|What you see when you first walk into the shelter I volunteer at.|
I've also been paying more attention to rescue groups through Facebook such as BadRap.org and Pinups For Pitbulls. Because of my incessant link posting, a few friends of mine had a small debate regarding the right to purchase pets from breeders and pet stores rather than adopting from shelters or rescue groups. While that is obviously a person's right to do what they will with their own money, I personally feel that it is not only better to adopt but absolutely necessary to adopt.
Since I've been volunteering, I have seen many dogs and cats who have been sitting in kennels for 4, 6, 8 months or more, and while the shelter and its volunteers do so much to ensure that all of these wonderful animals are well loved and cared for, it angers me to think that there are those out there who have no qualms about funding breeders and puppy mills. People try to justify not getting a pet from a shelter because they think the animals there are sick, abused, or unwanted for "a reason." These are myths for most of these animals and those that are sick or have been abused receive socialization and veterinary care every day. Additionally, a lot of shelters (like the one I volunteer for) wont even adopt out sick animals until they are healthy again.
This topic was rekindled in my mind a couple weeks ago when I drove by a stray German Shepherd with a dead feral cat in its mouth. I called animal control hoping that after the dog's temperament was evaluated he would find a good home. It's highly unlikely though, given his situation. Why is it unlikely? Well, the Humane Society speaks on pet overpopulation, stating that six to eight million cats and dogs are brought to U.S. shelters every year. An average of four million potential pets are put to sleep in that same year. This amongst many other reasons which I will address below is why I feel adopting is necessary.
Why are puppy mills bad?
|Puppy mill. Photo provided by the Animal Humane Society. If you have the stomach for it, feel free to Google image search "puppy mill" for a better idea of how they are. This image is "NC-17" enough for me.|
Puppy mills are commercial businesses for the purpose of breeding dogs. They continually keep their dogs pregnant to get as many litters out of them as possible until they become infertile or die. These dogs live in disturbingly poor conditions with limited veterinary care, companionship, and space. The reason these mills continue to operate successfully is due to the sale of puppies online and in pet stores by unaware and uninformed customers. Despite every effort made by animal rights groups to stop puppy mills, they continue to remain legal in much of the United States due to loopholes.
Why are breeders bad?
First of all let me clarify that not all breeders are "bad breeders." The problem is that without seeing the conditions in which dogs are bred, it's hard to know who the good ones vs. the bad ones are. A lot of breeders, for example, are no better than puppy mills--just on a smaller scale. Also, a lot of breeders sell online and are willing to tell you exactly what you want to hear rather than the whole truth of the matter. How will you know the difference?
The main concern with breeders as a whole, including the "good ones," is that they are continuing to add to the population of domestic animals. People are attracted by the idea of breeders because they have a false sense of hope about the outcome of pure breeds or dogs simply raised in "ideal" conditions (not always the case). Unfortunately a lot of buyers regret their purchase, attempt to return their pet to no avail, and end up surrendering their pet to animal shelters.
The ASPCA itself is not against breeding dogs by any means, however they do have a Criteria for Responsible Breeding Checklist which they feel should give you an idea of what to look for when you do choose to purchase an animal from a breeder. Please do your research on breeders through the Better Business Bureau, the ASPCA, your local Animal Control facility to ensure that the breeder you are purchasing from doesn't have any complaints or abuse cases against them. Sometimes you'll even find this information online from people who have publicized their complaints on unethical and abusive breeders.
So where should I get my new companion?
Animal shelters or rescue groups, of course! Shelters provide a lot of services to you and your future pets including spaying and neutering, veterinary assistance, counseling, and significantly lower costs. Shelters also ensure that dogs are tested for temperament before being released to the public for adoption. That means that you are likely to find a dog who gets along with other dogs and children. Counselors will meet with you to assess your needs prior to adoption, and provide you with the time to get to know your future friend.
But if you really feel uncomfortable with adopting or you have your heart set on having a pure breed, please remember to do your research. If you do come across unethical treatment of animals, try to do your part to report it as well to your local Animal Control facility. It's one thing to buy your friends, but it's a whole 'nother to rescue them!