On July 16th, Deborah Howard, founder and president of the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) participated in a one-hour teleseminar interview (click to listen) with Susan Daffron of the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals.
Among the topics discussed were the difficulty of shutting down puppy mills and the role of the USDA in the regulation of puppy mills, as well as their complicity in keeping abusive mills open. Under the current law, there has to be proof of “abhorrent” conditions in these facilities before law enforcement can even get involved. Because enforcement from the USDA is so lax, and because local law enforcement will often shift responsibility to the USDA, it is only through the efforts of watchdog organizations like CAPS that abuses are even discovered.
As Howard said of the USDA, “The USDA is the most frustrating agency. [. . .] It’s a cultural mindset of failure. They don’t want this problem. They have less funding than any other program — it’s not a highly funded program. We don’t have a contentious relationship with them at all; it’s just that they’re indifferent.”
Howard also discussed the activist origins of CAPS. “[After visiting an Dockor Pet Center (a chain of 300 stores) in late 1989 in which there were puppies with open wounds and cages filled with bloody diarrhea], I found out where the dogs came from and decided to take it on myself — I have a political activist background — to organize a protest against as many Docktor Pet Centers as I could. I got a grassroots list and we had a protest in 30 cities on the weekend before Christmas. They thought it was PETA. It was very effective. I went to ’20/20,’ who had been thinking about doing a story, and I knew a young man who was an activist and who worked for Docktor Pet because he wanted to help the animals. We set him up with a video camera, and he would go in early in the mornings. Every morning there would be dogs dead from parvo — it was horrible — there were bodies in the freezer. So this was all used on ’20/20,’ and then we started gathering pet shop complaints.”
On the NAPRP blog, Daffron offered the following post-interview analysis:
One of the last questions I asked was essentially, “how do you keep doing this work without getting completely discouraged?” Her answer consisted of three main points, which I thought might help everyone:
1. She doesn’t let herself feel sorry for herself and knows she’s doing the best that she can. Although she used to cry about things more easily, now she just moves forward knowing that the work is vital and she is helping.
2. When things don’t go the way she wants, she finds a new plan. She doesn’t give up easily. She only lets herself feel discouraged about setbacks for about a day and then moves forward and thinks up ways to attack a problem from a different direction.
3. She has a support network. None of us can do this work alone. You need to involve other people not only to help with the work, but also so you can share ideas.
Homeless animals and puppy mills are huge problems. Neither will be solved by just one person. Know that you aren’t alone. Take advantage of opportunities to get together with other people to share both the successes and the failures. You need to take time to take care of yourself, in order to continue to help the animals. What you do is important, but so are you!
As always, thank you for all you do to help the animals