Letters to the Editor

The Real Problem with Pet Stores


Throwing around words and phrases can be so inflammatory. Some people decry the use of the term “puppy mill” and prefer to call them “high volume breeders.” The reality is that these people are in business and their products are puppies. They are not animal lovers or animal haters. They are animal exploiters. They purchase one or more females of a breed and only need one male to use for stud. Dogs do what comes naturally and the result is puppies. Even if they are kept in deplorable conditions, females will still come in heat and males will still respond. Even with no exercise, no protection from the weather, no medical care, poor quality food and no socialization with people, dogs will reproduce. It only takes two months from mating to birth, and another six weeks before the puppies are transported to pet stores. 

In some states, they can't be sold to the public until they're eight weeks old, but brokers can get them before that. They are products, merchandise, to be sold for a profit. All manufacturers expect a certain amount of breakage, and they adjust the price to make up for these losses. In the case of puppies, the damaged items are living beings, infant puppies who endure transport and end up in showrooms where people fall in love with their cuteness. Meanwhile, they've had little or no handling by loving people, little or no opportunities to play with their siblings, and little or no attention paid to their emotional needs. Their cuteness is a curse and they pay the price. 

Meanwhile, their parents spend their lives making babies until they are no longer profitable. This is the reality of the high volume breeder. This is the tragedy of puppy mills, even the ones that are not filthy, that don't have cages piled high with urine and feces dropping to the cages below, even the ones that don't have sick or dying puppies in cages with mothers with ulcerated nipples or rotted teeth. These puppies and their parents are victims, and the people who buy them are duped. It needs to be stopped. Free enterprise is one thing, but this business is unconscionable.

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And yes, there are “kitty mills.”

It's actually easier to breed cats than dogs, because dogs usually only come in heat twice a year, but cats can come in heat every couple of months. Large breed dogs take up lots more space than cats. I've personally helped clean up after a couple of Persian cat "breeders" who had adult cats in cages filled with feces, matted so badly they couldn't see, only able to make kittens for people to buy. The stench was horrible, the cats were suffering horribly, and the "reputable breeder" took the couple of well groomed cats to shows to win ribbons. 

And by the way, there are bird breeding operations, as well as guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and fish hatcheries. Not to mention lizards, snakes, and all the other living beings that people want to own. Suppliers rake in the money with their breeding and brokering, and pet stores sell them to an eager public. The suppliers are not animal lovers or animal haters. They just want an easy way to make money, and animals are a profitable product. 

Pet stores sell all kinds of products. Even if the store owner is an animal lover, the store must be profitable to stay in business. They sell inanimate items such as leashes, food bowls, beds and toys and they sell live animals. Some pet stores sell dogs and cats, while others “only” sell small mammals (such as hamsters, gerbils, Guinea pigs and chinchillas) or birds, fish and reptiles. In this country, pets are big business. If a bag of pet food is ripped open or a food bowl is broken, it is discarded and written off as a loss. If a puppy gets sick or a fish dies, that is also considered a loss and the cost of doing business. To the store owner, there is very little difference between a dead puppy and a broken cat toy. Damaged merchandise is a tax write off. 

Furthermore, pet stores are operated by the laws of supply and demand. If people see a movie featuring a certain breed of dog (101 Dalmatians), they order puppies of that breed. If the movie is about a fish (Finding Nemo) or a parrot (Paulie), the store knows there will be a demand for Clown fish or Conures. Retail stores have no obligation to explain that these animals have specialized needs. Their business relies on sales, rapid turnover of merchandise, and replacing stock when it is sold. Sadly, shelters and rescue groups will soon be called upon to take in the surplus, unwanted and unsold products. 

As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply unless the public is educated about the reality of where their “pets”come from.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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