Author’s Note: One of my readers left a very interesting comment on my last blog, and it occurred to me that even though I was talking about how the public doesn’t know the state of puppy mills in the country and the public doesn’t know that pet store dogs come from puppy mills, even in that blog I was just ASSUMING that when I said “mill dogs” and “puppy mill” and referred to my beloved Smokey, people knew what I meant. You know what they say about assuming! So…very long overdue, here is my post on puppy mills and pet stores.
When I was growing up I had a friend who was a vegan. Before her, I didn’t even know what vegan meant. Her whole family was vegan, and they weren’t vegan based on health reasons, though they touted them, they were vegan based on moral grounds. They were huge animal lovers. But for whatever reason, the concept of abstaining from something to lower the production of that thing was an extremely abstract concept to me, and I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. I remember walking into the grocery store with my father to buy chicken and looking at the freezers full of meat and thinking, “All these chickens and cows and pigs are already dead – how is her not eating them changing anything?”
It honestly wasn’t until I started to volunteer for shelters and get more active in animal welfare that my mind started to wind around my friend’s vegan family. The same concept applies to puppy mills. (Side note: I am not a vegetarian or a vegan and it’s an interesting concept that I struggle with, conveniently, an editorial piece was written about this very issue on CNN recently which you can read here).
For those chickens and cows and pigs that have already been slaughtered, my friend and her family abstaining from eating meat didn’t matter, true. For the puppies that are currently awaiting purchase in pet stores, us abstaining from purchasing them doesn’t matter. They’re already born, just like the animals on the shelves are already dead. It’s very cut and dry.
But in terms of supply and demand, it does matter, in fact, it matters very much.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they “rescued” their dog from a pet store. Usually they’re mom and pop shops with tiny, cedar lined, often dirty cages like the ones I described in my last post. I’ve been in them, and I’ve been swayed by the cuteness and the sad looks of the puppy in the window. It’s hard not to want to scoop up that puppy and carry them out of the darkness.
But if you do purchase that puppy, you’re not rescuing him or her. You’re purchasing him, for full price, from a place that doesn’t care why you bought that puppy, and doesn’t care about where they got the puppy from or the health of the puppy or the lineage or the parents’ lineage or the health of the parents (which if the puppy came from a puppy mill is likely very poor, so you know). All that place cares about is the $1500 you just put in their pocket.
And after you’ve “rescued” that cute puppy you know what that store is going to do? They’re going to go back to that same shitty, run down, hellish place where they got that puppy and get a new one. And the “breeder” (“farmer” is actually more correct, in my opinion) of that puppy is going to force another breeding on an overbred female with health ailments and the cycle is going to continue. And little Sarah who you bought that puppy for because she’s been begging for a puppy, may have quite a shock when you have to euthanize her dear best friend far too young because of some strange medical issue caused by overbreeding, inbreeding and just poor breeding.
That’s how supply and demand works. And folks, guess what else? That’s how positive reinforcement works too. You’re positively reinforcing that store owner in one of the most effective ways you can positively reinforce a human being – with money.
But if you don’t buy that puppy, someone else likely will. I know, it’s like the chicken concept I didn’t understand when I was younger. So what does it matter?
Because every voice matters. Every decision matters. Every action or, in this case, inaction matters. If everyone stopped buying puppies from pet stores, pet stores would stop selling puppies. A pet store is a business and if there is no profit to be made from it, they’re not going to do it. Pure and simple economics at work. In fact, even if most people abstained from buying puppies from pet stores, pet stores still would likely cease to sell puppies because it’s too risky a business. If they buy 10 puppies for $250 and only sell 2 of them for $1000 each then they are losing money on that deal and ending up with 8 puppies they have to reduce the price of or take to a shelter.
At which point, you can rescue that puppy.