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Myths About Pet Stores and Breeders

This article originally appeared on PETA Prime.

Each year, millions of lost and unwanted dogs and cats end up at animal shelters across the U.S. Half of those animals must be euthanized because of simple math: There are too many animals and not enough good homes. This overpopulation crisis is a national disgrace. While I take some comfort in knowing that animal shelters are at least able to give these animals a humane death as an alternative to starvation, disease, or abuse, I would much prefer to focus on some of the real roots of the problem–pet stores and breeders, and barriers to spaying and neutering.

We have a moral obligation to end the overpopulation crisis in order to reduce the number of unwanted homeless dogs and cats. When people buy animals from breeders and pet stores instead of adopting from animal shelters, they deny a needy animal a chance at a good home. As long as people support a market that treats dogs and cats as profit-generating commodities, we will struggle with the overpopulation crisis.

So why do so many people still buy animals from pet stores and breeders? Here are some of the myths that keep those dog and cat profits rolling in.

Myth #1: “My family needs a young puppy or kitten, not an old, ‘secondhand’ animal.”

Fact: Most pet stores get their “stock” from puppy mills and other sources that raise animals in unspeakably cruel conditions, and each purchase motivates these places to breed more. If your heart is set on a puppy or kitten, animal shelters have plenty of healthy and happy young animals to choose from. And consider this: For many people, the best choice for a new animal companion is actually an adult dog or cat. Adult animals are calmer and less destructive, and you can see exactly what you’re signing up for in terms of personality, size, and energy level. Animal shelters are a great place to find that perfect match.

Myth #2: “But isn’t it a good thing to rescue that puppy from the pet store?”

Fact: It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. As you take your new puppy home, the empty cage at the store will be filled with another puppy from the same puppy mill. Only when customers stop buying will the suffering end.

Myth #3: “The animal shelter is so depressing compared to the pet store-I just can’t go there.”

Fact: If you think it’s depressing, imagine what it’s like for the animals who have been abandoned there. When you adopt an animal from an animal shelter, you have the satisfaction of saving a life–nothing depressing about that! The pet store is actually an awful place if you think about where those cute animals came from. That puppy’s mother is probably living without any human contact in a barren wire cage and most likely has extensive health problems from constant breeding and stress.

Myth #4: “It’s fine to get a dog from a responsible breeder.”

Fact: There is nothing responsible about bringing more animals into a world where there are already too many. Just as with pet stores, each time breeders sell a litter, they’ll be motivated to breed and sell another one. There are only so many homes available for dogs each year, and for every slot filled by a dog from a breeder, there’s one home fewer available to a dog in a shelter.

Myth #5: “With purebred dogs, you can predict their temperament and behavior.”

Fact: Pet stores and breeders aren’t the only source of purebred dogs. Rescue groups exist for every breed of dog, and up to 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred. But if temperament and behavior traits are paramount, your best bet is an adult dog from an animal shelter. You could buy a Labrador puppy in hopes of having a dog who is gentle and good with children, but that puppy could grow up to be nervous and short-tempered–there are no guarantees. And many purebred dogs have been bred over the years for working behaviors that in this day and age are just not applicable anymore, like aggression, chasing, and digging. By selecting an adult shelter dog, you can get exactly the companion you’re looking for.

Myth #6: “Purebred dogs are healthier and longer-lived than mutts.”

Fact: On the contrary, purebred dogs are increasingly suffering from limited gene pools and have many breed-specific health issues. Cancer, respiratory issues, joint problems, heart disorders, and epilepsy are all seen frequently in purebreds. The BBC suspended television coverage of the prestigious Crufts dog show (the equivalent of the Westminster show in the U.S.) because of concerns about genetic illness in pedigree dogs in the U.K.

When you choose to share your home with an animal, support the lifesaving work of an animal shelter or rescue group by giving it your business. Animal shelters currently provide only 10 to 20 percent of the animals people take into their homes. By making animal shelters the first choice for finding an animal companion, we could dramatically reduce dog and cat overpopulation and save countless lives.

Have you heard other myths about pet stores and breeders? Let me know in the comments.

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  • SAvannah says:

    I am a breeder, and I believe that the average pet owner should adopt, but specific breeds are needed for service dogs, dog shows and working dogs. These dogs should be bred. FYI PETAS GOAL IS TO SPAY AND NEUTER ALL ANIMALS SO THERE WILL BE NO MORE PETS!!!!!

  • miros says:

    I had been wanting to adopt a cat for awhile and last November I decided to adopt an orange tabby cat. His name is Binks and he is healthy as a horse, he is just too perfect, cats are know for being affectionate when they want to, but Binks is something else, he greets me when I get home from work, he gives me hugs and believe it or not comforts me when he feels I’m sad. He loves me just as much as I love him and there could never be a better feeling than when you know that you rescued such a wonderful being. He’s playful half the time, the other half he’s just being Binks. I couldn’t ask for a better companion. The best thing about the whole adoption process was that he was 6 months old when I adopted him, so he was young, but still didn’t need as much attention as a new born kitten, he was vaccinated, litter trained, neutered, and I only paid 90 dollars to take him home, the animal shelter was so giving that they gave me some food to take him home just in case I wasn’t too prepared, some toys, a blanket for him, and coupons for all his kitty cat needs, and not to mention a free month of health insurance for him just in case. They handed me all his papers after a brief but thorough interview, but it was worth it. There are so many animals in the shelters that are so willing and ready to give you their love because most have never been loved before. If your’e not sure about adoption, at least consider it, visit your locar animal shelter and ask questions, you may even come out wanting to volunteer just like I did.

  • Sky says:

    It is a good thing to adopt dogs but is breeding really that bad? I don’t mean breeding purposefully, but buying a dog from a person who just has puppies because their dog wasn’t fixed. What will they do with the dogs? I don’t really think it is that unforgivable to buy a dog like that.

  • kms says:

    Emily King. Shelter pets as well as breed org. Provide the supposed full breedogs that can be trained just as well. There is 0 excuse to breed. The huge issues are spat and fix fees. The are too EXPO. For most to afford. The gov could easily regulate fees and have free spay and fix clinics.

  • Dale T says:

    I had forgotten to say that my local Humane Society has fliers that they keep updated that you can print for the individual animals being kept at the Humane Society as well, so if your Humane Society doesn’t, you should complain to them.

    And I have another myth: That animals from other countries are unadoptable. If you read this article at http://www.sdreader.com and search for the article it is called “Dogs’ Deathbed Gift” from 2009. It tells you about how many animals are being killed in Mexico each month (keep in mind the cities listed are only in northern Mexico). The Baja Animal Sanctuary is a big organization here and there are other kind people in rescue organizations trying to help the animals in this area as well. I have also heard that Canada has a very high kill rate.

  • EmilyKing says:

    While I have adopted shelter animals, responsible breeders (in limited quantities) do have a place. We bought a dog who will be trained for cadaver detection and serve on a search and rescue team when she grows. For that type of work, whether or not the dog comes from a working line is important.

  • Annaliesa says:

    One myth I’ve heard is actually about our local animal shelter – animals from the shelter are mean. I got my beautiful, long-haired tortie cat from the shelter, and she is a joy to be around! Many of the animals there have had a hard life – if they are mean, it’s because people were cruel to them. Know that going in there. If you can’t commit to helping your new pet learn to feel safe and loved, then perhaps you shouldn’t consider adopting an animal.

    As for are local shelter, my experience with them was wonderful. Yeah, it is very sad to see all of those animals in cages, but you’re doing a great thing by choosing them to adopt your pet. For less than a hundred dollars, I was able to adopt my kitten. The price included an initial vet visit, dewormer or whatever medications she immediately needed, spaying, microchipping, and a follow up visit after the spaying procedure if necessary. This was much more cost efficient than adopting from the SPCA – I know this because my other cat was adopted from that organization.

    Our animal shelter is a great resource to the community. They socialize and groom the animals via volunteers, some of which are ordered to community service (I think that’s great, honestly, as working with animals in a supervised manner can be therapeutic, provide a sense for respect for life, and being responsible for another creature’s well-being). Animals receive vet care throughout the time they are in the shelter. They do euthanize, unfortunately, but they work with the funds and space they have. It’s unfortunate that the US can’t provide for vulnerable people and animals, but we can provide for some of the ridiculous government salaries.

  • Jean K. says:

    I strongly agree with Ann regarding taking animals off the streets. Most of my cats were simply abandoned in the apartment complexes where I’ve lived, or in the cemetery near our current home. Some have been ferals, and others came to us when various friends’ parents had to go into skilled nursing, and could no longer keep their cat. Every cat gets a trip to the vet as quickly as possible for vaccines and neuter or spay surgery; and they all get love and a safe home with lots of food. The number of unwanted animals who die in shelters or unseen where they’ve been left is absolutely heartbreaking. Buying an animal is inexcuseable.

  • chander kumar soni says:

    i am shocked.

  • Ann says:

    I would never buy an animal. All of my pets literally came off the street. If they seem reasonably calm I take them to the vet, have them tested for disease, vaccinated and spayed or neutered. Two of the smartest animals I ever had (one dog, one cat) also lived fairly long. Our dog finally succumbed to heart failure at 14 years old after a year on meds and kidney disease took my cat at almost age 20.
    I bypass shelters because those on the street are in more immediate need of care.

  • Holland says:

    @ Chichi, the self-styled “ethical breeder” of dogs: no such thing as a responsible or ethical breeder. You admit dogs bred for profit rob shelter dogs of homes. So are you willfully ignorant of your unethical position, or just rationalizing the fact your income is from a killer trade?

  • Jackie Thipthorpe says:

    Yes, I’ve heard ALL of those listed above. But another one is, “I tried to adopt from a shelter, they had me fill out all this paperwork, they did a home check, and then they turned me down. It is easier to get from a pet store or off Craigslist.” While we all know the importance of making sure the new owner will be a responsible pet owner, I unfortunately can relate to this one. I’ve been involved in animal rescue for the majority of my life and currently have a small animal sanctuary. A place where those considered “unadoptable” can live their lives out with love. However, I applied at the SPCA to adopt a horse that had been starving and mistreated and after doing a home check, they felt I did not have a high enough income to adopt the horse. Me, someone who has kept ALL the animals at the sanctuary together and well-fed despite the hard time I faced due to the economy, and NO ONE went without any meals. I would give up anything for myself over them. But yes, even I was turned down trying to save a horse that they eventually put down. So I ended up adopting two pasture-mates that were starving through my network of animal rescue people who just found out about these two horses. Again, the SPCA was going to just put them down. I took them in before they were signed over to the SPCA and I have had both of them for a year now and they are fat and living a healthy, loved life. The reason I was taking on more was because my rescued donkey passed away a year ago December and I was paying board for my horse so he wouldn’t be alone. He’s never been alone a day in his life and he was very upset with his best friend passing away. Now he shares a 12-acre piece of property with his two new friends.

  • Jean K. says:

    Sorry, Chichi, but the words “responsible” and “breeder” shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. You are all contributing to the overpopulation problem that leads directly to death in shelters and death in the streets. In addition, you are all deluding yourselves when you claim you are serving the best interests of “the breed.” None of the various breeds need your “help”, and we definitely don’t need any more of the invented breeds such as cockapoos, labradoodles, etc. Enough breeding for death, already! As for information, I’ve adopted many dumped cats in my lifetime, and they came with no information except the obvious fact that someone couldn’t be bothered to take care of them. I’ve loved and treasured every one of those cats, and all the “information” in the world would have made no difference. Good shelters, and there are many, try very hard to match the dog or cat carefully to the adopters, because they don’t want to see the animal dumped again. What do breeders do with animals that don’t work out or can’t be sold? They dump them on rescues and shelters; or worse, yet, just kill them, not always humanely. Folks, if you want a dog or cat, go to the shelter and rescue the one whose owner died or lost his home or ran out of money. They will give just as much love and joy as any designer animal

  • Chichi says:

    As a responsible breeder of pure bred dogs I feel you slander those who really care about their breed. While I agree that getting a pure bred dog leaves one more dog in a shelter, shelters will not give all the information that an ethical breeder will give. Ethical breeders check out their customers and are always available to help and give advice. I could go on but I know you do not approve of dog shows etc.

  • Dale T says:

    I was surprised a few years ago when I read an article in a local newspaper saying the Humane Society was fighting a legal battle in Washington DC against puppy mills in St Louis because that is where the majority of them are. Sometimes the Humane Society doesn’t have a good reputation, but on its website it has legal information on current animal issues from farms to labs. I found this information on their website: “‘What You Can Do to Stop Puppy Mills’…Be an advocate…

    Download “An Advocate’s Guide to Stopping Puppy Mills” »
    Download “A Guide to Using Local Ordinances to Combat Puppy Mills”

    Contact your legislators

    Speak up

    Furnish your vet with flyers

    Inform your Community
    Ask your local library to put up an educational display about puppy mills, a subject relevant year-round. Email us for materials.”

    The flyers and the advocate information are downloadable at:
    http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/tips/what_you_can_do_stop_puppy_mills.html

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