When to Rescue

When to Rescue By Lisa Frankland

Below is an piece I wrote on behalf of myself and Janet Joers in January of 1997 for the KBTCSC’s newsletter when we were that Club’s Rescue Coordinators.

By now, many of you have heard the story of the Kerry puppy that was purchased last month from an Arizona pet shop by concerned individuals, and are as horrified as we are that this could happen in our breed. As your Club’s Rescue Coordinators and authors of our current Rescue Policy (later adapted for use by by the USKBTC and its regional Clubs, as well as other breed clubs and Rescue groups), we would like to explain the policy and our position on this incident.

There are many reasons to object to the practice of selling puppies in a pet store. First of all, prospective buyers are not screened in any way, (other than the obvious “Cash or charge?”), and the whole system encourages, and in fact depends on, impulse buying. Second, the majority of these puppies (the balance come from backyard breeders) are from “puppy mills,” literal canine factory farms concentrated mainly in the midwest and Pennsylvania Dutch country, where dogs are kept in often appalling conditions to produce litter after litter after litter for the pet trade. These people do not care about the breed standard; they do not care about ethical or humane breeding practices; they do not care about the dogs they are breeding except in terms of profit. Their only concern is to produce as many puppies as they can as cheaply as possible. Several sources estimate that up to half the puppies produced under these circumstances die before they ever reach the pet stores! Finally, as a result of poor breeding, being raised under horrendous living conditions, and receiving little or no socialization, pet store puppies often come with all sorts of health and behavior problems.

The practice Edith Izant cites of feeding puppies in a pet store only at night to prevent them from eliminating during business hours is common. Profit comes first, and if that means skimping on immunizations, proper food, and room for the puppies to play and exercise, so be it. If a puppy is seriously ill, it is usually cheaper to hide it in the back and let it die or recover on its own than to consult a veterinarian. Guarantees, if provided, usually consist of, “If the puppy becomes sick, or you find something wrong with it within ten days, bring it back; we’ll put it down, and give you another one.” It is for all of the above reasons that responsible breeders and concerned animal lovers are opposed to selling puppies in a pet store.

The KBTCSC Rescue Policy says the following about pet store puppies: “Under no circumstances will KBTCSC Rescue “rescue puppies from a pet store by immediately purchasing them! (Although this sounds cold-hearted, buying the puppies would only motivate the store to try and obtain more.)…If the puppy or puppies remain unsold after several weeks and are marked down, a Rescue Coordinator may consider purchasing them with Rescue Funds once it is fairly clear that the pet store is selling them at a loss just to get rid of them.”

Such a policy was not followed by this puppy’s “rescuers” (who are not members of the KBTCSC), who paid full price to get him out. That’s $900 that the pet shop can now use to pay their overhead, advertise their “products,” and purchase more puppies just like poor little “Willie,” as he has been named.

As Edith says in her president’s message, the people who purchased Willie are taking multiple actions against both the pet store that sold Willie and the Missouri puppy mill that produced him, and we sincerely hope that both are put out of business, or at least never want to see a Kerry again. However, all of these things could have been done without purchasing Willie, and the unavoidable fact of the matter is that Rescue funds went into the pockets of both the pet store and the puppy mill. We understand that there was a concern about Willie’s poor health, but they should have reported it to local authorities (who could have arranged a “cruelty bust” and confiscated Willie) instead of providing the pet store with a quick sale.

Don’t get us wrong–if we were to see a Kerry puppy in a pet store, we’d want to get it out of there as quickly as possible too. But sometimes the emotional resonse isn’t always the most appropriate course of action. That’s why we wrote our Club’s Rescue Policy. That’s why you, the membership, approved it. And that’s why we need to follow it when issues like this come up.

Lisa Frankland

Last Updated: 02/27/2006, 11:24 am