Today at Radio 2UE, I had to comment on puppy farms and pet shops – controversial topics in this day and age of pet ownership where pets are central to family life – adored, fashionable and – well, babied.
People obtain their pets from all sorts of places – breeders, stores, shelters, friends. In my opinion there are good and bad breeders, good and bad pet shops, good and bad shelters, just as with every other business and hobby in life. Very few people, however, knowingly buy from a puppy farm. Could your dog have come from one? The answer is – maybe – if you did not ask, did not meet his or her parents or breeder and if your dog is a currently fashionable breed of dog.
So what are puppy farms?
Farms or mills are establishments where large numbers of puppies are bred. Due to the numbers of animals produced there is little time for individual contact which is absolutely vital for a young animal’s socialisation process or stage of life. Animals may be caged their entire lives and be repeatedly bred from. Dogs may suffer physically and/or psychologically.
Think about it. You know there is a demand for dogs, as you’ve been reading about it in the newspapers, watching TV programs and have seen numerous dogs in your community – pampered pooches whose owners spare no expense. You want to set up a business. Why not cater for the doggy demand? Current demand is for non-shedding, medium sized dogs. Why not cross some breeds and see what happens/ Demand is there. Why not breed more? Before you know it, you have a profitable business – a puppy farm.
I have nothing against businesses generating profits, responding to demands. Where there are living creatures at stake, however, the guidelines need to differ. Do you have time to give each and ever pup a cuddle, every day?
Some large breeding establishments do care for animals quite adequately when it comes to physical health, vaccinations, exercise etc. They may still fail, however, to carry out adequate people contact but is this covered in current code of practice recommendations? But then some breeders also refuse to let their pups meet young children, other animals etc. All breeders have a responsibility to provide nourishing care for all their animals.
Where a breeder becomes a farmer is not defined (some breeders also keep large numbers of dogs or cats in cages with little human contact) but if you are concerned about which breeder to get your puppy from, enquire from your State or National body (Canine or Kennel Club, in NSW it is Dogs NSW).
About pet shops
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a pet shop or pet store. They sell goods for pets, that we pet owners require. Traditionally they have sold animals too. The pet industry has stated that most people, contrary to popular belief, do not make impulsive purchases from pet stores (yet most of us hear people expressing statements such as “oh poor thing, we should give it a home” as we pass pet store windows, crowded with the pet-loving viewing public). It also appears to be a fallacy that shelters are full of pet shop puppies relinquished when passed their cute-by date. People who make such sweeping statements about the pet shop industry do need to be careful to check their facts.
Most pet stores nowadays do not sell puppies and kittens, although many will still sell fish, birds and other small animals. The Pet Industry Association of Australia has helped pet stores develop policies, such as – no pets in pet shop windows, no buying on first day, cooling off periods etc. You might like to check if your pet store is a member of a pet industry association such as PIAA.
Some smaller or regional shelters find homes for their pets through pet stores. Foster carers do not have space or inclination to let people come to their homes to buy rescued dogs so they sell them through the local pet store. Are these pet shops doing the wrong thing by selling these pets? What about the breeder who has found homes for 11 of the 12 pups (perhaps only expecting half that number therefore not having families lined up prior to the birth)and decide to sell the last through the local pet store. Is this wrong? What happens to the pups that don’t get sold in the pet store? Each of us has our own views and our own values. If you are unsure about the practices of your pet store, then ask.
Demand and supply
Puppy farms exist because there is a demand for the dogs. Some may sell their produce through pet stores Others have websites and will deliver your dog to you. Others may place an add in the local paper, just as backyard breeders do. A high price does not mean a better bred dog, contrary to what many owners believe. I have even heard people refuse to go to shelters to look at dogs as they are not pedigree or not expensive enough! And yet a currently popular designer dog is simply a mixed breed too. (I have nothing against mixed breeds. I own one – adopted from a shelter.)
As long as there is demand for cute-looking, middle sized, minimal-shedding pups, there will be a supply available. No matter how they are bred or cared for or sold. This is human nature, In time, I would hope that responsible dog breeders look at what people want and need. Breed standards in some cases may be a hundred years out of date. We no longer need a dog to sweep the long grass and retrieve prey. We need a dog who likes nothing more than a sofa and a cuddle and an occasional walk. Is it wrong to encourage breeders to breed for this temperament? Again, we shall differ in our moral and ethical standards. But isn’t that what makes the pet industry and the world of pets an exciting place to be?
- Pets should be wanted and loved. It is the responsibility of the owner to choose a pet that suits their lifestyle and to find out where the animal has come from and how it has been cared for.
- Society needs to look at producing animals that people want to live with (this, is of course, within reason – a dog is a dog and should be valued for that).
- Society and we pet lovers, need to demand adequate laws, codes of practice and ensure that our support goes to well-run, ethical businesses.
Your comments and thoughts are welcome.