Soundoff: These dogs aren’t from a ‘puppy mill’

By Deb Mitchell

I read Pat Lamont’s Feb. 11 letter with mixed feelings. I, too, am appalled about the recent need to rescue so many dogs from a breeder. The pictures I saw at the hearings were gut wrenching. I’m surprised they were able to accumulate so many dogs without any official notice. But the law and due process handled the situation when they found out about it. Most of Washington’s animal laws speak directly to animal cruelty.

I was really surprised to find that I am considered a “puppy mill” by Pat Lamont, apparently for the sole reason that I take my puppies to the farmer’s market. Lamont went on to make generalizations about my pups that couldn’t possibly be confirmed because they’re not true.

My vet routinely compliments me on my pups for both their health and their personalities. In fact, last year I spent more than $3,000 to ensure my dogs and their pups got the best of care, both in veterinary expenses, cleaning equipment and supplies and preventatives. I pay taxes on every pup. I donate $300 to 400 every year to WAIF and am directly responsible for another $600 in fundraising this year.

The biggest benefit I get from the farmer’s market is the socialization my pups receive from all the children and adults that interact with them. Socialization is the number one thing you can do to ensure the mental health of your dog. For me, it’s certainly not the number of pups that are sold. And, of course, I get to talk about my favorite subject, “dogs,” with interested people. I do my best to educate along the way. There’s a lot of misconceptions based on someone’s feelings rather than facts. As a science-oriented person, I prefer to deal with peer reviewed research, not someone’s belief systems or semi-hysterical guilt trips.

Why do I feel I’m qualified to do what I do? I’m state certified to teach biology, genetics, and all of the other sciences in secondary education and I apply that knowledge to my breeding program, along with the care and training I provide my adult dogs. I stopped counting 60 hours past my Master of Science degree and I still take an interesting class here and there. I have my own diagnostic quality microscope, a whole library of books on veterinary care and animal behavior and am on several list servers for veterinary care and genetics.

I donate hundreds of volunteer hours every year to various organizations. I tutor in science, math and reading and writing. Oh yes, I’m also a disabled veteran with 20 years of active and honorable service. I choose to work with animals because they don’t judge and they’re always a comfort. In other words, I know my business, I do my research, I follow through and I’m honorable.

I wouldn’t buy a puppy from a pet store either, but not because I assume they came from a “puppy mill.” That’s a nasty pejorative that’s used with far too much freedom to tar and feather someone’s reputation by mere association with the words. When I buy a pup, I’ll have spoken with the breeder for six months or more and thoroughly checked them out in every respect.

I am proud to say that many of my puppy owners have become my friends and I keep track of the rest of the puppies as their owners allow. I have a very robust health guarantee, better than most, and all of my pups come with lifetime consultation with me.

Does all of this qualify me as a puppy mill? I don’t think so. To call me one, without any proof of the same ... well, I think that’s the legal description of slander.

Deb Mitchell lives in Coupeville.

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