Rescue. At What Cost? –by Anna Cooke

Most people have never heard of a ‘dog auction,’ which is essentially the same as a livestock auction. They are a by-product of the puppy mill business and another example of the inhumane treatment of dogs in the commercial mass production of puppy breeding. There are a couple of reasons for dog

auctions, held primarily in the Midwest during spring and fall. A commercial breeder or “miller” may be going out of business and wants to sell all of the breed- ing stock. Another reason is a need to cull old breeding stock and to purchase younger, more fertile breeding dogs. While one breeder realizes the dog is no longer healthy enough to produce a litter of puppies, another breeder will purchase that same dog at auction and try to get another couple of litters out of the dog. Dog auctions usually have between

100 to 450 dogs of all ages and breeds for sale. One flyer, advertising a “total kennel dispersal” auction, listed 450 dogs — from Akitas to Yorkshire Terriers. This was from just one puppy mill breeder. The dogs are cataloged by number

and bidders may view the dogs before the sale begins. They are sold in auction-style to the highest bidder. According to the The Puppy Mill

Project, the dogs are lined up on a table usually four at a time. The auctioneer starts the bidding, highlighting the ages of the dogs, whether they are in heat or not, if they are proven breeders, good moth- ers, or if they produce large litters. The auctioneer will say anything to sell the dog for the highest price. The dogs are sold “as is” and many are sold with


chronic, untreated, painful conditions such as ear infections, rotten teeth, uri- nary tract infections, sores on their feet, mastitis, and more. Some rescue groups attend the dog

auctions, using funds raised specifically to purchase the senior or sick dogs. While this is a noble gesture, some animal advo- cacy groups, such as Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA and Best Friends, believe it only perpetu- ates the puppy mill industry, giving money to the breeder to purchase other dogs. When breeders know that a rescue group is attending an auction, they will bid against them just to increase the price of the dog. Most, if not all, of these dogs have never been vaccinated or have ever been seen by a veterinarian. That means no rabies shots, no dental care — noth- ing. The dogs are also terrified of every- thing, having lived in cages their whole life, giving birth to litter after litter of puppies from the age of six months. They aren’t given an opportunity to run through grass or have any social interac- tion with humans. Not all of the dogs end up being

purchased at auction. The breeders who brought the dogs will often pay the auc- tion house to destroy any of those that are left over. It’s cheaper than transporting the dogs back to the farms to be destroyed. At this point, the dogs are used up and/or damaged goods, and are of no use to the breeder. A few years ago, Laurie Johnson,

Director and co-founder of Florida Little Dog Rescue, was a bystander at several dog auctions. She devised an alternative

plan to help save more of the dogs left behind, in part by befriending several of the auctioneers. “They are the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” said Laurie, “who don’t have souls.” She does not agree with what goes

on at the auction houses, but the circumstances necessitate wearing blinders and biting her tongue. “You pick your battles,” she said. After the auction, the auctioneer will

contact her after everyone else has left the premises, to let her know what’s left. Depending on the number of dogs, she immediately contacts her foster volunteers and veterinary partners to alert them of an ETA. There is no time to waste during the clandestine operation. The bi-weekly auctions are held late Friday and/or early Saturday. Efficiency and focus are key to accomplishing their mission, usually completed, round trip, within 48 to 72 hours, depending on the location of the auction house. Earlier this year, Laurie received one

such call from an auctioneer she had befriended. There were seven dogs, left over from the day’s auction; “awkward teens” was the description given as a selling point during the auction. There were no takers. Five soft-coated Wheaten Terriers

and two Goldendoodles. No one purchased the seven puppies during the auction and their fate, at that point, was questionable. They would not be heading back to the farm with the breeder and the auction house was in no position to keep the dogs.Laurie agreed to take all of them.

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