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County aims to stamp out puppy mills

By Judith Pannebaker

A new addition being considered for inclusion in the Bandera County Rabies and Animal Control Order is aimed at stamping out puppy mills throughout the county.

Members of the committee currently reviewing the order met on Wednesday, Jan. 21, to hash out changes and additions. Committee members included Jennifer Gaertner, community liaison on animal control issues; Conrad Nightingale DVM, county rabies control officer; Mark Richardson DVM; Kim Tipton DVM; County Treasurer Christina Moeller; Sandee Bowman of Animal Welfare Society; Senior Animal Control Officer Deputy Rick Neely; Marlene Heavner, executive director of the Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League; County Attorney John Payne; Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris and Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King.

According to Gaertner, Section 18 of the order, which covers “animal establishments and animal dealers,” is designed to stop the proliferation of puppy mills in the county.

Evidently, the subject of indiscriminate breeding of dogs in the county is an occurrence Gaertner is eager to tackle.

“Puppy mills are a hazard to any community and its animals on several different levels,” she pointed out in an email. “Most dogs in puppy mills are not vaccinated, live in squalid conditions, at best, and are not socialized with humans at all. In addition, constant in-breeding leads to congenital diseases and deformities in the dogs and puppies.”

Describing selling or giving away animals on the side of the road as both “a traffic hazard and sanitary issue,” Gaertner added, “Bandera County needs to do something to make this issue go away.”

Unfortunately, not only are puppies from breeding mills hawked indiscriminately on the side of county roadways, unsuspecting families often purchase products of puppy mills from pet stores.

According to www.prisonersofgreed.com, not only do these puppies often die of disease, others have medical problems that cost their owners thousands of dollars to correct. Others suffer emotionally due to a lack of proper socialization. According to the website, puppy mills are distinguished by their inhumane conditions and the constant breeding of unhealthy and genetically defective dogs solely for profit.

These are the facts regarding puppy mills:
• Female dogs are usually bred the first time they come into heat and bred continually during every heat cycle. They are bred until their bodies can no longer reproduce. Then they are killed - often by being bashed in the head with a rock or shot. Sometimes they are sold to laboratories or dumped. This can happen to females as young as five years old.

• Breeding dogs in puppy mills are usually debarked, usually by having a steel rod rammed down their throats to rupture their vocal cords.

• Puppies are often taken from their mother when they are five to eight weeks old and sold to brokers who pack them in crates for resale to pet stores throughout the country. The puppies are shipped by truck or plane - often without adequate food, water, ventilation or shelter.

• Pet store personnel usually tell customers that puppies sold in their shop come from local breeders or quality breeders. Don't believe them, ask to see the paperwork and find out where the puppies really originate. Seven states have become known as puppy mill states - Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

When people begin to refuse to buy puppies from a pet store, the misery of puppy mills will end. The website www.prisonersofgreed.com urges everyone to spread the word about the connection between puppy mills and pet stores.
Buying a puppy from a pet store only perpetuates the horror of puppy mills. Remember, don’t buy while shelter dogs die.
(Editor’s note: For more information on puppy mills, visit the website www.prisonersofgreed.org.)