Where Do Pets Come From?
Cadie Pruss, Acadia shelties
(This article has been published in the Southern Sheltie Directory, October 2008 and is copyrighted to Cadie Pruss and the Southern Sheltie Directory)
It is the age old question parents dread, “where do babies come from?” This question is dreaded not because the answer is, “from loving homes where they are socialized, taught manners, educated, wanted and loved.” No, the question is dreaded because of the “other” answer- you know the one- about the birds and bees. Would the answer to the question be any different if we lived in a society where people were not allowed to have their own children until the “unwanted children” of the world were all adopted? No, babies do not “come from” an orphanage, foster care, or adoption centers.
Pets do not “come from shelters” because shelters are not producing pets, they are the orphanage of pet world- the middle place between birth and adoption. When someone exclaims, “get an animal from a shelter”- where did that animal come from? At the moment pets “come from” a few broad categories: *feral animals having litters; *pets that belong to an individual unintentionally having a litter; *pets that belong to an individual intentionally having a litter; *hobby breeders; and *high volume, for-profit breeding facilities.
“Animal Rights” special interest organizations such as the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) first cropped up in the 1970’s and for the past three decades they have been working to change where pets in the United States come from- with considerable and increasing success. Their primary efforts and tactics are “Legislation--Education--Sterilization”. HUSU and PETA are well known national organizations who solicit money from private donors, but it is the local and private shelters that have become the front lines of their efforts. The local public and private shelters bear the expense of abandoned pets but the large national organizations received the most donation money. As a result, money is readily available for legislation and education, while the local shelters are taking care of the sterilization expenses.
By the 1980’s shelters were spaying and neutering animals prior to adopting them out and reporting decreases in the shelter’s euthanasia rates. Spaying and neutering was reported as responsible for reducing the category of *feral animals having litters - and by 2000 the “education” of the general public made spaying and neutering pets the socially moral thing to do. Low cost spay/neuter programs made it affordable for lower income households to also “do the responsible thing” and fewer pets came from the category *pets that belong to an individual unintentionally having a litter. In the last half of this decade, these special interest organizations seem to be working on the next three categories - *pets that belong to an individual intentionally having a litter; *hobby breeders; and *high volume, for-profit breeding facilities. Of the last three, the first two categories are the most vulnerable to the legislative tactics currently being deployed by these powerful special interest groups and since there is still a demand for pets, the business of high volume, for-profit breeding facilities will most likely be the final answer for American-bred pets.
We now understand that not all shelters are over-flowing with adoptable pets. Some shelters import puppies (which are more adoptable than adults) to stay full. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 300,000 dogs were imported into the US in 2006 by both commercial distributors AND animal shelters. It is true that many parts of rural America still has more animals in need of homes, than homes that can be provided for them. PetSmart®, a large corporate pet supply retail chain, has begun a charity called the Rescue Waggin’® which relocates dogs and puppies from areas of high pet population, to shelters where adoptable dogs are in demand. This valuable relocation service recognizes and addresses the issue that not all areas of the country are experiencing the same pet abandonment rates. Overall, the national dog population has decreased while the national human population has increased.
A significant number of people choose to share their life with another living creature other than a human, and pets are a multi-billion dollar industry; yet 2007 and 2008 has seen a record number of legislative efforts nationwide relating to pets. Recently proposed, and passed, pet legislation is taking the national conscious to a whole new level, a level where is no longer “un-ethical” to breed fluffy- it is now “illegal”. Everyone who wants to live with a pet in their life will be affected and unless we all understand where pets come from, we will just nod our heads in agreement at the political sound-bites these shelters and special interest organizations expound, and we will pay the price when we go to find our next “best friend” or want to experience the joys of raising a litter.
What is at stake? A lot. For the buyer what is at stake is finding well adjusted, properly socialized pets, raised in loving homes and exposed to normal home noises, that are good companions and good additions to a family; at stake is any pet that was raised with a purpose such as hunting dogs who were socialized from birth to sounds, scents, and mothers who themselves were hunting dogs or to livestock guard dogs who were raised with and bonded to livestock, or dogs bred to a written standard of excellence. For families what is at stake is the ability to make the decision to accept the responsibility of raising a litter. For millions of hobby breeders what is at stake is a way of life, a purposes and a passion, and for all Americans, what is at stake is special interest groups dictating what should be legal in this country.
No national event birthed this legislative boom, it has been building over decades beginning with the concept that there is a pet over-population problem and everyone should spay and neuter their pet and Adopt from a Shelter. Some shelters became successful businesses, recruiting volunteers, monetary donations, and people to champion the cause of “ending pet over-population”. Over the last 10 years this national campaign of “educate, legislate, sterilize” has been successful at reducing the number of families having litters. So if the demand for pets is steady at least, and on the rise at best, where will the pets of the future “come from”? Oddly, the resulting laws end up enhancing the high-volume for profit breeding facilities that often get labeled as “puppy mills”.
Shelters and special interest groups have discovered how to stay stocked by importing “unwanted dogs” from foreign countries while soliciting donations and lobbying for legal changes. “Puppy mills” makes good targets and thus are good for soliciting donations. Mandatory spay/neuter laws will not affect high-volume for-profit breeding facilities because these businesses will spend the money to buy breeding licenses or kennel licenses, bring the kennel buildings into compliance with the newly mandated housing requirements, hire a staff Veterinarian, hire staff to “socialize” the puppies.
Recently proposed and passed pet legislation may not eliminate the high volume for-profit breeding facilities, but they will have a big impact on the other sources of pets. Most *hobby breeders are not breeding dogs as a profit making business and therefore are less likely to be able to comply with the newly proposed and pass laws. These laws outline specific building requirements and charge costly fees to purchase “breeding permits”. Families that are interested in taking on the responsibility of a litter will have to plan a head and purchase many “breeding permits” before the female is actually old enough to produce a litter. While this will be an option, it will be expensive and time-consuming. The demand for pets in this country has not decreased. Under the newly proposed and passed laws, high volume for-profit breeding facilities will become to the pet industry what Wal-Mart® is to the retail industry- the place everyone loves to hate- but goes to shop anyway.
Where do pets of the future come from? Well, most mixed breeds will come from foreign countries, and most pure-breds will come from the “Wal-Mart” of the puppy world- The Hunte Corporation®. Look them up on line, this state of the art, contract-factory farm of the dog world just might be the biggest benefactor of these legislative efforts and just might be where your next pet “comes from.”
10 Years After: Ten Year Review of Urban Animal Management by Graeme Raine http://www.saveourstrays.com/tenyearsAU.htm
Animal rights from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Britannica on line
Long campaign to spay, neuter making its mark Oakland Tribune, Oct. 14, 2006
Pet Overpopulation: The Simple Solution. Education, Legislation, Sterilization! By Laurie Goldstein, 2003
Model Statewide Spay/Neuter Programs: New Hampshire
Where Do Pets Come From?