ELLIE S. GROSSMAN MISHEGAS OF MOTHERHOOD Puppy mills’ mistreatment of animals defies Jewish values

Missouri is famous for many things: the Pony Express, Gateway to the West, Mark Twain, and, of course, caves, to name a few. The “Show Me” State also is on the map for something not as proud, but rather abominable: puppy mills.

While the Animal Welfare Act is supposed to regulate these high-volume substandard dog breeding operations that sell purebred or mixed-breed dogs to unsuspecting buyers, the federal laws are rarely enforced. Meanwhile, animals continue to suffer abuse and neglect for the profit of greedy puppy brokers, which is an estimated $40 million industry in Missouri alone.

As a society, we should be ashamed and outraged by the recent puppy mill raids in Missouri that made national headlines.

On Feb. 13, the Animal Cruelty Task Force of the Missouri Humane Society rescued more than 90 Yorkshire Terriers from a filthy, unlicensed dog breeding farm near Pleasant Hope, Mo. A week later, more than 200 dogs were discovered at a deplorable breeding facility near Seneca, Mo. Approximately 30 of these dogs were puppies and several were pregnant.

More than 1,500 commercial breeders operate within our borders, whereas most states have far fewer. Many do not follow state standards for adequate care. As long as consumers buy puppies from pet stores and commercial breeders, puppy mills will continue to threaten the lives of animals.

In Judaism, we are taught that human beings must avoid tzar baalei chayim — causing pain to any living creature. In the Jewish religion, therefore, puppy mills are considered a disgrace to humanity.

Judaism teaches that animals are part of God’s creation and should be treated with compassion, but these Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers, Miniature Pinchers, Lhasa Apsos, Shar-Peis, Pugs, Pekingese, Pomeranians, and Westies were never given a chance to see the light of day before they were rescued. The malnourished dogs, which also included Huskies, Chow Chows and Cocker Spaniels, were tortured day in and day out by living inside cramped wire cages that they shared with a bowl of frozen dirty water.

Moreover, they were covered in feces and urine, and their severely matted fur prevented many of them from being able to see, walk, and breathe properly. Their overgrown nails were as sharp as rakes, their teeth were rotted, and their skin and ears were infected. They were deprived of human interaction, exercise, socialization, not to mention any medical care. Isolation led many of these pathetic dogs to nervously pace their barren cages all day long.

Judaism expresses no definitive opinion as to whether animals actually experience physical or psychological pain in the same way as humans, but the Jewish religion has always recognized the link between the way a person treats animals and the way a person treats human beings.

In the Bible, those who care for animals are heroes, while those who hunt animals are villains. Jacob, Moses, and King David were all shepherds, people who looked after animals. On the other hand, the two hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, were both depicted as villains.

The Talmud specifically states that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in nurturing animals.

In the puppy mill story, the heroes are the people who help more than 90,000 animals every year, with very limited resources, at the Missouri Humane Society.

As Jews, we have an obligation to help those who are helpless, and they include animals. With millions of unwanted dogs and cats (including purebreds) dying every year in animal shelters, there’s simply no reason for animals to be bred and sold for the pet-shop trade. Without these stores, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear, and the suffering of these dogs would end. The best way to find an animal companion is through an animal shelter or rescue group.

Whether you want to adopt a pet, volunteer your time or donate money or supplies to help care for the animals, the Missouri Humane Society is an ideal place for a mitzvah. In urgent need are donations of blankets, towels, newspaper and single-cut shredded paper, soft toys and other pet supplies that can be dropped off at the headquarters at 1201 Macklind Avenue.

Finally, in the Jewish religion, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. Even on the Sabbath, a dog is entitled to rest and not have to fetch the newspaper. Most importantly, just like people, every dog deserves to be loved.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a stay-at-home mom who never stays home. For more information on how you can gives these loving animals a second chance, visit the Missouri Human Society wesbite at www.hsmo.org or call 314-951-1542. You also can contact your state legislator and get involved in the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.