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Pet Shop or Pound, That Is the Question!

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Whoopi from her facebook pageLast Fiday’s episode of The View had actress Whoopi Goldberg defending her right to buy a puppy from a pet store starting quite a controvery from the animal shelter advocates. “You don’t know what you’re getting when you get a pookie-dingle-doodle from the pound,” the website Hollywood Dog reported her as saying on the show.

In defense of Whoopi’s statement, it is a fact that you really don’t know everything about a shelter dog’s past. Although shelters do make every attempt to gain information regarding a shelter dog’s history, the fact remains that, when push comes to shove, you really have to rely on the information offered by the person or persons bringing the dog to the shelter. In most cases, unless that person is an officer or humane society personnel, the information is probably questionable at best!

Shelter advocates often respond that “puppy mills” have horrible conditions, the animals are not well cared for, breeding is for profit and, therefore the pet you purchase may have inherited genetic faults that can cause them to have a lifetime of problems, and so on. Although this is sometimes true, it does not mean that every pet shop owner is guilty of perpetuating puppy mills. 

And, herein lies the controversy! Pet shop or shelter? That is the question.

 On her Facebook page yesterday, Whoopi wrote that she doesn’t like puppy mills, but that she does think puppies in stores can be just fine. “We discussed one state that wanted to close all pet stores. I have friends who own pet stores; they love their animals and insure their health and well being. Mills should be shut down. All agree, but don’t paint everyone with the same brush. That was my point,” she said.”

Now, I have to agree with that particular part of her statement. We simply can’t “paint everyone with the same brush”. I know that this statement will probably not win me any points with my animal advocacy friends, but, in all fairness, I am sure that there are, in fact, some local pet shop owners who do care about their animals, the conditions in which they are kept, and, where they came from!

A local pet shop is a business, that, in today’s economy, is rough to keep up! Therefore, we do have to understand that someone is going to run this type of pet shop, they must have an appreciation for animals, or they simply wouldn’t do it!

With pet superstores popping up all over the place, a local shop may have a rough time competing as far as prices go. It’s kind of hard to compete with companies that can buy 100 times the quantity of just about everything you sell. So, the point I’m getting at is that the statement is true.

You can’t “paint everyone with the same brush”. There are some pet shops where the animals are taken care of and it would be unfair to suggest that all of them are “puppy mill” supporters. These people know from the start that their business is not going to make them a million dollars overnight, and, for the most part, probably not even in their lifetime or the store’s. For a state to suggest closing down all pet shops is ludicrous and a blatant slap in the face of free enterprise! Since when does a state or any government body have the right to suggest that a certain type of business is off limits? Unless, of course, the business is illegal!

We can’t stereotype all pet shops as bad simply because they sell puppies or dogs. Also, there are many breeders who do an excellent job at keeping their particular breed of dog free of genetic problems and inherited diseases. These breeders should be commended for their ongoing mission of perfecting a breed. Without them, and, left to their own resources, many breeds would become obsolete and laden with problems. I do, of course, support the adoption of a dog or puppy from a shelter over puchasing one from a pet shop when adopting is an acceptable alternative to buying, especially from a shop that supports the practice of puppy mills! But, I also support the pet shop owners who are simply “making a living” at doing what they love the most, which is spending time with animals!

That being said, my idea is this: perhaps shelters should work with legitimate shops to help find some of these dogs and puppies good homes. Now, think about it. Someone who goes to a pet shop looking for a dog or puppy has a couple of plusses going for them. One, they must have the money to pay for the dog. And, two, they obviously want a dog or puppy!

Like Whoopi, they might be under the misconception that all shelter dogs must have problems, or, they wouldn’t be there! (By the way Whoopi, just as you can’t “paint everyone with the same brush” when it comes to pet shops, the same is true for shelter dogs! A dog should not be labeled as “undesireable” simply because it comes from a shelter. There are many reasons why a dog or puppy might have found it’s way to a shelter. Perhaps the dog’s owner simply couldn’t afford it; maybe the owner died and no family members were available to provide a home for him. Or it could be that the dog might have become lost and the owners could not locate it! The fact remains that a “cameraderie” of sorts between pet shops and shelters could provide a much needed addition to the many ways shelters try to find homes for un-claimed dogs or puppies!

What would be so wrong with a shelter, who has a litter of pups, giving that litter to a local pet shop to help in finding good homes for the pups? What would be so terrible about a local pet shop owner regaining the few dollars spent on food and housing for the puppies while they were at the shop? Even if the shop were to actually make a few dollars in the transaction, I don’t see the harm! Of course, everything would have to be made public.

The fact that the puppies came from a shelter would have to be made known. But, simply put, what would be so wrong with that picture? The puppies find a loving home with a family that was, obviously, looking for a puppy, and could afford to buy one. The shop owner could bring people into his shop where they might possibly buy other items necessary for the puppy and, therefore, increase his sales slightly. And, the shelter finds homes for puppies that would otherwise be taking up valuable space at the much overcrowded shelter. I think, sometimes, that our need to express or prove our point, can also prove to be detrimental to our cause. Sounds like a simple fix to me.

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About Denise Blackman

  • Elizabeth

    Yours is hardly a novel idea:
    – Position Statement on Selling Shelter Animals to Pet Shops

    – Landmark legislation passed on February 1st, 2010 as the West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to stop the retail sale of cats and dogs at pet stores. Only pet shops that “re-home” rescued or shelter animals will be allowed to stay in business.

    Puppies Aren’t Products PDF

    – PETCO Foundation In-Store Adoption Events

    PetSmart Charities – Adoption

    Puppy Mill Awareness Day

    Please Google “pet stores and shelter” for a lot more info on this very subject.

  • http://maxwell-and-me.blogspot.com/ Denise Blackman

    Thanks for the interest Elizabeth. I would like to clarify, however, that it was not my intention to imply that any of this was a NEW idea. I am simply stating that there are still those who disagree with the policy and feel that pet shops should not have the right to “make a profit” from the sale of these animals. To this point, I totally disagree. With shelters as overcrowded as they are, I see no harm in shop owners being able to prosper by helping those animals that need to be placed in homes. The article was written simply to bring attention back to the argument and hopefully shed some light on something that I feel is important to bring back into the spotlight on occassion and encourage people to support this legislation.

  • LisaB

    I’ve been in rescue for a decade and have yet to see a pet store gets their puppy inventory from anything other than a puppy mill. The large chains and the small local pet stores (including the one in my town) get their dogs from brokers who get them from the midwest mills.
    This is relatively easy to fact check. Please name the pet stores that you think DON’T obtain their puppies from mills, then find out who the breeders of the pups are and then look up their USDA inspection reports. I would love to do that for Whoopie’s “friends” pet stores. It would be a real eye opener for her, and much needed.
    Having seen first hand the misery of these dog factory farms, and then the fall out when the spur of the moment buyer dumps the dog in rescue, I am appalled that anybody would support that misery. There are more humane ways to earn a living. The more educated the puppy buyer is on where to find a responsibly-bred puppy, the more likely the misery factory farms for dogs will no longer be needed.

  • LisaB

    And furthermore, no breeder who does genetic testing and cares about the health of the breed would EVER sell their dogs in pet stores. You can bet than any pup sold in a pet store does NOT have an health or genetic testing behind it. That would cut into their profit margins. In fact, many of the dogs I’ve rescued from mills have genetic defects that a responsible breeder would not have used for breeding. Buying a puppy from a responsible breeder does support the perpetuation of the breed. Buying from a pet store most certainly does not.

  • http://maxwell-and-me.blogspot.com/ Denise Blackman

    Lisa, thanks for your input and I agree with your statements. I too have seen the miserable conditions of the mills and nothing would make me happier than to see this business eliminated. My point is that I think allowing shops to sell shelter animals would help this cause. A well-regulated system requiring the licensing and inspection of shops wanting to sell shelter animals could be a huge asset to both the shops and the shelters. Imposing harsh penalties and revoking the licenses of shops caught dealing with mill animals would inspire shop owners to stay away from dealing with the mills entirely and give them a source for animals to sell which might otherwise end up being killed at a kill shelter. A well governed program of this nature would help all involved. The dogs, the shops, the shelters all have something to gain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/elizabeth.mcmahon Elizabeth

    Do you really think the word “sell” is necessary for the average consumer to consider a shelter pet? I think education on this subject is more important. Because what’s really happening is adoption. Animals should never be sold as commodities (incl. from breeders). And the fee covers vetting, which is usually the basics. Rescues never make money on these adoptions. l have 4 fosters (have had another 3 adopted), and pay for all their (excellent) food and litter, l socialize them etal (giving them a home is a big one, so they’re not n a cage or dead). When Mattie’s left cheek blew up on Wed., l paid for his vet appt. and meds. That’s how it works (lt was more convenient to do so than go to Manhattan, to the rescue’s vet who wouldn’t have charged anything.) . Exactly how would a fair “price” for a shelter animal be reached? As it stands, major venues such as Petco and Petsmart donate space for cages and daily food, all on their dime. And provide space for adoption events on the weekend. Amazing!! (Though they still sell small animals and birds from the same kind of horrible mills, another battle). Small stores do too. l know that because one donated space starting 15 years ago for the rescue l volunteer for. My point being, stores should promote in store adoptions because it is the right and ethical thing to do. And donate space if they can so the highly adoptable animals are exposed. They will make their revenue off of their products. Maybe the fee could be divided between the store and shelter or rescue, maybe that’s already happening. l would love to be fb friends with both of you!