Sometimes It’s Hard To Make Lemonade

A well-known cliché admonishes us to make lemonade if we are given lemons. In other words, when we are faced with a bad situation, we should work to make it better. Great solution for humans, but for our companion animals, that’s not an option. They have no voice; they have no choice; they are totally dependent on humans, and sadly, many humans value monetary gain more highly than the welfare of man’s best friends.

Iowa still ranks as the second worst state in the entire country for puppy mills, and puppy mills are certainly lemons…actually worse than lemons…as animal welfare groups and non- profit grass roots organizations such as Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, have discovered the last few years. (And if you don’t live in Iowa, a little research will probably reveal the existence of mills in your state).

What an irony it is that in our country where we spend BILLIONS of dollars on pets every year, a nation where more than half of us share our lives with companion animals, that millions of creatures that we claim to love are born and live in misery in shockingly squalid conditions where they are mass produced for profit each year. Some never survive, and the ones who do are usually scarred, emotionally and physically. The females are bred and bred and bred, over and over and over, to produce litter after litter after litter, resulting in hundreds of thousands of puppies churned out every year for sale at pet stores, over the internet, and through newspaper ads. This cruelty will stop only when people stop buying puppy mill puppies, and we pass better legislation to ensure better care. .

If you want a dog in your life, please understand these facts:

  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go and interview potential adopters. They don’t sell through pet stores, and not through newspaper ads, Craig’s List, or internet sites without meeting and interviewing the prospective family.
  • “Purebred” documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Even the American Kennel Association admits that it “cannot guarantee the quality of health of the dogs in its registry.”
  • A “USDA inspected” breeder does not necessarily mean a good breeder. The USDA establishes only minimum standards, and many USDA licensed puppy mills operate under deplorable conditions with known violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Puppy mill puppies often have medical problems, but pet retailers don’t care that poor breeding and lack of socialization may lead to behavior problems throughout the dogs’ lives. They count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won’t be returned.
  • Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop buying puppy mill dogs. The bottom line is money… If the mills don’t make money, they will close…so it is up to you and me!

One way to improve the plight of these dogs is to enact AND ENFORCE standards of care for the animals and standards of practice for their sale. Sometimes it seems that our government believes it is doing enough—it’s up to us—“We the people”—to become involved. Don’t close your eyes, and say, “It’s sad, but what can I do?” Animal welfare and rescue groups are struggling to pass better legislation, but if things are ever to really change for the animals that we claim to love so much, WE must ALL join the cause.

Canine victims suffer deprivation and death in nightmare puppy mills. That’s a fact. If life gives you a lemon, you can make lemonade, that’s a fact…BUT if the lemon is rotten, it’s best to just get rid of it…that’s a fact. Puppy mills are rotten… let’s get rid of them. If you live in Iowa, join Iowa Voters for Companion Animals to keep updated on current animal welfare legislation ( ) If you live elsewhere, find a grass roots animal welfare group that monitors legislation. Keep informed (and educate your friends and neighbors) concerning your legislators’ track records. Let them know your concerns. “WE THE PEOPLE” have the power, but we must use it.


The New Year is an Opportunity for a New Beginning

A new year is here.  It is like a book… its pages are blank, and we are given the privilege of filling the pages. The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is BEGINNING.  Oprah Winfrey explains it this way: “We bid a fond farewell to the old, cherishing the memories that we hold, and anticipating the things that are yet to come. Cheers to the New Year and another chance for us to get it right,” Her words ring true in 2014. This year gives us 12 months…52 weeks…365 days…8760 hours…52600 minutes to open our arms and hearts to the possibilities of new beginnings. Many of us involved in the welfare of companion animals feel frustrated at the inadequate attention given to the problems of overpopulation, neglect and abuse, and are resolved to step out of our comfort zones, and commit to doing more!

We can make a difference, but only if we seriously determine to follow through with our intentions.  Yes, I know that most New Year’s resolutions are broken within a few months, but I challenge you to keep this commitment for the entire year.  Make your own OPPORTUNITY book…doesn’t have to be fancy…an inexpensive notebook will be great…Put your journal-book in a spot where you will see it often, and make it a fun project for the entire family.  Each time a family member does something for the animals, jot it down in your BEGINNING chapter!   The truth is that no matter how little time, money or experience you have, it is possible to create a brighter future for needy animals. MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  Aren’t sure where to begin? Here are two specific suggestions:

Local shelters rarely have enough volunteers for walking, socializing and providing basic training for shelter dogs. Don’t use the excuse that your life is too hectic to dedicate time regularly, there are many other ways to help dogs. Monetary donations are always needed, but donations of  dog beds, towels, cleaning supplies, and toys are welcome…just call your local shelter and find out what is needed, and throw a party, requesting your guests bring those items in lieu of gifts. Or place a container in the entry or closet, and when you buy groceries, include a couple items for the dogs…when the container is full, give it to a needy neighborhood dog, or the local shelter.  (Invite your friends to add to the box!)

Familiarize yourself with local and state ordinances or legislation pertaining to companion animal welfare.  Our state now has an active organization of Iowans from every walk of life that is concerned about the care of companion animals. Iowa Voters for Companion Animals’ mission is to ensure the humane and responsible treatment of companion animals through education and grassroots advocacy.  This group informs the public as to what is going on…and not going on… in the Iowa Legislature, and to the plight of many of Iowa’s companion animals. To get information about this group, go to Hopefully you will add your name to their membership!

 I looked at all the needy animals, the cast offs of human society.

I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal.

And I was angry.

“God,” I said, “This is terrible. Why don’t you do something?”

God was silent for a moment, and then He spoke softly.

“I have done something,” He replied.

I created you.”

Jim Willis