Giving Pet Shops and Puppy Mills the Boot

by Mary Haight on July 13, 2010

Saturday night I checked out a tweet from blogging pal Jim McBean linking to an Examiner article about banning pet shops, and later stumbled on a post from Scratchings and Sniffings on the same subject. Both posts dismissed the idea, one as if it were a Machiavellian government plot, and the other as a silly way to get rid of puppy mills. 

The Examiner piece was against any change in the current system of puppy mills producing pets to order as if they were widgets. The post was titled “Squashing Children’s Dreams”, stating the case for pet shops and how they would have to close their businesses. I can only assume then that compassion stops at the door of business, and the manufacturing of puppies and kittens to order is a practice not inherently abhorrent to the author.  

I could be cheeky and say “oh, boo-hoo”, lost businesses, given the horror stories of what happens to pets in pet shops – not to mention the puppy mill source of 97% of those pets – but I won’t.  Instead I’ll ask the author to please, when taking a report wholesale from a news organization, please take time to fact check. All news, with the possible exception of PBS, has a bias. (I remember when it was all just news…sigh.) This is not a story about Big Government taking away your rights to buy your children pets – it’s about doing the right thing for animals, and the families who take them into their homes.

Scratchings and Sniffings was clear they were against puppy mills, but dismissed the idea of no more pet shops ostensibly because the “boutique” pet shelters would hurt “real” shelters. Ok, what? Let me hit the brakes for a minute.

I understand the sentiment coming from Scratchings and Sniffings, and appreciate their general frustration with slim support for shelters. It will never be a perfect world. I may be misreading their argument, but they seem to be rooting for the status quo for shelters. No change needed.  I take the opposing side of this argument.

How does a boutique pet shop adopting out shelter dogs take business from “real” shelters? (And does this imply that a “real” shelter is an unpopular destination already and will be made even more so with the advent of the so-called boutique shelter?) What the new pet shops are doing is taking pets from shelters and getting them adopted in another venue. One that people are accustomed to visiting. Some people won’t go out of their neighborhood to get a pet from a shelter. So the pets and the shelter must accommodate that. This is a great way to meet the need without the cost of changing locations. Yes, owners of pet shops take a hit financially, but by adding new labor-based services (grooming, dog sitting by the hour) profits can be replaced with some creative experimentation.

There’s nothing so wonderful about the state of many shelters today that crys to be preserved. But to do nothing about pet shops?  How could that be considered a small, a silly thing?  If we are to be a humane nation, no stone can be left unturned. (And pet shops as they operate now are a big piece of the problem.) That’s really the point. There is no one way this will be achieved – there’s an arsenal of ideas and actions that work in concert to get this job done. Giving pet shops the boot does deal a fatal blow to puppy mills over time. The court of public opinion once made clearly aware can help get this job done.

Best Friends transports animals to shift populations from one region that doesn’t want them, to another where demand is high. Shifting animals from one location to another works nationally and locally. Look up their pup my ride program. These programs are very productive.

Sunday morning the news was splashed from Baltimore to LA – the San Francisco City Council tabled the motion to ban pet shops until all the hubbub dies down, and will bring it up again next month. I’ll be back with more then!

While I think I can safely say most if not all of you are negative on puppy mills, what are your thoughts on pet shops? Do you remember buying a pet when you were young? When did mass production of puppies and kittens become acceptable – a new normal? And were we all asleep at the wheel?? There were 17 million pets being killed in shelters just a few decades ago. We’re down to somewhere between 4 and 5 million now.  Do you think that 5 years to no-kill is possible?

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