Editorial: Your choices
can shut down puppy mills
Animal lovers in Central Wisconsin are outragedd-- and rightfully
so, it would appear -- over last week's investigation of a "puppy mill" uncovered in Wod County.
As of this writing, authorities still
are looking into the operation at the Dexter home of Darlene Reno, who twice before has been the subject of investigations
by humane officers.
Last week, Reno surrendered 84 dogs after the South Wood County Humane Society (http://www.swchs.com) got an anonymous tip
that she was keeping animals in unsanitary conditions. Authorities found 75 dogs in a barn that was so littered with excrement
that a humane officer's eyes watered when he walked inside, according to Chuck Wegner, Clark County Humane Society director.
One of the dogs since
has been euthanized because it was too sick to be saved. The others -- mostly toy breeds -- are being nursed back to health.
Wegner said. "Either the greed is so overwhelming the people don't actually see the filth, or at some point they just stop
caring. Normal people can't do this, you just can't do it."
are scores of people in Central Wisconsin who do care and who don't do it. They volunteer at area humane societies, caring for animals at shelters and fostering
them at home when shelters are so crowded that kennels are bursting with cats and dogs.
And that's the real
problem here. There are simply too many animals and not enough people to adopt them all.
Puppy mills -- facilities
that essentially are assembly lines for popular dog breeds -- only exacerbate the problem. They cater to pet stores and unwary
customers who are looking for a cuddly friend but who don't know enough to investigate a breeder before buying.
Too often, the dogs
purchased directly or indirectly from puppy mills turn up at humane society shelters. Because they're often overbred, improperly
socialized and in poor health, puppy mill dogs get surrendered by owners who got more than they counted on when they saw the
cute doggy in the window.
That's where this
problem must be attacked. Authorities can and should continue shutting down puppy mills in which animals are kept in inhumane
conditions. But as long as there are customers, the mills will keep churning out dogs.
The Humane Society
of the United States (hsus.org) offers tips (http://www.stoppuppymills.org/puppy_buying_tips.html) on how to avoid buying
a mill puppy. They include advice on how to research a breeder, how to choose a breed and how to see through claims made by
(A word of advice
if you visit that Web site: Don't click on the "Inside a Puppy Mill" links. Your heart will be broken and you'll have to resist
the urge to adopt dozens of abused animals.)
And then there's
the most pragmatic solution: Visit your local animal shelter.
There's nothing wrong
with purebred dogs. The hundreds of dollars you can spend on one at a reputable breeder will get you a healthy, well-bred
dog with the characteristics you're looking for. And breed-specific rescue organizations abound on the Web if you're looking
for something particular.
But if you want a
loving companion, a friend for the kids or an all-round great pet, shelters are full of prospects looking for homes. Some
are purebreds. Some are the product of a chance meeting on a street corner or back yard.
Most are mutts of
the first order that will give unconditional love, obedience and companionship in return for a blanket in the corner, some
kibble and the occasional scratch behind the ears. Give them a home.