Letter to the Vancouver Sun from the BCVMA

On January 30, 2003, the Sun ran two stories that have attracted the attention of members of the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association. The first was the disturbing story from Port Alberni concerning neglected Lhasa apso dogs. The second, an article by Paula Brook entitled "Golden-poo: a golden opportunity", looked at the increasing popularity of poodle crossbreeds.

At one point in the Golden-poo story, columnist Brook refers to a kennel in Langley that meets consumer demand by "...pumping out hundreds of custom canines each year...". The two stories are linked in that they focus on dogs produced in large numbers to satisfy the demand for fashionable breeds. The concept of mass-produced "designer dogs" is of concern to the veterinary profession.

Potential pet owners should be aware that ensuring the health and welfare of breeding dogs and their offspring is a very time consuming and expensive endeavour. Puppies need to be socialized from an early age to give them the proper skills to adapt to human society. In addition, young animals are prone to infectious diseases and parasites. When some "kennels" fail to meet the needs of their dogs, the results are unhealthy and poorly socialized animals. The term "puppy mill" may be associated with these businesses because of their tendency to produce large numbers of puppies with little regard for their well-being.

Consumers can unintentionally encourage puppy mills to thrive by rushing to obtain the canine "breed of the moment" without being aware of the implications to the health and welfare of the animals involved. The British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association encourages potential pet owners to research breeders or kennels prior to purchasing a pet. Information obtained from a veterinarian and visits to the breeder in advance of any agreement for sale are important components of such research. During the kennel visit, check that all animals -- parents and puppies -- are well cared for. Consumers can play an important role in eliminating puppy mills by purchasing their pets from reputable breeders who can clearly demonstrate their attention to the health and well-being of their animals.