Sep. 30—September is National Puppy Mill Awareness Month and the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wants people to "paws" before they buy a new dog.
"Many people don't know puppy mills are not illegal in New York state," Susquehanna SPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes said Wednesday.
People can register their puppy mill with the state Agriculture and Markets and be inspected, Haynes said. Some puppy mills in Otsego County are registered with the state, while others are not and there is no fine for not registering a puppy mill so many people don't register, she said. As long as the puppy mill provides food and shelter and immunizes against certain diseases, it can pass inspection, she said.
She said many puppy mills house their dogs in crates stacked on top of each other and have grates in them so feces fall through, she said. Dogs from puppy mills have come to the shelter with matted fur and feces in their fur, she said.
"Mothers are in crates all their life and the only human contact they have is when the owner reaches in to take their puppies," Haynes said.
She said her family recently adopted a female dog that came from a puppy mill and said whenever they pet her, she lifts up her hind leg to give up her puppies even though she doesn't have any.
Haynes said she would like puppy mills to be outlawed in New York, but until then, she would like people to stop buying from puppy mills.
"The No. 1 way we can stop puppy mills is if people will stop buying from them," she said.
The Susquehanna SPCA wanted to educate the public about the fact there were puppy mills in Otsego County, so the shelter began the "PAWS Before You Pay" initiative last year, a media release said. PAWS stands for Puppy Mill Awareness With Shelter, the release said.
Haynes was joined at last year's PAWS press conference by Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, and Brian Shapiro, New York State director with the Humane Society of the United States, the release said. Participating shelters included the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, Delaware Valley Humane Society, Herkimer County Humane Society and Super Heroes in Ripped Jeans, the release said.
"We ask people to visit a shelter first to see if there is a dog that will fill their needs," Haynes said. "We're not opposed to people buying a dog. We may not have the perfect match for a family that a breeder may have. We just ask people to pause before they buy."
Haynes said there are three questions people can ask before buying a puppy from a breeder to determine whether it is puppy mill or not: Can I meet the mom and dad? Are you registered with agriculture and markets? And can I see where you take your dogs for walks?
"If they say they don't let anyone look at their facility, that should be a red flag," Haynes said.
She said there are a number of wonderful breeders in the county, and the SPCA does not discourage people from buying animals from them.
Through Saturday, Oct. 2, the Susquehanna SPCA at 5082-5088 state Highway 28 in Cooperstown, will hold a PAWS event titled "Fall of Puppy Mills" for anyone who wants to learn more about puppy mills and how to spot them, a media release said. Everyone who asks about the PAWS event will receive a decal and free pumpkin donated by Middlefield Orchard, Haynes said.
Hours of operation are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Appointments to meet animals are advised, to avoid wait times, but walk-ins are also welcome. For more information, visit sqspca.org
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.