by Laura AllenÂ
Yesterday, I told everyone to take a page from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)Â and put a positive spin on the Obamas’ choice of a dog.
The Obamas finally, almost reluctantly, acknowledged that they were not adopting a homeless dog from a local shelter as President Obama promised when he was candidate Obama.
Instead, they accepted a 6 month old puppy originally from a commercial dog breeder who sells dogs to Sen. Ted Kennedy.
HSUS decided to make the best of it and pointed out the puppy, Bo, was given a home by the Obamas because he was not doing well in his current home.Â There was a hint the old owners might well have surrendered him to a shelter and the Obamas stepped in to "rescue" Bo.
But Bo is a pure bred Portuguese water dog, a relatively rare breed, whose breeder, Martha Stern, said is not a "rescue".Â She explained dogs that don’t work out are returned to her and she will sell them to someone else. There is no chance a dog like this would ever have needed rescuing.Â
Bo is actually from a litter that was named "Hope and Change".Â He was placed with the Washington, D.C. area family where he reportedly did not work out and then sent to Sen. Kennedy’s trainer. Â He will now join the Obamas in the White House, as if this was the plan all along.
I think now that President Obama missed an opportunity not only to save a life, but also to draw national attention to the tragedy of the millions of shelter animals, dogs, cats and other pets, that are euthanized every year simply because they are homeless, unwanted, or declared "unadoptable" for some arbitrary reason.Â If you have ever loved an animal, you know how heartbreaking, how gut wrenching this tragedy is.Â
By adopting a homeless dog as promised, President and Mrs. Obama would have drawn thousands of people to their local shelters to adopt, foster, volunteer and make the changes these animals need.
Spay/neuter could have become a household word as citizens began looking for the free or low cost services needed to lower shelter intake and euthanasia rates.
By adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue as promised, President and Mrs. Obama could have signaled a need for change in the regulation of puppy mill operations that churn out puppies like manufactured goods in deplorable conditions.Â
More than 25% of these puppies end up in public shelters.Â
These operations cage breeding dogs usually 24/7 in small, filthy enclosures, many times stacked one on top of the other, with little or no shelter, veterinary care, or food and fresh water, and no exercise, love or affection. The dogs are never groomed and are usually found dirty and covered with fleas, tics and other pests. Females are bred over and over until their organs fall out and they die or are killed, dumped or sold for research. These dogs live in unrelieved misery.
If these operations are even regulated, which many are not, APHIS or a state agency or law enforcement typically turn a blind eye, dithering over their authority to shut them down, pretending these are somehow legitimate "businesses" that should be supported, ignoring that these sleazy operators make their money from animal cruelty and leave communities with unwanted dogs in their shelters, environmental and health hazards from improperly disposed of carcasses and waste, infestation, and wastewater and other sewage problems. Â
These places exist because the public buys dogs from pet stores or from these commercial breeders or puppy millers over the internet or through ads. Â More than 90% of dogs sold by pet stores come from operations like this.
If the Obamas had adopted a dog, maybe fewer people would purchase dogs this way and instead adopt one of the millions of animals certain to die a lonely and sometimes cruel death in a shelter. Â Â Maybe Americans would have called for an end to these puppy mills. Maybe USDA/APHIS under President Obama’s leadership would strengthen its regulations and stop pretending animal cruelty can be a legitimate business. Â Maybe some of these many bills pending in state legislatures this year to limit the breeding and improve conditions in these places would pass without being watered down till their provisions are meaningless. Â Â Â Â Â
Maybe President Obama could have given us change we could believe in, change that would make a real difference for these animals. Â Â
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