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.