Saturday, May 31, 2008

No more: "How much is that doggie in the window?"

Is "puppy love" unrequited due to the scarcity and high cost of acquiring a pet?

It may be because buying a puppy from a pet store in Lancaster County seems impossible these days.

A telephone survey by NewsLanc to six major pet stores in the area found no puppies for sale, although many other forms of pets are available. Clerks on the phone could not explain why they don't offer puppies. They did suggest that a puppy could be found by checking classifieds or at the Lancaster Humane Society.

No one suggested a purchase from a farm.

A check of the classifieds show Boxer pups offered at $500, Bulldogs at $1500, Great Danes for $750, and Yorkshire Terriers at $700. Labrador Retrievers vary from $200 to $400.

At the Humane League of Lancaster County, 2195 Lincoln Highway East, puppies are available for $175. Joan Brown, President and CEO, said that the cost includes spay or neutering, microchiping, and initial veterinary care. Older dogs cost less, but include all the same services.

While many of the county's puppy farms are professionally operated and licensed, there are others that are described as "puppy mills" based upon operating standards that their critics consider low. Thus "puppy mill" has come to have a perjorative connotation.

Puppy farms have a majority of female dogs and produce as many puppies as practical.

Most operate as a wholesale operation, selling their puppies to "brokers." These brokers then sell the dogs in and out of Pennsylvania. Some do sell retail or direct to consumers.

To prevent purchasing from a farm that might mistreat its puppies, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers its Dog Kennel Inspection reports online.

"Pennsylvania is taking action to improve consumer knowledge and provide better care for dogs in kennels across the state," Governor Ed Rendell said last year when the state's database went online. "This new access to kennel inspection records will help consumers know the conditions of kennels – where they might purchase a dog or board their dog while they travel – so they can make better decisions about the welfare of their pets."