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The Riehl World: Give Olivia a Voice from Rainbow Heaven

Stop Making Puppy Mills Profitable

By Richard Riehl

At the Carlsbad City Council’s April 12 meeting, Dale Bartlett, policy manager for the Humane Society of the United States puppy mill campaign, will ask the council to ban stores that source their pets from puppy mills. Oceanside, Encinitas and San Marcos have already instituted such bans.

So far, only council members Keith Blackburn and Lorraine Wood have agreed to meet with local animal rights activists about a ban.  Mayor Hall and council members Mark Packard and Michael Schumacher have refused to meet with them.

The issue has become personal for me, as expressed in the following column I wrote for the North County Times ten years ago.

You Can Help Stop Puppy Mills

6/23/06 North County Times

Olivia moved in with us last month. She’s had a hard life and it shows. Loss of vision in one eye and the aches and pains of old age make it hard for her to get around. My wife and I took her in partly out of pity and a sense of responsibility. As Robert Frost said in verse, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

To our surprise and delight, within hours after Olivia joined the family we discovered she was more of a gift than an act of kindness. She captured our hearts, even after our discovery she hadn’t been house-trained.

No, Olivia isn’t a widowed aunt being passed around the family in her twilight years. She’s our newly adopted, 10-year-old toy poodle.

While searching online for dog rescue agencies we came across Olivia’s picture posted on Critter Crossings of Fallbrook. She had the sad and frightened eyes of a puppy mill survivor.

During her first day with us Olivia sat quietly in corners and trembled, flinching at our every approach, rarely venturing forth from her new kennel. She’d been debarked by her captors.

After a few days she began to come out of her shell. But she refused to take a leash and was still too frightened to move more than a few steps at a time. We bought her a doggie stroller with the fitting brand name, “Outward Hound,” so we could take her with us on our daily walks. She’s now become somewhat of a celebrity on the Batiquitos Lagoon trail, bringing smiles of encouragement as she rides royally along.

After a lifetime of mistreatment, Olivia has a long way to go to learn to trust humans. From what we’ve learned about puppy mills, she was one of the lucky ones. Referred to as “brood bitches,” others like her are imprisoned for years in small cages for one purpose only, to be bred repeatedly before being killed after their reproductive profitability wanes.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are thousands of puppy mills currently operating in the U.S., many of them after repeated violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. But with fewer than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors overseeing breeders, zoos, circuses and laboratories nationwide, it is unlikely law enforcement alone can stop the abuse.

The best way to end the suffering of dogs like Olivia is to make puppy mills unprofitable. They supply many of the dogs sold in retail pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, on street corners and at swap meets. You can help by refusing to buy your family pet from any of those places. Adopt your pet from a local animal shelter, where both you and your dog will be scrutinized to assure a healthy match.

Stories of mistreated puppies smuggled across the border don’t get as much press as the fierce debate over immigration reform. But the despicable treatment of these helpless little illegal immigrants deserves equal attention.

Olivia was 18 years old when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge two years ago to wait for us. We feel her silent presence every time we return home from our daily walks. You can give her back her voice by letting Mayor Hall and the city council know that allowing shopping malls to sell puppies amounts to sanctioning animal abuse.


Richard J. Riehl is a Carlsbad, California resident, retired university administrator, and award-winning columnist for the former daily newspaper, the North County Times.
Richard writes a blog titled The Riehl World
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