There is apparently one Amish-attended event where cameras are not at all welcome: dog auctions. Or at least undercover cameras aren’t.

WFMY News reports that a producer and videographer working incognito were tossed from a recent Millersburg auction and threatened with arrest. I can’t say I’m too surprised, given that it was on private property.  And given that there is a reported ban on recording devices at these auctions.

Holmes County Dog Auction

King of his domain?

I’ve never attended a dog sale. My contact has been limited to seeing small breeders and a few larger operations in various Amish communities.  So I can just deduce a few things going on media coverage and my limited experience.

Puppy mills were getting a lot of media attention a few years ago.  A number of both Amish and Mennonite breeders were found running substandard breeding operations.  Coverage on the Oprah show was probably the peak of it all.

You still see stories from time to time, but I at least don’t notice as many nowadays.  That doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared, though I have heard that they were growing less common in Pennsylvania, and thus relatively more common in the Midwest and Ohio in particular.

Breeders v. Activists

Here’s what one activist said about the Millersburg event:

“My question would be, if this is an auction you are so proud of in your county and these are all reputable breeders, why do you have a problem with with videos and audios coming into the auction?” said Mary O’Connor-Shaver, an animal rights activist who has tried to get dog auctions banned in Ohio.

“The major problem is that these dog auctions here in Holmes County are a major distribution channel for puppy mill breeding in the state of Ohio,” she said.

Good question.  I can think of at least two answers.  One is that she is right, and they are not reputable, and operators are afraid of what cameras would find.

Another is that they are reputable, but afraid of what could be portrayed as abuse by someone motivated to do so.  Or, the answer could lie somewhere in-between.

And here is a breeder:

Jared Yoder, a Holmes County resident who breeds German Shepherds, said many of the differences of opinions over the dog auctions are cultural.

“We eat meat, and we raise and sell animals and dogs are viewed as livestock,” he said. “We are not like the animal rights activists who are protesting. There is a difference between the views on this issue between those that live in the city and those that live in the country.”

“Very few people here would ever put a dog in an abusive situation where they are not treated properly,” Yoder added. “There is a fine line between a puppy mill and someone who raises pets at their farm and sells them.”

He is being impressively blunt about it, and I think captures the gist of the issue.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if his statement about abusive situations were in some sense true.

Don’t pet the cows

But I think the way “abusive situations” is defined is quite different on one side vs. the other.  This is where the problem comes in.  A dog is not a cow, is what the activists are saying.  You might not think you are abusing them, but they require a different level of care than livestock–both physical and emotional.

I’m pretty dense when it comes to animals, but I can see this point.  When I, like a dumb guy from the city, try to pet my Amish friends’ cows, they shy away.  They don’t want you to touch them.  We are not pets, and we don’t need to be petted, pal.  Milk me twice a day, get a vet in once in awhile, and I’ll be fine.  But hands off.  Dogs of course are the opposite (the good ones, anyway).

That said, an activist group apparently found more than just dogs suffering from a lack of human attention.  They bought a few auction dogs and had them checked out. There was tooth decay in a poodle, and a pug with a bad disc, among other ailments.

Also, what the cameras caught before being kicked out wasn’t helpful for the dog sellers’ case (you can see video at the link up top).

People hate seeing dogs in cages.  We don’t care so much when it’s something we’re going to eat.  But when it’s man’s best friend behind the wire it’s a different story.

King of the Pugs photo: Bobby Bradley/flickr

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