“If I were queen of this fair land, I would hire animal welfare specialists to enforce the animal advocacy laws that live on in our codes … yet are sparsely and witheringly applied in defense of our animals.
In so doing, I’d effectively shutter 99% of the pet stores in the U.S.
While you may cheer me on in my fanciful musings, I’ve got more than a few clients who believe pet shops serve a crucial purpose: ensuring they have near-instantaneous access to “purebreds” at better-than-Internet prices.
But you’ll never get me to agree. I’ve seen more than enough disaster cases emerge from pet shops to have a pretty good handle on what the bulk of these outlets are all about (i.e., cold, hard cash at the expense of animal welfare). So, yeah, I think pet shops should go the way of the Dodo bird.
For all the extra choices they offer us in where we can source all those so-called “purebred” pets, I can think of 10 good reasons why I’d rather they didn’t exist:
1. Because their wares are very commonly ill-treated. I’ve never walked into even one pet shop — ever — where one or more of animal welfare’s five freedoms wasn’t being neglected. (The five: freedom from thirst/hunger, discomfort, injury and fear, plus freedom of regular behavior.)
2. Because the “factories” where these “widgets” they sell are made are almost always puppy mills. These are poorly regulated farms in which pets are bred under less supervision than even poultry in this country receive. And that’s telling.
3. Because they almost always propagate a version of purebrededness in petdom that reflects only the breed’s most superficial features (even that goes by the wayside), typically failing to address the underlying purpose of the breed and inevitably neglecting to breed for health and temperament.
4. Since they do not source pets from parents that have undergone basic genetic testing before breeding (as all veterinarians strongly recommend), even common genetic diseases flourish among these purebreds. Which means big buck and lots of tears.
5. Because these businesses (at least where I live) are almost uniformly anti-consumer. They lie about the origin, health and age of their wares. They even (especially) lie about the laws that govern their businesses, including guarantees and applicable “lemon laws.”
6. Because pet shop purebreds usually don’t even meet the aesthetic and temperamental expectations purchasing a purebred is meant to ensure. They’re often so far away from their show-ring or duck-hunting cousins they have little in common with them in the way of looks or attitude.
7. Because these places are very poorly regulated. I’ve heard of very few of these places ever getting shut down. It seems to take an act of God to get them shut down forever. Yet I continue to see egregious examples from pet purveyors on a weekly basis.
8. Because more pet shops mean fewer shelter adoptions. Indeed, the rate of shelter adoption is always much higher in areas where pet shops are more carefully regulated.
9-a. Because it makes me HATE the holidays at work. There’s nothing more depressing than enduring a long conversation on the degree of illness the purchased pet is suffering, followed by questions on how to break the news to the kids and whether it’ll be automatically euthanized if it gets sent back.
9-b. Because five of 10 holiday pet shops in my area operate on Christmas Eve … only. NOT a good sign.
10. Because pet shops pit animal advocates (like me) against people (like a minority of my clientele) who are lured into believing that pet shops are a well-regulated, safe source of purebred animals. In my experience, almost nothing could be further from the truth. And yet the practice of selling pets via retail sites — in all its ill-regulated glory — persists.”
Patty Khuly, a small-animal veterinarian in Miami, is author of FullyVetted, a blog on pet health at PetMD.com. She also writes weekly for the Miami Herald and monthly for Veterinary Practice News. Her USA TODAY guest column appears each Friday.
So here we have it directly from a vet. And yet we know of vets here in Australia who own pet shops selling puppies and kittens.
If you are a vet, we would love to hear your comments on this article. What are YOUR views?
Read this letter from a non-animal selling pet shop owner: