Friday, March 20, 2009

Puppy Laundering

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: Fatuous or calculating?

In an earlier post, I discussed the case of the inconvenient Katrina pit bulls that "went away" when BF paid a criminal posing as a dog trainer to tell them what their donors wanted to hear.

One of Don Chambers' ethical lapses was breeding "designer" mongrels and then offering them for adoption sale on Petfinder -- which makes a good faith effort to ensure that only legitimate shelters and rescues get listings.

Now Best Friends is back at it, endorsing the same scheme in its storefront manifestation.

Seems they've been picketing pet stores that sell puppies in Los Angeles, with the goal of shutting them down or persuading them to stop selling puppies. Well hoo-feckin-ray! A fine idea. Go to it. Drive 'em all out of business. A pet store is no place to buy a puppy, and a goal of everyone who cares about animal welfare should be to make the dealers for the puppymill industry dry up and blow away. Right?

From Best Friends' own press release:

Best Friends has been hard at work to find an alternative, and collaborated with Woof Worx (formerly Pets of Bel Air) on the idea to sell wonderful, healthy, purebred puppies that come from local shelters. For a mere fraction of what it would cost at a traditional pet store, people can adopt one (or more) of these dogs, support a business that’s doing the right thing, and save a life

We are meant to believe that this is a transparent account of a viable business model.

That in Los Angeles, there are so many "wonderful, healthy, purebred puppies" stacked in bulging cages at the shelters, that it is not only okay, but commendable, for a chichi for-profit pet store to somehow acquire them and sell them in its storefront?

Puppies mind you. Purebred puppies.

And we know they are wonderful and healthy how ...?

The usual way to verify the wonderfulness and health of a purebred puppy is to visit the home of the puppy's doting breeder, and meet her vigorous and exemplary parents.

Pups acquired from shelters are typically mixed breed, may not be in the best of health vis-a-vis parasites, nutrition, and infectious disease (almost all stuff that can be fixed, most of the time) and are much more of a gamble in terms of their potential for whatever wonderfulness the owner requires. All of which is fine, and no reason most people who are looking for a buddy and family pet can't get a great one at a shelter and justifiably feel that they are performing a mitzvah by doing so.

So where are these shelter-refugee purebred puppies coming from?

Are they individuals cherry-picked from shelter populations, hooked out of the adoption pool, declared "purebred," then marked up for sale?

Will a campaign of humane raids (and "humane" raids) on breeders provide a supply of puppies for sale?

Or are the "shelters" something else entirely -- maybe a breeder puppymiller who calls him or herself a "rescue?"

From the consumer's self-interested standpoint, doesn't matter. Any pups that end up in the "indoor dog park" at this boutique will have come from puppymills -- they'll have all the deficiencies of the same pup sold at Petland, plus maybe more time in a stressful, disease-ridden kennel environment.

Puppymill puppies go in one end, come out the other as politically correct "rescue."

Puppy laundering.


  1. I like the idea of getting dogs out of shelters and into homes (and I'm sure that's what they're counting on - that everyone will like this idea) but you raise some excellent points. I think BF should clarify in detail how this whole thing is going to work. Once I get to thinking on it, I can envision all sorts of problems. For example, what if they run out of "purebred puppies" from their local shelters? Will they pull from out of area shelters? Thus removing those other shelters' chance to get peeps in the door with the thought that maybe there's a cute pup there like they saw online. Adopters will quickly figure out if they surf Petfinder or shelter sites and only the BF store has cute Purebred pups while everybody else has old Chow mixes, black Pitbulls, and Lab/Shepherd crosses.

  2. I really question the sourcing of these dogs; knowing what I have experienced with the shelters and rescues I have worked with currently and in the past, breed identification in a young dog is beyond the scope of most shelter employees.

    My other concern is if the issue of BYB and Mill pups is what they are using with all the talk about health and soundness, what are their assurances to their buying public that these pups will not be so affected? Exactly how will they assure the buyer that the pup they just "adopted" won't keel over dead from some genetically influenced disease or communicable ill?

    Hypocritical of the highest order.

  3. It's the "buy" and the "these are purebred puppies" that is really bothering me here.

    In Philadephia, several groups have rented some significant storefronts with big windows to showcase shelter dogs, but it's just a rental of a big window storefront in a populated area -- it's still shelter/rescue dogs and the organization is the same. Also, it's "what the shelter has" -- while there is a push that the rented storefront dogs will make great pets, there's nothing said about them being purebreed -- or even puppies.

    I would feel better if the LA model was more like the Philly one -- renting a storefront so that "pet ready" dogs (and all ages have been profiled -- mostly ones that are either more active or need a bit more space than the regular shelter kennels have) are more visible to the public, but the adopt/screening, etc is still the same.


  4. Good point about the ID'ing of young pups. It's beyond the scope of the most expert of cynologists. Really.

    Sure, the client who called me to consult on the "retriever" pup she'd gotten and met me at the door with a prick-eared, curly-tailed, red-and-white pup with a face mask was naive. (Did the breeder happen to have any huskies around the place? He did? really?

    But beyond that kind of extreme, at eight weeks of age, who can say what a pup really is?

    Which is why the conventional pet store liars do such a brisk business in "Maltese" that eventually grow to 25 pounds and have curly coats. Etcetera.

    I'd be less disturbed if this store is passing off pound mutts as "wonderful healthy purebreds" than if they really do sell purebred pups, because the latter can only originate in a puppymill and be laundered through bogus "rescue" in order to land in the storefront.

  5. thank you for pointing this out. More and more I wonder about BF. I know they "claim" to do good and even going out to their homestead you see "good" things happening. But SRSLY I've been getting as much junk, advertisments, phone calls, propaganda from them as HSUS or ASPCA sends out. That STUFF just encourages me to cringe when I toss it all into the recycling bin and wonder if they are feeding the dogs. And NOW they are going to sell "purebred PUPPIES"!?!?

  6. A large, high-kill "humane" group here has a track record of raiding high-volume puppy producers, confiscating their stock, deciding most of the adult dogs are beyond help and then selling the puppies off at near breeder prices. I hear that they're also skilled at pressuring breeders to "voluntarily" give up their stock.

    So, Biscuit, I posit that when they run out of puppies, more raids will occur.

    While I am pleased to see any greeder (high or low volume) put out of business, I also can't help but wonder where this kind of business-plan-meets-social-agenda would end. 'Cause when money and politics get in bed together, they're really hard to stop.

  7. "We're going to offer an alternative to pet stores that sell puppies. That alternative is *our* pet store that sells puppies."


    Well, really, you have to stand back and be amazed at how far Best Friends has it's collective head up it's collective ass.


  8. I guess this is a win-win for Woofworx too, in that they can LEGITIMATELY no longer be held responsible for the longer-term health or temperament of their mill puppies- after all, the pups came from a shelter and the people knew that when they bought them!

  9. Smartdogs, I hope that the word "greeder" does not catch on like other AR-coined terms have. The only context I have seen that word used -- and there was a lot of it hurled around during the War Against AB 1634 -- was by foaming-at-the-mouth AR nutjobs screaming it at ALL breeders. Makes my stomach twist into knots just seeing that word used again. Please, not that word.

  10. Well, I WAS thinking that I really ought to free up some bucks and send a membership renewal to BF. But things are getting a little weird around the edges ::sound of wallet snapping shut::

    I'm thinking that a for-profit business selling puppies is problematical, at best, even with BF involved.

    Businesses rely on inventory control. Puppies can't be produced on demand in a humane, responsible manner. So, I don't see how this works over the long haul, especially if they are promising "purebred" puppies.

    The info here and at Pet Connection about what sound like bogus raids, which are effectively the seizure of someone else's property without due process and then profiting from the sale of it (the puppies and dogs) makes my head swim. How would the pet shop make sure that they weren't getting puppies from a source like that. The pressure will be on not to ask too many questions.

    BF has said nothing, that I've seen, about where the "merchandise" is going to come from other than the vague "shelters". Even if LA Animal Control went No Kill tomorrow, there wouldn't be enough dogs meeting the criteria to keep the PC LA pet stores "stocked".

  11. I just have no faith that this is anything but a ploy. I am not opposed to elevating the plight of shelter dogs, but this is NOT the way.

  12. Hmmm. I have to drive up to Santa Barbara - may need to window-shop along the way.

    Hardly any purebred-looking dogs at local shelters & adoption fairs that aren't generic pit bull or chihuahua types.

    Smallish mixed-breed pups do show up once in a while. A stray momma-dog will be fostered with her pups until they're old enough to be adopted, and by then there's a waiting list at the shelter for each pup.

    Will CA's puppy lemon law apply? I don't think so, but what do I know. Here's more.

  13. Absolutely, Heather. I realized quite awhile ago that the goal of the 'rescue'/shelter people is to corner the market. At least they are now admitting it's a business, not a cause. That's progress.

    Sometimes they steal puppies from 'mills'. Sometimes they get them through 'rescue'.

    Either way, it's the same kind of puppy, just that a new bunch has moved in to take over the existing territory in what amounts to a turf war. They actually charge more for certain dogs than others at shelters these days.

  14. We've got a local version of BF, goes by HUA...though a quick check-back to their website shows they claim to have gone 'national' now.

    The business model includes taking donations (HUA is organized as 'non-profit'), then using donor dollars to purchase 'retired' puppy mill breeding stock at dog auctions. The one-eyed, three-legged, snaggle-toothed 'Maltese' in early stages of congestive heart failure will need a bath before his price is marked up and he can be re-sold to one of the donors. HUA calls the whole transaction a 'rescue' and 'adoption'.

    The success of the business model is proven -- the website says they plan to double their warehouse space in the coming year. ALL done in the name of serving their mission, which is explicitly stated: put an end to puppy mills.

    I'd like to write more, but I have to go to Sam's Club to rescue some bath towels and do my part to close down the textile industry.

    1. If you really wanted to "rescue" some towels you would go to the Goodwill and get the faded ones that have holes in them..the ones that have been "washed to death" in "horrific' machines".. not hand washed with love and care.. you are obviously a "toweler" that cares not for old needy textiles.LOL

  15. I like the idea of getting dogs out of shelters too. However, I don't like the idea of "indirectly supporting" puppy mills by importing puppies from other countries or other parts of the US under the guise of rescuing. I know of shelters and rescues that go to auctions to "save" designer puppies from puppy mills and adopt them for higher "adoption fees" because they know the market will demand it. Puppy mills don't care where they get their money as long as they get their money. Some rescues and shelters on adoptions sites such as petfinder have nothing but puppies and very few if any adults....this doesn't make sense to me. There are plenty of dogs in our own communities that need saving. Oh the hard to save ones for the they get all the blame. Get the easy to adopt ones to show the public what a wonderfully high adoption rate you have to get more donors.


  16. Ouch - as much as I agree with the ending of the term "greeder" I have to also object to the lumping of rescue groups and shelters.

    Just like reputable breeders, the vast majority of private rescue groups run in the red.

    And for those who disagree with rescues pulling "highly adoptable" dogs from high-kill shelters - if the dogs were not in imminent danger of being destroyed, the shelter would simply opt to hang on to them. Several pounds/shelters we deal with will openly turn us down when they come across a dog that "shows well" in person.

    Also, the vast majority of them beg to get puppies out of the shelter asap. A lot of times the pups still have their mom, and the mom needs rescue too. A shelter is no place for a litter of puppies - too much disease, not enough socialization. Caring shelter/pound directors realize this, and dogs not adopted within a few days are hastily sent out to rescues.

    My point is, just as puppy mills shouldn't have anything to do with the reputation of honest breeders, groups like HSUS and BF should not have anything to do with the reputation of honest rescues and their organizers/volunteers.


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