Toy Poodle Becomes Poster Dog for Puppy Mills

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Toy Poodle Becomes Poster Dog for Puppy Mills

Judith Davidoff for The Capital Times in WI, wrote a great story about how a rescued toy poodle became the posterdog for puppy mill dogs. Here’s the gist of it:

Shortly after losing her nearly 9-year-old standard poodle to cancer, Jana Kohl decided she wanted her next dog to be small and portable. Like many others, she turned to the Internet in search of a purebred toy poodle.

One especially cute puppy from a breeder in Texas caught her eye. Kohl called the breeder and mailed a deposit. A friend warned her of the horrors of puppy mills, but Kohl admits she only “half-listened.”

“What I discovered was a house of horrors,” says Kohl, who lives on the West Coast. “Barns and sheds filled with rows and rows of caged dogs who had never walked on grass, had never seen the sun, who were locked in cages their entire lives and used like breeding machines — treated as if they were inanimate objects.”

Kohl left without a dog but with a new mission in life: “I remember standing there that day, saying to myself, ‘You will never be the same.’ Because I knew I had to do something about it.”

A few months later Kohl adopted “Baby,” a 9-year-old toy poodle that had been rescued from a puppy mill, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Together they travel the country drumming up support to outlaw the inhumane practices and conditions found at thousands of puppy mills around the country.

A chronicle of their travels — with heart-melting photos of Baby and her conquests — is contained in “A Rare Breed of Love: The True Story of Baby and the Mission She Inspired to Help Dogs Everywhere,” a new book out from Simon and Schuster. Baby and Kohl will be in Madison on Monday, June 30, at Barnes & Noble as part of a 25-city tour to promote the book.

“We just don’t have laws on the books to protect these dogs from inhumane abuse,” says Kohl in a phone interview from her tour bus, which is wrapped with photos from the book and a plea to “Boycott pet stores and Internet breeders — adopt insteadI think the public is increasingly outraged and is demanding that we treat the animals in our midst with humanity and compassion.”

She was in college when she heard a speech by Rabbi Marvin Hier, who was in the process of founding what would become the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization headquartered in Los Angeles.

“I went up to him that night and said, ‘I want to help you,’ ” recalls Kohl.

Looking back on the last several decades, Kohl says a common thread has run through her work.

Kohl dropped out of college and volunteered at the center for about six months before joining the staff. In the early 1980s she opened the organization’s Chicago office.

“For whatever reason, I’ve always been concerned about how society sanctions cruelty,” she says. “There’s probably no more hideous example of that than the Holocaust.”

Kohl eventually went back to school, earning a doctorate in psychology. Yet right after finishing her degree, she chose animal welfare work instead of a counseling practice.

She says she learned about inhumane factory farming practices by reading literature from the Humane Society. At the time, her standard poodle, Blue, was still alive.

“It was my relationship with that dog that really sensitized me to the sentient nature of animals,” she says.

Kohl says that is a common trajectory for people with family pets.

“The dog was the ambassador who opened their eyes,” she says.

The bigger question, says Kohl, is whether it is responsible for anyone at all to breed dogs when between 4 million and 5 million homeless pets are euthanized every year, according to Humane Society statistics.

“To me, it’s irresponsible,” says Kohl. “I say, ‘Find another hobby.’ “

Unchain Your Dog

Unchain Your Dog

Unchain Your Dog

Dogs are born as part of a pack. Out in the wild, wolves and other canines live, eat, and sleep with their family. Without other dogs, humans become their “pack.” If someone chained you to a tree and you could only travel a few feet wouldn’t you feel sad? A chained dog feels rejected and doesn’t understand why their best friend would just walk away and leave them there.

Imagine yourself being chained to a tree year after year. You watch the door hoping someone will come play. No one ever does. You long to run, but you can only pace. You shiver in winter and pant in summer. Eventually, you stop barking. You have given up hope.

We have many forms of entertainment: movies, music, friends. Your dog only has YOU. If you can’t give a dog a good life, should you really have one?

It is up to caring people like you to improve the lives of chained dogs. Some think, “It’s none of my business.” But it is the business of compassionate people to speak up when living creatures are treated like objects and chained to a tree. You will feel good about yourself for helping a chained dog!

If you are wondering what should you do if you see a dog constantly left outside on a chain you can read what the Humane Society says about it here.

Here is a list of alternatives the HSUS has to offer to help get dogs off of chains.

  • Install a fence if your property does not already have one. Or consider installing a large chain-link dog run. If you install a dog run, make sure it meets these minimum space requirements. Be sure to allow extra space for a doghouse.
  • If you have a fence and your dog can jump over it, install a 45-degree inward extension to the top of your existing fence. Many home improvement stores sell these extensions.
  • If your dog digs under the fence to escape your yard, bury chicken wire to a depth of one foot below where the fence meets the ground (be sure to bend in the sharp edges). Or place large rocks at the base of the fence.
  • If the two previous options don’t work for your “escape artist,” consider using a cable runner or electronic fencing. These options are not perfect, but they will give your dog more freedom. Be sure to use these options only if you also have a fence that protects your dog from people and other animals.
  • If your dog digs where you don’t want him to (such as in a garden or flower bed), consider putting plastic garden fencing or a similar barrier around the area. Or provide your dog with his own sandbox. Bury toys in the sandbox and use positive reinforcement to teach your dog that it is okay to dig there.
  • Enroll your dog in an obedience class—especially if his behavior is the main reason you keep your dog outside.
  • Spay or neuter your dog if you haven’t already done so. A neutered dog is less likely to roam and more content to stay at home. These are safe procedures that have many health and behavioral benefits. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

Remember that dog behavior problems such as barking, chewing, and digging are often the result of a lack of stimulation. By providing your dog with proper toys, exercise, “people time,” and positive reinforcement, you may alter undesirable behaviors and teach acceptable house manners. In addition, a dog who is inside the house is much more likely to deter an intruder than a dog chained in the yard.

Please help us unchain your dog and give all animals a better life.

Unchain YourDog