This past month I was lucky enough to welcome 2 new members to my extended family. Norwood, a mutt, and Arwen, a Labrador/Sheppard mix. As a person with a history of volunteering at animal shelters, I was extremely pleased to find that my extended family had used shelters and sites like Petfinder to find my new cousins, instead of going to a pet shop or a breeder.
America Loves It’s Pets.
Pet ownership in the United States is increasing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in the 1970’s 67 million homes owned a pet. As of 2012, 164 million homes (62%) now own at least one pet.
The Problem With Puppy Mills
Adopting from a shelter is a great option for anyone interested in getting a pet and is definitely a better option than buying a pet in a pet shop. Many dogs bought in pet shops come from ‘puppy mills’, which ASPCA defines as “large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs”. Puppy mills are inhumane. Dogs kept there are in too small cages with limited food and water. Puppies are taken from their mothers before they are ready so that their mothers can be bred again. It is estimated that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, producing 2.15 million puppies a year. Buying puppies from pet stores supports this cruel system.
Many breeders also breed their dogs in puppy mills. In order to avoid adopting a puppy from a puppy mill, check out these questions to ask a breeder.
The Pros (and Cons) of Shelters
Shelters are a great option for anyone interesting in adopting a new feline or canine family member. Every year 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters. Unfortunately, 2.7 million shelter animals have to be euthanized because there is not enough space.
Just because an animal is in a shelter doesn’t mean it did anything wrong. Many animals are forced to live in a shelter because their owner had to move into a new home that doesn’t allow pets, allergic reactions to the animal, or an owner can’t afford the time or money to take care of them anymore. Because of this, many animals you find in a shelter are already house or obedience trained and would make great pets.
At a shelter, you can find animals in a range of breeds and ages. In fact, 25% of dogs in shelters are pure breeds. If you are interested in a particular breed, you can ask your local shelters to ‘keep an eye out’ or find a breed rescue group.
The Importance of Spaying and Neutering Your Pet
It is important to spay and neuter pets in order to prevent overpopulation (In a previous article I wrote about the damage to bird populations done by stray cats). The good news is most shelters neuter/spay their pets prior to adoption so that new owners don’t have to worry about accidental litters/new shelter residents.
My Last Bark
Choosing to get a pet is an important decision. A pet requires time, resources, and love. It is not fair to you or the animal to adopt without thinking long term.
On another note, dogs make excellent companions. I have never seen a greater joy then a person talking about their pet and look forward to meeting my new cousins.