Pet stores, puppy mills cause bad behavior

A female spaniel mix waits for adoption at the Orange County Animal Services kennel in Orlando, Florida. Most animals die within five days of arriving at the shelter. More than 7,000 dogs and cats are being put to death each year.

Jeffrey Klein, an alumnus from Eastern Michigan University, always wanted a small dog. Two and a half years ago he eagerly set up a profile page on the Web site, with a goal to adopt the perfect pup. Soon enough, he received an e-mail from the site that said an illegal puppy mill broke down and there are now small puppies available. Klein went to the home the puppies were being fostered at and excitedly picked up one of the little dogs. The puppy instantly fell asleep in his arms, and it was then he knew this was the perfect dog to adopt.

The overpopulation of pets that need to be adopted is at an astounding number. Euthanasia is constantly being administered to unwanted pets at a rate estimated to be 3.7 million animals in the year 2008, according to the American Humane Association.

But the abuse doesn’t stop there. Puppy mills are constantly breeding unhealthy dogs in abusive conditions. According to Matthew Schaecher, supervisor of the Cruelty Rescue Department at Ann Arbor’s Humane Society, last year there were more than 400 cases of animal cruelty and 1,200 rescue calls in the Washtenaw area alone.

These are staggering statistics, however, people like Klein have made steps to help the cause by adopting his pet. Klein adopted his puppy through the Indian Creek Animal Sanctuary in Temperance, Mich. for good supportive reasons.

“I know a lot of pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills, which are cruel and illegal, so I didn’t want to support that,” Klein said. “I also didn’t want to get it from a breeder because it would be too expensive. I knew by adopting I wouldn’t spend that much money and I would still get the dog I wanted.”

Klein said pets adopted from foster homes live in much better conditions than those from shelters.

“The humane society is cages and cages of dogs and it’s a big facility packed with a bunch of animals where as fostering dogs is more like 5 dogs at someone’s house and those people usually have a dog of their own and it’s a more positive environment for dogs to be in,” Klein said.

Laura Sollers, one of the creators of Safe Haven, an organization that fosters unwanted dogs, has been volunteering with rescue groups for six years until she started her very own.

“What we do is we take young adoptable, good natured dogs that need owners because their owners didn’t want them or couldn’t afford them and we foster them,” Sollers said. “We also take dogs from shelters that are going to be euthanized because of space issues, and we foster them as well until we can find them the right home.”

Sollers usually has 20 to 25 dogs at one time at her home, and she advertises her dogs through her Web site; she also lists them on to find them good homes.

To Sollers, the overpopulation of adoptive pets is a big problem.

“The issue stems from people not spaying or neutering their pets,” she said. “Or they’re buying pure breed pets thinking they’ll breed them to make money not for the betterment of the breed.”

Sollers was particularly appalled at the information she discovered about PETA and the euthanasia rate it administered to animals saved in its headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

“PETA recently ceased and euthanized over 90 percent of the dogs and cats that were relinquished in their headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia,” Sollers said. “They euthanized 2,300 dogs and cats and adopted only eight animals. They should not be in the business because there are pounds that have a lower euthanizing rate than that.”

To Sollers, although the overpopulation of pets is a problem, it is not something that can’t be solved.

“If they could put a ban on backyard breeders and puppy mills there wouldn’t be an overpopulation problem,” she said. “Shelters are set up like dog pounds. If there is no one to adopt a dog within a couple days they will euthanize them. Is there an overpopulation problem? Yes. Can it be controlled? Yes. With stricter control of big business breeders and backyard breeders it would certainly help on the euthanasia rates in shelters.”

To Sollers, buying a pet from a pet store is only hurting the cause.

“Pet stores should be illegal because 99 percent of the dogs there come from puppy mills,” she said. “Most of the dogs that are in pet stores have parents that are in three-foot square cages that never get out and don’t get vet care or personalized attention.”

Sollers describes the pets from puppy mills as having very poor health and behavioral problems.

“Most of the times the dogs are small popular dogs like poodles, the more popular breeds,” she said. “Their fur will be all matted and their teeth all rotted, especially in the females.

“And when they have a litter of babies the babies take what little nutrition the parent’s have. They have flat feet from standing on wire cages and a lot of the older ones have mammary tumors because they are not spayed.”

Sollers describes most dogs from pet stores and puppy mills as having behavioral issues because they have not been socialized.

“Because you can get any breed of dog imaginable on 20 percent of the dogs brought to shelters are pure breeds and most of the time the dogs have no behavioral issues,” she said. “Most rescues and shelters have the dogs fully vetted and spayed or neutered already. Larger rescues have behavior specialists to help dogs with their issues.”

According to Matthew Schaecher, animals adopted from the humane society are just as healthy if not more healthy than the ones bought from pet stores.

“Adopting a dog from the humane society saves you in the long run from having costly spading or neutering procedures done,” Schaecher said. “Our dogs have been checked by a vet and micro chipped so there isn’t going to be any underlying health issues that are going to haunt you down the road.”

To Jeffrey Klein, adoption turned out to be the best decision for him.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without him,” Klein said of his adopted Chihuahua.

According to Sollers, people like Klein who make the choice to adopt are saving animals’ lives.

“You’re saving a life,” she said. “You’re taking a dog that may be euthanized somewhere and giving it a home, and once you take a dog out of that shelter or rescue another spot is opened for a new dog, so you are actually saving two lives. The one you adopt and the next dog that takes your dog’s spot at the shelter.”

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