Why do you promote the sale of animals?


Q: Why do you promote the sale of animals from reputable dealers? Let’s help out the animals. Send these people to shelters; there are thousands online or near any town or city in the USA. It should be illegal to sell animals for the next 25 years or forever. Not all animals, just the ones people consider pets.

A: Wow – I can write 100 pages on this, or at least 100 paragraphs. Like many issues which may seem simple and black and white, so does this one. It’s not black and white, though.

First, let me be clear. I am absolutely and positively FOR adoption as an option. I have never suggested otherwise. Ethel, our mixed everything breed, was dumped at animal control in Chicago with her siblings when they were only six or seven weeks old. I proudly serve on the Board of Directors of the American Humane Association and a renowned no-kill Chicago cat shelter, Tree House Humane Society. To my knowledge I am a Board member in good standing with a philosophy generally in line with these organizations.

Since when though does being for adoption (remember it’s an option, in my view, not a mandate) counter going to a rescue group or a responsible breeder? My guess is that your argument is with responsible breeders, not legitimate rescues.

Let me toss some facts your way. I do understand there remain far too many dogs and cats in shelters. But here’s how much better we’re doing today compared to even a decade ago. There are lots of shelters (particularly in the Northeast) experiencing shortages of adoptable dogs. These facilities actually “import” dogs from other communities, others states and sometimes (controversially) other countries. It’s the truth. I personally know of no shelter with a similar shortage of adoptable cats. That’s because of the numbers of free roaming cats who breed prolifically (which trap, neuter, return programs in America are beginning to address), and because cats (seemingly less valued that dogs) are more often relinquished to shelters, or when they’re lost, they’re not as likely to be found (since they’re rarely microchipped – more on that below). I do encourage adoption, and the public is paying attention.

However, if we want genetic diversity in dogs to continue, actually we should be supporting expert breeders. On simple terms, the birds and the bees exist for a reason. Without reproduction – there’s a problem. More complex, while breeders are guilty of perpetuating genetic and congenital problems in pure bred dogs – they are also responsible for spreading a gene pool, which is a good thing. If you don’t buy what I’m saying, check out what the experts say, the American College of Theriogenology (experts in reproductive medicine, at www.theriogenology.org).

I argue in other ways responsible breeders are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. In their contracts to pet owners, they require spay/neuter; and if the pet must be returned for any reason, they want the pet returned to them. This lessons some load on shelters. Responsible breeders do the best screening they can to insure the best forever homes possible for their ‘babies.’

Of course, puppy mills and commercial facilities (essentially puppy mills but commercially operated) should be shut down. I’m astounded they’re allowed to operate. While legislation isn’t likely to be effective to dissuade people from breeding just to make a buck or because they want to show the kids a ‘miracle,’ public pressure and changes in all our values will discourage these folks over time. Actually, that is already happening.

I do wish that selling puppies and kittens at pet stores (I’m not talking about shelters and rescue groups who place adoptable pets via pet stores) could be banned. However, so far, it seems free trade laws and a powerful lobby aren’t going to allow this anytime soon. Since we’re an economy driven by supply and demand, I can assure you, pet stores will lose interest in selling dogs and cats when there is no longer a market. We can try to pass all the laws we can, but if people stop buying, problem solved.

In my opinion it’s a shame that good breeders, who these days lose money on their hobby, are blamed and targeted by animal rights groups. The attention is misdirected away from what the real problems are.

I promised a word about microchipping, which doesn’t directly relate to your question – but it’s important. Microchips (as well as identifying dog tags) explain why so many lost dogs are now recovered. We’re microchipping around half our dogs or more. Still, fewer than 10 percent of cats benefit from a microchip. I can’t tell you why there’s such an enormous discrepancy. Perhaps, it’s because more of us are keeping cats indoors, and we feel they can’t get out. Well, listen if you’re on the 80th floor of a high rise – if the cat gets out, unless he pushes the button on the elevator and skates by the doorman, he’s not getting out. But cats do get out of homes. Even in high rises, when animals are rounded up in emergencies – cats aren’t generally wearing an ID tag. Rescuers at disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, report that most dogs are eventually reunited with their people, most cats may not be. The difference – a microchip.

In an effort to endorse microchipping this summer, particularly for cats, I’ve teamed up with the HomeAgain Pet Recovery service (www.homeagain.com). And HomeAgain has teamed up with the Winn Feline Foundation (www.winnfelinehealthorg). For the second consecutive year, HomeAgainis donating one dollar for each cat ‘chipped through August to Winn. The Winn Feline Foundation has been funding cat health research for over 40 years. Every cat in America has been touched by the research funding at Winn, from what we feed our cats to what we vaccinate them for. A micrcochip (and don’t forget to register so the microchip company knows who you are) might save your cat’s life when you least expect it. You can also learn more on my website, www.stevedalepetworld.com.

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