Friday, March 19, 2010

How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

Are pet shops a a bad idea?
Should sales of animals in pet shops be banned?

 The usual rationale cited for banning sales of pets in pet stores is the commonly-held belief that all pet stores invariably obtain their dogs from "puppy mills." The problem is, truisms that "everybody knows" to be so are often proven wrong.

Pet stores must obtain their puppies from licensed commercial breeders, that is true....So is every commercial breeder a "puppy mill?". Commercial breeders are highly regulated, and most do provide good care.

Often, a buyer has specific qualities in mind such as type or temperament when looking for a pet. If you are looking for a specific breed, the best place to obtain a puppy is from a responsible hobby breeder. When you source from a hobby breeder, you can see the environment in which the pup was raised, and get a reasonable assurance of conformation, temperament, health and fitness. The breeder may become a valuable reference source to answer your questions or help with any problem that may eventually arise with the dog. The downside to this is that private hobby breeders often have long waiting lists.They also usually insist on a contract with many intrusive terms and conditions such as showing the dog, co-ownership or even limited registration requiring sterilization in order to buy your dog.

But any concerns about obtaining a dog from a hobby breeder are irrelevant nowadays...the current political climate in California makes breeding dogs nearly impossible for anyone other than licensed commercial entities. This also includes today's Politically Correct popular sources for dogs, shelters and rescues. Sometimes you can find the dog of your dreams at a shelter or rescue, but not always. Age is a factor; young purebred puppies are almost unheard of in rescues. And to top it all off, if you can find the dog you want, you must endure a lengthy application and approval process.

With hobby breeders quickly disappearing, and puppies generally unavailable through "rescue" venues, commercial breeders find themselves with a significant share of the pet market in this country. Yet these commercial breeders are the very sources that are often disparaged as so-called "puppy mills".

The derogatory term "puppy mill" confers an impression of wrongdoing on the part of the supplier. It is fundamentally wrong to restrict trade in pets based upon an unproved supposition of wrongdoing. If a commercial breeder is breaking current animal health and welfare laws, that situation needs to be rectified. However, to enact a knee-jerk reactive ordinance such as a sales ban is over-reaching and unwarranted.

Currently in California there are several shelters that import pets from other areas... and even other order to have dogs available for adoption. The Helen Woodward Humane Society in San Diego routinely imports stray dogs from Romania. Other groups such as Compassion Without Borders, Save A Sato and Save a Mexican Mutt import dogs, and many more are smuggled in illegally every year. A recent Border Patrol survey estimates conservatively that over 10,000 dogs are smuggled into California every year from Mexico. Rabies and other infectious diseases sometimes accompanies these imported dogs.

With the numbers of small hobby breeders rapidly dwindling, pet stores may indeed see an expanded role in society. Should we ban sales through legitimate, licensed and inspected sources such as pet stores, and thereby encourage importing dogs to meet the demand for pets? The answer to that question is a resounding "NO."

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