Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can't believe they still do this

There are certain things you just assume don't happen anymore, and having large chains of pet stores continue to support puppy mills is certainly one of them.

I've long had a policy of refusing to buy anything from a store that sells puppies. I continue to be uncomfortable with stores that have exotic tropical fish, because I know there are serious problems with that market, though I think there are laws that control birds and some other small animals. (And I suspect that the economic incentives of cheating do not often outweigh the costs of getting caught.)

But puppies are my area of concern, and, in their case, it is a no-brainer. Anyone who investigates for 30 seconds knows that purebred puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills, regardless of what they tell you. If they can't give you the name of a local breeder, they are lying. (Often to their own employees, by the way.) I've never seen the pet store that takes puppies on consignment and sends them home each night if they didn't sell that day.

What I have seen is this: People who can't resist that cute little puppy and end up with massive vet bills because, whether as a result of genetic issues or because of a lack of prenatal and early care and nutrition, it has enormous, life-long health problems, ranging from incurable skin diseases to tumors requiring removal of eyes to psychotic behavior requiring euthanasia.

That's only within my own small circle of friends, and most of my friends wouldn't fall for that "doggy in the window" -- they realize that rescuing that puppy simply provides a profit to the store and puts another pathetic little wretch in the same position a week later.

I've also seen examples of major chains that figure it all out. Whatever you think of Sam Walton, Petsmart has become an advocate for dogs. When I was in Glens Falls, I shopped at Petsmart where not only did the humane society have an adoption area to help place their pound animals, but there were constant fundraisers for the society, including holiday photo sessions that produced some truly ridiculous pics.

It made me more loyal to Petsmart and more grateful to them, which is an odd way to feel about a Wal-Mart spin-off. Whether they do it out of social consciousness or good marketing is not my concern. I don't buy motivations, I buy results.

Apparently Petland doesn't get it. And as much as I think a lot of animal rights groups go over the top, the American Humane Society's campaign to shut down puppy mills is not such a case. In fact, while I'm willing to understand that small, independent pet stores can be as unscrupulous and sleazy as any other individual or business, it's hard to fathom why a chain like Petland hasn't gotten the message.

Well, except that apparently they are "a chain like Petland." They offer partnerships with adoption programs, but they continue to sell puppies. And pet store puppies come from puppy mills. You cannot offset cruelty with kindness. The way to end cruelty is to end cruelty.

The HSUS has a petition at Facebook, which I have pointed out to some but not all of my "friends" (my loathing for puppy mills competing with my loathing for spam). But there are other ways to help them try to hammer home the message, if not to the deaf execs at Petland, perhaps to their customers.

And it's good practice for going after the small, independent shops that also need to get this message, one sleazebag at a time.

Rant mode off.
(But, of course, it isn't.)


Dann said...

AFAIK, there are no legal constraints on bird breeding. As long as it is legal to own a given species of bird, and as long as you aren't importing your breeding stock, it is legal to set up breeding pairs.

The larger constraints have more to do with the price per bird and the overall volume of birds that are sold in the US.

I'd be willing to bet that finches, 'tiels, and parakeets are subject to puppy mill models of production. Albeit at a much lower volume.

Always buy from a breeder.


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Once in awhile it's brought home to me how often i just passively choose a business to patronize. We use PetSmart because it's There, and i'm relieved to know we lucked into supporting a firm that does the right things, but kind of sorry it was sheer luck. Ours, up in Myrtle Beach's shopping mecca, has an in-store adoption center that partners with 4 local shelters, and i've always loved that about them. I'm glad to get this info.

Mike said...

Dann -- Hadn't thought of the puppy mill model in terms of birds. I was more concentrating on the importation issues and stealing birds out of the wild. I'd be interested in seeing how that plays out, because birds are so fragile that I'd think poorly handled ones would die in massive numbers. But I could be wrong and have been. Twice. No, once. Okay, now twice.

And ruth, yes, sometimes we do the right things simply by happenstance. Ain't it fine? Most of the good decisions I've made in life have been made on that principle.

Dann said...

The US signed on to an international agreement that banned the importing of exotic birds. I can't tell you if it has been 20 or 30 years since the signing, but that's a good guess at the range.

Since then the number of imported birds has gone way down. There are illegal imports, but the numbers are far less than was the case when birds were being imported legally.