Love dogs the right way

Almost everybody loves dogs, especially puppies. Some people make a lot of money from that love.

Somebody invented a technique for raising huge sums of money: produce a tearjerker TV commercial showing sad-eyed emaciated dogs behind barbed wire. Then, instead of asking for a check, ask for a regular monthly donation, so the organization will have access to your credit card number and your e-mail address.

If you watch TV, you can’t miss these ads.

Every time I see one, in the seconds before I grab the remote and change channels, I remind myself to donate to a local charity I know and trust. If you want to donate to the groups that advertise, you might want to check them out first.

After living for centuries on table scraps, dogs have become a huge industry. According to the Pet Food Institute, sales of dog food rose from $7.9 billion in 2000 to $14.4 billion in 2014.

But some people don’t care about dogs at all. Way too many dogs are abandoned, neglected or abused – sometimes for profit.

Sport dog fighting is a felony in New Mexico. The same law that bans cockfighting – which was hard fought in New Mexico less than 10 years ago – also bans dog fighting with the identical provisions and penalties (New Mexico statutes paragraph (30-18-9). But reportedly it still takes place; mutilated dogs, dead or brutally injured, are found from time to time. We hear of dogs disappearing from the backyards of loving owners, possibly kidnapped to be used as bait to train fighting dogs.

We also hear that if you have a dog you can’t keep, or a litter of puppies, and offer to give them away free to strangers, the person who accepts your offer might also be planning to use them for fighting dog bait.

The simple reality is there are more dogs than homes for them. According to Animal Protection New Mexico, 135,000 animals in New Mexico are in shelters.

The public is responding by increasingly adopting shelter or rescue dogs instead of buying them. The big pet store chains have found that adoption is good business and offer donated space for adoptions. After all, an adopted dog eats just as much pet food as a dog bought from a store.

So there’s no excuse for puppy mills.

Puppy mills are operations where mother dogs are bred repeatedly to produce puppies for sale. Conditions are often reported to be unsanitary and inhumane. The only reason they exist is that they make money. Some people want a particular breed of cute puppy and don’t ask enough questions.

There are limits on how much time and resources law enforcement can devote to hunting down these breeders. The people of New Mexico should starve out this industry by making personal decisions to boycott the purchase of puppies – except from responsible breeders that you check out yourself.

One rescue group (nmsiberianrescue.com) notes:

“If you absolutely must have a puppy, please do not consider getting one from a pet store.  No matter what the store tells you, these puppies come from puppy mills where they are mass produced with little or no medical care for the pups or their mother. “

And every puppy bought from an irresponsible source means one less shelter dog getting a home.

The humane treatment of animals is one measure of our civilization, and New Mexico has a blotted record. The state allows trapping, it tolerates the blood sport of coyote hunting contests, it supports the ban on horse slaughter but hasn’t found a better way to prevent wild or abandoned horses dying of hunger, thirst or cold.

But we’re making progress with dogs. We can continue to improve only if we can keep up with the numbers.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2016

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