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Pets are not commodities.

June 22, 2010

Ed. Note – Thank you Sarah, aka @_karmadorje from Twitter, for this heartfelt and researched article. I had asked her to write about puppy farming after seeing numerous posts from her on Twitter about the subject. While I didn’t know much about it, I felt it would help to have someone write about it that did know something about it. I do know this, when I was looking for my dog, our intention was not to buy from a store. We adopted her from some people who got in over there heads, like so many other’s that don’t realize how big the responsibility is. Again, thanks Sarah, great job!

Nate very kindly invited me to write a post for his blog on why we should think twice about buying pets from pet shops. I thank Nate for giving me this opportunity to write about something that most people know about, but ignore.

Why do we ignore it? I think it’s because the subject is distressing & somehow too big to become involved. Also because unless you do a Google search, there isn’t much written in the public arena about puppy & kitten farming. Occasionally there may be something in the Sunday papers, but if you are like me, you skim the page before moving on because the story is generally distressing, the stuff of nightmares. Even less discussed is the horrific numbers of healthy, but unwanted cats & dogs which are euthanized each year.

Animal welfare organizations have far too many stories of cruel practices & appalling conditions of puppy & kitten farms. These ‘farms’ are often backyard businesses without any supervision to ensure good practices. Animals are kept caged & continually pregnant. The puppies & kittens end up in pet shops where impulse buying is encouraged. Who can resist a baby animal?

Unfortunately, many people do not realize owning a pet is not easy or cheap. When they do realize the animal requires a lot of work & money or grows into something much bigger, they (with as much thought as they put into purchasing the animal), surrender it to an animal welfare shelter. “There! Problem solved.” Out of sight, out of mind.

It is difficult not to make this post distressing because I am writing about the often profound animal cruelty & the loss of life for millions of sentient beings every year simply because they are unwanted. Some horrible statistics to get out of the way:

· The sale of pets in Australia is worth A$5 billion a year. I couldn’t find out how much it was worth in the US.

· In Australia about 250,000 unwanted cats & dogs are euthanized each year. (2009 figures)

· No national reporting structure exists in the US to make possible compiling national statistics the number of animals euthanized. The most recent survey was in 1997 where, of the estimated 3,500 shelters across America, only 1,000 shelters supplied details of how many unwanted animals were euthanized. Of these, 2.7 million dogs & cats were euthanized during 1997. You could reasonably estimate that euthanizing unwanted animals was comparable in the other 2,500 shelters. If so, it would make it a total 9.45 million animals legally killed each year in the US, at least.

We use language to distance ourselves from the reality of what is occurring. Euthanasia (Greek for ‘good death’), put down, given the green dream are all much sweeter words than killed. However, this is exactly what happens week in week out since animal shelters began & we are doing little to stop this. We also use the word ‘surrender’ when in fact we are dumping the animal. In the US the term for puppy farms is ‘puppy mills.’ Not exactly obvious what they do at the mill is it?
If you decide to get a dog, know that it can live up to 16 years. Cats can live to 20 years, sometimes longer. I think you owe it to them to look after them for the duration of their life like a member of your family.

Pets are not commodities. They should not be as disposable as an old mattress. Animals are thinking, feeling, loving, emotional sentient beings that feel pain & confusion just like you & I do & who have the capacity to grieve intensely.

Most people who work in the animal welfare industry would like to see puppy & kitten farms & the selling of live animals at pet shops banned for a number of reasons with cruelty being the number one reason. With so many homeless animals, why bring more domestic pets into the world?

If you would like a pet, rescue one from an animal welfare organization. You will be saving a life & I believe the animals know it. Pets from puppy & kitten farms are generally sold via an advert in the newspaper, a pet shop, a pet superstore or the Internet. Those not selling in shops usually say to meet the pet in a park or some other location, anywhere other than where the animals are usually kept.

Puppy & kitten farms usually provide pedigree pets. People have become entranced with ‘brands.’ Ordinary dogs & cats are ignored for pure breeds or new hybrid ‘snoodle-kadoodles.’ For these they pay hundreds & often thousands of dollars, believing these animals are superior to ordinary dogs & cats.

One of my cats is a Bengal & came via an animal rescue organization. She had been surrendered because she was too much too handle. We did not know what a Bengal was until a Google search. Oh the shock when we realized we had paid $130 for a $2,000 cat. Is she any different from the other cats we have? No, just more demanding & clumsy. I don’t think you can own a Bengal & go out to work unless you don’t care if things around the house get broken. They need supervision & company.

If your animal isn’t desexed, get it done before the animal comes into season. Love it & treat it like a member of your family. Don’t buy a large dog if you have a postage stamp garden & are not prepared to take it for a couple of long walks every day. Don’t get an animal & then leave it to sit in the back garden for the rest of its life. Dogs & cats are social animals & can feel just as bored & lonely as people.
Adult dogs & cats can & do make wonderful additions to your family. They understand they have been rejected & generally are so full of gratitude for a new home, their love & loyalty know no bounds.
The only way to stop puppy & kitten farming is to stop buying pets at pet shops. Pet shops can continue to thrive financially by supplying all the things needed to care for pets, just not live animals. It is time we, as a society, said no to abusing domestic pets for financial gain.

If you are interested, there are a number of sites about puppy & kitten farms. They can be found at the following links –

A couple of good photos of the type of accommodation for breeding animals – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppy_mill
In the USA: www.humanesociety.org
In the UK: http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/default.aspx
In Australia: http://deathrowpets.net/

This is a YouTube video called What You Don’t See At the Pound

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 2:43 pm

    Nate thanks for bringing this atrocity to your blog. My wife and I have been involved in Basset Hound rescue for a while. We used to foster the poor animals that were mistreated and suffering until we were outnumbered in the house by our foster failures as we call them.

    Sarah, your article is excellent. Great work.

    My 2 cents: If anyone is looking for a wonderful, loving, devoted companion for their family PLEASE find the closest pet rescue group. They need you support and patronage. In return you will find that the pet you rescued will bless your life more than you ever imagined.

  2. June 22, 2010 8:16 am

    Excellent article. Pets are not commodities… or lawn ornaments or handbag contents or furniture. Recently I saw a documentary that was quite persuasive.

    Pedigree Dogs Exposed is a BBC production from 2008 that discusses the genetic and other problems that designer “brand” show dogs have.

    Information on the documentary is here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedigree_Dogs_Exposed

    It is available to watch online here:

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/pedigree-dogs-exposed/

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