grown. Why because the parents are selected perosnality wise. they are not bred for beauty or finacvial convience. they are bred for pet qaulity as in a good easy to handle happy dog. Commerical kennels do not keep snippy, fear bitters as a rule. Those type of parents need thier puppies seriously socialized. Many times all the socializing in the world will not fix a mentally handicaped pup. bred from mentally handicaped parents. The Oprah show wrongly attacked the commerical industry. most people knee jerk agree when they have no common knoweldge of commerical kennels I wish PAWS would pass so all breeders will be treated the same. and all dogs will have the right to a USDA inspection.

Darlene said...

Well, being anonymous sort of says it all, doesn't it? You are obviously too embarrassed to reveal who you are other than someone who is a shill for the puppy mill industry or perhaps a puppy miller yourself. If you had read carefully, I was being facetious when I made that statement about socialization. You also obviously missed reading my credentials. I'm a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and the problems we consultants see come mainly from puppy mill and commercially bred dogs. The Oprah episode, along with other television exposes of puppy mills have given a clear picture of dogs kept in filth, piled in crates, bred nearly to death and never socialized. It is fact, not fiction, that *all* puppies need socialization. The window of opportunity for socialization begins at birth and closes at 12 weeks of age. Without it, they become fearful and most can never be properly socialized. The literature is there to be read by anyone capable of researching and reading. And it's not written anonymously.
Try telling those fairy tales to the people who give their time to rescuing puppy mill dogs and trying to save the ones that have been stuffed in crates and overbred for so long that they are physically as well as mentally damaged. Try telling that to the people who adopt those dogs and have a management issue for the dog's entire life. Where is the health screening? Non-existent. Then the poor things are taken by "bunchers" and put into trucks to be hauled to pet shops. Many arrive sick, some are already dead or will be soon.
Please do not try to spread your fantasies here. I've seen too much of the reality. And I'm sure there are enough rescue people, veterinary behaviorists, animal behavior consultants as well as veterinarians who can attest to the results of commercial and puppy mill breeding. It's not breeding. It's puppy producing for money. And it makes me sick.

Sue Janson said...

Ms. Arden,
I have to respond to the anonymous puppy miller/backyard breeder. I have worked in rescue for many years, but it wasn't until I started bringing puppy mill dogs into my home that I truly began to appreciate the value of socialization during the puppy months. Between the lack of socialization of these dogs and the multiple orthopedic/health issues they have, these four-legged darlings have a long rehabilitation road ahead of them.
These dogs are NEVER house broken and most will not ever be reliably so.
I would gladly take anonymous along when we go on a rescue mission. The dogs we get are so matted, covered with urine, feces, and fleas they often have to be shaved down and bathed more than once. They also nearly always have ear mites, mange, and at least one orthopedic issue from living their entire lives in a metal cage. The stench of being shut up in the car with them requires a heafty dose of Metholatum under our noses, so that we can keep breathing.
Depending on how long these dogs have been kept in their deplorable conditions, usually corresponds with how emotionally shut down they are.
I currently have a mill rescue who spent her first 6 years being constantly bred and kept in a cage. She required surgery on both hind legs immediately, but that was the easy fix. She was so emotionally shut down, I didn't know if she would ever enjoy life the way a loved dog should. Now 6 years later, her wonderful personality is blooming and she acts like a "real" dog for the most part. This took diligent, patient work from our family to get her to this point.
I also have a mill rescue that fortunately only had to spend a year in her horrible conditions. However, her severe multiple orthopedic problems required numerous surgeries and two years of intense rehabilitation to get her walking and running. Fortunately, her personality and emotional status were in good shape.
Anonymous talked about mentally handicapped dogs having mentally handicapped pups. Well, I work with special needs children and this correlation does not run true for humans or canines. What does hold true, is that the lack of proper socialization of special needs children, creates even more problems for them than what they are born with. I guess my question for anonymous would be why, if you knew you had "mentally handicapped" canine parents would you continue to breed them? Certainly responsible breeders would not.
I applaud Oprah's show exposing commericial breeders...it was long over due.

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