Companion Animals and Cancer
We humans tend to think we're pretty unique in the animal world, but, in fact, we are all very much alike when it comes to medical problems. Tumors and cancer are examples of conditions that affect all animals, from fish to elephants to birds.
In general, we all have potential cancer cells develop in our bodies every day. They might be mutants of normal cell division that could go wild and overproduce more cells, thereby creating a mass. Our immune systems, however, identify these abnormal cells and destroy them, or the cells naturally die off. Some animals' immune systems may be genetically inadequate from birth, and those animals tend to have abnormal cells slip through and develop into tumors. Likewise, as we get older our immune systems are not as strong or efficient as when we were young, and again some potential tumor cells slip through our body's screening process. Perhaps this is why lumps and bumps are more common as we get older.
Some breeds of dog seem to be more prone to tumors than others. Boxers have a reputation for being "tumor factories," and white boxers lead their group. Labradors tend to get lipomas, but then Labradors also tend to be overweight, and I seldom see lipomas on lean dogs.
If you've had a companion animal for a long time, say 10 years or more, you may have noticed lumps develop, or moles or warts as the dog or cat gets up in years. Often these lumps are nothing to worry about unless they continue to grow or they are bothering the pet. Lipomas are a case in point. They are fat cell tumors; essentially a fat cell that has multiplied out of control. They can usually be felt under the skin, are round or oval, feel soft and somewhat moveable. The most common site they develop is on the side of the chest behind the front legs, but they can pop up anywhere on the body. People get lipomas, too. Lipomas are benign and need only be removed if they are getting too big (or for cosmetic appearances).
Nearly every type of cancer that people develop can also develop in our companion animals. The methods for controlling or eliminating these tumors are essentially the same for dogs and cats as it is for people. We use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, nutrition, and everything else that works in people. There are veterinary oncologists that specialize in the latest methods for dealing with cancers. Specialty practices and veterinary schools take patients on a referral basis for diagnosis and treatment. Many veterinarians do not routinely carry the chemotherapy drugs because they are very expensive, they expire quickly, and are used infrequently.
Prognosis for certain types of cancer therapy may vary with the individual animal. Older animals may not be strong enough or have competent immune systems to battle the tumor. Other complicating factors, such as liver or kidney disease, may preclude them from treatment. In many cases, surgery is the first step if just one site is involved. If there are many tumors, both surgery and chemotherapy may be the answer. Then there are some cases in which nothing will slow or stop the progress of the cancer, as with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.
As veterinarians, we've known for a long time that estrogen is connected with breast cancer. Dogs and cats that are spayed (ovariohysterectomy) before their first heat have a zero incidence of breast cancer later in life. Each year that a female animal goes unspayed increases the likelihood that lumps will develop. Dogs and cats have five pairs of mammary glands, so right away they are five times as likely as humans to develop problems. An unspayed dog is about 70% likely to develop masses in the mammary tissue when they get to be 7 plus years old. Breast cancer in our pets can be prevented through early spaying. Likewise for the males, early neutering prevents testicular cancer.
Cats can acquire all sorts of tumors and cancer, too. Injection-site sarcomas are something we see on rare occasion, and steps have already been taken by vaccine companies to avoid any future connections with injections. They usually occur over the shoulder area, where we commonly give distemper shots, and first appear as a lump that you feel, but often can't see. Surgical removal early on may prevent spread, but they commonly return in the same area. A very small percentage of cats have been affected (a fraction of one percent), but that's still too many if we can prevent it.
As with humans, early diagnosis is important, and if you detect a lump or mass on your dog or cat, consult your veterinarian. It may turn out to be only a sebaceous cyst, but it could be something more serious.
Dr. Donald K. Allen, MS, DVM (member of CAPS' board of directors)
Dr. Allen's companion animal practice in Youngstown, Ohio cares for dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and exotic animals. Prior to starting his own veterinary clinic in 1992, Dr. Allen was Medical Director of Animal Charity, a nonprofit private humane society and veterinary facility in Youngstown. During his five years at Animal Charity, he discovered that a number of sick puppies requiring treatment had been purchased at a local Docktor Pet Center.
After Dr. Allen went to the Docktor Pet Center and questioned the source of the puppies -- an employee denied the puppies were from mills -- he received a call from the franchise owner. The owner stated that he did not buy dogs from puppy mills and asked Dr. Allen not to visit the store.
Animal Charity then filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's office against the Youngstown Docktor Pet Center for misrepresenting the source of its puppies. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Allen visited six puppy mills and a broker's facility in Missouri to verify the conditions under which some of his clients' dogs had been raised.
At Dr. Allen's instigation, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) stopped running a Docktor advertisement seeking veterinarians as franchisees. Dr. Allen then wrote a letter to JAVMA encouraging veterinarians to "unite against the ongoing atrocity of puppy mills." This letter prompted negative responses from veterinarians in puppy mill states, including one from a staff veterinarian for Honeydew, a Missouri brokerage facility owned by the Hunte Corporation.
In 1994, Dr. Allen and his wife started a joint venture business with a veterinarian and her father in Kaunas, Lithuania. Dr. Allen's maternal grandparents were from Lithuania. The business provides high quality veterinary vaccines, pharmaceuticals and supplies at affordable prices. It also helps Lithuanian and other Baltic veterinarians start their own private practices. Dr. Allen travels to Lithuania twice a year to lecture at the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy on business methods and veterinary science.Â
Dr. Allen hosts "Pet Talk," a daily call-in program on WKBN radio in Youngstown. He also appears twice a week on WKBN Television News.Dr. Allen has bachelor degrees in animal science and veterinary science, a masters degree in animal nutrition, and a DVM. He completed all of his studies at the University of Illinois.
Companion Animal Nutrition and Food Selection
Fifty years ago, the pet food section of your grocery store offered no more than half a dozen brands of dog or cat food. Thirty years later, there were a lot of new brand names and flavors, and today the selection is mind-boggling. In fact, there are whole stores devoted to pet foods. How can you possibly pick the right food for your cat or dog?
As with just about everything else in life, our companion animals' nutritional needs can be illustrated with a bell-shaped curve. The vast majority of pets are in the center of the curve, and these dogs and cats have "average" nutritional demands. On the far right of the curve are those animals with genetic or medical problems that require specific or limited diets, such as Dalmations with urate metabolism deficiency or cats with food allergies. On the far left lip of the bell curve are those animals that can eat anything and thrive, probably even toxic waste.
By now you probably know whether or not your companion animal is on the right, left or middle of the curve. If you are having what you think might be a diet-related problem with your companion animal right now, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to explore the possible causes. If all is well, remember that it's still a good idea to get an annual check-up for your pet and to discuss diet at that time.
I have always believed that Purina products have been the standard of the industry through the years. They are the biggest and have spent the most money on research and development. There are also pet foods that I feel are inferior and many that are probably superior in overall quality. Generics and brand names you've never heard of before may be OK for some dogs, but many dogs will decline in overall health if fed these brands over a period of time. Brands touted as "superior" may be much more than your dog really needs, and you are throwing away a lot of money. They may even be harmful in some cases, such as those with high protein levels that can cause kidney failure. It is probably safe to say that American dogs and cats are better fed than most people on this planet.
Pick a name brand you are familiar with and give it a try. Remember to slowly switch the diet by mixing the new food with the previous food over a period of a week to avoid sudden change loose stools. If all goes well, and they like it, stick with the same brand and flavor. Don't make frequent changes because your animal's body needs to adjust each time you jump from one brand to another.
Avoid giving your companion animal lots of treats and table scraps. Over half of Americans are overweight, and so are our dogs and cats. When you give lots of treats you are upsetting the balanced nutrition of the main diet food and you are adding more calories. I tell my clients that, "Food is not love, and love is not food - you are killing them with kindness or 'loving them to death!'"
Obesity in dogs wears out their hip and knee joints prematurely, sets them up for anterior cruciate ligament rupture and more vet bills down the road. The odds are they will not live a full life expectancy due to the many negative effects of overfeeding. The best rule of thumb is that if you can see the ribs, they are too thin, and if you can't feel the ribs, they are too fat. You should be able to feel individual ribs when you rub your hand over the chest behind the front legs.
Beware of the pet food salesperson who says, "That food is no good because they use wood shavings for fiber." If they are trying to run down another brand to sell their own, realize their motives. Pet store chains may have their own "house brands" to sell, and their profit margin is higher if they push their own food. If it's a name brand they are degrading, they are probably wrong. There is also the sales pitch that, "Chicken is better than corn," or "We use only the finest ingredients." There are thousands of types of corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains and legumes, but some are poorly digested and some can be digested, but are not "bioavailable" to the pet's system. When in doubt, consult your vet.
How much food and when to feed are questions I'm frequently asked. There are several pet food charts available that show a breed's ideal weight (Fit 'N TrimÂ®) and suggest how much food to feed to achieve that weight. There is usually a reducing schedule and a maintenance schedule once that weight is achieved. Basically, you are counting calories, and the entire diet can be fed once in the morning or divided and fed twice during the day. The chart assumes, of course, that you are not cheating by giving your companion animal "extras." Remember that many feeding recommendations are too high in calories for the average dog's needs. After all, pet food companies are trying to sell dog food, and the more your dog eats, the more they sell.
For large breed dogs, it's best not to feed too close to exercise time to prevent bloat and gastric torsion. No strenuous exercise or running for two hours after eating. Exercise is always a part of dieting, and a slow, gradual build-up is advised. Just a walk around the block is a good start. Overweight dogs are in danger of injuring their knees if they overload the joint while running and turning, so take it easy.
Dateline Dr. Allen
AND PETLAND SAYS THEIR PUPPIES ARE EXAMINED BY VETERINARIANS. BUT THIS VETERINARIAN SAYS HE'S SEEN FIRSTHAND THE PROBLEMS THAT CAN ARISE WITH PET STORE PUPPIES.
Chris: When you talk to the people at the pet store, the dog is guaranteed.
Dr. Allen: Well, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong and do go wrong. I've seen these puppies go on when they're three years of age develop epilepsy, hip dysplasia or kneecaps that slip out, that aren't going to be readily apparent in a puppy for maybe the first year or so. So the warranties that they give are in many cases pretty much worthless.
DR. DON ALLEN IS NOW ON THE BOARD OF THE COMPANION ANIMAL PROTECTION SOCIETY, A NON-PROFIT GROUP FOCUSED ON PET WELFARE ISSUES. HE JOINED US WHEN WE TOOK OUR HIDDEN CAMERAS TO THREE PETLAND STORES IN OHIO.
AND THOUGH DR. ALLEN CERTAINLY COULDN'T EXAMINE EVERY PUPPY, IN JUST ONE DAY, HE SPOTTED SOME POTENTIALLY SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT HE SAYS ARE LIKELY LINKED TO HOW THE PUPPIES WERE BRED.
Dr. Allen: See, he's got kinda like a moth eaten appearance here?
IT'S NOT CONTAGIOUS BUT APPEARED TO BE A HEREDITARY FORM OF MANGE.
Dr. Allen con't: Probably all the puppies in this litter have it.
THIS CHIHUAHUA ALSO HAD A HEREDITARY PROBLEM - ONE THAT'S NOT UNCOMMON TO THIS BREED. BUT WE WOULDN'T HAVE KNOWN ABOUT IT IF WE HADN'T BROUGHT ALONG OUR VET.
Dr. Allen: It's called an open fontanel.
Chris: What does that mean for a dog?
Dr. Allen: Got a hole in her skull.
THE SKULL HADN'T CLOSED AROUND THE DOG'S BRAIN. A BOP ON THE HEAD COULD BE FATAL.
Dr. Allen: The fact is here that pet stores have no other source of puppies other than puppy mills. If the three of us were to start a pet store tomorrow and sell puppies and were only going to buy from local breeders, well we might have puppies this month, but we don't have 16 breeds every day of the year.
Dental Care for Your Companion Animal
One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of companion animal health is dental care. Many people notice their animal's bad breath, but few will open their dog's or cat's mouth to determine the cause of the problem. The source of the odor is almost always a build up of tartar on the molars: teeth that are not readily visible. Opening the animal's mouth and pulling the corner back will reveal the offending tartar.
We brush our teeth several times a day and still need the tartar scraped off by a dentist at least once a year. The tartar does not necessarily develop from a build up of food but is usually a result of the chemistry of our saliva. Our teeth are constantly bathed in saliva, and tartar is usually worse where the salivary ducts empty into the mouth. The same is true for animals.
Feeding your dog or cat a hard, crunchy pet food is the best way to control tartar. Do not moisten it or mix it with canned food. Frequent brushing - at least three times a week - with enzymatic pet toothpaste and a soft toothbrush made especially for dogs and cats will also help control the problem.
When brushing your dog's or cat's teeth, it is not necessary to hold the mouth open. Most tartar forms between the outside of the teeth and the gums. You can hold your animal's muzzle and insert the toothbrush or finger brush under the lip. You merely reach back to brush the molars. Most tartar damage affects the upper teeth, especially the molars, first. By cleaning these teeth, you will control much of the problem.
Many products that help control tartar are available through veterinarians and pet supply stores. These products include food, treats and toys that work like dental floss. These products, however, are not a replacement for brushing.
Canned and moist pet foods tend to accentuate tartar build up because they lack the abrasive action that results from chewing hard food. A diet of soft food, including table scraps, often results in more tartar, inflamed and receding gums, and loosening teeth that will eventually fall out.
Chronic dental infection can cause serious health problems when bacteria around affected teeth enters the bloodstream. This bacteria may enter heart valves and cause valve damage and heart disease. It is common to hear a heart murmur in a companion animal with bad teeth. But it is not necessarily too late. Prompt attention can arrest these health troubles.
Check you companion animal's teeth today for bad breath, tartar, red gums, and movable teeth. If you find a problem, make an appointment with your veterinarian for an evaluation. Brushing or changing the diet may be all that is needed. The average dog or cat needs professional cleaning by a veterinarian about every three years. General anesthesia is required to do a thorough job and poses a minimal risk for healthy animals.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice should have chunks of wood in their cages for chewing. These animals have a natural need to chew on materials which help keep their teeth sharp and clean. If a piece of pine is available, they will probably not destroy the plastic or other wood structures in their cages. A cut off piece of a two-by-four will work well.
Horses need periodic dental care, too. Sharp edges can develop on the sides of the grinding teeth that can cut into a horse's tongue or cheek. "Floating" the teeth - the filing of these sharp edges - allows more comfortable chewing. Contact your veterinarian for further information.
Geriatric Medicine and Your Dog
Advances in modern medicine have helped us live longer and longer lives and have spilled over into veterinary medicine as well. It is not unusual today to see dogs survive well into their teens.
Quality of life is always an issue, however, and an old dog that can no longer enjoy life is a sad sight. Arthritis affects dogs just as it does humans, but there are many ways we can help alleviate their aches and pains.
First of all, our dogs have steadily become overweight, like our society. At least 50% of our dogs are either overweight or pathologically obese. Many of us equate love with feeding, and we continually give our dogs tidbits from the table, too much pet food and too many pet treats. An overweight dog will wear out its joints well before old age. Dogs just weren't designed to carry that much load. I tell clients to go home and put 500 pounds of sand in the trunk of their car and see what it does to the rear axle bearings.
Check with your vet about what your dog's lean weight should be and ask how you can get the dog down to that level. We control what our dogs eat, so if the weight doesn't come off we are doing something wrong. Switch to a low-calorie dog food and actually measure what you give each day. Stop buying commercial dog treats and start giving your dog raw carrots, apple slices, celery or other fruits and vegetables instead of dog biscuits (unless they are low calorie diet biscuits). Start a moderate, regular exercise program for your dog. It will be good for you, too. Getting the weight down will help your dog's arthritis perhaps more than most medicines.
When your dog is having a hard time going up stairs, laying down and getting up, or is showing other signs of arthritis, you can always give him the same over-the-counter medicine you might take yourself. Aspirin, tylenol and ibuprofen can all be used twice a day to alleviate aches and pains in your dog. Like people, some dogs' stomachs are sensitive to these "non-steroid anti-inflammatories" and you should always give them with a meal. Check with your vet for dosages.
Your vet also has prescription medicines for arthritis, such as "Rimadyl" and "Eto-gesic," to work directly on arthritic inflammation. On really bad days, an injection of cortico steroids may be called for to give fast relief. Occasional use of cortisone is not harmful, and will significantly reduce an arthritic flare-up for up to several weeks (using dexamethasone and Depo-Medrol). I usually add some vitamin C, A, D and E to the shot.
Perhaps the best thing to ever come along for arthritis is an injectable product called "Adequan." This has been called a "fountain of youth shot" for its remarkable results in many cases. Developed as a product for race horses to keep them running and making money, it was tried by small animal vets and found to be greatly helpful for arthritis. The shot is given once or twice a week for four weeks, then a booster is given about every three months. It works by increasing the production of synovial fluid, the joint lubricant, and by stimulating cartilage repair. The earlier it is used in an arthritic case, the better the response.
Lastly, there are "nutriceuticals," such as glycosaminoglycan and glucosamine supplements that provide the building blocks for cartilage repair. These are nearly always beneficial, with no side affects, but the response may not be noticeable. People who take these products sometimes didn't think they were helping until they stopped taking them. In essence, these products provide 20 to 30 percent improvement, but every little bit helps.
CAPS and "Dateline" Uncover Puppy Mill Horrors
Story Also Reveals AKC's and USDA's Roles in Pet Shop Industry
"If Dante were writing today, there would be a special circle of hell for people who do this to young, helpless animals, who rely on them for their guardianship and everything else."
Karen Overall, DVM
Director of the Behavior Clinic, University
of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital
"A Dog's Life," an expose of the multimillion dollar pet shop and puppy mill trade, aired on "Dateline" on April 26 and May 10, 2000. Viewers were shocked at the inhumane conditions at puppy mills that provide dogs to pet shops and appalled at USDA's Deputy Administrator of APHIS/Animal Care, Ron DeHaven's smug indifference to the horrid conditions at two USDA licensed facilities. They sent more than 9,000 letters and e-mails to NBC, the second largest response to any "Dateline" program in its history. "A Dog's Life" won a Genesis award in the network news magazine category.
CAPS worked for more than a year with "Dateline" to prepare the in-depth report on pet shops and puppy mills. This well-researched piece focused not only on Petland - "Dateline" featured Bella's story - and the puppy mills that deal with Petland and other pet shops but on the American Kennel Club's and USDA's roles in this tragic problem.
A significant portion of the "Dateline" story came from documentation and information provided by CAPS. We provided names of pet shop customers who purchased sick and dying puppies, photographs and video footage (hidden and camcorder) of USDA licensed facilities in Missouri and Iowa and Minnesota, CAPS investigation reports, USDA inspection reports, health certificates, broker invoices, Petland employee training tapes and manuals, and more. CAPS provided "Dateline" with crucial information on Puppy Ridge, a breeding/brokering facility in Missouri that ships dogs to many pet shops, including a number of Petlands. Puppy Ridge also brokers dogs to La Maison des Toutous (The House of the Doggies), a Flushing, NY store that was shown on the "Dateline" piece. "Dateline" did an on-camera interview with former Puppy Ridge driver, Sharon Williams. She and her husband, Bill, who had also been a driver, had originally contacted CAPS. "Dateline" interviewed a former Puppy Ridge kennel worker off-camera. She provided chilling information that wasn't used on the "Dateline" report.
Reputable breeders will not sell to pet shops. In an interview with "Dateline" reporter Chris Hansen in New York City, CAPS board member Dr. Don Allen said, "The fact is here that pet stores have no other source of puppies other than puppy mills. If the three of us [referring to Hansen, Ingrid Newkirk of PETA and himself] were to start a pet store tomorrow and sell puppies and were only going to buy from local breeders, well we might have puppies this month. But we don't have 16 breeds every day of the year." Thousands of breeding facilities, most of them USDA licensed, provide a half-million puppies each year to pet shops across the United States and Canada. The parents of these puppies live in crowded and usually squalid conditions. Their sole purpose is to turn out litter upon litter of puppies. Chillicothe, Ohio-based Petland has 163 franchise locations in the U.S., Canada, France, Japan and Chile. Dr. Allen went undercover with Mr. Hansen to three Petlands in Ohio. At one of the stores, a salesperson assured Mr. Hansen that Petland only buys from reputable breeders. "They have to be inspected and licensed by the USDA," she said. "And if the facility does not meet USDA standards, its license is revoked."
In the past three years, however, the USDA has revoked only twelve licenses from more than 4,000 puppy mills. The USDA has been extremely negligent over the years in its enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as it pertains to commercial dog breeders and brokers. "Dateline" tried to show the conditions at a couple of federally licensed facilities to Mr. DeHaven. He refused to look at a tape of Nielsen Farms in Kansas or photographs of Joe McVeigh's breeding facility in Missouri (put onto tape). Mr. DeHaven claimed a videotape does not always accurately depict the "real situation."
Mr. Hansen asked Mr. DeHaven if USDA inspection reports depict the real situation. He provided the example of Joe McVeigh's facility in Missouri. According to a December 1, 1997 USDA inspection report signed by Harold Becker, McVeigh had no non-compliant items. The local sheriff's department raided McVeigh's facility on January 20, 1998. Humane Society of Missouri employees and two sheriff's deputies found seven dogs that had starved to death. "Dateline" showed viewers shocking photos of dead and starving dogs. "They found things like no food or drinkable water in any of the pens," Mr. Hansen informed Mr. DeHaven. "Explain to me how one day there could be no problems with a breeding facility and a little over a month later there's this." The only response Mr. DeHaven could muster was "We don't know what might have happened in the interim. When you have a third party looking at it, they might be looking at things differently. That's not to say, and I'm not suggesting that dead animals that aren't properly disposed of and those kinds of problems, I'm not trying to justify those." He conceded that only half of all licensed breeders even meet the USDA's minimum standards.
Harold Becker left the USDA at the end of 1998. In December 1999, the USDA charged Mr. Becker with violations of the Animal Welfare Act. He was operating as an animal dealer without a license. Mr. Becker told "Dateline" that he didn't need a license to just transport dogs.
One puppy mill that USDA inspected for years without impunity was Nielsen Farms in Kansas. Behind the charming farmhouse, dilapidated kennels housed hundreds of dogs in inhumane conditions. More than 500 breeding dogs lived their entire lives on wire for one purpose: to breed. The female dogs were bred at every heat.
Veterinarian Dr. Karen Overall, director of the Behavior Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital told Mr. Hansen that no reputable breeder breeds on every heat, yet puppy mills routinely breed their females as frequently as possible. "The dog is physically exhausted. The dog is unable to continue to replenish its stores to adequately supply nutrients to the next litter," said Dr. Overall. "And, in fact, mothers who are stressed like this can't provide the right kind of antibodies to their puppies to help protect them against infectious things." She went on to say that well-bred puppies need good nutrition because it has a direct impact on brain development, affecting both health and behavior. And 90 percent of socialization, she noted, occurs during the first few months of life.
Spending their first eight weeks in puppy mills, the Nielsen Farm animals, like puppies from other mills, did not get the socialization needed to grow into happy, well-adjusted dogs. Dr. Overall said, "They can't teach puppies to play because they don't have any place to play. They can't correct these puppies. There wasn't the rich, warm social environment that these animals need to have to become mature. "
At Nielsen Farms, neglect was rampant. Waste piled up. Food crawled with maggots. Water was non-existent or covered in green slime. Never allowed out of their cages, dogs developed severe behavior problems. Some of the dogs spent hours spinning around like tops in their cages. Other dogs paced back and forth across wire floors. A few jumped endlessly against the wire walls of their cages. Some of the dogs became aggressive and had bloody fights.
The neglect was long standing. Almost every Cocker Spaniel had "cherry eye," a hereditary condition that must be corrected with surgery. A Jack Russell Terrier's foot was trapped in broken wire. A Toy Poodle's leg was accidentally broken when it was taken from its cage. A Labrador Retriever had a collar that was so tight his skin grew around it. The collar was cut off leaving an ugly scar devoid of fur. Dr. Overall told Mr. Hansen that every animal in the videos showed signs of neglect.
"Dateline" returned to Nielsen Farms about a month after they had been there undercover. Mr. Hansen showed the owner, Amy Nielsen, a tape of what they had found. Ms. Nielsen said, "What do you call a puppy mill? I have a breeding operation here. I have a kennel. And that's exactly what it is. It's a kennel." She claimed conditions had improved since the video was shot, yet she refused to allow Mr. Hansen to see the animals. In fact, she angrily demanded that he leave.
The USDA finally charged Nielsen Farms, licensed since 1987, with numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The facility auctioned off most of its breeding stock and moved to Arizona. According to "Dateline," the Nielsens still have more than 100 dogs.
Carrie Carney and Pete Tunkey bought Bella, for $150 at the Petland in Tallahassee, Florida. The Petland employee denied that she came from a puppy mill. According to Mr. Carney, the employee "made it sound like she [the breeder] come in her little station wagon with the puppy in the back seat of the car." Bella, however, was born in Missouri puppy mill investigated by CAPS in 1999. Honeydew Kennels, owned by The Hunte Corporation, one of the largest brokerage operations in the country, sold her to Petland. Although Petland represented her to be a purebred Alaskan Malamute with AKC papers, she turned out to be a mixed breed or as Mr. Tunkey said, "a mala-mutt." When Ms. Carney and Mr. Tunkey held her at the store, she smelled of urine and her feet were covered with diarrhea. The store recommended a veterinarian who had given the dog a clean bill a health. But Bella was far from healthy. She had a severe urinary tract infection that lasted several months. She also had diarrhea and still experiences vomiting.
Petland eventually refunded the $550 purchase price as required by Florida law, but the couple incurred nearly $1,500 in veterinary bills. The Petland warranty provides two weeks for diseases and one year for hereditary problems. Dr. Allen informed "Dateline" that many hereditary problems are not readily apparent in the first year or so. At six month, Bella developed hip dysplasia and shoulder problems. She runs with a limp and may require surgery in the future. Hip surgery can cost in excess of $2,000 per hip.
Ms. Carney said, "If you ignore the fact that she's an animal, you would return her." He added that Petland offered this option months later. The employee told him to bring Bella back and get a new dog. "We'd already become attached," Mr. Tunkey told "Dateline." "I mean, once you have a dog in your house, she's your little baby."
Each week, when puppies are eight weeks old, as required by USDA regulations, and sometimes younger, they leave their wire cages at puppy mills. Brokers then transport the puppies by van, truck or airplane to pet shops throughout the United States and Canada. Sharon Williams, was a driver for Puppy Ridge, a breeding and brokering facility in Missouri that was also investigated by CAPS last year. She told "Dateline" that Puppy Ridge transported as many as 126 puppies in a single cargo van. Just before the Ms. Williams and her husband, Bill, quit in May 1998, they learned that Puppy Ridge was planning to send 160 puppies in the van.
According to Ms. Williams, the puppies were stacked in cages and the dogs on the middle level didn't get enough air. She said that sick ones and healthy ones were jammed together. The puppies lived in their food and waste as it sloshed about the van, even though she and her husband tried to clean as best as they could.
Weather was also a problem. In the summer, Ms. Williams put a thermometer down behind the seat and it registered almost 120 degrees. "The puppies panted, and you had to stop and water them a lot," said Ms. Williams. In order to adequately feed and water the animals en route, the Williamses had to put the back row of cages outside while they maneuvered around to care for the other puppies. Even in cold weather, they had to leave the back row of puppies outside while the other puppies received food, water and medication. The van didn't have a secondary heat source.
Puppy Ridge sent sick puppies, including those with contagious illnesses, in the van to pet stores. Some of these puppies needed medication during the trip. The owner of Puppy Ridge didn't want the Williamses to take sick puppies to a veterinarian if the animals required treatment while on the road. Ms. Williams said that she had to improvise, sometimes nursing sick puppies with Pedialyte she'd buy along the way. In her 15 months driving for Puppy Ridge, four puppies died. Puppy Ridge told her that was much better record than that of the drivers before her.
There is something that still haunts Ms. Williams. She nursed a sick puppy for thousands of miles. When she returned to Puppy Ridge, the owners told her to place the puppy in the trash/burn barrel. She refused to do this and left the puppy on the ground outside the office. This was the last time she saw the puppy.
The American Kennel Club, the elite of dog registries and sponsor of high-end dog shows, has a prestigious reputation according to "Dateline." AKC registration papers that usually come with purebred pet shop dogs often impress buyers and provide a false sense of security. "Dateline" pointed out that any purebred dog, regardless of its health or condition can be registered with the AKC. Registration, however, does not guarantee proper breeding conditions, health, quality or claims to lineage. And the paperwork that comes with a pet shop dog may not actually be for that puppy. Mr. Hansen stated that "unscrupulous breeders will sometimes phony-up AKC papers to market their pups to pet stores at a higher price. Ms. Williams said that Puppy Ridge a simple solution for unregistered puppies that were rejected by pet shops. Her bosses instructed her to place the collar of another puppy with an AKC number on the neck of the rejected dog.
To test the integrity of the AKC's registry, "Dateline" registered a litter of eight non-existent puppies with the AKC. "Dateline" claimed they mated a deceased Golden Retriever male with a spayed Golden Retriever female. The AKC sent individual registration forms. "Dateline" used two of the forms to register real animals. "Dateline" received two registration certificates and gold-sealed AKC pedigrees certifying the animals were Golden Retrievers. The animals, however, were not puppies but two 13-year-old cats. The AKC imposed a suspension of five years and a fine of $1,000 on the producer of the "Dateline" story. CAPS president, Deborah Howard, who had provided registration information for the deceased Golden Retriever, was suspended for five years and fined $2,000. The AKC cannot enforce these fines since it is a nonprofit organization and not a court of law. Those who pay the fines are seeking reinstatement.
CAPS contacted NBC affiliates about doing tie-in stories to the "Dateline" report. WREX in Rockford, Illinois and KCAL in Lancaster, PA did stories about customers who had purchased sick puppies from area Petlands. WTTC in Rochester, Minnesota featured Marina and Scout, two of five puppies that CAPS rescued during an investigation of more than 25 USDA licensed facilities in four states. The story showed Marina and Scout in their new homes and took viewers on a tour of Paws & Claws, the no-kill shelter that housed the puppies after their rescue by a CAPS investigator.
How You Can Help
Write your senator or representative and ask him or her to address the USDA's failure to enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
If your senators or representative are on agriculture committees, ask them to call for oversight hearings on APHIS/Animal Care's failure to enforce the AWA.
Distribute CAPS' pet shop fact sheet ("Why You Shouldn't Buy That Puppy in the Window") which is available on our website or from CAPS.
Ask local and national media to do stories on pet shops and commercial dog breeding/brokering facilities.
If you currently work for a pet shop or puppy mill and would like to provide information about conditions, contact CAPS. All information is confidential.
Adopt a companion animal. Every year, animal shelters destroy millions of dogs - including purebreds and puppies - and cats. PLEASE adopt a companion animal from your local shelter, humane society, rescue organization (some specialize in a particular breed) or veterinarian. In addition, many pet supply stores, such as Petsmart or Petco, sponsor adoption days.
You can also find animals to adopt at these websites:
AKC and Other Dog Registries
The American Kennel Club (AKC) contributes to allow dog overpopulation, the breeding and sale of pet shop dogs, and the pervasiveness of genetic defects in purebred dogs. AKC registration does not guarantee proper breeding conditions, health, quality or claims to lineage. CAPS was responsible for the "20/20" piece that exposed alleged fraud by the AKC (9/23/94) and a major investigative article on the AKC in the Philadelphia Inquirer (12/31/95).
In July 2000, the AKC began requiring DNA samples for all sires producing more than three litters a year or seven litters in a lifetime. A number of commercial breeders, therefore, are now using other registries. A pet shop puppy might come with registration papers from Continental Kennel Club (CKC), America's Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI), American Canine Association (ACA), Universal Kennel Club International (UKCI), United All Breed Registry (UABR), Federation of International Canines (FIC) or Canine Registration and Certification Services (CRCS). CAPS often receives complaints from pet shop customers who have purchased a "registered" puppy and received papers from a registry other than the AKC. It seems that some pet shop employees are using the word "registered" without specifying a registry name.
Loss and Bereavement
Have you ever lost a beloved companion animal?
Wallace Sife, Ph.D, author of The Loss of a Pet, started a unique nonprofit organization devoted to the understanding and treatmen t of grief related to the loss of a companion animal. The mission of the Association for Pet Loss and Berea vement (APLB) is "to provide comfort and counseling to bereaved pet owners and to offer training to counselors and other professionals in this important yet still under-served discipline."
By Randy Turner, CAPS' pro bono attorney
After my dogs died, I vowed that I would not get another dog because the pain of losing them is more than I can bear. (I still get teary- eyed thinking about them). Then I met Smokey. She is a one year-old mutt I met when I walked by a booth the local humane society had set up. They told they had been trying to adopt her out for five months but no one wanted her. Of course that was all I needed to hear! Sh e is my baby girl now. I realize that I was being selfish in not wanting to get another dog. A dog being able to have a loving home and a happy life is worth all the pain we go through when we lose them. There are so many dogs out there that need loving homes. I decided th at I don't have the moral right to deprive a dog just to save me some heartache.