‘Amish puppy mills’ are back in the news with a recent report on ABC. I’m not going to rehash the issue too much here as it has been discussed at length elsewhere on the blog, but simply put up a couple of links to the posts I feel are most relevant. Pups are an emotionally charged subject and typically get a lot of ALL CAPS comments and even occasionally ones that, due to the need to maintain a modicum of profanity standards on this here blog, have to be deleted.
And this fact betrays what is to me perhaps the most interesting element of the controversy–the reaction of both activists and ‘regular folks’ as well. Perhaps it is because I am not a dog person myself–though grandma has a lovely dachsund that is a big and important part of her life–yet at the same time I never cease to be amazed at the issues that get people certifiably riled up. I guess different folks value different things in different ways and best to leave it at that for now.
That said, in this post I attempted to make a point about the relative worth of animals.
I’ve also recently been informed of some rough numbers–that Plain People–Amish and Mennonites in this case–run approximately 20% of the nation’s ‘puppy mills’/dog breeding operations. But what of the other 80%? This post examines the practice of broad-brush extrapolation, based on a limited number of high-profile cases, in order to paint the Amish and their religious kin as a collection of knuckle-dragging fundamentalist animal torturers. And also as basically the sole contributors to the industry, which is really not the case. Amish are easy enough pickings, truth be told, as they tend to shun the spotlight and avoid the court system whenever possible, while at the same offering their foes outsize propaganda value.
I also must admit that despite initial certainty, I feel I have become a bit confused on the actual definition of a ‘puppy mill’. Is a ‘puppy mill’ defined by unsanitary conditions and malnutrition? Or is a lack of on-the-hour coddling enough to qualify a breeder as a ‘puppy miller’?
Some have pointed out that dogs are social animals which thrive on human contact, whereas cows aren’t. Fair enough, but does an otherwise healthy pup, integrated and interacting with his puppy peers, actually need individualized daily human contact as well? And if so, what is the US RDA on that?
Final point: some claim that, while there may be many Amish dog breeders that are not ‘puppy millers’ (again, whatever the term means), that there are nonetheless many who do fit the description. Having visited Amish communities from Lancaster to Iowa, I’ve had the chance to observe numerous puppy breeding operations.
But, of course I haven’t seen them all, and I’m no animal inspector, and for that matter certainly wasn’t doing any inspecting at the time, just observing offhand. At the same time, since I’ve never seen statistics or proof from anti-puppy mill people as to the alleged mass prevalence of the substandard, sickly-mutt producing type of operation, I think I have to bow here to economic realities.
Amish are typically intelligent businesspeople. Think about the furniture we buy when in Lancaster. Pretty high quality, right? Just as with most everything else the Amish sell–those wholesome pies, painstakingly hand-stitched quilts, etc. That’s the reputation, in any case.
So where is the economic sanity in masses of Amish breeders pumping out sub-par puppy product–dogs that die on pet store shelves or shortly after getting them home–as most of these stories and the activists that propagate them seem to imply?