Friday, October 3, 2008

A rant against puppy mills ends with a meal of humble pie

Shy Oscar, the beneficiary of my shame, gets a head butt from feral Leo.

For years I couldn’t pass by a pet store that was selling animals without strolling in. I’d start loudly commenting about puppy mills and the horrors of mass pet production. It stopped people in their tracks as they were cuddling the merchandise.

I always left before I caused too much commotion, so I don’t know if my messages really sank in or had any impact on the day’s sales.

I finally stopped the practice when I had a humbling experience in Southern California. I was at an upscale mall, and noticed the animals being displayed in front of the store. I marched over as I always did. I wasn’t long into my rant when I realized the animals were from a rescue group called Community Animal Network. The pet supply store kindly allowed the group to adopt animals from there on weekends, even giving them discounts on supplies.

I felt so bad about my behavior that I adopted one of the cats, a two-year-old fearful, long-haired tuxedo I named Oscar. He had been trapped as a skinny stray behind an apartment building. Many pounds heavier now, he’s still with me and spends his days rolling around in sunbeams.

Pet stores are learning it’s good business to let rescue groups show animals at their establishments. The rescuers and their followers – adopters, donors and admirers – love their animals, and will flock to supportive enterprises. Selling animals for profit is growing less acceptable as media images of puppy mills and other mass animal production facilities shock and disgust viewers.

It’s simply not possible to raise animals humanely and responsibly if they are destined for profitable sale at a pet store. Proper nutrition and veterinary care, such as fixing and vaccinating, don't come cheap. The economics don’t compute.

Some don’t make it out of the mill alive. Others die in the transport trucks on the way to the store, or might slip away shortly after they are purchased. Animals from pet stores might need to be rescued, too. But unless your act of purchasing is truly a rescue of an animal in trouble, know where your animals come from before buying.

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