Thursday, December 11, 2008

LA Animal Services Makes Overseas Puppy Mill Survivors Available for Adoption But Cautions "Buyer Beware"

This morning LA Animal Services hosted a well attended Press Conference at our East Valley Animal Care Center where we discussed a very troubling reality, the horrors of the “puppy mill” industry in both the United States and abroad.

The term “puppy mill” is perhaps an unfortunate expression. Many who do not understand this cruel industry may think a “puppy mill” refers to a wonderful place to buy a puppy. In fact, puppy mills are cruel, factory-style dog-breeding operations that produce puppies with chronic health problems, temperament issues, and hereditary defects.

These puppies come from female dogs who are bred over and over again until they sometimes die from sheer exhaustion. These animals are forced to live in crowded, filthy cages with little or no human contact. Their sick and under-aged offspring are shipped around the world to pet stores who, for profit, are compelled to satisfy the public’s seemingly insatiable demand for purebred puppies.

It is important for the public to know, that with rare exceptions, when you buy a puppy from a pet store there is a strong likelihood that you are supporting the puppy mill industry just as surely as you are supporting an illegal drug cartel when you purchase drugs from a pusher on the street.

That is why we say “Buyer Beware” and encourage the public to adopt a pet from a shelter, and save a life, rather than buy a pet from a pet store, off the internet, or from a newspaper ad which leads to the incalculable suffering of untold thousands of animals.

I was joined by Los Angeles City Councilmember Tony Cardenas' Chief of staff Jose Cornejo, LA County Public Health Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Ehnert, film and stage actor and Chief Advisor to Congressman Dennis Kucinich's Animal Welfare Program, Mariana Tosca, and Senior Director of the Hollywood Office of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Beverly Kaskey. Together we introduced ten fortunate survivors of one South Korean Puppy Mill and discussed their significance to our local pet overpopulation problems, international trade, public health, and homeland security.

In June of this year, three shipments of puppy mill dogs were flown into LAX from the Far East on Seoul, Korea-based Asiana Airlines. They were intercepted and confiscated by LA Animal Services and LA County Public Health officials. Ten dogs survived: five underage Yorkies and five eight week-old Maltese puppies; accompanying health certificates falsely claimed the puppies were four months old and ignored serious health issues. These 8 week old animals arrived at LAX ill and seriously dehydrated, having just survived over 14 hours of transport in tiny carriers with no food or water.

These puppies represent an all too typical example of how the demand for purebred puppies has created a situation ripe for abuse.

The interception and rescue of these puppies prompted the formation of a multi-agency animal cargo task force to conduct a three-week survey of incoming animals at LAX. The goal of the survey was to determine the volume, types and condition of animals entering the country via international air carriers.

The Task Force, led by LA Animal Services, LA County Public Health, and the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority, also included the Los Angeles World Airports, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, and several local animal control agencies including the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley, Inland Valley Humane Society, Long Beach Animal Control, Santa Ana Animal Control, Orange County Animal Care Services, Pasadena Humane Society, Riverside Animal Services, and SPCA-LA.

The findings of the Task Force demonstrated the fact that puppy mills are not a U.S. problem alone. Overseas commercial mass dog-breeding facilities - that put profit above the welfare of dogs - are attempting to flood the U.S. market.

That is of particular concern to the City of Los Angeles, and all U.S. communities, because it undermines our efforts to increase shelter adoptions, fight pet overpopulation, and ultimately end euthanasia as a pet overpopulation methodology. Also of great concern is the fact that imported animals can carry disease (including rabies) or be used in outlandish smuggling schemes representing both public health and homeland security threats.

The magnitude and impact of this industry highlights the need for domestic law enforcement officials to focus more collaborative attention on both the domestic and the international “puppy mill” industry. I want to thank all the members of the Task Force in helping us uncover this cruel attempt to flood the U.S. market with puppy mill puppies.

However, in these dire fiscal times, enforcement alone cannot be the only answer, the best response to this insidious industry is “Don’t Shop, Adopt!” There are hundreds of thousands of puppy mills around the world (over 720,000 in South Korea alone) that produce untold millions of puppies annually, while at the same time more than 4 million pets die in U.S. shelters each year. The puppy mill industry exists because of public demand. Only the public can end it. I encourage all Americans to follow President-Elect Obama’s example and Don’t Shop, Adopt a Shelter pet and save a life.

NOTE: The ten puppies rescued in June will be available for adoption on December 20th, at our East Valley Center. With interest in them running high, LA’s Municipal Code Article 3, Section 53.11 requires that each one be made available through an auction if more than one party wants to adopt the animal.

While these puppies are more fortunate than many puppy mill survivors, having been in the loving care of LA Animal Services for five months, the Department is still concerned that these survivors could develop other types of physical or behavioral issues as a result of improper breeding and poor living conditions during their formative first weeks of life. LA Animal Services is utilizing the City ordinance required adoption-auction process to help ensure that the new owner/guardians of these puppies will have sufficient financial means to afford the medical costs they are likely to incur over the lifetime of these animals. These are Puppy Mill puppies; Buyer Beware. Click here for more information on the Puppy Mill Survivor Auction.