I have started a blog post on this topic at least 2x a week for the last three months and it just never seems to come out right. While it’s important to address this topic with truth and insight it’s hard not to come across as judgmental and condescending. So I’ve taken a different approach and a different perspective, my perspective.
You know my name (if you didn’t, I’m Michele) and if you’ve dropped your dog off at Camp in the morning hours, you’ve seen me behind the front desk (or on the floor rubbing your dogs belly). I love dogs, I think that’s obvious to everyone, but what you don’t know about me is that I’m a supporter of puppy mills.
Are you intrigued yet? Good, keep reading. If you don’t care about the details of my personal story, scroll down to get to the good stuff, I’ll give you a hint, it’s bulleted and in bold.
Several years ago, I lost my neurotic little Mini Daschaund after 13 long and happy years together. I never expected the loss to be so devastating and for the house to feel so empty. I woke up crying everyday because I had never been without a dog and she truly was my constant companion.
After a few weeks of the agony that only a dog owner can understand, I randomly called my husband at work and said, “Maybe we should have a baby, or get a dog. Maybe we should get a baby or a dog”. Next thing I knew he was leaving work early, putting me in the car and taking me to the closest pet store, and not necessarily at the posted speed limit.
Long story short, we came home with two dogs.We looked at two different puppies and fell in love with both of them and couldn’t leave without them.
When I was standing at the glass, surveying all the four legged candidates, I didn’t give a single thought to where they came from. Obviously they were bred and sold to the pet store, it had to be legal or they wouldn’t be in business, right? They appeared to be clean and healthy and they were impossibly cute and heck…a far better choice than a baby! Surely everything was on the up and up.
They had paperwork and vaccinations, and they were even on sale (50% off). My husband likes to tell whichever dog he’s currently displeased with that they were the “free” one of the buy one get one free deal.
After taking the position to work at Camp, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of dogs, lots of them…all at the same time. It was there I learned about fostering, and rescue and through my own research…the ugly truth about where my dogs came from.
I take full responsibility for making an emotional decision without proper research, but in my defense, this was my normal. We purchased all of our pets from pet stores since I was a little kid. Every Dog, every Hamster, every Bird…even the Hermit Crabs.
I wouldn’t trade Lucy and Lulu (my two Shit-zu’s) for anything in the world, they are the joys of my life, but there are so many things I wish I knew before I made the purchase, so I wanted to share those things with you.
I know “Santa” may be bringing some puppies to your homes for the holidays but before he does…he should consult with the stork and make sure he knows where they came from, before they come down your chimney and arrive under your tree.
Here’s what I wish I knew before I made that trip to the pet store:
- Where the dogs come from-certainly these precious angels couldn’t have been from a puppy mill! Those are horrible places with deplorable conditions that neglect and abuse animals for the sake of profit. My babies could never have come from there, I would never support that! But un-knowingly, I did.
- The papers don’t mean they aren’t from a puppy mill-I put so much weight in the “papers” that the dogs came with, certainly that means the breeder was reputable, or there wouldn’t be a paper trail, right? Wrong. Having papers just means the parents of the dogs (at the puppy mills) were registered, it doesn’t take away the abuse, neglect, the lack of vaccinations and the deplorable conditions the dogs were bred and kept in. Little did I know the papers would have been put to better use lining the cabins of the cramped crates the dogs are hoarded in to collect feces from dripping on the dogs in the crates below.
- The store says the dogs are from licensed breeders, that’s o.k., right? No. Anyone selling a dog to a pet store has to be licensed by the USDA! It doesn’t mean the dogs aren’t from puppy mills. In fact, it’s the USDA who sets the standards for these “breeders” and they’ve determined the crates (which the dogs virtually live in 24/7) only have to be 6″ longer and 6″ taller than the dog they’re accommodating.
- The statistics-The Humane Society estimates 2.04 million puppies are sold annually from USDA licensed and non-licensed puppy mills, while 3 million cats and dogs in shelters across the U.S. are euthanized each year. The Humane Society conducted a 5 year survey of buyer complaints (mind you, these are just the people who cared enough to actually file a complaint) and here are the statistics, of the 2,479 complaints were filed here’s how they ranked:
- 40% illness (1,032 dogs)
- 34% congenital defects (840 dogs)
- 15% death (364 dogs)
- 6% other (158 dogs)
- 3% temperament issues (85 dogs)
- 2% returned due to illness (50 dogs)
With the power of the internet, anyone can make a great looking website that looks reputable and makes you want to click “buy now” but the reality of the conditions are far from picture perfect.
With those statistics…you can almost make yourself believe that you rescued the dog from the pet store…I mean, my purchase got it out of the puppy mill, right? No. I actually just contributed to the problem, twice over (at least they were 50% off, so the profit for the pet store was reduced). It’s really an issue of economics, supply and demand. If we lower the demand of puppies for pet store sales, the puppy mills will reduce supply and eventually, we can put them out of business.
There are millions of dogs in need of homes, and some of them may not be cute and young and brand new and come in a fancy box…but they come with something else the pet store can’t give you, hope. Hope that we can put an end to “backyard breeders”, hope that we can reduce the euthanasia rate across the United States, hope that we can promote rescue, not retail and improve conditions for the lives of all our happy, healthy pets.