Mary O’Connor-Shaver, head of Columbus Top Dogs, an organization based in Ohio that focuses on dog auctions and puppy mills in the Mid West,sheds light on dog auctions and puppy mills.
Q. What do states need to do to get tougher rules on puppy mills?
Mary O’Connor-Shaver: Each citizen should contact their state and federal legislators and let them know that they’re concerned about the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills, and that we all want the puppy mill issue to be a priority for Congress.
Q. Why do dog auctions happen and who runs them?
Mary: Most breeders who participate in this event are raising large numbers of puppies for profit in mills. Dogs sold at these auctions include not only puppies, but also those males and females used for breeding. Old puppy mill dogs are put out to pasture or their pups are auctioned off so they can start a new breeding cycle. Many of these pups and adult dogs are hauled to the auction in tractor trailers like domestic livestock. Some breeds are able to fetch more than a few thousand dollars, while others can net hundreds of dollars for the seller. The auction house takes in a registration fee for every dog placed on the auction block and the auction house earns a commission on every dog sold.
Breeders from across the Mid West look to the Ohio dog auctions as an opportunity to improve their inventory by selling puppies at eight-weeks-old to pet shops or brokers like the Hunte Corporation, a Missouri-based company which distributes dogs to dealers across the nation.
Our study and observations of dog auctions over the past four years has revealed the following:
* Dogs are sold from $1 to over $1,000. The typical female of breeding age is sold for $200 to $600. The higher prices are for proven breeders or expensive breeds with champion lineage.
* A typical dog auction sells at least 250 dogs. Some larger auctions sell over 400 animals in a single day-long event. Many of these dogs are deprived of food and water for hours on end, and many of them are cramped in cages so small that they are unable to sit upright or lie down.
* Many states have auctions; however in the Midwest, there is a dog auction held almost every weekend. A 2007 undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) confirmed that MO has the most, but auctions are also occurring regularly in AR, IA, KS, NE, OH, OK, and WI.
Q. How are dog auctions perpetuating the problem of homeless pets in this state?
Mary: The sad truth behind the dog auctions is that there often lies a puppy mill. The documented problems of these mass breeding facilities include over breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and the killing of unwanted animals. Consumer demand for purebred puppies, more than any other factor, perpetuates the misery of puppy mills. Unfortunately, a dog’s lifespan is often longer than a consumer’s desire to maintain their “product.” As a result, millions of purebred dogs are sent to animal shelters every year, where roughly half will be euthanized.
Q. What can we do about dog auctions?
Mary: It is my firm belief that until the public truly understands and appreciates the cruel aspect’–not to mention the consumer fraud–connected with “dealing dogs,” dog auctions will continue to generate millions of dollars for puppy mill breeders and their distributors.
Q. What advice do you have for those wanting to rescue a homeless pet?
Mary: Adopting a homeless animal, especially one from a factory farm breeding operation, is a big responsibility and one that should not be entered into lightly. In most instances, you will be caring for that companion pet for up to 16 years. Take time to speak and visit with representatives from various rescue groups, humane societies, and animal shelters. Ask lots of questions to help you prepare for this very important event.
Q. If people have no time to volunteer and no money to give, can they do anything to help the plight of puppy mill dogs?
Mary: Here are the steps each of us can take to address this important issue for our community:
* Educate others. Visit Ban Ohio Dog Auctions, and forward this website to everyone in your address book.
* Write your legislators. Contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know dog auctions are a concerns of yours; urge them to do something about it. Let them know that thousands of concerned citizens from across the country support a ban on public dog auctions.
* Recruit your veterinarian. Ask them for their support to create tougher laws governing public dog auctions. A vet should be every dog’s second best friend–ask them to help you help dogs.