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Pet Store Patrons, Beware!

A 2nd-place award-winner in the state of MichiganBy Olivia Neilson, (7th grader) December 2009*All rights reserved. Please do not copy or reproducewithout author’s permission.This speech is dedicated to George.

Those eyes! Those ears! That soft, cuddly fur! The way he looks at me!
If you’ve ever been drawn into the bright, friendly furriness of a pet store, you may find yourself asking, “How much is that doggy in the window?” The answer is…too much. The costs are too high–not just for you, but especially for the animals, when pets are purchased from pet stores.

I believe that it is inhumane and unnecessary to purchase live animals from pet stores, and it should stop. Here are some of the most compelling reasons to stop buying animals from stores, and some better options, instead.

Let’s begin with America’s favorite pet: Fido, or more likely these days, “Marley.” People and families love dogs, but the number-one reason you shouldn’t purchase your new pooch from a pet store is that he almost certainly came from a puppy mill. Definition of a mill: factory-like production of a commodity for mass consumption. A puppy mill, unfortunately, is no different. While the store will tell you “our dogs come from breeders,” and it’s true that anyone who combines a male and female dog can be called a breeder–the truth is that puppies are bred and raised in low-budget conditions at the least expense possible, so they can be sold to pet stores at a profit.

According to the Belleville Animal Rescue of K-9s, many puppies from mills are inbred, sick, and carry preventable diseases. They have been separated from their mother at five to six weeks old and sold to brokers who pack them in crates for resale to pet stores. Almost half the puppies do not survive the trip. Puppy mills and pet stores maximize their profits by not spending money on proper food, housing or
Veterinary care. It’s common for a mill dog’s teeth to be completely rotted out by six years of age!

And the treatment of the puppy’s mother is even worse. Dogs are confined to cages or runs for their entire lives with only one purpose: breeding. Rarely are they kindly touched by a human, and many never see grass, blankets, or toys–let alone the inside of a house. Once a dog is old and run down and no longer an “effective producer,” she is of no use to the puppy miller…and she is disposed of.

If you question whether your local pet store is supplied by a puppy mill, ask who the breeder is and look him up online. Search the USDA inspection reports to find how many dogs are bred by that individual. Think about it. What kind of moral person would produce litter upon litter of various breeds of puppies solely for profit? Only a puppy miller would.

We’ve talked about dogs. But what about America’s other favorite: cuddly, clever cats? Well, an estimated 70 million stray cats roam the streets of this country, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the ASPCA. And seven out of every 10 cats in shelters are euthanized, or put to death, because there is no space and no one to adopt them. For those reasons, it is inconceivable– if not reprehensible–to consider PAYING a breeder for a cat.

Aside from dogs and cats, many people are drawn into pet stores by the lure of “exotic animals.” Frisky ferrets, Macaque monkeys, potbellied pigs…are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t want one of those? But such intriguing animals don’t necessarily make great pets.

According to the ASPCA, exotic pets often suffer from improper care, stress of confinement, and much more. They come from exotic animal breeders, where it is very stressful on the animals to live in captivity.

Wild animals can also be unpredictable. They simply are not accustomed to living with people and relying on them for care. Domesticated animals like dogs and cats have been adjusting to life with humans for generations, but you can’t assume a wild animal will do this in a manner of months.

Further, once they are taken from their habitat, it disrupts the ecosystem from which they are taken, and can also damage the environment to which they are brought…if they are set loose, if they escape or if they carry diseases for which no vaccine is available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet reptiles alone account for 93,000 cases of salmonella every year in the United States. And the popular Macaque monkeys can transmit herpes B virus to humans through bites, often with fatal results.

But what about cute little guinea pigs–they’re not so “exotic,” are they? Their rising popularity and demand as a “pocket pet” or “starter pet” suggests otherwise. But logically, guinea pigs are not meant to be domesticated. They roam freely in the Andes Mountains of Peru, but as pets in America, they are prone to diseases like bladder stones that can be extremely painful, and often fatal. Our veterinarians have not yet figured out how to prevent and care for these conditions, and until they do, these sweet animals should not pay the price of pet store profits.

So, we’ve talked about the reasons not to purchase Pookie from a pet shop. But, if pet stores have so many issues-where DO you find your furry new friend?

When it comes to domesticated animals, which obviously make the best pets, your very best option is to check out your local Humane Society or other animal shelter. Yes, it’s possible that with careful research AND a lot of money, you may come across a reputable breeder. But with today’s overpopulation of animals and record overcrowding in shelters,
Where former pets are now victims of a difficult economy, a shelter is clearly the way to go.

You might be asking yourself, what is an animal shelter? Most likely it is a non-profit facility that houses and cares for homeless, lost or abandoned animals, mostly dogs and cats, but often rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and other animals, too. The Michigan Humane Society, for example, rescues and cares for more than 100,000 animals each year in three local shelters. There are literally hundreds of animal shelters in Michigan alone, and you can find them online at sites like petfinder.com, animalshelter.org, and michigan.gov, to name just a few. These places are in the business of protecting and helping animals, so instead of driving to the pet store for your furry new family member, take a trip to your local animal shelter instead. While you’re there, consider volunteering or donating, too. Animal shelters are doing compassionate, important work, and they need all the help they can get.

Hopefully I’ve told you some things you didn’t know about pet stores and why you shouldn’t buy live animals from them, along with some better options. From puppy mills to overpopulation to dangerous outcomes, pet shops simply aren’t doing animals any favors, in the long run. As much as you may think you’re rescuing that sweet animal by giving him a home, the fact is that you’re actually hurting the rest of his species. Because the more animals are sold in pet stores, the more we encourage the inhumane realities that support their existence.

Money is not a worthy reason for being in the business of live creatures. Animals have feelings, too, and they don’t deserve to be shortchanged on a healthy, happy life.

When you adopt from a shelter, it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you’re supporting someone who’s in the business for the best reason:
the animals. That’s the best way to give that lonely, adorable creature looking back at you a great start with his new best buddy–you!

Thank you. :)

SOURCES:

Bark Animal Rescue for K-9s, BarkRescue.com. BarkRescue, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2009 <http://www.barkrescue.com>;.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), aspca.org. ASPCA, 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2009 <http://www.aspca.org>;.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009. Web. Nov. 2009 <http://www.cdc.gov>;.
Michigan Humane Society, 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2009 <http://www.michiganhumane.org>;.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Never Buy Animals from Pet Stores or Breeders. Helping Animals www.peta.org

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A wonderfully written but controversial speech by Olivia Neilson, a precocious 12-year-old from Birmingham, Michigan.

Tags

animal rights, guinea pig, olivia neilson, pet, dog, michigan humane society, cats, puppy mill

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