If you pass by a pet shop, you can usually see cute puppies and kitties crawling over each other and playing in joyful abandon. The little bundles leave you transfixed and elevate your spirits, but do you know that many of the flurry friends actually come from a place akin to hell?
The death of Michelle the stray dog on MTR tracks has raised public awareness in Hong Kong about animal rights issues. Now, bad practices in the pet breeder business are coming into the spotlight.
Purebred pups can fetch prices ranging from HK$3,000 to HK$10,000 (US$1,290) at pet shops, but it is unbelievable how breeders would treat the animals’ parents.
Last week, Linda Cats and Dogs, a local non-profit organization, was informed by some volunteers that a local breeding operation was set to go out of business.
Several large and small dogs were waiting to be rescued, or else they would face death, the activists noted, according to Hong Kong Animal Post.
The animal volunteers made efforts to persuade the breeder to hand over to them what he deemed as ‘useless’ animals. They eventually succeeded in rescuing 11 small size dogs, and later took them to vets for further examination.
The veterinarian said most of the animals that came out from breeder organizations suffered serious health conditions, largely due to extremely poor living conditions.
“These dogs are normally around 3 to 4 years’ old, but they look much older as if they were eight,” the vet said. Mostly mother dogs, these animals are typically treated like breeding machines.
In order to save cost, dogs are usually kept in overcrowded cages in filthy conditions. They are forced to sleep beside or on top of their feces most of the time. Diseases spread quickly in the puppy mills as a result.
Breeders would keep the dogs in tiny cages as a way to minimize waste cleanup; the cages are held together by wires, which would injure the animals’ paws, legs and even eyes.
One of the rescued dogs is a Shih Tzu. She is nearly blind, and may also be suffering from oral cancer. Linda, founder of Linda Cats and Dogs, told the Post that the dog was kept in a small cage; she probably injured herself inside the cage and received no caring afterwards.
As soon as puppies grow to a stage at which they are able to eat solid food, they are taken away to be sold and the mother is mated again. Mother dogs are kept constantly pregnant until they cannot produce puppies anymore. Breeders would then throw them out on the street as if they were rubbish, or simply kill them.
The vet also examined a three-year old dog. From the state of the mother dog’s nipples, he guessed that she has already given birth at least sixth times, which means that she was pregnant every half year.
Because of the non-stop pregnancy, mother dogs are normally malnourished. It is not surprising to see them with weak bones or even broken bodies. Their teeth deteriorated quickly as well; some of the dogs had only three teeth left. With such body conditions, it is quite hard for these animals to be re-homed.
Recently, animal rights organizations, including SPCA, have urged the Hong Kong government to regulate the industry as soon as possible. Some of the proposals include putting a cap on the number of dogs kept by the breeders, and limiting the dogs’ pregnancy to once a year. Meanwhile, it is also necessary to educate the public to boycott the bad breeders.
Some breeders claim to be ‘hobby breeders’, but actually they are doing it in scale to maximize profits. At the same time, they can exploit a legal loophole which lets private pet owners breed their own pets without applying for licenses.
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