This article is sponsored by the SF SPCA, a community-supported nonprofit dedicated to saving, protecting and caring for cats and dogs since 1868. To learn more about the SF SPCA, its adoption program, veterinary hospital and various other programs and services, visit sfspca.org.
It's hard to resist advertisements of cute puppies staring back at you from the computer screen, begging to be bought.
But you should.
Before you ask how much is that doggy in my web browser's window, consider these disconcerting facts: Puppies purchased online invariably come from puppy mills, dog-breeding factories that put profits ahead of the welfare of dogs. Unlike the images gracing these deceptive ads, which purport an environment of pastoral pleasantry, these dogs are raised in isolation, confined to small cages that prevent normal behavior like stretching and walking. Abuse is rampant as well, with mill operators forcing over-breeding, inbreeding and letting dogs go hungry.
Unfortunately, for new owners, that usually means receiving a pet that suffers from severe illness and behavioral problems, many of which may not emerge until later in their lives. As a result, dismayed dog lovers eventually bring their K9s to shelters.
The San Francisco SPCA has seen heartbreaking cases like Violet, a pug suffering from "Brachycephalic Syndrome,” a group of conditions that cause life-threatening breathing problems in dogs overbred for a flat face. Violet required two separate surgeries to correct her genetic deformities.
So just how pervasive is the puppy mill problem in a progressive city like San Francisco? According to the San Francisco SPCA, approximately 30 percent of residents are getting their puppies online from puppy mills, though most are completely unaware of the fact.
In order to break the vicious cycle of puppy mills, the SF SPCA suggests that potential puppy buyers adhere to the following rules:
-- Never purchase a dog online. Responsible, legitimate breeders generally don't advertise online. Instead, they rely on word of mouth.
-- Never purchase a dog without visiting the entire facility where he or she was born and raised.
-- Meet the breeder.
-- Meet the mom dog.
-- Meet the puppies.
If you’re looking to add a furry family member, spend the time to find out where your dog is coming from. If enough San Franciscans do their due diligence, the cycle of puppy mills will be broken once and for all.
To learn more about how you can help put a stop to this cruelty, visit sfspca.org/nomills, visit SF SPCA's Facebook page and spread the anti-puppy mill word by hashtagging your tweets #nomills. The more you share, the closer we will come to ending this atrocious practice.