Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Much is that Doggie?

Before Sam, there was Rocky. Our baby was a little chihuahua, rescued from the squalid streets of Hartford, CT. We took him in our home, loved him, cuddled him and gave him basically whatever he wanted. He was the baby before the baby.

And now?

He is still beloved, still our baby. And his new sister adores him. But I will cop to the truth and admit that he has taken a back seat lately. I can't help it. The new baby is all consuming and some of his more annoying habits--incessant barking, neediness and whining--are slightly more annoying now when there are already so many demands for my attention.

Still, I love both of my animals. So, it upsets me beyond belief to read about the Human Society's recent investigation into puppy mills. In it, there is a sobering statistic: of the 2/3 of American homes that currently have a dog, only 20 percent of those dogs are rescues or from the pound. 20 percent.

Unless these people are showing their dogs (a post unto itself), there is just no excuse for this statistic. I understand the desire to have a puppy, but there are plenty of rescue puppies that need homes. Want a purebred? Spend some time on breed rescue sites. It might take a little longer, but the right dog will come up for adoption.

The truth is there are thousands of dogs being euthanized every day across the country, dogs who are loving and good and only need a little training, patience and love. And there are thousands of families who could love and care for them who are not. Instead, they are perpetuating the cycle by buying from people who make more dogs and create less homes for the dogs who really need them. (And as an aside, I get a little sick when I hear people--particularly men--talk about not fixing their dogs because they don't want to take away their manhood. That is just irresponsible and no one who believes such a thing can tuly call themselves a dog lover.)

Because loving animals means protecting them the best we can. And those of us who do should want to control the pet population because currently? It is out of control. Dogs are being put to sleep every single day. So the idea that there are loving homes full of dog lovers who are buying their purebred puppies from breeders or pet stores is discomfiting to say the least.

I know a lot of people who have bought from breeders. And I know they love their pets as much as I do. It is not an individual indictment, but a challenge to think about the bigger picture. Before getting a pet, ask youself: "What am I supporting in this purchase?" If the answer is: continued breeding, one more euthanized dog or g-d forbid puppy mills, maybe it is time to stop and reevaluate. Besides, mutts are healthier, more robust animals. And we all want dogs that will be around for 40 years. Never having to say goodbye or put them to sleep? There's a cause I could get behind.

Loving an animal can often mean making hard choices. When do I decide they are sick enough (or in enough pain) to be put down? When is it ok to alter an animal to suit a larger purpose (declawing/fixing/etc)? But when it comes down to it, most people want dogs (or cats) because they want to love them and doesn't it make sense to love the animal that needs it the most? He may not be as pretty or shiny as a purebred but he is just as capable of love, affection and undying gratitude.


Tracey said...

Absolutely agree. We only have 2 cats right now, and are NOT in the market for another pet anytime soon, but the humane society is our first stop.

Kristi said...

Awesome, fantastic, wonderful post. I have never, and I will never, purchase an animal from a breeder or a pet store. I don't understand why people will fork over many hundreds of dollars for a purebred, when there are so many loveable dogs in desperate need of homes in animal shelters for a small adoption fee. What's the point?

My cousin paid over $800 for a small "purse dog" from a pet store. That dog has cost her hundreds in vet bills to treat her various ailments. I would bet my savings the dog came from a puppy mill.

Stephanie said...

Also totally agree (as the "mom" of the CUTEST mutt at the humane society) with that post. Spending big bucks for designer dogs is not really up my alley.

But, I guess it is a personal choice. Not to be TOO provocative, but if you take this to an even bigger picture, one could make a similar argument about the numbers of children up for adoption.