- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

Cathaee Hudgins has organized auctions for the Washington Performing Arts Society's last five annual galas. She says she's astonished that some animal-rights groups are objecting to the auctioning off of puppies especially given the lengths many puppy providers go to to make sure the animals end up in good homes.
"For all five years we had a puppy as an auction item," she said, adding she never had any complaints.
The uproar over puppes as auction items stems from a March 2 charity event to benefit the PTA at Wayside Elementary School in Potomac. The school received complaints when it announced that among the auction items would be a golden retriever puppy provided by a kennel.
The group was persuaded to drop the puppy from the auction.
Miss Hudgins credited Potomac Kennels, which provided puppies for the performing arts society auctions, for handling the events responsibly. Potomac Kennels has provided about 10 puppies a year to charity auctions for the past eight years, including the golden retriever puppy that was to have been auctioned at Wayside Elementary.
Sue-Anne Slonin, the general manager of Potomac Kennels, said two handlers bring a puppy to an auction for a maximum of two hours, and prospective bidders are counseled on the responsibilities of pet ownership.
After the auction, the winning bidder is not allowed to take the dog home. Instead, the new owner must come to her kennel to receive further training on how to care for the puppy.
Miss Hudgins said in her experience the waiting period took the impulse out of the purchase.
"The people were given seven days to think about it, so if it was an impulse buy, people had seven days to change their mind."
Potomac Kennels, like pet stores and breeders, does not take back unwanted puppies, Mrs. Slonin said.
"On rare occasions we did have a situation where the person who won the dog didn't really want it," said Mrs. Slonin, adding that it has happened about five times in eight years.
In cases like that, she said, the person with the second-highest bid usually is contacted.
Mrs. Slonin said that despite the Wayside Elementary experience, she plans to continue to provide puppies for auctions.
But a coalition of animal-welfare activists upset about the Montgomery County PTA group's planned puppy auction hopes to prevent animals from being prizes at charity events.
Dan Keppler, president of Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training, said the majority of dogs his organization takes in are "owner give-ups."
"The owner has gone out and bought a puppy and realizes six months later that the dog doesn't fit their lifestyle," he said.
Kerry Vinkler, director of humane education for the Montgomery County Humane Society, said she was "very shocked" when she heard Wayside was auctioning the puppy March 2 and called the school's principal to complain.
The county's humane society takes in more than 10,000 dogs a year. And the cost of an animal doesn't always determine whether it will be kept, she said, noting that 45 percent of the dogs at the humane society are purebred.
"At the time they have to give them up, it doesn't seem to matter how much they paid," Mrs. Vinkler said.
Miss Vinkler said the humane society is "not organizing a ban on these auctions" but would be "pretty supportive of not auctioning off any live domesticated animals."
Mr. Keppler said activists for animals are planning to take the issue to the county school board.


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