The Pet Trade

Breeders, pet shops, and puppy mills fuel the companion animal overpopulation crisis by bringing more animals into a world that is already bursting at the seams with unwanted ones. Every newborn puppy or kitten means that there is one home fewer for a dog or cat awaiting adoption in an animal shelter or roaming the streets.

The pet trade treats animals as mere moneymaking commodities to mass produce and peddle for profit. Animals are routinely denied socialization, exercise, and even basic veterinary care in this cruel, money-hungry industry. Worst of all, the pet trade encourages the public to view animals as impulse purchases no different from fashion accessories that are acquired on a whim and discarded when the novelty wears off—rather than thinking, feeling beings who deserve love and respect.

Breeders run the gamut from “professionals” who continuously produce “pedigree” puppies and kittens in hopes of winning show titles and making money off the animal’s offspring to “backyard breeders” who mate their animals indiscriminately to make a quick buck by selling puppies or kittens.

In addition to contributing to animal homelessness and suffering, many breeders endanger animals’ health by breeding dogs who are related to each other, which can cause life-threatening genetic defects, and manipulating animals’ genetics for specific physical features, such as “pushed-in” noses (which can cause serious breathing difficulties and discomfort) and unnaturally long spinal columns (which can cause disc disease and severe back problems).

Puppy mills, which supply the majority of pet shops with puppies, treat dogs like breeding machines. Mother dogs are kept in tiny cages and hutches and are bred over and over again until they can no longer produce puppies. Then they are usually auctioned off to the highest bidder or killed, without ever getting to experience a kind word, a gentle touch, or simple pleasures like the sun on their backs and grass under their feet.

PETA’s undercover investigation at Nielsen Farms, a puppy mill in Kansas, revealed that the dogs had no bedding or protection from the cold or heat; they were suffering from untreated wounds, ear infections, and abscessed feet; and some mother dogs had gone mad from confinement and loneliness. Oprah Winfrey’s puppy mill investigation revealed similarly dire conditions.

Every year, people succumb to the temptation to purchase “exotic” animals like hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, and monkeys—even tigers and bears—from stores, auctions, or the Internet to keep them as “pets.” But often, life in captivity rapidly leads to pain and death for these animals, who can easily suffer from malnutrition, an unnatural and uncomfortable environment, loneliness, and the overwhelming stress of confinement. The exotic animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to the store or the auction, countless others die along the way.

Pet shops acquire most of the puppies they sell from puppy mills. The puppies are typically taken from their mothers at an early age, packed into crates, and trucked for days or flown hundreds of miles to dealers and then to pet stores, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Pet shops sell animals to anyone who can pay, often sending animals home with unprepared, incompetent, or even abusive guardians. This, combined with the fact that puppies and kittens from pet stores are notoriously difficult to socialize and train because they have been deprived of regular, loving human contact, means that many animals who are purchased from pet stores are later relinquished to animal shelters when people grow tired of them.

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