Friday, December 16, 2011

You Wouldn’t Keep Your Pet in Substandard Conditions: Why Buy From Someone Who Would?


You Wouldn’t Keep Your Pet in Substandard Conditions: Why Buy From Someone Who Would?

Going to the mall can be a drag. Except, after a long day of shopping, that pet store with all the cute little puppies and kittens sounds like a nice place to stop in before heading home. The puppies are tiny and rambunctious, the kittens wide-eyed and curious, and they could be great spirit-lifters. Yet, how do you know these animals are well taken care of? Recent investigations have shown that pet stores, especially major corporate chains, often, even usually, get their stock of puppies and kittens from horrible places called “puppy mills” or “breeding farms.” It’s very important to understand, why, if you’re looking to add a bouncing new ball of energy to the family, puppy mills are the very worst sort to buy from, and how to avoid them.

Puppy mills started after WWII, when crops in the Midwest weren’t producing as well as they used to. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began encouraging failing farmers to start breeding pedigree puppies instead, and when this turned out to be a huge source of income, the craze caught on. Yet, mass production doesn’t work as well for animals as it does for, say, potato chips.

The problem with most puppy mills is that, like a farm or a factory, the biggest factor is the bottom line, and other factors, like the animals’ safety, well-being, health and happiness are often disregarded. Puppy mill puppies and breeding mothers aren’t loved, they aren’t taken to a veterinary technician, and they aren’t given adequate nutrition, living spaces or exercise. Puppy mill puppies generally live in miserable conditions, sometimes never seeing the light of day, sometimes infested with disease, and sometimes stuck in a tiny wire cage that cuts up their tender paws. And once a breeding mother is no longer reproductively viable, she is either killed or sold to an even lower-quality mill to try and squeeze one more litter out of her.

Though it’s not always easy to tell which puppies come from where, major pet stores often buy their puppies at a low cost from large-scale commercial breeders. In 2008, the Humane Society tracked 17,000 puppies bred in illegitimate conditions to 21 Petland stores across the country. Because it’s highly likely for puppy mills to be in cahoots with corporate pet stores and national chains, it’s best to avoid buying animals from them altogether.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) defines a puppy mill as “a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs,” but unfortunately, there is no legal definition, making persecution of perpetrators especially difficult. There are also very few laws regulating breeding facilities; these are divided between the federal government and states and often riddled with loopholes. For example, it’s just as difficult to trace online puppy retailers to their breeding source as it is physical retail stores, because puppy websites often fall into a regulatory loophole, where they are classified as “retailers” by the federal government and “breeders” by states, leaving them regulated by no one.

The best option, in order to avoid supporting puppy mills altogether, is to adopt a rescue animal. There are currently about 3.7 million unwanted pets euthanized every year in the U.S., mostly because they could not find loving homes. Worries of behavioral problems or poor health of rescue animals might be easily quelled by the sobering fact that puppy mill puppies often experience these problems themselves because of inadequate living conditions and poor socialization. By adopting a rescue animal, you would be giving an ill cared for pet a loving home to thrive in, and simultaneously moving business away from large-scale puppy mills.

Also, some, usually smaller, local, pet stores make it a point to announce where they get their animals. One such business is Jack’s Pets, which claims 27 stores throughout Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Though they were never suspected of being linked to puppy mills, they have just recently stopped selling animals, and instead offer in-house adoptions from nearby animal shelters. This sort of humane awareness on the part of pet stores is exactly the sort of thing to support when looking for a new pet to bring home.

However, if a particular breed of dog is something you are looking for, some breeding facilities are perfectly legitimate. Responsible breeders are ones that ensure both parents and litter are loved and cared for, raised with plenty of food, water and space to roam, and taken to the veterinary technician to administer the appropriate shots and vaccinations. Locating responsible breeders may seem daunting at first, but local kennel clubs, ads in newspapers, dog shows, human societies or even friends may be able to pave the way to finding legitimate breeding operations.

Whether opting to do the research necessary to find a responsible breeder, visiting a pet store with in-house adoption, or going down to the local animal shelter, anything is better than buying puppies from major pet stores, where it is more likely that you would be supporting a puppy mill operation. The reason why puppy mills continue to operate is because they prey on unsuspecting consumers; just being aware that these practices are ongoing is the first step to lessening the power of puppy mills.

Author Bio:
Nancy Woo is a freelance writer covering various topics from art and music to health, media and technology.

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