Becoming More Informed: A Proposal
Nationwide, there has been a huge issue with the overpopulation of homeless pets that lead to overcrowding in animal shelters. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, there are approximately 6.5 million pets that are waiting to be adopted every year. Many people are aware of the fact that there is a huge number of pets, specifically dogs, available for adoption in shelters and humane societies, but the unfortunate truth is that many people prefer to shop at pet stores. Generally, people prefer to purchase puppies at the earliest age possible so that they are able to train them the way that they’d like. Unfortunately, more often than not, people are not provided with the proper information about where the animals from the local pet store they are buying from were raised previously. If more people were aware of the cruel and inhumane treatment that occur at puppy mills, it would result in a drastic increase of adoptions from local shelters. The improper treatment of animals at puppy mills must be addressed by more people- choosing adoption as the better alternative could, in time, help end pet homelessness and overpopulation.
A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs (Currit). The living conditions of a puppy mill are very unsanitary and cruel. Dogs are typically kept in wire cages and hutches that are not properly cleaned because of the high volume of dogs. This translates into contaminated food, water and a very high risk of infection and disease. The “mothers” are able to briefly nurse their puppies and are usually taken away too soon. This leads to emotional trauma that can cause huge health issues with both the mother and puppies. There is no regard for genetic defects when breeding at a puppy mill. Rachel Currit of One Green Planet states that the most common behavioral problems that puppies experience from being taken away too quickly before they are naturally weaned away is aggression, fear and anxiety. The mother dogs are bred until they are unable to produce puppies anymore and, because puppy mill owners are very focused on profit over the quality of any of the animals’ lives, they choose to kill them by starving, drowning, shooting, beating or burying the dogs alive (ASPCA). I strongly believe that if the dark truth about the origin of dogs for sale at a pet store was more vocalized, it would be so disturbing to the point that the popularity of pet stores would drop.
How do puppy mills stay in business when the word has spread about how inhumane the living conditions are? It’s important to understand that many puppy mills are not illegal businesses. According to the Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS, many states allow breeding kennels to keep dozens, even hundreds, of dogs in cages for their entire lives as long as they are giving the minimum requirement of food, water and shelter. Although there is proof of cruelty with documentation, the HSUS is one of the many animal rescue organizations that partner together with law enforcement to shut down as many puppy mills as possible. The HSUS homepage states that they’ve been able to rescue around 5,000 dogs from puppy mills and kennel breeders over the past two years. Since many operations are not considered illegal because they meet the lowest standards, humane societies, animal shelters and rescues make a strong effort to spread awareness and chisel away at the “consumer demand” by encouraging families to do their research before purchasing a pet from a responsible and humane breeder.
Besides the incredibly troublesome reality that is a puppy mill, there are many downfalls to buying a dog from a pet shop. Ordinarily, people who are looking to own a dog have a specific breed or purebred in mind. It’s really easy for a potential pet owner to find the what they’re looking for if they contact a breeder or visit pet stores, as they intentionally carry a variety of breeds. Another reason why someone would choose shopping over adopting a pet is because of the instant gratification. Buying from a reputable breeder may mean that a person could be on a waiting list for months, or even years, without a guarantee of a dog, and not many are willing to wait that long. The issue of buying a dog straight from a store is that the price point of certain breeds is inflated to the point of averaging over $1,000 that does not include their medical history, social temperament or vaccines (Battista). An adoption from a shelter ranges from $50 to $200 and includes its history, vaccinations, microchipping, neutering or spaying and go through a behavioral screen process by an experienced staff (HHHS). Low adoption fees are much less than the price that puppies that are sold for profit and they help support a valuable charity and institution. Adopting a pet from a rescue helps shelters thrive in a community which, in turn, helps assist more animals in need.
Many pet stores are very much aware of what the public knows about puppy mills and intentionally market their store so it sounds as if they are not supplied from a “bad” puppy mill. Pet store clerks are told to inform customers that all of their puppies are received from reputable breeders, healthy and well-socialized (Gabbard). Even if a puppy mill is USDA licensed, it does not mean that the conditions of the animals involved are humane. It is important to remember that pet stores are simply that – a store. They are out to make a profit and their industry supports practices that are cruel to the animals involved.
Majority of the time, animal shelters take in older pets. A common misconception of new pet owners is that it’s easier to take care of a puppy and train it yourself than buying an adult. On the contrary, adult pets at adoption shelters and rescues are most likely already house trained and know simple commands. Depending on someone’s lifestyle, a puppy “phase” could be very frustrating and could cause additional stress to everyone involved if they have not dealt with training before. Older dogs also tend to be a lot more calm and energetic than a puppy and has established a demeanor and temperament that will give you a better idea of how they will fit into your household and lifestyle (Pajer). Shelters are overcrowded and, sadly, the senior dogs are among the first to be euthanized if they are not adopted in a timely manner. By looking into adopting an older dog, it will not only provide them with a better life, but it will save them from being put down.
It is critical to research a shelter before visiting their location. Some rescues consider themselves as an “open admission” shelter and others are called “no-kill” shelters. An open admission shelter are often referred to as “kill shelters” and will accept all type of animals. They do not consider age, behavior or health standards, causing them to often be forced to euthanize an animal in order to protect the health and safety of their shelter (Kelly). However, they’re often forced to euthanize pets based on the duration of their stay in order to have enough cage space available to accept more animals. No-kill shelters, on the contrary, do not kill healthy or treatable animals even when their space is full and only use euthanasia for terminally ill pets or those considered dangerous to public safety (Pet360). Since they are able to take in animals with treatable illnesses, they nurse sick dogs back to health and thus have an overall healthier and happier pets to choose from (Ross). Something to consider about no-kill shelters, on the other hand, is that they only accept animals on a conditional basis. For example, if an animal is too ill, too old, or if there is not enough space, they can choose to not take them into their care (Kvsupply). Both shelter options have pros and cons, but, ultimately, it is up to the owner to further research where they would like to adopt from. The pet adoption process may be lengthy, but there is a peace of mind knowing that adoption agencies provide love, care and a proper living environment for their animals. The main goal to end pet homelessness is to provide a safe, loving home for animals that are in need.
By choosing to adopt over buying a pet from a store, it helps our community by breaking the cycle of pet overpopulation. There simply is not enough homes for all of the pets that are being born on an annual basis and by adopting, it helps weaken the pet overpopulation cycle. There truly is not a valid reason to purchase a dog from a shop when there are so many loving dogs in need all over the world. At this point in time, puppy mills are not a secret, but it is up to a potential pet owner to educate themselves. By spreading the word about the inner workings of what life is like for the dogs kept in a breeding kennel, we, as a community, can help lower the number of homeless pets on the street. By choosing to adopt at a local shelter, it can, in turn, influence friends and families to do the same if they are looking for an additional member to the family.
“A Closer Look at Puppy Mills.” ASPCA. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Battista, Francis. “Reasons to Adopt a Pet.” Best Friends Animal Society. 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Currit, Rachel. “Every Dog Lover Should Read This! An Inside Look Into The Dark Walls of Puppy Mills.” One Green Planet. 26 June 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Currit delves into the details of what its like for a dog to reside in a “dog factory”. This article contains explicit scenarios and photos of the limited lives that dogs who are kept in a mill have to experience. It is very persuasive in the sense that buying from a puppy mill is something that is very irresponsible and does not benefit anyone except for the profits of the puppy mill owners. This is the strongest article that I’ve found for the research about what exactly goes on at puppy mills. This Rolling Stones Article also included photos and video to help strengthen his visit. It goes beyond the puppy mill and explains statistics of the profits of licensed and unlicensed pet mills.
Gabbard, Jen. “Don’t Be Fooled: 8 Harmful Lies Pet Stores Love To Tell.” Puppy Leaks. 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
Kelly, Jackie. “Kill Shelters vs. No Kill Shelters – Pet360 Pet Parenting Simplified.” Pet360. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
“Puppy Mills: Frequently Asked Questions.” The Humane Society of the United States. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
Solotaroff, Paul. “The Dog Factory: Inside the Sickening World of Puppy Mills.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 03 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
This article is written from a first person perspective – Solotaroff visits a puppy mill in North Carolina and explains his experience with seeing the living conditions first hand. It is very helpful toward my research because it helps me understand the layers of how disturbing this problem truly is.
Ross, Kathryn H. Kvsupply.com. No-Kill vs Traditional Shelters: Which Should You Really Adopt From? Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
“Top 10 Reasons to Adopt from an Animal Shelter.” Helping Hands Humane Society. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
This is a very brief article that helps break down the benefits of adopting over shopping. The article is published through Helping Hands Humane Society and does not credit a specific writer, but is published on their official web page. It is broken down into a list and explanation format of the pros of adoption, from saving a life to encouraging others to adopt. This page really helps back up a lot of the facts that are pulled from the previous sources in my bibliography.