Buyers beware! This is Cujo. He’s a sweet little Pomeranian/Shih Tzu puppy who just had the fight of his life against the deadly Parvovirus. Before Homeward Bound WV rescued him, he was purchased from a breeder who removed the puppies from their mother at 4 weeks old–way too early for any animal to be weaned and on its own and definitely before it’s had any type of vaccinations. The buyer was told the pup was older than he really was and within 72 hours he started showing signs of Parvo.
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells and white blood cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. Puppies and adolescent dogs who are not vaccinated are most susceptible to the virus. Although there are no drugs that can kill the virus, costly treatment is available but not always effective. The Parvovirus is often fatal. The best defense is vaccination.
Dog sellers like this are what we call “backyard breeders.” A backyard breeder is someone who breeds their own pets or allows their pets to get pregnant for the single motive and concern of making a profit. They typically offer purebred or designer hybrid dogs without papers and for a much smaller fee. There is no concern for breed standards, genetics, socialization, or maintaining their health. Some backyard breeders who are successful choose to expand putting them in a puppy mill category.
But why is this bad news for the buyer? As in Cujo’s case, the animal is removed too early from its mother to make a quick sale; the animals do not receive vaccinations and proper veterinary care; but also, they can have temperament problems, significant behavior problems due to lack of socialization and genetic health problems due to poor breeding practices. In addition, unless you see both parents and their papers on the premises the animal’s purebred status is simply the word of the breeder. Most of these issues are not discovered right away, so the money you think you’re saving from not buying from a reputable, licensed breeder could cost you thousands in the long run and cause you grief and heartache as well. These practices also occur with purebred cats.
While we urge new pet owners to adopt from shelters and rescues, we know that some would like to have purebred pets with papers. Read these tips on what you can do to be sure you’re getting a happy, healthy and well-treated pet:
- Be a responsible, informed consumer.
If you do buy from a breeder, go to a reputable one who:
> is knowledgeable about the breed and their specific requirements;
> shows you the puppy’s living quarters and parents;
> discloses the puppy’s medical and vaccine history and veterinarian’s contact info;
> doesn’t have puppies available year-round, yet may keep a puppy waiting list;
> asks about your lifestyle and your care and training plans for the puppy;
> and, doesn’t use pressure sales tactics.
- Adopt from a shelter or breed-specific rescue group.
25% of the animals in shelters are purebred.
- Support laws that protect animals from cruelty.
Write your elected officials to support laws which cap the number of animals a person can own and breed and establish care standards for exercise, housing, access to food and water and regular veterinary care.
- Urge local pet stores to support shelters.
Animals draw consumers into stores. Be sure to support pet stores that don’t support puppy mills and backyard breeders.
- Donate to local shelters.
Help those rescued from backyard breeders and puppy mills, and many other homeless animals in need.
Cujo is now doing well, thanks to his foster family and a few kitties that kept him company while he was quarantined. He still has a lot of growing to do and vaccinations to receive before he is old enough to join his forever family.
If you would like to donate to Homeward Bound WV to help with cases like Cujo’s, you can make a tax deductible donation via: PayPal.com to: donate@HomewardBoundWV.org.