Once again Cindy Cooke, Legislative Specialist, is right on target with this essay. Cindy notes that our acceptance of the animal rightist term puppy mill was a mistake and "it’s rapidly becoming fatal today." I recently attended an HSUS Lobby Seminar where the HSUS Director used the terms commercial breeder and puppy mill interchangeably, and stated that anyone with more than 6 dogs or who bred more than one/two litters a year was a commercial breeder/puppymill.
An Obituary For Words by Cindy Cooke
You can’t really ban a word. In fact, an attempt to ban something often backfires, particularly in the United States, where we don’t like people censoring our speech. So I’m not going to tell you not to say “puppy mill”. I’m going to give you some very good reasons for not using that phrase.
I speak to a lot of dog clubs and frequently hear dog breeders supporting so-called “anti-puppy-mill” laws. When I ask these people to define “puppy mill,” invariably the definitions given include:
• People who “overbreed” their dogs;
• People who don’t take care of their dogs;
• People who have too many dogs;
• People who breed dogs “just for money”; and
• People who don’t take health issues into account when breeding their dogs.
Let’s look at these definitions in turn. What is “overbreeding”? In the wild, most canids can only reproduce once a year. Most domestic dogs can have two litters a year. When I first became a dog breeder, it was almost a religious belief that no female dog should be bred more than once a year. We were told that it was important to “rest” the uterus between litters. Today, however, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, we know that an uterus is actually damaged by the elevated progesterone levels that occur in each heat cycle, whether the dog is pregnant or not. Veterinary reproduction specialists recommend that dogs be bred on their second or third heat cycle, that we do more back-to-back breedings, and that we spay the dogs at around age six.
The “overbreeding” argument also treats reproduction as something that female dogs wouldn’t do if they had a choice. Dogs aren’t people - female dogs actually want to be bred when they’re in heat and, with few exceptions, enjoy raising their puppies. It’s not an unwelcome event for dogs.
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