Here's something I saw on a list that I thought might interest some of you .... Just a FYI. ):
DOG DAY AFTERNOONS
East Bay vet aims to save castoffs of puppy mills
By Douglas Fischer, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:04/13/2007 09:28:01 AM PDT
HELEN HAMILTON'S covert rescue operation begins today: She will fly deep into enemy territory, grab the hostages and scramble back to California to give them medical care, homes and a life of relative freedom.
Hamilton is a veterinarian. She leaves this morning with $9,000 in donations and savings to buy what dogs she can from a kennel liquidation auction in Arkansas on Saturday.
It's a fool's mission in many regards, a notion she readily accepts. Her effort won't dent a growing industry that churns out thousands of pups a week to meet the American public's insatiable demand for teacup terriers and designer bichons. She will spend hundreds of dollars on dogs with matted fur and a lifetime of health problems.
But she has to go. There are 300 dogs to be rescued.
"It's a spit in the wind to start," Hamilton said as she took a break from packing and sorting of food and supplies and treating animals at her clinic, Veterinary Internal Medicine Service.
"But you've got to get that start."
Folks in the animal rescue world decry the practice of mass producing puppies, which, they say, consists of keeping breeding dogs in wire cages to produce litter after litter until they're too worn or weak to continue.
But the puppies are cute, and the hottest breeds command top dollar from Internet sellers and some pet stores: $5,000 for a Yorkshire terrier so tiny it fits in a teacup, $1,800 for a miniature female Maltese puppy,$3,500 for a red toy poodle.
Hamilton will not be buying any puppies. She will be picking up breeding stock older, poorly socialized, potentially unhealthy dogs in an effort to break that chain.
Not all kennel owners raise dogs in such conditions, of course. Rescuers brook no dissent with small-scale breeders raising one or two litters at a time and who can provide a breed history for each puppy.
They want to stop the mills: large-scale operations with multiple breeds and four, six or more litters at any given time. These kennels often wholesale their puppies to companies that then sell to Internet retailers and pet stores.
Public outcry has largely shut down the pet store trade in California. But elsewhere and on the Internet it is flourishing.
What owners often don't learn until too late is that the breeding and the living conditions, in many cases, front-load their puppies for a lifetime of health problems.
"It's a huge industry," said Guy Bilyeu, executive director of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Humane Educational Society. "Of course, these animals are inbred and overbred. Their immune systems are incredibly fragile. They will end up with all sorts of problems ... and a lot of them do come back to us with problems."
That's what got Hamilton on a plane to Arkansas.
She was checking patients on Christmas Eve at Fremont's Ohlone Veterinary Emergency Clinic when a woman arrived with a designer dog a miniature Pomeranian Yorkshire terrier bought 24 hours earlier. The dog weighed 17 ounces and was stiff, cold and unconscious.
Told how much it would cost to care for the dog, the woman said just put it down.
"It's a perfect example of not knowing what you're getting into," Hamilton said. "You're not paying for a healthy dog. You're paying for a little dog dressed up in pearls or sitting in a teacup. It drives me nuts."
But it is the conditions at the kennels that outrages many activists: Dogs missing eyes or limbs or with matted fur or that, in some cases, live in such tight proximity they receive regular doses of antibiotics to prevent illness.
Not all, however, agree that swooping into an auction and spending thousands of dollars to rescue the animals is the best way to combat the practice. For starters, it rewards the kennel operators. And in a market-driven industry, buying up breeding stock does little to sate demand. For every bitch rescued, one or more will fill her place.
Bilyeu's group in Tennessee was one of several rescue groups that descended last year on the estate-sale auction of a Georgia breeder. They brought $20,000 and essentially shut out other breeders there to pick up some stock.
They overpaid, he acknowledges, spending upward of $800 apiece on dogs "in horrible shape" that would later need thousands of dollars more to fix their teeth or remove an infected eye.
The money, he noted, went not to an active breeder but to the breeder's family, which had no intention of getting into the business. And it gave these dogs a new lease on life.
"We spent $20,000 to ensure that these animals did not have the same life," he said. "Most of them have lived their entire lives in wire cages. To get them out of that is wonderful."
Hamilton is going in quietly and hopes to buy as many as 90 dogs without generating much attention. She leaves today with two technicians on flights paid for with frequent flier miles.
They will be picked up in Oklahoma by a van that left Fremont on Wednesday packed with crates, donated medical supplies and food. Saturday morning they will be at a liquidation auction in Arkansas, hoping to blend in with the other buyers.
By Monday they will be back in Fremont. The dogs will be farmed out to various clinics and rescue leagues chiefly Toy Breed Rescue and Norcal Animal Rescue Friends that have offered to help find them homes.
Loree Levy-Schwartz, chairwoman of the American Shih-Tzu Club and the Golden Gate Shih-Tzu Fanciers, has been doing rescues since 1978 and has offered to help find homes for 25 to 35 Yorkshire terriers for Hamilton.
"This is what keeps me going and why I agreed to help," said Levy-Schwartz, whose husband is a veterinarian at Boulevard Pet Hospital in San Jose, which also is heavily involved in the effort.
"You know you're never going to save them all," she said. "But even if you save one or 10 or 50, you have to look at it as ... the best you can do. It's one dog at a time. To me, it's worth it."
To help with donations or to provide a home for these mature dogs, call Fremont Animal Hospital at 656-1852 or the Boulevard Pet Hospital at (408) 379-5554.
Contact Douglas Fischer at [email protected] or 208-6425.