By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record September 12, 2009
Many dogs are imported into California from puppy mills; the true numbers are not known at this time. Several of these animals are from within the United States. Just this week the Humane Society rescued 500 dogs from puppy mills in four different states: North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Dakota. There are also recent problems in the state of Texas and Missouri. The animals are confined in cramped quarters typically wire cages with poor sanitation, poor nutrition, limited access to water, poor veterinary care, and limited socialization or exercise.
A facility will have anywhere from a hundred to a thousand animals. The dogs are then sold to unsuspecting pet lovers, who are unaware that the puppies may have medical and/or behavioral issues stemming from how they were raised. Here is the link to the Humane Society webpage fieldnotes on the incidences.
The number of dogs from international locations is also growing, and many animals are brought here illegally at a very young age. According to a report from Dr. Ben Sun DVM MPVM, a classmate of mine who works as a Public Health Veterinarian for the State of California; the border between California and Mexico is a prime spot for dog smuggling to take place. The puppies, which originate in Asia, Russia, South America, and Europe; are concealed in dash boards, under seats, and in car trunks. They are cared for in inhumane conditions, and are not vaccinated from diseases. The breeds commonly involved are Yorkies, Maltese, Poodles, and Bulldogs. The toy version of these types of dogs is in high demand, and this fuels the illegal transport of these canines. These puppies are very young, under 8 weeks, and often carry diseases with them. The animals are sold on line, at swap meets, throw away papers, and pet stores. The buyer has no idea that the dog is sick at time of purchase, and may spend hundreds of dollars or more, and the puppy often dies.
A Border Puppy Task Force has been formed and is improving regulations and monitoring transport at the California/Mexico border. Prior to this there were no dog import papers issued at the borders. There is still under reporting of dog imports, poor follow through with guidelines established by the Centers For Disease Control, and a lack of local authorities to enforce regulations. Now there will be more collaboration amongst the groups on a statewide, nationwide, and international level.
Puppy buyers can do several things to protect themselves. Only purchase animals from reputable breeders; the American Kennel Club can provide a list of local breeders in your area. Do not pay in cash, and do not meet the seller in a parking lot. Ask to see the parents of the puppies. Ask for proof of vaccinations. Ask for a written contract, and find out about the return policy before you purchase the puppy. A good breeder is usually very understanding about returns; some are willing to take a dog back at any time. Try to go to the location of the puppies. This allows you to see the conditions that the canines were raised under, and often lets you see at least one of the parents. Unfortunately pictures of puppies can be falsified, and you have very little recourse financially if there are problems with a puppy purchased from out of state. Have any new puppy examined right away by your veterinarian. This is a significant decision, that can affect your life for the next 8-16 years or more. Your veterinarian can help you in this process.
Currently there is legislation in California to address the puppy mill problem. You can also donate to the Humane Society of the United States.