06 July 2016

WELFARE - Adopt or Shop?

Released last month, the ‘Horrible Hundred 2016’ by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the fourth annual report naming bad puppy mill breeders, cited for unsanitary facilities, improper care of animals and ‘repeat offenders’ who continue to fail to adhere to USDA inspector requirements.

It’s part of the HSUS Stop Puppy Mills Campaign asking individuals to pledge to not shop at stores selling puppies and adopt their next pet rather than, knowingly or unknowingly, purchase a puppy that may be from a puppy mill.

But for some pet owners, there are many reasons to purchase a dog – including allergies that result in the need for a hypoallergenic breed; negative past experiences, including aggression, from poorly handled shelter dogs; the desire to do showing or competitions requiring knowledge about a dog’s lineage and athletic capabilities; and personal preference.

Advocates for the ‘always adopt’ approach remain steadfast that through careful research, there is a suitable rescue for every individual.

“Our advice is to always adopt - don’t buy a dog or other animal companion,” said Emily Pickett, program coordinator for the Vancouver Humane Society. “There is a good chance that dogs bought at pet stores or online come from puppy mills.”

Puppy mill breeders mainly operate through selling online or through pet stores, and further prompt advocates calling for tougher legislation that would prevent pet stores from purchasing from noted offenders.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) president and CEO Mike Bober responded to the ‘Horrible Hundred 2016’.

While acknowledging that the list is informative, the official stance of PIJAC is that banning puppy sales altogether, as is the stance of HSUS, is not the best approach:

“We disagree with the HSUS position that puppy mills ‘will end for good only when consumers become educated and stop buying puppies.’  While adopting a shelter pet is a wonderful option for many, it is not for everyone including those with allergies and other circumstances that require a certain breed. Their right to find their perfect pet should not be taken away.

“We in the responsible pet industry are proud to support legislation establishing meaningful sourcing restrictions, rather than well-intentioned but counter-productive sales bans. In this way, we are working to preserve pet choice and transparency while ensuring the health and well-being of companion animals.”

Bober states that while the list is informative, ‘it does nothing to improve animal welfare or to shut down illegal, unregulated puppy mills who actively avoid legally-required licensing and inspection’.

For Pickett, the challenge with legislation pertaining to the regulation of breeders is difficulty in enforcement.

“The British Columbia government recently announced they will be adopting a regulation under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, outlining generally accepted management practices for cat and dog breeders in B.C. and are looking into legislation that will require breeders to be licensed. While in theory this may sound promising, it will prove very difficult to enforce and will not eradicate the pet overpopulation and homelessness issue,” she said.

According to Pickett, around 1.2M dogs (and 1.4M cats) are euthanized annually in the U.S.. With numbers like these, the culprit is certainly overpopulation: pet owners not spaying or neutering, as well as breeders.

Because of these numbers, Pickett she feels there has to be some accountability put on to dog owners choosing breeders over shelters.

“As long as there are animals in need of homes in shelters and rescues, it’s unconscionable that others should continue to be bred and sold.”

Consumers end up in the middle of this issue - wanting to do the right thing, wanting to find a physically and mentally healthy pet, and wanting to find the perfect dog for their family.

For individuals facing this dilemma, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies recommends adoption first. But if that doesn’t work, they provide detailed information about how to find a responsible breeder so consumers can be confident they aren’t supporting puppy mills.

The Top Dog Store in Calgary had adopted a new retail model to help build consumer confidence in their puppies.

Potential pet owners can also visit B4UGETAPET to help plan for their new addition and determine the best pet for them. 

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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