updated 03/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

While many readers were moved to respond to Cindy Landon's story of life since the death of her husband, Michael, correspondents were outraged by another story: a report of the existence of puppy mills, where animals are bred in squalor for future purchase by unsuspecting pet-store customers (PEOPLE, Feb. 10).

Michael Landon's legacy of love lives not only through his family but through his television shows as well. My heart goes out to his entire family. If Landon was half the father and husband in real life as he portrayed in Little House on the Prairie, the family's loss must be tremendous.

My father, a kind and gentle man, died in 1976 at age 52 shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He left behind a wife, 38, with three young children, a mortgage and the fortune of a blue-collar worker. No one wrote a story. Seven years later my mother, 45, died after a battle with breast cancer. Reluctantly she left behind three teenage children who had to rebuild their lives and carry on. No one wrote a story. I empathize with Cindy Landon, but I'm tired of reading about her "hard life without Michael." Pain is pain, but with millions of dollars, suffering is made a little easier.

It is about damn time people realized just how much that doggie or kitty in the window really costs! Some people think they are "saving" the animal, but they are actually supporting puppy mills when they purchase that "bundle of joy" from the pet shop. If you want a pet to share your life, visit your local ASPCA shelter or pound. Or, if you feel you must have a pet with a pedigree, contact the American Kennel Club and ask for the National Breed Club address of the breed you like, and they will be happy to point you in the direction of responsible breeders.
MILLIE H. PALMER, Charleston, S.C.

Thank you for your article on puppy mills. Your three pages, however, can only begin to describe the deplorable conditions that exist in better than half of the puppy mills throughout the United States. I hope that those of your readers who love animals will think twice before buying a pet from a pet store. The Humane Society's "Until There Are None...Adopt One" program encourages people to adopt a pet only from animal shelters. We must eliminate the demand for "milled" animals in order to stop the supply. Only then will the Letha Hamiltons be out of business.
DAVID BOXER, Charlotte, N.C.

Goodman, Mo., puppy-mill owner Letha Hamilton died shortly before our story was published.—ED.

Dog breeding should not come under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dogs are not food for people, they are companions. As such, they not only need to be raised in clean, comfortable surroundings, but from the very beginning they need to experience the people-oriented atmosphere they will eventually be asked to fit into. Even the most hygienic conditions won't produce a companionable dog without the socialization necessary.
R.H. CORTI, Pawling, N.Y.

I am a professional breeder and exhibitor of Birman cats. Real professional breeders know that restricting companion animals to small wire cages does not produce the kind of loving, nonbiting pets people want for themselves and their children. Real professionals keep their operations small and personal. We screen potential buyers to ensure that the animal is being placed in a loving and kind home. Real professional breeders never place animals through pet stores.
VICTORY PETERSON, Cedar Rapids, Ind.

I applaud Boh Baker and others like him in their tireless efforts to change the conditions of the puppy mills. It broke my heart to learn of the disease, abuse and neglect that is allowed by the USDA to exist in these mills. I would very much like to take an active part to better the living conditions of these animals. Thanks for the heart-opening article.

With literally millions of dogs and cats being killed in pounds and shelters across the country every year, there is simply no excuse to support commercial breeding. Even the so-called responsible breeders are contributing to the overpopulation of unwanted pets. Every animal that is bred for sale rings the death knell for another waiting in a shelter. Society must change its attitude toward animals so that they are not treated like merchandise but as individually valuable, sentient beings. The USDA will not get serious about stopping puppy mills until we do.
JANE CARTMILL, Encinitas, Calif.

Seventy-two cheers for Jerry Goldsberry and his no-cut policy for school activities. As a former teacher, I have observed the negative effects that cliques and popularity contests for coveted positions on teams have on a child's fragile self-esteem. As a former student, I experienced the pain firsthand. How wonderful that everyone can participate and not just the chosen few. Any room on the squad for a "thirtysomething" cheerleader?

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