The following essay was written as a final exam piece for a Royal Veterinary College and Hong Kong Polytechnic University Vet Nursing module. The aim is to examine and discuss the illnesses of puppies that come from pet shops in Hong Kong.
ORIGINS OF PET SHOP PUPPY HEALTH CONCERNS IN HONG KONG
FVN02 - Pet Health and Preventative Care
Janice Marilyn Jensen - VN0820066
May 4, 2009
Using Gibbs Reflective Practice this paper is aimed at discussing the health issues associated with pet shop puppies sold in Hong Kong. The idea of selling puppies within pet shops in Hong Kong is a controversial subject. As a Veterinary Assistant currently working for a vet practice in Hong Kong I have made some observations as to the health of puppies being sold in Hong Kong pet shops. Based on these observations and further academic research, I feel the overall health of pet shop puppies is severely compromised starting from the puppy’s origins through to the follow up care within the pet shop the puppies are being sold.
Nearly any breed of dog can be purchased in Hong Kong pet shops, but the health of these puppies is questionable. My concerns about the health of puppies purchased in pet shops initially arose from what I was seeing in the vet practice I work for. The illnesses and loss of life of the puppies seemed to be tied more to pet shops puppies than puppies obtained from any other source.
My observations and concerns within the vet practice I work for included:
* Any puppy purchased from a pet shop was regarded to have a potential health problem (even if no symptoms were present at the time of the initial examination) by the examining vet.
* The average age of the puppies seemed to be too young to have been separated from the bitch and the rest of the litter.
* Many pet shop puppies examined did eventually develop illnesses, such as distemper, kennel cough and parvovirus that I was not seeing in puppies coming from shelters or international imports.
* After speaking to other Hong Kong based vet’s and VA’s for over a 12 month period, it seemed to be a normal expectation that pet shop puppies had a higher incidence of health issues than puppies coming from anywhere else including locally caught street dogs and overseas breeders.
The pattern of sick puppies from pet shops was not a new problem or isolated to the clinics I had spoken with. Adding to my concerns were the pet shops who instead of helping to resolve sick puppy issues would most often offer to replace the puppy as a defective item or even blame the owners for making the puppy sick. Although many of these sick puppies came in for initial veterinary checks, if puppy was taken back to the pet shop it was usually replaced with another puppy and never seen again creating more questions as to the outcome of the illness.
My questions moved on to the origins of the pet shop puppies to better understand the illnesses that so often seemed to plague them. Pet shops are not a new concept and statistics and experiences from around the globe continually work to educate the public regarding the origins of puppies from puppy mill environments.
“Laws attacking puppy mills are in the works in several states (USA). Advocates of the regulations argue the mass-breeding kennels often produce unhealthy pets that end up either dying soon after purchase or placed in shelters because of skittish, antisocial behavior.” The Associated Press, Copyright 2007 updated 2:47 p.m. ET Dec. 30, 2007, Retrieved April 16, 2009 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22441417/
In November 2006, the Hong Kong SPCA started a program with local vet clinics and with vets inside the SPCA to help gather statistics on animals that fell sick shortly after being purchased from a pet shop. Although the survey included kittens and puppies the responses to the survey had an overwhelmingly high percentage of puppies reported. For the purpose of this paper I will only be discussing the statistics containing information about the reported puppies. Although the survey is ongoing, the statistics cited here are from November of 2006 through March of 2008. The outcome of the survey confirmed my suspicions that puppies falling sick were usually very young and the illnesses were preventable.
* 77% of reported cases of sick puppies were between 4 and 12 weeks of age with 38% being only 1-8 weeks of age.
* Of the reported cases, 9% were sick on the actual day of purchase, 78% of the puppies fell sick within the first week of being purchased and12% fell sick after the first week.
* Presumptive diagnosis of these puppies was 56% Distemper, 19% Parvovirus, 24% Upper Respiratory Tract Infection and 16% Kennel Cough. Symptoms included but were not limited to coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, inappetence, dehydration and collapse.
* Mortality rate was 20% with 15% dying and another 5% euthanized. The survey’s assumption is that the mortality rates are probably much higher as post clinical information is not known. Puppy Pet Shop Record of Sickness, Dr. Jane Grey, HK SPCA November 2006-March 2008. http://www.hkva.org/survey.htm
The 38% of pet shop puppies reported at ages 8 weeks and under adds to the health concerns as they were exposed to diseases at a time when their immune systems could not adequately fight the infections. The legal entity governing animal management in Hong Kong is the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong (AFCD). They have posted their concerns about the age of puppies being sold in Hong Kong in the form of a True/False questionnaire. “If I want to rear a dog, I prefer a just weaned one. They are most lovely and easy to train at that time. False; Just weaned dog is most likely to suffer from infectious diseases. It is better to choose dog which has been vaccinated against common viral diseases such as Canine Distemper and Viral Gastroenteritis.” AFCD also posted the following question and answer, “It is very expensive to consult a veterinarian. I believe some pet shops can give me professional advice on the health of my dog. False; Only registered veterinarian can provide professional advice regarding health aspect of your pet. Be wary of advice from unqualified people and from salespersons.” Proper Control of Your Animals, Last Revision Date: 17 March 2006, Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Retrieved April 23, 2009 from http://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/quarantine/qua_awc/qua_awc_ac/qua_awc_ac_pro/qua_awc_ac_pro.html
There are currently limited laws that govern the sale of puppies in Hong Kong. There are pet shops that also sell puppies smuggled from China because it is cheap "PET SHOP PLOYS.(News)." The Mirror (London, England). MGN Ltd. 2002. HighBeam Research. 12 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
The puppies have no shot records, are known to travel in great quantities and are brought in very young so as to have maximum growing time within the pet shops.
In a press release from the AFCD on a man charged with puppy smuggling 25 puppies in the boot of his vehicle, the man was convicted of, “contravening the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, Cap 169 and the Rabies Ordinance, Cap 421 when attempting to smuggle the consignment into Hong Kong…” Public Reminded to Observe Animal Import Rules, September 7, 2004, Retrieved April 27, 2009 from http://afcd.gov.hk/english/publications/publications_press/pr452.html
The puppies that are smuggled in from China are crammed into small cages mixing litters and breeds and often creating a deadly environment where many of the puppies will die of disease and exposure before they reach their final destination. Contagious diseases are not identified or contained and rapidly spread to other puppies during transport to or while living in pet shops. There are many complaints where people purchase puppies "…and it lived for seven days," she said. "And it had parvovirus. Which means every dog in that pet shop will be infected, and most likely die." "VOA NEWS: PUPPIES POPULAR GIFT IN YEAR OF THE DOG." US Fed News Service, Including US State News. HT Media Ltd. 2006. HighBeam Research. 13 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>. The condition of the puppies being bred in Hong Kong and sold to pet shops often does not provide an environment much better than those smuggled in from China. They are largely not above puppy mill standards and pictures posted from these breeders boast large numbers of many different puppy breeds and show clear pictures of negligent breeding conditions. Hong Kong Schnauzer Dog Centre, Retrieved April 21, 2009 from http://www.schnauzerhk.com/index2.htm
According to United States Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, a puppy mill is "any high-volume commercial breeder that sells dogs for profit without providing public access to the breeding site, and breeds female dogs every time they come into heat, which is stressful to the animal's system." Rescued from a "puppy mill," a Boston terrier has mange. By Jamie Reno | Newsweek Web Exclusive Dec 13, 2007 | Updated: 4:03p.m. ET Dec 13, 2007, Retrieved April 15, 2009
Another concern was how these puppies could look healthy at the time of purchase and then show signs of illness so shortly after being taken from the pet shops? In some cases, puppies are inoculated with antibiotics to make them seem healthy for sale to the public when there are already underlying illnesses. According to Kirsten Mitchell, co-founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue and active in the animal welfare community of Hong Kong for over 18 years, “…despite government regulations requiring proof of vaccinations, some pet shop owners eager to make a profit will inject diseased dogs with antibiotics to make them temporarily look healthy.” "VOA NEWS: PUPPIES POPULAR GIFT IN YEAR OF THE DOG." US Fed News Service, Including US State News. HT Media Ltd. 2006. HighBeam Research. 27 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
According to the HK SPCA Puppy Pet Shop Record of Sickness, 30% of the sick puppies sold breeched HK Government mandated Cap. 139 that require pet shops to microchip puppies before sale to the public. The lack of adherence to the compulsory microchip requirement by the HK Government adds additional concerns to non-compliance and validity of vaccination records. HK SPCA’s survey further shows 12% of sick puppies had no vaccination record from the pet shop and an additional 11% were not given a sales receipt. Additionally, rumors of falsified vaccination records are commonly known in Hong Kong’s animal welfare arena, but proving the issue has become a significant problem. Animal welfare groups constantly work to raise awareness of everything from non-compliance issues with the local pet shops to the conditions in which the puppies are coming from. “A group of animal rights activists protests outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council building on May 13, 2008. The group was demonstrating against appalling conditions where animals are bred for local pet shops, in cages for months on end and often left to die at the end of there breeding cycles MIKE CLARKE. "A Group of Animal Rights Activists Protests Outside Hong Kong..." Getty Images (by Event) Individuals. 2008. HighBeam Research. 12 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
Upon analysis of the information gathered on pet shop puppy illnesses, a pattern arises which explains the illnesses but the source needs to be analyzed further.
If the illnesses arising in pet shop puppies is preventable and is limited in puppies that are obtained by other methods in Hong Kong and abroad, then what are the factors that differentiate the two experiences?
If a puppy is imported the AFCD requires, “If the animal(s) is/are under 5 months of age, the animal(s) will have to be kept under quarantine until over 5 months old.”
The puppy must have a thorough health check before leaving it’s home country. It will be tested and inoculated against all major viruses within a certain time before travel to make sure a resistance has been established within the puppy’s immune system. Each puppy must come with a health certificate certifying, “…the animal has been fully vaccinated against the following canine infectious diseases not less than 14 days and not more than 1 year before departure to Hong Kong.” The vaccination requirements include Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis and Canine Parvovirus. Permit Terms for the Importation of Dogs and Cats from Group II Countries/Places , Agricultural Fisheries and Conservation Department,
Special Permit Attachment No. 12 (April 2009 Version) Retrieved April 28, 2009
Permit and Certification\Permit Terms\terms for dog & cat\AF242a(12)-DC2-Apr09B.doc
Puppies adopted from shelters initially have a group of animal welfare people to make sure any new puppy brought to the shelter is isolated from possible sources of viruses and infections and at a prescribed time (8-10 weeks of age) will vaccinate the puppy before allowing it to interact with other puppies and adult dogs. The puppy will typically have a full health check and any issues from skin ailments to nourishment issues will be dealt with prior to adoption or be disclosed for further treatment after adoption. This process is followed by all major welfare and adoption shelters in Hong Kong including the HK SPCA, Hong Kong Dog Rescue, Lamma Animal Protection and many more.
The animal welfare and animal medical community is aware that a puppy’s immunity is originally derived from MDA (Maternally Derived Anti-bodies). MDA is obtained from the bitch across the placenta to the puppies (10%) and through colostrum in the first days suckling (90%). According to Intervet, maker of animal vaccines, “…the extent of the protection depends on the immune status of the bitch (as she cannot pass on what she does not have) and how quickly and how well the puppies have sucked.” Vet2Pet, Intervet UK Limited, Retrieved April 26, 2009 from http://www.etonvets.co.uk/pethealth/vaccinationdog.html
The animal medical community has established it’s understanding for the need puppies have to access the highest amount of colostrum available from the bitch and for the bitch to have received vaccinations so she can pass on immunity to those diseases vaccinated for. A puppy’s MDA will last on average up to 8 weeks.
During this time the health of the puppy will depend on the protection it derived from the bitch. For puppies coming from overseas breeders the process of bitch and puppy health seems to be followed well. The legal requirements put in place by the AFCD clearly outline a plan for optimal health in puppies being imported that provide protection for the puppy and whatever contact the puppy may have with other animals. Conversely, locally rescued/caught street puppies are assumed to have limited protection from MDA, but it is the action taken by the shelters to protect the puppy from future contraction and transmission of disease that makes the difference.
The health of the breeder dogs is typically unknown by the local pet shop consumer but suspected to often be that of puppy mill health environment. According to THE World Society for the Protection of Animals in 2000, “Campaigners claim that as many as half the dogs bred in such conditions die before they can be sold…” The pedigree chums that can end up as dog meat.(News)." The Birmingham Post (England). MGN Ltd. 1999. HighBeam Research. 27 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>. They continue to state that “after a year-long investigation in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and China, the WSPA investigators have been horrified by cramped pet shops and factory-like breeding centres which have left many animals suffering from disease.” "Crufts alert on pup sales to Asia.(News)." Coventry Evening Telegraph (England). MGN Ltd. 2000. HighBeam Research. 12 Apr. 2009 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
My conclusion on the illnesses seen in pet shop puppies based on multiple factors investigated is that puppy health issues in Hong Kong pet shops can and should be prevented.
If the incidence of illnesses seen in obtaining puppies from importation and local shelters is significantly lower than in pet shop puppies, the presumption is the health procedures that are being followed prior to importation to Hong Kong and in local shelters are superior methods to those being used in Hong Kong pet shops.
If the AFCD were to extend their current importation rules to encompass puppies sold to pet shops there would be a significant decline in pet shop puppy illnesses. For local breeders in Hong Kong, better control on puppy mill environments would ensure healthier bitches and healthier puppies. Unfortunately the issue of puppy smuggling is more difficult to control. If pet shops were held more accountable for providing factual information on the puppies they sold, tracing sick puppy sources may increase overall pet shop puppy survival. The health of the bitches, age of the puppies and vaccinations for bitches and puppies is key to the ultimate health of the pet shop puppies.
Creating an action plan would need to include a number of factors.
The continued lobbying of the AFCD from knowledgeable animal welfare groups and attending vets with supporting documentation from additional reliable sources should be continued. Laws can change but it takes time and factual information that will need to focus on the multiple areas of this problem. Additionally, consumer education concerning what to ask for when considering a pet shop puppy purchase should be supported by AFCD as well as by the local animal welfare groups and vet practices.
If AFCD were to mandate a checklist be given out with each puppy purchased to include the following information, pet shops and breeders would start to be held more accountable and sick puppies could be more easily traced to their origins. The checklist should include but not be limited to:
*Breeder information as to the puppies origin citing age of the bitch the puppy was whelped from and the number of litters the bitch had whelped.
*Vaccination record with clear information as to what veterinarian injected the vaccine and the age of the puppy at the time the vaccine was given.
* Puppy is active and friendly, seemingly healthy with bright eyes a shiny coat and no discharge from eyes or nose
* A sales contract given that includes a minimum one-year health guarantee against life threatening or crippling conditions caused by heritable defects
*A list of veterinarian’s located in Hong Kong given to help promote good continued health for the life of the dog. Adapted from: Buying a Dog? Beware of breeder 'USDA approved' and 'AKC registered' are bare-bones requirements, By Kim Campbell Thorntonmsnbc.com contributor, updated 5:44 p.m. ET Jan. 22, 2008 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22670940/
Lastly, registering breeders in Hong Kong would allow better documentation of puppy origins and better control on puppy mill environments. This again would allow for greater control on tracking down the origins of sick puppies.
In 1965 the standards for United Kingdom's Farm Animal Welfare began to evolve which today requires farmers to provide animals what is referred to as the Five Freedoms. The Five Freedoms are:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
2. Freedom from discomfort.
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
4. Freedom to behave normally.
5. Freedom from fear and distress.
If we only look at numbers 2 and 3, the pet shop puppy experience too often falls outside of accepted practices considered mandatory for farm animals in the UK. Puppies being sold in pet shops are not being sold for food or considered livestock, but presumably are to become a member of some ones family.
Sadly, prior to being purchased the healthcare that pet shop puppies experience too often falls below that of the animal welfare standards of farm animals to be sold for food.
Working as Veterinary Assistant in Hong Kong and being involved in the animal welfare community I will continue to actively observe the health of puppies being sold in Hong Kong pet shops. My research has furthered not only my concerns of puppy health in Hong Kong pet shops, but given me hope that there are ways to help make the experience better in the future. With proper legislation, breeder and pet shop controls and consumer education, the health of pet shop puppies can be greatly improved and disease and loss of life can be brought to a minimum.
“AFCD Press Releases." Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department | 漁農自然護理署. 29 Apr. 2009 <http://afcd.gov.hk/english/publications/publications_press/pr452.html>.
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Special Permit Attachment No. 12 (April 2009 Version) Retrieved April 28, 2009
<Permit and Certification\Permit Terms\terms for dog & cat\AF242a(12)-DC2-Apr09B.doc>
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