This is an e-mail that was written by a friend of the original poster whowent to the Bulldog Auction in MO.
In November of 2007, I was sent a note from a friend of mine, a respected breeder and member of the English Bulldog community and the Bulldog Club of America, alerting me to the fact that there was to be an All Bulldog auction in Rocky Comfort, Missouri.
As a rescuer, I was devastated when I heard about this auction. I know these events occur frequently particularly for livestock, and even for beautiful dogs that ultimately deserve a life as family members, not breeding stock. I realize not all people view canines the way I do, but in the least, I would expect all animals to be treated with respect, compassion and appropriate care. With trepidation, I wondered if I should get involved with this auction and help these bulldogs.
I understand that attending a dog auction puts more money in the pockets of the disreputable breeders and puppy millers who are the root cause of the problem. On the other hand, somebody was going to bid on these dogs at the auction, and if it wasnt going to be a rescuer, it would be another puppy miller looking for a way to make a fast buck. I realized I had to act. Even though my bid for each dog would put money in the pockets of the puppy mills, I knew for certain that each dog I took home would never be used again, would never make another cent for yet another puppy miller, and more importantly, would be safe from the treacherous conditions imposed upon these poor animals as they live their lives in cages, being used only for the reproductive capabilities. Furthermore, I knew my participation at this auction would help illuminate others about this terrible practice, would help pet owners and friends of canines act in a concerted way to put an end to the suffering and misuse of our beautiful canine friends.
What I Witnessed at the Southwest Kennels Auction, Rocky Comfort, MO on November 14, 2007
We drove up to a field full of pick up trucks and trailers. Everything seemed clean from the outside. There was a beautiful house in the front, all brick, with a nice patio and lawn furniture. In the back, several rows of barns, some well groomed, and others made of sheet metal. In the back of these building I took a peek at rows of dogs in outdoor cages, barking and crying for attention. It wasnt a particularly cold day I was grateful for that. I can only imagine what the upcoming winter temperatures are going to mean for these poor dogs living outside in chicken wire cages.
I went into the auction hall, a metal building with bleachers and risers surrounding a ring which was barricaded off by a metal fence. There was a podium with a microphone behind this barricade, and a dirty 6 foot folding table. Behind the podium and staging area where signs from the American Pet Registry, Inc. and other breeders who sell canines and other livestock for profit. There was a concession area where food was being served, and the room filled with smoke as almost everyone working at this event had a cigarette in their mouth. I stepped up and registered under my own name, showed my ID, and received my bidding number. They passed out programs with a picture of a beautiful bulldog on the front, and inside were the listings for hundreds of bullies being sold that day. Several Am Staffs, dozens of English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs too. Some descriptions read, ready and in season, proven producer, raises her own pups and other marketing lingo that you wouldnt normally assign to a bulldog.
Seeing the Dogs For the First Time
They passed out programs with a picture of a beautiful bulldog on the front, and inside were the listings for hundreds of bullies being sold that day. Several Am Staffs, dozens of English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs too. Behind the podium area was a sliding barn door to another room housing dogs that said employees only. I realized that was the holding area for the dogs. I went around the building and in through another door and was welcomed into the space to take a peek at the dogs prior to bidding. What I saw horrified me. There were cages stacked 3 high with one dog on top of the other. There were no plastic lines to the crates so each animal was relegated to balancing on the wire of the cage. Their excrement was everywhere and at one point, a dog kicked feces onto my coat. The room had the stench of waste and rot. It was terrible. I held my breath and went through this holding area meeting each dog. I was looking for those that seemed to be in the worst shape and made note of any medical issues I saw. I was determined to bid on those dogs. I also made sure to give each dog some love as I passed by. Whether through a kind word, or a pet, or eye contact saying its going to be okay little one. Im going to help you. I left the room with a list of the dogs I knew I HAD to have. Those that were in terrible shape. Several had severe eye infections to the point where there eyes were swollen shut and pussing, there was mange everywhere, hot spots, sores, torn and bloody toenails, granulomas (from living their life standing on wire crates) and hernias abounding. I also saw several masses in various places on the dogs bodies. There were puppies as young as several weeks, and breeding bitches as old as seven years. They must have known I was an animal lover and not wanting to use them. I could swear they looked at me longing for help.
I left the room to take my seat at the auction.
But I had to get back up. I must have roamed that staging area 10 times. I couldnt bring myself not to be in there with the dogs. I wanted them to know a kind soul, a soft touch. I looked at all of the puppy millers around me, ogling the dogs, wondering which would produce the most puppies, live the longest and make them the most puppies. It was disgusting. Some of them looked like I expected a puppy miller would. Others were dressed well and seemed to be ladies youd lunch with. Dont let appearances fool you.
The Auction Starts
I was nervous, but ready. Much to my dismay, when the auction started, they opened by auctioning off trinkets and bulldog-related items. This went on for two hours. Although it was desperately boring, it gave me a chance to bid on small items and get the hang of the bidding process, and also gave me time to understand the words coming out of the auctioneers mouth at a fast and furious pace, with a twang, and barely understandable to this city girl.
Then, it was time for the dogs. The auctioneer had to explain something to the audience which at first I thought was educational. He reminded the bidders that once they purchased a dog, the dog was theirs. He went on to say things like dont come back to me when you get home after a long drive with the dog in the trunk and the dog is dead folks. These are bulldogs. They cant be in extreme heat or cold. He also said things like, I had a man once take dogs home in the back of his pick-up and he tarped the truck with the dogs underneath, went in to eat lunch and came out and they were dead in the heat. Whew, I was glad this auctioneer was warning these people. How nice of him. Then it struck me. The fact that he said what he did meant that the buyers truly would transport like this! Sure enough, there were horse trailers and tarped pick ups all over the lot.
It was time for the English Bulldogs. They start with the female puppies first, move to the older females, then male puppies and then older males. The first group of female puppies they brought out where trembling on the table. They had beautiful, sad and confused eyes, and were right next to the auctioneer booming his rambling into the microphone. Not one dog went on that table without the auctioneer saying something about how much money that dog could make you. For puppies, it was a lifetime of profitability, good breeding stock. For the proven girls it was easy money. He would say things like, folks, for just $2500, you can buy this dog, she produces you just 1 puppy that you sell for $2500 and this bitch is free. Those pups are going to make you money for years to come...from a free bitch! Or you measure the worth of your bitch by the money she makes you. Id hate to be this guys wife.
I held back on my bids fearing that I would spend all of my money too soon, and not have the funds left for the dogs that needed me the most those that were sick and malnourished. In retrospect, I should have started bidding immediately. Lesson learned.
What I found interesting is that dogs were carried from that back room directly onto that dirty auction table. You never saw them walk. Later I realized why they do this. Several were obviously lame in their back legs and couldnt stand up. But others were less obvious. The handlers held them up. We only realized later that most of these dogs have never walked on solid ground or used their legs much I would guess 50% of them had ambulatory problems that they kept hidden because they carried them on/off the table. And sometimes the handler wouldnt be paying attention and the poor dog would almost fall of the table. The most disgusting displays were when the auctioneer would yell, this girl is in season ladies and gentleman and you could breed her tomorrow. He would flip her around and exposure her genitals to the audience to prove his point. Can you imagine?
I was outbid several times and wasnt sure how high to go. It took me a while to get in the groove, and I cant tell you how elated I was when I won my first bidding round with the highest bid for a girl that I had marked down as severe medical needs. In the backroom where I had seen her previously, she had sores all over her body, her feet were swollen and her eyes were pussy. She was defeated. Used up. I know I had to help her. When she came up onto the bidding table, the auctioneer said this girl has some hot spots, but nothing 3 days of Gentamicin spray cant fix right doc, as he looked over to the USDA veterinarian that was in the crowd. Oh yeah, no problem at all. Seeping, gaping sores can be fixed with 3 days of some topical spray. He tried to start the bidding high, but ultimately, these puppy millers could see that she was sickly. She was one of the dogs who sold for the least amount that day my winning bid was almost $1000. I think people looked around at me when I bought her wondering why in the world someone would pay for a dog in that shape. Inside I smiled knowing that she would be in a cozy and warm car soon, with nothing else to worry about. It felt good knowing at least one of these dogs would be out of this life of danger and horror.
The bidding went on and to my surprise, people were bidding ridiculous sums of money for these dogs. The auctioneer would trot around talking about how this and that dog come from champion blood lines, just look at all of the champions on the pedigree waiving the piece of paper in the air. The audience would clamor and voting would start high and go higher. These bidders didnt care what that pedigree meant, or if it meant anything at all. All they cared about was buying a champion so they could market their puppy mill produced dogs are champion bred. These dogs sold for much more than any legitimate breeder with a champion blood line would ever sell their dog. It took me a while to figure out why the bidders were so dumb. If you really want a champion dog, you can get one for much less from a reputable breeder to add to your stock oh yes, no legitimate breeder would ever sell their dog to the likes of these people. Its like black market pedigree. This is the only way these puppy millers can get any champion in any bloodline regardless of whether this champion is healthy or not.
Other horrors that I saw. One female was on the auction table with her left eye almost hanging out of her head. The auctioneer made mention of this flaw and said it wasnt a big deal. After all, she could still produce right? Who needs an eye as long as you have a uterus. Sadly, this bitch was one I was bidding on and I was outbid. I am kicking myself because I should have kept going, I should have saved her. I found out after the fact that this dog was owned by the same breeder that one of my friends in rescue had previously bought her dog from not realizing she was a puppy miller. That made it even more torturous for me. I should have kept bidding .
Another dog sold for thousands of dollars, only to be returned to the auctioneer because she had a lump in her lymph nodes. The buyer wasnt comfortable with it. So instead of putting this poor girl back in her cage for medical follow-up, they called up the USDA vet (I use this vet quite loosely here) who said it looked fine, nothing to worry about, and they reaction her to the highest bidder again. Poor sweet thing. Cancer? We will never know.
Of all of the crazy nonsense that went on that day, I can only sum up a few. There are too many to mention. However, out of 80 dogs, I would guess at least 30 had mange and the answer from the auctioneer was always this vet says that 3 days of topical spray and shell be all good. However, one sticks out so clearly in my mind and so horrifying that I have to share it. One younger dog came up onto the bidding table with a cherry eye. I had this dog on my list to bid on. I was hoping that people would see the cherry eye and the bids would be low so that I could scoop her up and treat her. The auctioneer explained that she had a little eye issue and that he talked to the USDA vet before and the vet offered to take care of the cherry eye that day for around $7.00. He would snip it right off. Really? The vet, for $7.00 would snip off a part of a dogs body? Was he planning to anesthetize, or just torture the poor dog? I made a face at the auctioneer that said no way buddy, that is so wrong. I continued to speak loudly in the crowd about that not being the proper way to care for the eye. That the dog would develop dry eye. Im not sure if he heard me, I hope so, but he leaned over to the vet and then said, you can also have it tucked in, but that will cost you a lot more money folks. Ultimately, I was outbid, and Im sure that poor dog, for the bargain basement price of $7.00, had that cherry eye cut right out. She will be blind in several years from dry eye. I assure you.
Dont let appearances fool you. The worst offenders of the day were three groups of buyers who had greed written all over them. One was a woman and her husband (and their child!) from Adminzona who were buying up dogs in bulk. It was like they were at a red-tag sale at a local department store. They must have purchased 25 dogs at least.
Another family, mother, father, son, were also bidding. They looked like nice enough people until at one point the auctioneer turned to her (he knew her) and said something to her like, how much money did you make last year off your dogs? How many do you have? The answer was 200+ bulldogs and she made over $1,000,000. And her child sat and watched. She too bought dogs.
And of course, the Amish were there. One Amish buying contingent from Arkansas outbid me on several occasions for these dogs. There were about 5-6 of them sitting together. Buying. Buying. Buying.
We went home with only a handful of dogs. Im kicking myself for not bidding higher, for not rescuing more. As I sat in the stands I could tell that dogs on the table knew a kind face, knew that I cared. My rescue partner and I kept looking back and forth at each other like did you see how that bully was staring at us? It was like they were asking us for help. It broke my heart. I still can picture one beautiful white female, several months old, flopped in the frog pose on the table (she couldnt stand up), squishy as can be, with dark eyes just staring at me. Her bidding went up over $2000. I just couldnt afford it. I should have. I just should have found a way.
At the end of the bidding, you paid and took your proof of payment over to the dog holding area (that filthy room with the piles and piles of cages). We couldnt be more excited to break our gals out of their crates. We took them into the big grassy lot and let them smell, walk, hug and cuddle. Something we are certain they never had before.
The first girl we bought was the one with the open sores on her skin. Wow. The poor gal was malnourished (at least 15 pounds underweight) and about 4.5 years old. She was shaky and seemed to be running a temperature. Her eyes were mattered over with puss, her sores were bleeding and puss was everywhere. We wrapped her up tightly and put her in the crate in the back of the station wagon, facing me in the passenger seat so that I could keep an eye on her. I immediately called my vet so that he knew after the long ride home, we would be bringing her in.
The second dog was a 5-year old breeding female who at first glance, just appeared to have skin issues. After feeling her chest, I felt the tell-tale swooshing of a heart murmur. It proved right. This poor girl has a significant heart defect and was being bred. No doubt her puppies will be dying at young ages because of this problem. More concerning, after vetting her, we were advised that at some point in her younger years, she broke her ball and socket hip joint and it was never repaired or treated. She must have been in excruciating pain. Now, it is full of arthritis and scar tissue.
The third dog was a 6 year old female. She was in the best shape of the bunch. She was a lover and cuddled with us the whole ride home. Other than ear mites and a few small issues, she was the luckiest.
And finally, the final lucky bully. This almost 8-year old girl spent her life in a crate, bred over and over. She has dry eye, granulomas on her paws and most shocking, front joints in such disrepair that her gait is lopsided and appears painful.
As these beautiful girls stay in our foster network, they are receiving the highest level of medical care. Their blood work shows promise, their tenderness is heartbreaking. They are all underweight and need nutrients and proper diet. They all have rotten teeth that will need to be pulled because they were fed the dregs of the food world at the puppy mill. Their teeth are worn down from trying to chew out of their crates while in captivity. Their toes and feet are a mess from standing on wire their entire life. The dont know YET how wonderful the feel of grass is in the summer. How nice it is to have a padded bed. How clean their space can be when they are not defecated on by the dog in the crate above them. How nice it is when someone cleans their folds and their eyes and administers medications that are making them feel better. They are just now learning these things.
The foster girl staying in my home is so unsure of what it feels like to be out of the crate, that she runs back in it every chance she can get. She slips and slides when she walks with shaky legs, and bows her head when I approach for fear of what I might do. I cant wait for the day that she runs, her fat bully butt wiggling from side to side. For the day that she can chew comfortably because her teeth dont hurt. For the day her skin stops bleeding. For the day she is truly happy.